When the Fog Lifts

The other day, I was on my daily commute to the hospital for one of my clinical rotations. The train chug chugged along and as it neared one of two bridges, I turned my head expectantly to view the expansive water and distant hills. But on this particular day, the view which I have come to treasure, was blanketed by an unrelenting fog. I could see absolutely nothing outside of the window. It was a disconcerting feeling. What was happening behind the fog? When would the fog lift? As the train made it to the other side of the bridge, the water and hills left behind, the fog gradually lifted, trees and buildings slowly appeared and my view of the outside world became crystal clear once again.

This two minute experience got me thinking about how similar life can be to this event. There are times in our lives when our path forward is clear. We can feel confident enough to proceed on our journey. There are other moments, when things become less clear, our confidence may become shrouded in uncertainty and we wonder where has the path disappeared to? One thing I do know. The fog eventually lifts, and we will see clearly again. It just requires patience, determination and the will to never give up.

I recently completed my second Psychiatry rotation and have just completed my first 2 weeks of Internal Medicine. Both have been great learning experiences with amazing staff physicians and residents. On some days though, I feel truly tired. I wonder if I have the strength and ability to become a good doctor. Or I struggle to balance medicine with family life. Doubts try to creep in. But I also feel so grateful to be in a position to help people so directly in their moments of crisis, illness or fear. It truly is a humbling and privileged position to be in! And even on those cloudy, unclear days…the fog eventually lifts!

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View from the train in winter-time

Featured image: View from the train in summer time, late evening (potentialdoctor.com)

Clerkship Update: OBGYN Part 2

My very first clerkship rotation was in OBGYN outpatient clinics which I posted about here including some tips for surviving clerkship in general. This past month was a continuation of my OBGYN experience. The first 3 weeks were based in the birthing center where I had the opportunity to take part in a variety of interesting tasks:

  • Interview and examine pregnant patients in triage
  • Assist with vaginal deliveries and C-sections
  • Round on post-partum patients
  • Conduct consults in the ER

My last week was Gynecology-based where I got to assist with some gynecology surgical procedures in the OR, round on post-op patients, see patients in Gynecology/Early Pregnancy clinics and conduct consults in the ER.

What I enjoyed most:

I very much enjoyed interacting with pregnant patients and helping them through the beautiful, life-changing experience of welcoming their child into the world. I was also grateful to come out of this rotation with tangible, practical skills like delivering babies and suturing.

What I struggled with most:

The environment was fast-paced and quite stressful. It was difficult seeing patients experience pregnancy loss, particulary having gone through the experience myself. The schedule was exhausting with evening/night shifts and 2 weekends back-to-back. I definitely struggled with balancing work and family life and missed the kids a lot.

My take home message:

OBGYN is a great speciality in many ways. There is plenty of variety in terms of the work, it is rewarding bringing babies into the world and being a part of patients lives during such critical moments. For me personally, the demanding lifestyle was not a good fit for my family life, but I am grateful for all that I learned during this rotation and that it helped to clarify my interests more definitively.

Feature image photo credit: advocarepremierobgyn.com

Second Year of Medical School…Done!

It’s official! I am done with the second year of school and officially half-way through medical school! The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity as I completed my rotations in Surgery, Anesthesia, Ophthalmology and Radiology! This was definitely the most challenging block for me in terms of schedule and the overall demands of the rotations.

Some of the most rewarding experiences were learning how to bag-mask and intubate patients as well as put in IV lines. It was very hands-on and there were moments when I literally felt like the patient’s life was in my hands! I also enjoyed using slit-lamp biomicroscopes to look into the inner world of the eye. What a magnificent and breathtaking part of the body. It was moments like these that reminded me of the miracle and beauty of God’s creation!

I also had the opportunity to do a night shift shadowing an OBGYN resident in the Birthing Center. I had the privilege of assisting on 2 deliveries which was amazing! During the past few months, I have been praying for more clarity regarding what specialty I would like to go into and I am happy to announce that I have narrowed down my list significantly. I will have to keep you in suspense for now, but stay tuned for the big reveal at some point over the next few months.

The past 2 weeks were filled with numerous exams, lectures and small groups to prepare us for clerkship which starts at the end of July. One small group about learning in the clinical setting particularly stood out to me. The main idea was that clerkship is not about performance but about progressive learning. Meaning that the priority is not about impressing with our knowledge but rather about having a willingness to learn and progress along a continuum. I think this is true for many things in life. We will never be perfect but we can have an attitude of humility that there is always room for improvement. We will make mistakes, but we will get better with time! Persevering and refining our skills (in any field) only makes us better and more capable of serving those around us.

So what’s next? Five weeks of vacation to rest, recuperate, have fun with friends and family as I look ahead to the third year of medical school…CLERKSHIP!

 

 

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/

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!

