Summer Fun..and Getting Ready For the Second Year of Med School!

I can’t believe how fast the summer has flown by and that I’ll be starting the second year of medical school in a week!

It has been a fantastic summer spending time with my husband and kids, as well as catching up with friends and family. The kids developed a great love of swimming this summer and we went to the local pool almost every day. It was so great to see them getting over their fear of water and becoming more confident. It was also nice to catch glimpses of what their gifts and talents may be. My son seems to have a gift for designing and building things. He can come up with something from scratch without instructions! My daughter has such a depth to the way she observes and interprets the world and seems to just naturally nurture, comfort and encourage those around her.

My time at home with the kids also reminded me how difficult parenting can be. It requires so much patience and grace! Motherhood is definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it has also allowed me to examine my own character and weaknesses, and enabled me to grow. Regardless of the challenge and the weight of responsibility in bringing up, disciplining and guiding our children, I am so grateful for the precious memories of this past summer, and for the many moments I got to cuddle and kiss my children!

This summer, I also got to spend a day shadowing at a hospital and it was a fantastic experience! One of my favorite blocks during the first year of medical school was Cardiology and so I wanted to find out more about what it’s like in the hospital setting. So, I spent the morning rounding on patients in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) and the afternoon in the ER doing Cardiology consults. The staff physicians, residents, and fellows were wonderful to work with. I loved the Interprofessional aspect of the medical team and how everyone on the team could give their input on a case. I got to interpret some ECGs, examine patients, take a partial medical history, observe the management of patients with a variety of cardiac conditions, and even got to give some input on differential diagnosis. It was so interesting and mentally stimulating! I was moved by my interactions with the patients who had much to teach me about the experience of illness and hospitalization.  I will definitely be adding Internal Medicine to my list of potential specialties for the future!

As the summer break comes to an end, I hold my memories with the kids close to my heart! I am excited to be starting my second year of medical school (and also excited for my son who is starting Grade 1!)

img_7735
Science in action! The kids making a battery out of a lemon which powered a digital clock. They were fascinated!
img_7722
The kids’ favorite place to be!
img_7672
He could look at books for hours! I love watching him!
img_7530
Enjoying the view from Jack Layton Park
img_7390
His first time kayaking on Lac Simon….he loved it!
img_7358
Baby girl canoeing with daddy on Lac Simon
img_7320
It’s so fun being a kid!
img_6918
Canoeing with daddy on Horseshoe Lake (Saint Agathe-des-Monts)

 

img_6858
Yummy ice-cream in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue

 

img_6575
Ready to hit the pool!
img_6521
Hike and picnic on Mont Rigaud
img_6484
“Elementary, my dear Watson!”…..the kids came up with their own play and costumes!

 

img_7513
Back to school in a week! Excited!

 

The First Year of Medical School…Done!!!

The past few months have been both challenging and amazing! I can’t quite believe that the first year of medical school is already done! It went by so quickly and I am amazed at how much I have grown and learned over the past year. We covered 8 blocks: Public Health, Respiration, Circulation, Renal, GI, Defense, Infection and the Musculoskeletal System.

The last block was particularly heavy in anatomy and one of the most challenging blocks I have done. I have to say that it brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for the human body as we learned over 1000 new terms for different muscles of the body in Latin. Difficult to do but also fascinating and rewarding! I am also gaining valuable ultrasound skills and have signed up to teach this to first-year medical students. I think it’s going to be a fantastic experience.

Throughout this past year, I have grown in my appreciation for my teachers, mentors, classmates, our silent “teachers” in the anatomy lab, and of course, the patients who I have had the privilege of interacting with. Our medical school curriculum is hands-on so we have had several opportunities to gain exposure in the clinical setting.

My favorite block so far was Defense (the Immune system). I loved learning about the various ways the body keeps foreign invaders in check. Truly a marvel of the human body and a beautiful reminder of the majesty of God’s creation.

Other exciting events that happened in the last few months:

  1. The celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary to my dearest hubby!)
  2. My son’s completion of kindergarten and “graduation” to Grade 1 (that’s my boy!)
  3. My big brother’s graduation from medical school as he embarks on his pediatrics residency (so proud of you!)

How was the first year of medical school? It was about as challenging as I expected it to be (particularly when trying to balance the voluminous amount of material with family life, church activities, extracurriculars etc.) but it was even better than I imagined in terms of how interesting the material was and what a privilege it is to be a part of the medical profession.

Through it all, I couldn’t have done this without the grace of God, and the wonderful support of my amazing husband, kids, friends and family. I am looking forward to the summer break over the next 2 months, spending more time with my family and getting some rest. In late August, I will be starting my last two blocks of the Fundamentals of Medicine and then Transition to Clerkship (rotations) in January 2018. Exciting!

Time will continue to pass regardless of what you are doing….make sure you are doing what you love! It makes life more meaningful and full of purpose!

IMG_6059 (4)
Studying on the deck during final exam week
IMG_5264
A visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan for my brother’s graduation from medical school
IMG_5491
Daddy and his little girl, hand-in-hand. A visit to Quebec city to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.
IMG_5597
Our cutie-pie! A visit to the Aquarium in Quebec city.
IMG_5636
A beautiful view of Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City from the rotating restaurant Ciel! 
IMG_6233
Ready for summer fun! So blessed to have these little ones in my life!

