Quick Summary of How the Match Went!

For those of you who don’t know, I am now heading into the final week of this month long orientation to the Family Medicine Residency of …my top choice program! Fort Belvoir!  I was talking to a med student the other day (oh haha, I remember what it was like to be a med student…), just one year behind me in the process, and realized that I was already forgetting many of the interview trail details and tips I would have offered up just 6 months ago!

So before it’s all gone, here’s a “brief” synopsis…

RANK LIST: I wanted to be in Family Medicine, no 2nd choice specialties.  I wanted a military residency but also wanted to be in the D.C. area (as my hubby was there) so my rank list on the military application, which I had drafted up sometime in August, but was officially due by Oct 1st, looked like this…

#1. Fort Belvoir

#2. Civilian Deferred

#3-11? or so… Other military bases

My civilian/

SCHEDULING “auditions”/”Acting Internships”/”Sub-I’s”: I wanted to do my audition rotations as soon as I could, but also planned to do them after taking step 2 of the board exams, which I took end of May with just one week of scheduled exclusive study time, and I got a 608 (COMLEX, Level 2), think it went pretty well.  I chose to do them back-to-back so it would interfere with my school’s curriculum as little as possible and less flying around in theory AND some less jumping around for daycare for Andy.  I rotated at Eglin Air Force base in July and Fort Belvoir in August.  After scheduling these (which I did so in December the year prior), I also stuck an extremely stressful but extremely useful audition with the Georgetown Family Medicine Residency program in my schedule immediately before the one in Eglin – so I did that one in June.  I had to schedule that one through VSAS (visiting student application system) I believe.  If it wasn’t VSAS, then I must have done it by simply communicating with the Program Coordinator.  You can search for that information sometimes by just googling it, of course, but also on https://services.aamc.org/eras/erasstats/par/, ERAS (https://apps.aamc.org/myeras-web/#/landing … but your school must give you your application token to utilize this site), NMS (https://www.natmatch.com/aoairp/instdirp/aboutproglist.html) and http://opportunities.osteopathic.org/search/search.cfm.

CIVILIAN ONLINE APPLICATION: I applied to 34 allopathic residencies via ERAS, and eventually I also submitted an application for the osteopathic residencies via NMS, even though I applied for only 2 programs.  Applying to so many programs cost me a lot of money, probably about $500 total.  But I had no idea how many interviews I would get, and I wanted to have at least 10, with 3 of them being my top choice programs.  I started with fewer and gradually added some programs to my list as I did further research, and many of the programs in which I submitted very late applications, like all of the University of Pennsylvania ones that I randomly decided I wanted to apply to, never got interviews at, and they had like 3 different sites to which I applied.  I perhaps wouldn’t have applied for so many if I had done further research, and you can use sites like Doximity or the program’s website if often a good resource, but then again some programs have very limited info online, and sometimes you really have to go there and meet the people to understand what it’s like.  I submitted my finalized applications for both systems rather late – but I think did receive offers for a lot of interviews – 16 total, including all but 1 of my top tier programs!  So there is a tip for you – make sure you are aware of the soonest date you can submit your application so you can be first in line to get interview spots.  Although I will note that it kind of worked out for me, because by submitting my application later, I got the later interview spots which I was able to later cancel because after December 7th, I had my military match results, and knew I got Fort Belvoir.  Within about 2 weeks after submitting, I wrote emails to the programs that were among the top half in my list in which I didn’t get interviews, and this worked about 50%.  Just a note saying hey, I’m applying and really interested in your program, a couple tidbits about why that program specifically.  I know that one of the programs (University of Maryland) has a very allopathic-only type attitude, at least their faculty/residency selection would attest to this, also they don’t allow osteopathic students to audition, so this was a big clue to me to not bother applying, but I had to give it a try.

Some random tips –

  1. Always write your thank you notes! I also wrote some personalized follow up notes after the military match day, just saying that I’m so sorry to be withdrawing my ERAS application, and how much I enjoyed the program-just of course to my favorite programs/programs I really got close with like Georgetown and Grant Medical Center.
  2. Always go to the dinner/meal with the residents that are often included with the interview.  Unless you really cannot make it, in which case write them a nice email explaining why you are declining.
  3. Communicate with your school/home program because they may be assuming you’re planning to interview/apply there – I had an awkward encounter because I communicated in a rather delayed manor, but in my defense it wasn’t intentional and I was taking my time in getting my application/list of programs finalized… anyway it was frowned upon.

Some things I didn’t know until going into the interview season –

  1. You can’t rank a program that you didn’t interview with
  2. You can add programs to your ERAS application after you’ve submitted your first finalized version

So anyway, hopefully this helps a few medical students out there! Please post questions, I’d be glad to help you out!

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Before my Wright State interview at Good Samaritan Hospital

Snorkeling in Oahu

This past Sunday was tragically our last day in Oahu (during my post med-school/pre-residency sabbatical, part 2 – Hawai’i), but before we were to leave, we had plans to dip into the ocean one last time, along with some snorkeling gear, guided by James’ long-time friend, Jeff!  I was ever so excited for this, as the last time I had snorkeled was with some kiddy-gear in the Kennedy pool back-in-the-day during my childhood (looking back, that was an awesome toy!).  We met up at Kahe Beach Park, selected by our snorkeling-savvy friend.  It’s strategically located adjacent to an electricity plant, from which flows a large pipe of clean, heated water, about 40 feet below the ocean’s surface, thus creating a unique ecosystem, harboring an abundant and diverse gathering of fish and other wildlife for many-a snorkelers and divers to enjoy alike!

 

As I prepared for the day, packing and plunging into my bathing suit, I recalled Jeff’s words, “you guys are ok with going over 40-foot drop-offs?” and “when we get out there, the important thing is to breathe normal, don’t freak out!”  …I was starting to freak out…  a little anyway.  I couldn’t help but think about what I always think about now-a-days when I go off and do something semi-adventurous/risky, what will happen to Andy if James and/or I die (lovely imagination we parents have…)?  Jeff’s wife, Christina, so graciously offered to watch the now 16 month-old Andy for us.  Fortunately Jeff and Christina are close family friends and have all the contact info for James’ family… and at least James has a living will… mine is still on the to-do list… oops… need to work on that, I thought to myself.