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Getting ready for the OR!
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Enjoying the last of Fall before the snow finally came!
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Getting ready for Christmas!

Reflections on Family and Medical School

There are less than 3 weeks to go until the start of medical school! The countdown is on and we are so excited as a family. I have been spending as much time as possible with the kids before school starts and I am treasuring the simple yet special moments I have with them, like a visit to the zoo, the beach or making chocolate chip cookies together. Or simply having them envelop me in a hug and say, “Mummy, we love you…and we’ll always love you.”

I am so grateful to have had almost 3 uninterrupted years at home with my two children. It has been a gift and a refreshing break from my research work in the pharmaceutical industry. When my husband and I revisited the idea of me going back to school to pursue medicine, I had pangs of guilt about being away from the children. I wondered if they would understand why mummy is away for such long hours at school or the hospital. I know the guilt is something I may struggle with throughout my training and career. But I also know that the kids are very much loved and my husband and I have a game plan to maximize quality time with them. I hope that we can be a good example for them.

To my beautiful children, I have witnessed your first steps, your first words, your first falls, your first tears and your first laughs (and yes, changing more diapers than I ever thought were possible!). You have shown me a new side of myself and given me the gift of allowing me to nurture you.

Although the next few months will be a transition phase, I feel at peace that we are heading in the right direction as a family. Today, I was excited by the simple act of buying stationery for both myself starting medical school and my son starting kindergarten (my husband laughed at me enthusiastically showing him my stash from the dollar store: highlighters, stickies, pens, to name a few!).

I am also happy to announce that my very independent daughter decided to potty train herself in the month of June. I had been really hoping to get it done before the start of med school and was aiming to start potty training in July. She beat us to it telling us proudly, “I don’t want diapers any more mummy, I’m a big girl!”…….Well alright then! You go girl!

My husband and I have also been having some interesting discussions about what medical specialty to go into. I have been talking to several doctors in different fields and reading up as much as I can. So far, my interests are quite diverse: family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery and pathology. I am going to remain open-minded throughout my learning and enjoy the process. I know there will be many challenges ahead but I am absolutely thrilled to be finally doing this after so many years of planning!

Thank you for staying with me on this journey! I am excited to share it with you!

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Her first visit to the Ecomuseum
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Relaxing on the beach
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Brother-sister love!
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Getting ready to bake some delicious  cookies!

 

Five Benefits of Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

It’s rarely easy doing something that we are not accustomed to. It can make us feel uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. This week I was reminded that venturing outside our comfort zone is actually good for us. It can increase our confidence and help us achieve things we would never have thought we were capable of.

This past week, I had the pleasure of being part of a great team that led over 60 kids aged between 4 and 12 during our church annual summer camp. The theme for this year was ‘Cave Quest’ and many of the activities dealt with geology concepts such as stalactites, stalagmites, snottites and geodes. I was tasked with the role of running the “Imagination (Science) Station” during which I would run various experiments with the children.

Now I have to say that prior to the camp I felt rather intimidated by the sheer number of kids that we would be looking after as well as the fact that I had never done a summer camp before nor did I have much knowledge about geology. I would have felt much more at ease talking about biology or chemistry. But geology? I simply felt clueless. The fact that my team and the kids were depending on me forced me to do my research and come up with some inventive ways to demonstrate the experiments.

Through the course of the week, I went through a myriad of emotions from exhaustion to frustration to amazement to appreciation to gratitude! It was difficult to do something outside of my comfort zone and there were times when I felt I was not doing a good job. But each day, the excited faces of the children with their energy, curiosity and thirst for knowledge, made me feel so privileged to be part of the team doing sports, sharing about the wonders of science as well as the love of Jesus.

This week surely reminded me of the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone from time to time. The benefits are many:

  1. Growth and perseverance: doing something you are not familiar with stretches you and forces you to use your mind and body in ways that you’re not used to. The result is a stronger, more resilient person who can take on even greater challenges.
  2. Builds relationships: having been in the trenches with the kids and other leaders for five full days in a row, I got to know more about them and to build some amazing friendships.
  3. Expands your horizons: I remember somewhat grumbling to myself when I saw what the theme for the summer camp was….geology? Boring! I don’t know anything about that! But having researched and then explained the concepts to the kids, I learned some truly fascinating things!
  4. Builds your confidence: Having successfully managed to “survive” the summer camp, I feel much more confident to take on  new things and not to be intimidated by my lack of knowledge on a subject. There are so many resources to learn new things!
  5. Meets a need: No matter how uncomfortable or incompetent you may feel at something, if you give it your best and put in the required effort, you will make a difference in someone’s life, maybe even leave a permanent mark on their hearts and minds.

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Don’t let discomfort hold you back! There is a learning curve for everything and with time and effort, you will eventually succeed!