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.

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