 

Looking over the ocean, you could see its surface, over the spot to which we were aiming to snorkel, a small ripple of turbulent water created by the gush of warm water spewing from the pipe below.  Kinda freaky…. but I trusted Jeff’s advice to go there and was also comforted by the number of others snorkeling and diving around the area.

 

After all of this anticipation plus what I think was 4 trips from our spot on the beach back to the car to retrieve Andy-snacks, diapers, and other forgotten or unanticipated items, we finally grabbed our gear and headed for sea.  Wait, no, I had to go to the bathroom one more time!  Jeff had us wipe the inside of our goggles with a special solution for the fog.  We rinsed everything off, then slipped on the flippers, next pulled on the goggles.  We made sure the goggles were nice and snug… Then we were off!  Finally!  I was somewhat nervous about setting out, as I knew there were shallow rocks and coral, but the flippers provided great foot protection to walk or stand on the coral if needed, the waves were very small, and the coral was not really very sharp if you are just walking on it anyways.  Soon we were cruising atop the water, looking down at the fishies!  As we were new to the practice, Jeff had James and I practice our snorkel “dives” a couple times before heading out to deeper waters.  Mildly distracted by our GoPro camera as we attempted to document the adventure, we were a bit slow at first, but in short time caught on to the breathing and swimming patterns we needed to use.  We didn’t even have to travel 20 feet seaward before we encountered tons of beautiful fish and coral.  I began to feel my fears melt away as I dove down, over and over, getting up-close and personal with some of the breath-takingly exquisitely vivid wild life.

Jeff pointed to the itty-bitty little bubble shaped sacks in the water, “these are, blah-blah-blah’s, tiny little harmless jellyfish,” he shared (he told us their name, but of course my brain has long since discarded that info).  As the swim progressed, I began to doubt his claim to total harmlessness, as I felt all over my body tiny little stinging zaps throughout my swim.  They weren’t anything to cry about, and left no mark, so I carried on, not worrying about it too much.  Later during the swim, Jeff did say that he was getting stung too, and admitted he had spied several other tiny jellies with their tiny stingers out and about (some other species that of course Jeff knew the name of and yes I instantly forgot it as well) most likely encountered in such high frequency due to the nearing of the next full moon.

 

We soon approached the great pipe.  From the water’s surface, we gazed down what Jeff had said was 40 feet to the bottom of the ocean.  Dotting it’s surface were several divers sauntering around.  I could feel the sudden change of water temperature and my fears came creeping back to stifle my child-like mermaid-mode-joy, as I now imagined the possibility of rip tides and other scary current-things.  We converged at the water’s surface, “you can really feel that gush of warm water!” James said.  “Yeah, it’s kinda freaky!” I chimed in.  Jeff nodded, “Some snorkelers will dive all the way down to entrance of that pipe, but I prefer to kind of keep my distance.”  I was relieved to hear this.

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giant outflow pipe from the electric plant

After maybe 60 seconds of discussion, we went back to take some pictures around the pipe only to find we had drifted nearly 30 feet from the pipe we were just looking over.  Oh boy.  But we swam back, took some pictures, took a minute to enjoyed the dense cloud of fish surrounding the entire area, and then headed south to look for sea turtles.  After maybe twenty more minutes of swimming and photographing around in the ocean with various beautiful golden, white, blue, and pink fishies, Jeff stopped to ask us if we thought we wanted to go on.  I responded to my motherly instincts, always tugging at me now, and said I was a little concerned about Andy, so we started to head back.

 

Those brief moments while we were kicking it back in were the fleeing moments of completely and total joy that I enjoyed during this swim, as I felt like I was really freed from all worry and could just savor everything.  I had already discarded the GoPro, so I didn’t have to worry about that, James and Jeff were no longer swimming off in separate directions that I had to keep track of, and Andy was soon to be back in my arms.  I savored the water rushing through my hair, the dawdling groups of fishies letting me join their little schools for a second, the speed and depth I could go with those powerful fins attached to my feet, and the clarity through which I could view everything!  I didn’t want it to end!  But at the same time by virtue it had to.  I can’t wait to go back again!

We never did bump into any sea turtles, unfortunately.  Jeff was much more dismayed at this, however, than I was, as the whole experience was awesome enough to write home about ;).  We followed up this glorious experience with some glorious sushi, and reluctantly said goodbye to our friends as we headed for our next flight: to Maui!

My Life Is Baby Land

Today I fly out to D.C. to interview for the second time at a civilian family medicine residency program. It has been such a horribly long time since writing – I am utterly ashamed! However, I will attempt to fill you in…

So Andy, my darling, lovely son is now almost 1-year-old. He has grown and grown each day, despite my best efforts to freeze his cuteness in time. I keep telling him each day, “this quite possibly is your cutest day ever, it’s all down-hill from here!” but he just laughs and with a smirk turns back to his block-banging, kitchen-drawer-picking, glad-ware-tossing, outlet-searching activity.

The boy is now a clapping, blabbering, crawling-almost-walking 11-month and one week old, he’s been missing his Daddy now for about 3.5 months, as he was deployed to Qatar, a land so seemingly far away that I almost feel as though he’s in a different universe all together. He is to return in about 3 months from now, and I cannot wait for that moment! I just wish I could have a date so I could book a flight to meet him when he gets back to this continent!

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Andy watching Daddy’s bed-time story-telling, missing him, but still get to see him!

The talk of the day is the new president, but I of course wish to avoid all discussions on the matter as I am, like so many, utterly dismayed at the bloodbath that we have witnessed thus far on the subject or anything related. I did vote, via absentee ballot, which I do prefer, as I can avoid the lines and inconveniences of voting in person. I supposed I would like to say that we were little activists this year, about a month ago when my dad asked that my mom and myself support the Miami Valley Women’s Center in some pro-life work: we held up some signs and stood in silence and prayerfulness along County Line Road on a Sunday afternoon – it happened to be gorgeous outside, so that was a pleasant surprise-blessing; in addition, I bumped into a high school acquaintance while participating – the perks of being back in my hometown!