Four Simple Stress-Busting Strategies

How do you handle a stressful job, demanding school work, family life, parenthood or the challenges of life in general? There is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some strategies that can help us cope with the day-to-day demands we face. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are 4 things that consistently give me energy, stamina, improve my mood and attitude:

  1. Regular exercise: It can be tough to find time to exercise 3 or more times per week. There are so many other things that need to get done! But, physical activity is as beneficial to our bodies as healthy food is. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, physical activity is just as important as healthy food. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for you but setting realistic goals and easing into it could help set the tone for a more consistent exercise routine. Why not start with just 10 minutes every other day? Establishing the habit is the hardest part but you can do it!
  2. A good night’s sleep: This means different things to different people. Some can get by on 5 hours while others (like me) need at least 8 hours a night to feel fully rested. I have personally found that my mood, attention span, ability to learn and handle stress are much better when I have been sleeping well. If you are feeling stressed, consider whether the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient for your daily needs.
  3. Social ties: Sharing our struggles with those we trust can take some of the burden off our own shoulders and help us cope. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or tired. Reach out to someone if you can!
  4. Reflection: Taking time for reflection, prayer or meditation is a fantastic way to make sense of your thoughts and slow down the rhythm of our fast-paced lives. It can also help us bring to the forefront unresolved feelings, hurts or other difficult emotions. Why not set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for this personal reflection time?

Whatever stresses you may be going through, consider the above basic strategies to help you cope. Simple but effective!

My recommended workout of the week. This is a great 30-minute cardio workout with light weights (5 to 10 pounds) that also targets chest, abs, glutes, obliques, shoulders and legs. For those with problematic knees (like me!), there is a modified version of the exercise displayed. In general, aim for exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to get more bang for your buck!

Photo credit: highway2fitness.com

 

When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

2016 Highlights and Moving on to 2017

The year 2016 started off as a difficult year but turned into one of the best years of my life. I am still blown away by the fact that I was accepted to medical school after a previous failed attempt and numerous rejections. In hindsight, it made the acceptance all the more sweet and increases my motivation to give my studies my best effort.

It was also a beautiful summer spending time with my husband and kids, watching the kids grow and develop their personalities. I feel incredibly blessed to be a mother and to have friends and family that love and support me in so many ways. I am grateful to God for his grace, love and compassion towards me even when I fail Him.

As we move into 2017, I have one simple goal…to not lose sight of my top priorities which are quality time with God and with my family. I am very excited to be starting my next semester of medical school and all that I will learn over the next few months!

The First Semester of Medical School is Done!

My first semester of medical school is officially done! It has been even better than I imagined. There is no doubt that medical school is tough and demanding. However, the opportunity to work with passionate physicians, professors, students and patients has challenged me and kept me motivated.

Highlights of the first semester of medical school:

  1. Fascinating material: So far we have covered 3 blocks: Public Health, Respiration and Circulation. I really enjoyed the diagnostic aspects of these blocks such as interpreting chest X-rays and ECGs, as well as the anatomy and histology labs. I also enjoyed the various clinical scenarios where we had to come up with a diagnosis.
  2. Family Medicine shadowing: I have been enjoying the Longitudinal Family Medicine Experience where we get to shadow a family doctor in their practice two to three times a month. It has been so interesting to see what we learned in class reinforced in the clinical setting.
  3. Surgery shadowing: I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow an OBGYN endoscopic surgeon in the OR. It was an incredible experience!

Study Tips:

As the months have progressed, I have been refining my study methods and trying out new techniques:

  1. Keep up with the material: In medical school, it is critical to keep up with the lectures on a daily basis otherwise the amount of material becomes unmanageable.
  2. Be strategic: Learn to identify what material is “high yield” and focus on that. It is almost impossible to memorize every single detail presented and you may burn out trying to do so.
  3. Test yourself: I have found it very helpful to test myself often, either using online quizzes or building my own quizzes using key material from the lectures. My strategy is to write out 15 to 20 questions in an excel sheet following each lecture, upload the questions into an app called cram.com, then regularly test myself.
  4. Explain it: Try to explain a difficult topic to a classmate (or in my case, usually my husband) to see whether you have really understood it. This will help to solidify the material and you will recall it more easily.
  5. Remember the ultimate goal: Remember that the purpose of your learning is to become the best doctor you can be for your patients. Try to learn the material in a way that you can remember it in the long-term, rather than just short-term cramming in order to pass an exam.

How is balancing medical school with a family going? Generally, it is going well. I try to get the bulk of my studying done during the day and during the week so that I reserve my evenings and most of the weekends for family-time. I also try to multi-task listening to recorded lectures while commuting, cooking, cleaning or exercising. I don’t always succeed in finding a balance but I keep trying!

How to handle the heavy workload? If possible, it is important have a support network in place. I am very thankful to my husband for his help with our children and around the house, as well as my friends who have upheld me in prayer. Also, I try to reserve some time for my music hobby, devotional time and to exercise. This keeps my physical, emotional and spiritual life healthy. Planning my week also helps with getting things done in the most efficient way. Things don’t always go perfectly and I do feel overwhelmed sometimes. But developing a plan, being organized and reaching out for help when you need it can help you get through those particularly difficult moments.

Overall,  I am very happy with how the first semester of medical school has gone. I feel incredibly privileged to be pursuing a career in medicine. If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it. Keep persevering, keep your head up high and surge forward with all your strength. You can do it!

img_2280
Getting ready for the OR!
img_1952
Enjoying the last of Fall before the snow finally came!
mummy-and-kids-christmas-2016
Getting ready for Christmas!

Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!