Reflections on the First 3 Weeks of Medical School

I have just experienced my first three weeks of medical school and it has been amazing! The first week was a series of orientation sessions to get us familiar with the medical program while the second week was the official start of classes.

I would love to share my experiences with you!

  • What I love about the program:  Fantastic classmates, passionate teachers, fascinating material, plenty of support, small group sessions, mentors, a focus on wellness, and the opportunity to shadow physicians right from Week 1! So far, I have had some exposure to family medicine, obstetrics and pathology. I loved being in the birthing center where I got to meet a patient who had just given birth by cesarean section. There was something so profound about being with someone at such a life-changing moment. I have also enjoyed my histology labs where we have been identifying different types of cells and tissues. Interestingly, it seems that pathology is moving away from using microscopes and instead using very high resolution images on the computer screen.
  • Challenges: The biggest challenges so far are being away from my children and the 2-3 hour daily commute. Traffic has been much worse than anticipated so I am making the most of my commute time to listen to lectures and also to decompress at the end of a busy day. I am very grateful to my husband for his tremendous support in helping out around the house and with the kids.
  • Surprises: The orientation and first few days of class focused on physicianship, the social aspects of medicine, indigenous health and the disparities in healthcare among the aboriginal population. Where as I thought we would be diving straight into hard science and performing dissections in the anatomy lab, it was interesting to learn about the social side of medicine and how so many factors affect health. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the vast array of backgrounds that my classmates have. It is such a diverse group!
  • Strategies for survival: I have had to adjust my study methods compared to the last time I was in school. The material is too voluminous for one to completely master every detail so I am learning the art of determining what is the most essential and what fits into the big picture of becoming a doctor. So far, I am mostly using the lecture material and my own created flashcards to summarize the material. Upper year students have also created some useful summaries that they have graciously handed down to us newbies.
  • Tips and advice: An important tip that I have heard from many seasoned medical students and doctors is to not neglect my life outside of medicine. I am trying to create a positive habit early on of having protected time for my husband, kids, devotional time, adequate sleep and exercise. I will also try to keep up with one or two hobbies, some friends and family.  There are several activities and organizations on campus I am interested in joining but I will have to be selective and not take on too much. Flexibility is important and I realize that I may not always be on top of things, but I will do the best that I can and enjoy the adventure!

Although I am only at the very beginning of my training and there is much more to come, I am really enjoying medical school so far and feel so grateful to have been given this opportunity!

img_0899
My new stethoscope just arrived! If you are wondering what brand to buy for medical school, this one comes highly recommended and is offered in an array of colors.

 

Advertisements

10 Tips for Embarking on a New Adventure

Excited to share with you my first guest post over at The Zeit which is a blog with great information on healthy living for your mind and body. My guest post is about tips for embarking on a new adventure. Hope you enjoy reading it!

10 Tips for Embarking on a New Adventure

Image courtesy of chai biscuit.com
Image courtesy of chai biscuit.com

A Fruit a Day Keeps the Doctor Away…Let’s Start with Love

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I remember hearing this often when I was growing up.  At the time, it didn’t really convince me to eat more fruits and vegetables but now that I’m older, I have come to appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. This gets me thinking not only about my physical health but also my mental and spiritual health. Healthy food and physical exercise are good for our bodies. What sorts of things are good for our mind and soul?

I leafed through my Bible and came across this familiar verse on “Fruits of the Spirit”. To me, these are virtues that keep me spiritually healthy, partly because they require some action on my part. They are not just a state of mind but something that I can consciously decide to do.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Galations 5:22-23.

I decided to take a look at some of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of these words and compare them to how I feel they can be applied to daily life. I will tackle this over a series of posts just so we can take a detailed look at these words. Let’s start with love.

Love

There are so many forms and definitions of love but the ones I like in particular are these two: “strong affection for another; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. I like these two definitions because they acknowledge that love has a component of “feeling” and emotion as well as a conscious decision to care about someone else solely for their good. Therefore I choose to behave in such a way as to bring out the best in them. In the Bible, Jesus spoke of loving our “neighbor”. When asked “but who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29, Jesus went on to talk about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A selfless individual who decided to help a battered and bruised stranger at the side of the road, who had been brutally attacked by robbers.

When I was growing up, we passed by beggars in the street as quickly as possible. They were considered unsafe, it made us uncomfortable and we just didn’t really know how to respond. When I think about those moments, I really cringe at myself. How thoughtless and selfish of me! Jesus’ words to love our neighbor challenges me to find ways to help those who are hurting and suffering. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about pursuing a career in medicine. Just the idea of being able to heal someone’s diseases, offer them counsel, and alleviate their worries really gets me excited. One of my friends who is a first-time mom often calls me with motherhood questions (“White noise or no white noise? or “My baby is breastfeeding around the clock…help!”) I absolutely love these conversations because I can draw from my own experiences and alleviate some of her concerns. 

There is so much that can be said about the concept of love but what I have learned from my interactions with people and from observing my friends and family is that love in its truest sense is selfless and unconditional. The “feeling” of love may come and go. There are times when our significant others, children, brothers, sisters, parents may annoy us, make us angry, make us want to give up on them. Yet, we decide to still love them. We may see someone suffering who is perhaps not from our culture, not in our income bracket, who has differing opinions, or who we may not be able to relate to. Yet, we decide to still love them. Love is a powerful thing. Love erases fear, love erases prejudice, love erases judgement. The Bible itself said the greatest gift of all is love.

Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net

Nourishment

My son helped me to fill up the bird feeder on the deck yesterday and he was very excited to witness chickadees pecking away at the bird seed in the feeder early this morning. The image of these birds busily feeding without a care in the world made me think about the importance of nourishment physically,emotionally, mentally and spiritually. All these aspects of our life are intertwined and impact each other. I like to see people at their best and I think this happens when we find a balance in these spheres of our lives (as elusive as that can sometimes be to achieve!).

Physically, I am my best self when I exercise, eat and sleep well. I was always physically active as a child but with the demands of work and parenthood, I have had inconsistent phases in my life. I am fortunate to be naturally skinny however this has meant that I have not always seen the urgency of doing exercise. In some instances, I even viewed it as some kind of selfish, self-centered practice where I am trying to improve my physical image (it’s all about me, right?). But of course that’s not really true if one has the right motives. I now see that exercise is just as essential as food and sleep in maintaining a healthy body and mind. I now view it as something that keeps me healthy and therefore allows me to be my best self for my family, friends and others around me. So exercise is now one of my top priorities and I have adopted my brother’s “earthquake policy”. Unless there’s an earthquake, I am doing some exercise today!

Emotionally, I am am my best self when I have social interactions. This really depends on temperament of course and this is just what I have noticed encourages me. I have noticed though that the type of social interaction is vitally important. When we surround ourselves with motivated, positive people, this can make a world of difference to our overall mood. It does not have to be restricted to people with similar interests as us (although we tend to gravitate towards such people). Being with other people takes the focus off of ourselves and helps us keep our own lives in perspective.

Mentally, I am my best self when I am learning something new. This could be from any topic or field but mental stimulation is important for brain health and what you learn can be useful material for conversations with others. I aim to study or read something every day. Its priority in my life is right up there with food, sleep and exercise. It keeps my brain whirring!

Spiritually, I am best self when I take time to pray every day. It allows me to stop, think, and be grateful to the Creator for this beautiful world we live in, despite the pain and brokenness we see. It reminds me to take the focus off myself and onto the one who saved me by his grace and not by anything I could possibly do on my own. It allows me to reflect on all the good things in my life despite the challenges.

Nourishment. We all crave it. We all need it. How do you get your daily nourishment?