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My talk of the day is Family Medicine Residency application! I can’t get over the intricacies of the process! It brings me flash-backs of my medical school application days – different, however, in that I feel (somewhat) more assured in this process. I feel slightly more confident than I felt when in the medical school application days, as I have the military match options open to me in addition to the civilian options, and my board scores are slightly above average. All of this helps, however, I, of course, have found reason to fret despite this. Though it should be enough to get into any residency program, the fact is, that I very much hope I get my top choice, because it would be the best option for our family situation. Everyone in my family and friends circle have been every bit as supportive as a fourth-year medical student and new-mom could ever ask. I can’t give thanks enough! But anyone who wishes to cast a prayer towards the heavens on my behalf is more than welcome 😉

Applying to a military residency is a special beast one has to take on. The good news (for anyone hoping to do so) is that if you schedule your auditions. manage to get to them, and finally manage to do relatively well at them, you’ve already won half the battle! This is because the residency military programs all talk to each other, and your good efforts in one group of people will be talked over to the others. Next, if your application is somewhat competitive (board scores, medical school performance) you’ve won another third of the battle… However, the major downside, the is the mysterious other part of the battle, which you can’t possibly participate in because it’s out of your hands. In the military match, we are told there is a “points” system through which you are ranked and to which your preferences are assigned accordingly, and which is variable from year to year. It is said to take into account your school performance (Dean’s letter, Med School Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, volunteer hours/leadership roles and other such activities completed during medical school), board scores, interview performance evaluations, any research work, and finally, your prior military service. But there may be other variables and unknown weight is assigned to each item. For most HPSP’ers (medical school scholars, or Health Professional Scholarship Program’ers), you will get no points in that last category, whereas other, more experienced military residency applicants may get a significant number of points, putting them miles ahead of you, meaning if that type of applicant wishes to have the same thing you want, you will not get it, unless of course there are enough spots for both of you to get it. Does that make sense?

Anyway, that’s the military match beast, to which I have applied months ago, and in regards to which I have done just about everything in my power to do. I now await the fruits of these efforts to come to fruition on December 7, a significant day indeed. This is the military match day, and on this day I will know if I have gotten my first choice military location or my second choice, which is the broad category of the civilian residency. I wait on baited breath, though I am attempting to take deep breaths. Pearl Harbor day. This is also the day after Andy’s 1st birthday. This is also a Wednesday…which is a less important fact to note. December 7th. Ugh.

In the mean time I am momm’ing, applying and interviewing for civilian residencies, and yes I’m still doing “school” – which currently involves doing my clerkships at various clinics and hospitals within the Dayton area. My most recent mom-event was yesterday, while taking Andy to daycare (which I usually don’t do, because my parents have so graciously taken that responsibility from me), I was loading him up into the car, had him clicked in, was just about to lock him up and proceed with entering the car myself, when I glanced at his cute little face and noticed the rather ominous symmetrical red rash encircling his mouth. It looked to be certainly allergenic – “oh my goodness,” I panicked, “what if he’s going into anaphylactic shock?” But here he was smiling up and down and giving me this look like “whyyyyyyy are you looking at me like that?” In my head I’m like… It’s nothing… it’s SOMETHING!… it’s nothing … IT’S SOMETHING! … I quickly consulted my mom who was also mid-her morning departure to work… and the panic escalated. After the two of us inspected him for a minute or two, the rash not changing and Andy’s bewilderment at our close study of his face increasing, we decided it was most likely going to be ok, and took him to daycare, explaining to his providers that I wanted to know right away if his condition worsened in the slightest, which it didn’t.

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red rash around mouth = panic… but everything turned out ok!

But oh that did give me a fright for a moment there. I did some show-and-tell with some people at the Dermatology clinic at which I was rotating when I arrived that morning; I waved around the photo and explained that the rash cropped up immediately after feeding him oats, with a little bit of pear sauce and a douse of cinnamon. That was when one of the medical assistants chimed in, “oh my daughter used to do the same thing whenever I gave her cinnamon.” Maybe it was that… I did accidentally pour more into his oats than I had intended and hadn’t mixed it in very well and it sat on his skin (as his food often does) during most of his breakfast time (about ten minutes I would guess). The dermatologist took a glance, “you can put a little hydrocortisone cream on that.” What I love about working in medicine!

The rash was completely gone when I went to pick him up.

I am currently working on weaning Andy – it has had its ups and downs so far, he still nurses at night and in the morning, occasionally if he wakes in the middle of the night he nurses for c a minute as well. And I’ve managed to go from pumping twice a day, about 4-6 ounces each time to once per day, about 3-4 ounces. So my body has done a good job adjusting. Now I have to adjust my appetite and self-control with foods! I am currently riding 1st class, thanks to my sweet generous hubby who so sneakily purchased these high-end seats for me when I requested him to reserve my flight for me! As such, the stewardess has just offered me a basket of sweets and of course I grabbed the first chocolate thing I saw – a cookie with chocolate and caramel layers inside – nom nom nom! … MUST RESIST EATING THE SECOND HALF!!!!!

Another change my post-partum physiology has brought about, oh so unfortunately, is migraine reinstatement. I was down to 1-2 mild migraines per month while I was pregnant and even for a few months after Andy was born. But in the last 4 months, my migraines have regained their previous status-quo and I am back up to 4-6 per month, with 1-2 of them being quite debilitating. With the weaning of Andy, I may start to consider prophylactic medications for these horrid things… I just hate the idea of being on a medication every day… and the side effects to most of the choices (tricyclic antidepressants, anti-seizure meds, Beta blockers, muscle relaxants) are not so great (constipation, fatigue, concentration issues… yeah not cool). Oh boy. Guess I just need to get pregnant again haha… ha ha… ha.

Not to lament excessively about life and it’s recent downs, I do know that I have lots to be thankful for and I consider my life and its activities of late to have been pretty adventurous and exciting! But let me describe to you both the good and the ugly. June and July were an incredibly stressful couple of months, whereupon I finished 3rd year clerkships going out with a bang on ObGyn, during which time, James left me as he “PCS’d” (changed work locations in the Air Force) to the D.C. area; in addition to the emotional toll of moving out of our quaint little home apartment and away from my hubby, during this ObGyn rotation, I had to work very long hours and felt extremely misplaced and uncomfortable for much of the time. Next, I joined my hubby in the DC area, to study for and complete my board examinations. After this, I elected to do an “AI” or “Acting Intern” rotation at Georgetown University/Providence Hospital, which was almost totally draining after various respiratory, stomach, and breast infections, long hours, and a crazy long daily commute in and out of D.C. traffic. To top it off, James was deployed to the lands far away during the second to last week of this already stressful rotation, having received a very last-minute notification. This caused not only emotional anxiety of his sudden departure, but also induced some crazy scrambling of phone calls and meetings to arrange rather desperately to revamp the child-care and travel plans for the ensuing months.

I recall the palpitations as I packed up my bags as I wrapped up this rotation, fretting there was something I’d forget. I was preparing for the next step in Andy and my journey: an audition rotation at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

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To the beautiful beaches of Florida! Getting there was fretful. I had a small break-down when I got to check-in and was told that I would have to check my stroller because it was 1.5 lb over the weight limit for carry-on, thus I would have to cart my 23lb baby throughout the airport, into and out of bathrooms, while also juggling my already bursting-full and heavy backpack and duffle bag. The world seemed so cruel at that moment! Things cleared up though, and setting him precariously down on the family-size bathroom floor (though he didn’t like it one bit) and hoisting him through the Starbucks line wasn’t so bad after all (I know, first world problems, right?). Also, my mom so astutely reminded me that I have access to the all wonderful USO, and I took advantage of this during my layover! A young girl in the marines sat with me there and told me about how she ended up with appendicitis during training and was out of commission for quite some time due to the complications following…crazy! Andy just concerned himself with the abundant toys during this time, and before we knew it, it was time to board our flight to Fort Walton Beach, FL!

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shopping at the USO

When we finally arrived, several more things when wrong before the end of the day; I about lost it when I was pulled over for going 15 over on the base, but then I was so very graciously forgiven, maybe it was because I eeked out that I was brand new to the base, but probably more likely it was because of the fact that I had a baby screaming bloody murder in the back. And again, I thought I was at the end of my rope when I got to my hotel at 8pm Florida-time/9pm Andy-time and there was no crib and no one to deliver one to the hotel from the office (a ten minute drive away). So then, I summoned help from a friend from Ohio University, who was also on the base since she too was doing an audition rotation, to ask her to pick up a crib from the office for me. She so kindly did so, only to find the crib was broken. So that night Andy slept on the floor and woke up over and over, once, only to be found screaming after having rolled himself under one of the living room chairs. Poor little guy.

However, the next day, after dropping him off with this amazingly nice provider, who also happened to be a wife of one of the Family Medicine Residents, I was greeted by these warm, friendly people; and within a day, I got an offer from one of the residents to come stay with them instead of at the hotel. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! So for the rest of my stay I was at this completely awesome apartment, with a breath-taking view of the gorgeous Choctawhatchee Bay,

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hosted by two of the third-year family medicine residents (married, and apparently 17 or so weeks pregnant at the time!) who happened to love to cook (yay!) and also happened to have two rooms complete with diaper genie (a disposal apparatus, if you haven’t heard of this, it will change your mommy life…) diaper-geniand a crib to spare; they also had an adorable son Wesley who was not yet 2 years old. Andy and myself (and my parents, while they came in town to help me watch Andy during the week in which I had to work on the in-patient service) were well cared for by these people, and had such great company!

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Family came to visit… and also help with baby-care!

And I got to stay the night with my best friend Sarah – twice! As she lives just over 2 hours away from the base!

The residents and faculty were so extremely kind and friendly, they functioned so well together, and they held beach volleyball gatherings and went to trivia weekly…it was a dream place to work, I wanted so badly to rank Eglin Air Force Base as my # 1 preferred program, but alas in the end, I concluded after much deliberation that the location was a poor family-life choice; it is not worth the risk of James being stuck in the DC area with Andy and me worlds away for a second year in a row. Oy the despair! But it was glorious while it lasted!

Next, we had some more plane-hopping to do… to get to my audition at Fort Belvoir, which is in the Alexandria/D.C. area. Beautiful campus. On this rotation, I found the residents to also be very warm and friendly. It is a tri-service (meaning navy-army-air force) residency, so it opened my eyes to some differences and interesting things about the other branches. I received many visitors while staying here as well, with many retreats back to the Maryland bungalow (James’ now vacant apartment, as he has left for deployment) on the weekends! It was nice to have the visitors once again, and felt warmly welcomed at this base as well, however, there was also an underlying note of extra stress, as I had to simultaneously attempt to work on my civilian residency application/personal statement/letters of recommendation.

For these reasons, I was exceedingly pleased to head home to Dayton at the end of this rotation, thus marking the end of audition-traveling as a single mom. So much can be said for those who manage to care for their children without the help of a spouse or other family. I don’t know if I couldn’t have retained my sanity without the help that I did get on the weekends and during my in-patent weeks during auditions. (THANKS MOM & DAD!!!)

I am also so very thankful to be done with boards, this too was a very stressful event, and I am so glad to have gotten through it. It is amazing how I always look ahead at these events and trials through a very skeptical lens, and yet, somehow, with so much help and support of course, I still manage to get through it all. As I remind myself so often – I know that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. I just need to be reminded of this over and over.

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And with that I will close this insanely long post even though I feel as though I have so much more to share! Best wishes to everyone in the coming Thanksgiving Holiday, my prayers are with you all!

Everything’s Just Dandy with our lil Andy!

Well, I just went running, and as I’ve shared before, running always inspires me! Course it’s only the rare occasion that that inspiration lasts long enough for me to unlace my jogging shoes and open up my computer to start typing a blog post, but this seems to be one such occasion! It was my first run since birthing my big ol’ almost 9 pound baby, and it was WONDERFUL! Sunny Sunday it seemed to be, one of those glorious sunny days of winter in which the wind chill was almost nothing and the temp is just cold enough to keep the pretty, still slightly white snow on the ground. I could easily endure a winter made of these days…

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So per usual, much has happened since my last post but this time is special because I HAD A BABY! It was the craziest most wonderful miracle of my life, and I’ve never been so happy as I was the moment the doc pulled Andy out and laid him in my arms with my hubby standing there at my side gleaming with pride. He was so perfect, that little cone headed angel… the joy was just indescribable, and we are so very blessed to have our healthy baby boy.

The labor started out on a Sunday morning, three days after my due date… I was suddenly wakened by that tell-tale sensation – like I had just wet my panties – because my water had broke! I waddled over to the toilet to confirm that indeed there was fluid gushing out of me – along with it a little pokey brown Andy hair! Of course I awoke James right away – he jumped up and started gathering things in an awful rush while I took my time, hopped in the shower, made sure I had a nice glass of chocolate milk and a piece of peanut butter-jelly-and cinnamon-toast in my stomach before leaving the comfort of our house and kitchen to be trapped in a hospital where they were sure to put me on that wretched clear liquid diet. We were so giddy with excitement as we cruised on over to the hospital that frosty December morning and as James ushered me down the hospital halls in the lovely wheel chair we had obtained from the ER.

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Fun wheeling down to labor and delivery!

As the ObGyn consulted us in the labor and delivery room with her clip board and long list of potential scenarios of things that could go wrong – fetal distress, forceps, suction, internal monitoring, C-SECTIONS! – that we had to sign off on, I felt such a surge of both terror and joy, this is really happening! This is really happening?? Wait, do I really have to deliver this baby? No going back now, he really has to come out and oh its such a small opening he has to fit through… Ahhhh I better not have to have a c-section, nooooo not a c-section! Oh what can go wrong, please nothing go wrong! Will I survive the pain? Can I really endure this? I had “grossly” ruptured membranes, as the OB put it (thank you), with only a centimeter dilation and feeling no contractions. “18 hours” she warned, “he’s really gotta be out by then.”

It wasn’t long before they started pumping me with pitocin, which I had really hoped to avoid, but like THAT was going to happen. I was hesitant – super gradual I told them – let’s just go up by increments of one. Well they started me on 2, I was feeling ok still, contractions were there, but I could talk through them without too much difficulty, and sure enough we started the climb by increments of 2, maybe 3, I don’t know, suddenly it hit me like a brick wall, the pain was utterly horrific, like nothing I’ve felt before, like cramps on your worst day of menstruation times a million-gazillion!

My wonderful husband, throughout this ordeal, had homework that was due that night. So while I was still in la-la land, waiting for real labor pain to start, he was off at the local Starbucks finishing an online quiz, then he came back to our hospital room, watched a couple football games (Brown’s vs Bengals + Seahawks vs Vikings, yes we had both on at once), and finally, around the time that the soccer championship game – Portland vs Columbus – kicked off (4pm), I started to feel it. As the pain overtook me, the nurse, my mother, and James accompanied me on the tortuous 7 hour journey. After every contraction, I kept thinking I was at the limit of my tolerance and would give in and order the epidural, but I didn’t. I made it to about 11pm that night, when the doctor finally told me I could start pushing, she coached me through it and James, Mom, and the nurse cheered me on.  I pushed my heart out and I almost burned out when suddenly the doctor shouted, “he’s almost out, you’re going to have to push him out or I’ll have to use forceps,” and that was when I gave it my very last ounce and our little Andy was born – 11:43pm.

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Our little miracle. So much joy!

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Since then our life changed tremendously. I haven’t gotten more than 4 hours of sleep at a time, so much diaper changing and my nipples hurt soooo bad! But one smile from him and it’s all worth it. Sometimes he cries with so much fervor, I think my heart is going to break, but it doesn’t last longer than a few minutes, and he’ll at least take it down to a manageable level. And sometimes I am so tired I can barely get myself out of the bed to change and feed him, but by the time I get him back to sleep in my arms I am cherishing every minute of my mid-night interruption. One of my favorite things is a lazy morning when I can lay Andy down between James and I after a good feeding and we can both just gaze into Andy’s eyes, hold his little hand or cup his little toes and fish for a twinkling Andy Smile or two – or twenty.

He hasn’t full out laughed from the belly up yet but sometimes he gives us a “huh” or “eh” and it almost sounds like a giggle, or he starts to breath in and out really fast with a wide open grin like he is just busting up! And oh I could just spend hours watching the many faces of Andy, I could publish a youtube channel!

Maternity leave was so grand – nearly every moment of every day, it was just me and Andy… and lots of family! James had a bit of time off with me, so I could share lots of happy moments, and also endure the exhausting ones. Christmas came and with it – James’ family from the West coast. Soon it was Andy’s baptism day… and soon it was time for holidays to end… I spent my last few days of maternity leave with Andy and Downton Abby – got slightly addicted… 3 seasons in one week! And finally, it was time for me to return to my clinical training at the hospital. I dreaded it so much I nearly didn’t make it in! It was to be a polar vortex the day that I started, how appropriate…

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But by the grace of God I made it and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had chalked it up to be, on the contrary, it was nice to see familiar faces and give them all the updates, show off some pictures and babble a little about my baby back at home. All were so sympathetic to my plight of having to return to work and ooed and awwed over my baby pics.  My preceptor was all too understanding of my having to take time to pump, and he readily let me off early to get home to baby Andy. I’ve been so spoiled! Still dreading my coming surgery rotation – not sure how I am going to endure 4 entire weeks of it, but how many times must I learn, I have no right to worry so much!

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So that is my update… life – it is crazy and beautiful, can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Been a While!

Well it’s been a terribly long long long time since my last post! Now that I’ve flown half way across the country to the wonderfully tropical land of Florida and it’s only about 2 a.m. according to my circadian clock (only 1 a.m. according to this Florida clock, here), I’ve finally decided to write! So very much has happened since my last post! First of all, I am here in the tropical land of Florida in celebration of my dear friend, Sarah and her wonderful Stephen’s wedding! It’s going to be a glorious gathering, tonight was the splendiferous night of the reuniting of the trio – Amanda, Sarah, and I, along with some other very dear friends, which has been long awaited, this time since last January.

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blurred pic of the reuniting last night at the air port (from left – Wendy, Amanda, me!)

The three of us have been the best of friends since high school, then went our separate ways when we had to graduate and go to college, but have always made it back together for reunions as often as possible, even when that means going to West Africa to see Amanda when it had been over a year of separation! Anyway, this was cause for much excitement and thus I am unable to sleep! Sarah and Amanda reunited a couple nights ago when Amanda arrived via car, and they are both pooped and feel compelled to rest it up for the night (ridiculous)… I guess we must be getting old!

from our visit to South Africa, our welcoming from the village

from our visit to South Africa, our welcoming from the village

The next thing that has happened is I finished second year (YAY!) of medical school and passed step 1 (USMLE) & level 1 (COMLEX) boards (YAYAYAY!!!) with semi-decent average & above average scores (respectively)! This was a HUGE relief to me this summer! Much stress had been built up over these exams and even more so over the process of non-stop studying for them over the course of 3 ½ weeks all by myself cooped up in my apartment, just wishing to escape with what little sanity I had left! I am so thankful to James, my rock who kept that little ray of optimism and calm-mindedness in my life, who knows what mess I’d be in if not for him!

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Soon following (just two nights after finishing my second and final exam for the year), a tiny little 6lb 13oz miracle came into my life – the cutest most happy and adorable little baby boy was born – my nephew, Daniel Jakob! I got to be there when he shot out into the world swift as a canon, and I was there when the docs plopped him up onto mamma’s chest and Joseph, the daddy, pronounce him to be in fact a boy (they had decided to wait to find out what they were having)!!! It was so precious and wonderful! It was my second time witnessing a baby’s birth and just like the first time, I couldn’t help the tears that welled up in my eyes and the ball that caught in my throat, it was just too awesome to even explain, watching this baby (my own sister’s baby!) enter the world for the very first time and breathe his very first breath of air! It was overwhelming and beautiful…

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Which brings me to my final new happening – James and I are having a baby! In just 6 weeks I am due to deliver! It’s going to be a boy too, and I just can’t wait!!!! We found out at some point near the end of March, and held in the secrete for as long as we could – I think it was about 7 weeks when we finally let it out to our parents. Mom and Dad had just gotten back from a grand European tour and we proposed a small sketti dinner in honor of their arrival. Of course, having just gotten back from Europe, Dad popped open a bottle of wine and poured glasses for everyone. We prayed over the meal and then we raised our glasses for a toast, after which I chimed, “So, I can’t drink any of this wine….” And the look on mom’s face was priceless! Her and dad jumped up and hugged us, informing us that we were crazy and that they were so happy! We had a similar reaction from Anne and Joseph, and we told James’ family, as well as Mary and John over facetime, they were all so happy for us! I had a long walk, talk, and snack date with Sarah when I revealed my news to her – she was in such shock, I thought she might need to sit down! We had been looking at bridesmaids dresses when I informed her that I was going to need a dress with lots of room and being the quick creative thinker she is, she remarked, “why, are you going to be pregnant?” to which I replied, “Yes, I’m going to be about 7 ½ months along.” I think it was a little bit of a reality check for her and I both – we are getting older and like many high school besties, have always hung on to the belief that we will never grow up. Though we are both 26 now (25 at that moment in time), and it’s true, the biological clock is part of wanting to have kids, my philosophy is that we are allowed to grow old, but never to grow up! Having a baby is yet another adventure and I welcome it with the full expectation that though it will bring more responsibility and work in my life, it will also, as all good adventures should, bring so much fun and joy! Even just being pregnant has been a wonderful adventure, the first trimester was a grievous trial, I admit to that: I was both trying to study for boards and survive the endless gut wrenching nausea… but so far second and third have been awesome – I get to feel baby moving all the time, and carry him with me everywhere I go, it’s been such a blessing, and the time has flown by so remarkably fast!

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Moving right along, life also brought to us another one of God’s great miracles – a wedding and a new niece! We traveled to Washington this summer to partake in the festivities of James’ baby sister, Michelle, and Jerry’s wedding, where we not only danced the night away but played the part of MC/DJ which I have to say we pulled off rather well!

the marvelous DJs!

the marvelous DJs!

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While in Washington we also met our new niece, Bridget, who was born just 2 ½ weeks after little Daniel, and is also a most adorable little darling, looks so much like her mom, Melissa!

My sister-in-law nieces!!!

My sister-in-law and nieces!!!

We had a wonderful vacation out West: got to explore wild Alaska for almost a week,

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Exit Glacier in Seward, AK

visit my middle school buddy (who is also prego, and just 2 ½ weeks ahead of me!),

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catch up with James’ family, celebrate with wedding (and manya birthday) festivities, and do some Northwest traveling with my parents and little sister who came up for a week, what a blessed time that was!

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Following the vacation, I began my third year of medical school! This is the year I spend doing clinical rotations at my core site (which is miraculously Dayton, so I can actually now live with my husband and in the same town as my parents/older sister!).

new apartment! (notice the stairs, my favorite feature!

new apartment! (notice the stairs, my favorite feature!)

During this year I must get all of my foundational rotations done (family med, internal med, psych, obgyn, surgery, pediatrics…) and at the end of this year (like the end of last year) I get to do another round of board exams (NOOOO!!!!). But step 2/level 2 I hear is a lot easier… here’s hoping! At the end of each rotation (which is 1-4 weeks long, usually 4 weeks long), I have an extensive 2-hour test. It’s been so crazy different, and what makes it especially unusual, but so far I’ve kinda liked, is how much my schedule can change from month to month. My first month was internal medicine, and my oh my the days were long, but not outrageous… usually 10 hour days, some less some more, a couple 12s… but wonderfully never beginning before 7am. Next was family medicine during which I had many days off (holidays or just due to lack of patients at the office), and the doctor’s policy was always for me to take a seat in his office (as opposed to standing for endless hours as we go from patient to patient – this saved my back immensely!). I got to see tons of children during this rotation, and had the sweetest preceptor, Dr. Swope (below).

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Next, I was on anesthesiology for 1 week, a super brief rotation with a ton of standing and some earlier mornings…it was here that I was able to first intubate living people, which was exciting for me, and I got a small taste of what surgery will be like. Finally, for the past 3 weeks, (up until today…) I have been on cardiology. Both anesthesiology and cardiology are elective rotations, thus I did not have any exams at the end of these specialties, which has been very nice. Next month, I am supposed to be at the VA for Psychiatrics … I am very curious to see how this one will go…

 

Well it is now 3 a.m. my time… which means it is definitely time for bed! I’m not the only one awake though baby is doing some kind of flutter-type karate kick inside of me! I call him my little ninja – must be a nocturnal little guy!

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Mayhaps the next time that I post, I shall have some more photos of our little baby –out and about in the world!

So Board of Board Studying!

HAha just kidding… but I am soooo sick of board studying! I wish it could be over! This constant pending doom, the terrified feeling of what if? …I fail? …or barely pass? COMLEX level I is the single most important test so far, arguably ever, in my medical education/career path, it has the power to render everything (the whole nasty medical school application process and all I have worked on over the past year and a half) null and void if I blow!

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the second year medical student’s “bible”

Such a thought has the power to really ruin your day (and I mean every day from January through May 28, the date I have picked for my exam)! Thoughts of my MCAT (the medical college admission test) and the tragic, very below applicant average 24 that I got my first time around, followed by a devastating 22 on my second try, haunt me too often. But this is different, I tell myself, I’ve been studying for this one for the past year and a half! And still have a few more months to go. My schedule in school is also much much less stressful than it was back a year ago, and I have noticed that lately I am having quite a few ah-ha! moments where things finally fall into place. I just finally conceptualized why it is that secondary retroperitoneal organs are called secondary even though I learned about the abdominal anatomy over a year ago! Very exciting progress here on some days!

ah ha! (I have no idea why we need to know this...)

ah ha! (I have no idea why we need to know this…)

Then there are other days, where I see a drug name that looks maybe a little bit familiar but I can’t put my finger on it or it’s totally unrecognizable and it all just seems so hopeless, there are so so very many drugs! (Which is one of my great grievances about medicine today – if only we learned more about alternative methods to treat. I want to know more about nutrition and supplementation. I am grateful that we have been taught manipulation as an alternative, however, I don’t even have a book to help guide me on the proper application of my different techniques that I’ve learned; all we have is a collection of powerpoints and a big picture review book that doesn’t explain anything. Maybe that is something I need to search for on  my own…)

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do I hafta?

Had some crazy drama in my little group-learning-type curriculum (case-based-learning) of just 20 classmates over the past year. It finally came to a head this week during our class hour, an hour where the curriculum heads come and meet with the students to discuss issues/gather feedback. The discussion was largely centered around the group assignments and who was going to be in who’s group, something that never before has been up for discussion, but now it has! Apparently for the first time ever, people in the curriculum met with the head of the curriculum and actually made demands to be moved from their assigned group. They said they simply could not function in a group with certain other individuals.

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During the first term of this year, I struggled massively with my group – everyday the group seemed on edge. Things were not at all conducive to open group participation. Discussion was conducted in a manner that was according to a select dominant persons in the group; any excess or out of order information shared was disdained, the individual insulted for bringing it up some how “out of context,” and afterwards during our group wrap-up (a time at the end of the group session where individuals get to say how group went for them), any deviant methods of discussion that were attempted would often be singled out for the superfluousness of the activity. I felt like I might have an anxiety attack many times in group.

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I wanted to say something during wrap up, and some times I did, but often I tried to just smile and nod – if the rest of the group was happy, who was I to change things? I armed myself for group, bringing with me books and pictures so that when I was questioned, I could hold up my sources and just stand by them. Too often I was forced to flip open those books to show the group where I was getting my information and yet almost always remained standing in opposition on many small things that could, instead, have been learning points for the group.

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I did, however get some satisfaction when one particular topic at hand ended up on our neurology exam, and I was right – I hope at least the one individual who had enough curiosity to take a glance at the book I was holding up got it right too.

...well I did

…well I did

My groups have gotten better with each passing term since then, and I feel very comfortable to discuss the learning topics currently. It’s a safe haven of ideas and questions, just like what it should be! But certain individuals are not happy and this brings us back to the individuals-can’t-work-with-certain-other-individuals syndrome that has been going on since then.

 

So, somehow the course instructor got involved and he told the individual who can’t work with other certain individuals (we’ll call him Bill) to formulate the group members according to how Bill would prefer them, and then poll the class to see if everyone else would be ok with it. This spurred the a fore mentioned syndrome in which everyone suddenly reverted to their grade-school-selves, suddenly deciding that they have their own list of certain individuals in which they could also not work with. I guess I understand their indigence – if Bill can pick the people he wants to be in his group – why can’t we all then pick who we want? Lets all make our own fantasy medical classmate teams! At the meeting, however, this was massively admonished by the higher-up faculty – who, though they said that they fully supported what our instructor was trying to do (with the pleasing of the class by trying to make the groups according to our preference), they were shocked at our class’s behavior – that never in the 20-year history of the curriculum has such a proposal been raised. They went on to say that the curriculum is centered around using diversity and practicing collaboration, and this strategic placement of members in each group destroys what makes the curriculum special and makes it work! Avoidance of certain individuals because of conflict is not reflective of real world scenarios; we are all going to have to learn to put up and work with people we don’t like, and if that is going to be a problem then maybe some of us should re-think the reasons why we want to be physicians. If you can’t help your classmates, then how are you going to help patients?

 

It was something that needed to be said, and at least for a few of us, I know that her words resonated with us. It was too bad that so many of us got caught up and couldn’t rise above the syndrome, but I think it was a valuable experience. Not everyone took the message to heart, and probably everyone took home a different version of what she said, but at least for me in that moment, I felt that every word which she shared was exactly what I wanted to say about the situation – I was just so glad it was said. (Except for the part about supporting what the instructor was doing with trying to please others, because truly by doing so he fed the fuel for this fire, however, I can see why she needed to support the man.)

 

After that day, some secret someone sent out nice little notes to everyone, I think I know who it was! It was very sweet! The classmates are wanting to put on a get together soon too which should also help lighten the mood and current strains on relationships.

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Anyways, that’s what my school life is all about these days. We had a lovely talent show the other day, made me remember dance and music and made me miss it terribly! One classmate of mine performed a dance duet with this other student break dancer dude – she was on point and they danced to Lindsey Stirling – oh it was soooo beautiful – truly artistic and I just miss my beautiful world of art so much! I wish I could have recorded it to share with you, it really moved me. I asked James to fetch my flute while he’s back in town near my parents house this week so that he can bring it back to school so I can finally play it again and may have been dancing in my room by myself a couple nights ago. Its so easy to forget to stop and smell the roses, listen to the music, and to let yourself go and dance when you get too caught up on the business of life!

 

Another sporadic and fantastic thing that I’ve been so blessed to have done recently includes a trip down south to Florida! I got to visit my two best friends, Amanda and Sarah!!!!!!! It was just a matter of chance and at the last minute decided up on that we should all get together! And truly would not have been possible if not for my hubby who so lovingly set us out to going and did all the driving despite my protest.

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We met up at Panama City Beach – a beautiful place with palm trees and 60 weather! Alas we only had less than 24 hours with us all together, but we made the very best of it. First, of course we went together to the beach, while James went out on a run to stretch his weary driver legs. We frolicked about and updated eachother on as much as possible. Next we got all fancy in make up and dresses and went to a fun fish restaurant that served awful and expensive food but was oh so much fun. We laughed so much, the staff probably thought we were all heavily intoxicated! After this, us girls ventured out dancing while the men stayed behind to play video games. We went to the famous Club la Vela, where college students likely flood the dance floors during spring break season, but being January, we had the club nearly to ourselves for the first hour. Amanda and I did most of the dancing there for a bit until the dance floor got warmed up and suddenly Sarah caught the jitter bug and danced on with us – I danced so hard I believe I maybe herniated a few of my lumbar discs! But don’t worry, I have been healing…slowly… over the past two weeks! I even decided to rock out the worm break-dancing-move that I haven’t done since the time I tried doing it in a floor length dress only to reveal my calves-thighs-and then yes…  my underwear during an utterly embarrassing brain-missing moment at a friend’s homecoming dance (thank goodness I didn’t know any of them!). We danced until were were covered in sweat then danced some more! It was after 2am when we got back to Sarah’s apartment. For the next few hours we cozied up on the pull out couch to watch video after video of our old home made videos, reminiscing almost to the point of tears, I just can’t believe how blessed we are to have had this friendship and to have been to places and gone through the things we have together. Meanwhile James is sleeping on an air mattress, he couldn’t make it too much past 2 when we got home. Sadly, around 4am we went to bed – couldn’t quite make it the whole night through, and awoke around 7am to get one more visit in to the beach before Amanda had to leave for her flight to Seattle.

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The rest of the time went by so fast and it was time to come back to frozen Ohio before we knew it. Fortunately we got to stop at my Great Aunt and Uncle’s farm on the way, a visit which has been long overdue! They were kind enough to put us up for the night on both the way down and way back up. We got in late at night and came in through the open door and found our way to one of their spare bedrooms which was made up for us complete with a heated electric blanket! While we were getting ready for bed, I perused the antique furniture, old photos, and collectibles everywhere in the room. It was just like it was when I visited as a little girl but even more like a little time capsule than I remembered! So many things – like the Sears Catalogue from 1903 kept and hung up/set up throughout the room that were all kept and preserved here from a time long ago.

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On the way back we had a little more time to socialized and Aunt Pat made us sausage, eggs, and toast for breakfast. She and Randy still live on their cattle ranch out in Tennessee that they’ve kept up since retirement from teaching. They keep the cattle even though, from what it seems, they could do just fine without it. But it keeps them busy, Randy says. Aunt Pat updated me on some family affairs, got to see some pictures of their kids, all grown up now; and Uncle Randy shared with us stories from his choral days when he toured Africa singing across the continent. Crazy stories!

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I didn’t want to come back to reality after such a journey! But it feels right, studying medicine. It’s not fun, and I want to cry sometimes and I sit for soooooo long almost every day, just trying to penetrate this thick scull of mine with new information, some of it not even new, but forgotten. I have to stop and ask myself sometimes if I’m really living and if I die tomorrow, would I be happy that this is how I spent my last days… its a question I need to keep remembering because it often has the power to put things back into perspective. If I forget to live every day like it could be my last – if I let what I’m studying or worrying about consume me, I will be in the habit of living a very empty life. But if I remember to seize the little things, like taking a different route on my run and discovering a new and awesome path, or whipping up a small batch of chocolate chip cookies even when I feel like I just really need to keep doing homework, or stop and talk to a classmate about life, or help out the 1st year medical students with osteopathic manipulative medicine … life is so much fuller.

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Lately I’ve tried to consistently volunteer to host interviewees that need a place to stay the night before their medical school interview. So often I find myself feeling stressed and mad at myself for volunteering before the guest arrives because all I can think about is how much I need to be studying. But then the interviewee arrives and I find such joy in being able to give them a place to stay and offer them a student’s perspective on the school. Besides, I just love the company! Perspective is corrected when I remember that biggest picture: that I am saved by Christ’s blood and the reason for why I am here on earth and in medical school, is to be a light, not to complain or whine or bury myself in studies without the time or care for others. Its something that I have to be constantly remembering… especially in this, the first of many board-study seasons to come.