Category Archives: medicine

Fourth Year Interim Summary

Wow. It’s been a really long time since I’ve written. What’s happened in the interim? I finished my 3rd year of medical school. I took and passed step 2 CK and CS of my licensing boards. I started fourth year, and have finished 3 full months of surgery electives. And finally, I applied to residency programs!

My second surgery month was an away rotation on a surgical oncology elective. I couldn’t wait to wake up at 4am every day because I loved the hospital, I loved the surgeries, and even more I loved my patients. They kept me coming back each and every day because they were the most hopeful, motivated, and some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. I worked hard, but I also got to enjoy some days off to see the city.

Two of my days off I had the privilege of training jiu jitsu at the Relson Gracie academy with Robin Gieseler. The guys and girls there were extremely welcoming and I had some really tough matches! It was great to be back on the mats, even if only for two days, after being away for so long. Visiting a new academy is always a fun and challenging experience, at least from what I’ve found. Everyone has a different game they like to play, and it’s always good to have your game challenged by a completely new partner.  I found a surgical specialty that I quickly fell in love with, because as you’ll recall I loved my oncology rotation during my medicine rotation as a third year medical student. Surgical oncology combined the best of my love of surgery with a love I have for helping cancer patients once again find hope.

Right now, I’m writing this from my couch in KY where I am currently on a trauma surgery elective. I can honestly say I have never been so busy in my life. We consistently have a patient census of greater than 60 patients who we round on and take care of every day. It has taught me great management skills and organization. It’s quite the change from to the fast paced world of trauma surgery, but I have learned so much! Trauma surgery is high paced, intense, and so much fun! 

 Tomorrow  I’ll be heading home to Toledo for the rest of the year. I’m excited to get home to my family, my friends, and my jiu jitsu family. I’ll start going on interviews for residency as well. It’s a year of firsts and lasts and it’s already flying by! Every day I am so incredibly grateful to be on this journey, sometimes I can’t even believe how lucky I am.


Farewell to the Classroom

I have officially had my last classroom lecture of my life – not to say that the hard work and learning is over by any stretch. I have been sitting in a classroom [well… I don’t know how much I

First and last days of school!!

sat still when I was in preschool] for 20 years, and finally at 23 I leave the comfortable and safe world of desks and lecture halls behind. I am both incredibly excited and truly terrified that all my future learning will come from real patients and not just cases studied from in books. It is one thing to read about how to treat an MI and an entirely different one to use that treatment on someone having a heart attack!

I’m feeling slightly nostalgic. Some of the greatest times in my life have revolved around school. I met my best friend on the school bus when we were 11 and we used to pass notes in class (we were terrible at covering it too).  I learned the preamble to the constitution with School House Rock. I dissected my first frog in 7th grade and was so grossed out I could barely look at it. I learned the value of a great novel in high school literature. I found my love for writing in AP US History. I learned Spanish, Math, and Chemistry with great friends. In college I began to debate about philosophy, religion, sociology, and morality. I have grown into the person I am today because of everything I’ve been able to learn and apply inside and outside the classroom.
First, ahead of me I still have my final exam in Organ Systems next Tuesday. Then we have our comprehensive year 2 exam next Friday. And starting next Saturday I will begin my 38 days of board studying. I have alluded to it several times – on June 11 I take USMLE Step 1 (U.S. Medical Licensing Exam). There are 3 steps required before you are a fully licensed physician. Step 1 is honestly the most important test of my entire life. It is 322 questions over 8 hours. A passing score is a 189 and the national average is usually around 220. You don’t get a good score? You will not get a good residency. It’s that simple. So what does it cover? Everything we’ve learned in 2 years of medical school. (Check out my bookshelf that’s actually missing four 2″ binders)

What I’ve learned in 2 years

To prepare, you study for 14 hours a day (I will be doing 7am-9pm) including 138 practice questions a day and studying high-yield books. I will get a 3 hour break on Saturdays to visit the academy and try to stay sane with my favorite jiu jitsu brothers and sisters (literally just visiting since I’m officially off the mats for 6 weeks due to a broken foot). 

 This quote feels incredibly relevant to my immediate future:
William Osler once said “Medicine is learned by the bedside and not in the classroom. Let not your conceptions of disease come from words heard in the lecture room or read from the book. See, and then reason and compare and control. But see first.”

Ready to take the next steps on my journey. Thank you to every friend, teacher, and classmate I’ve ever had. You challenged me every day inside the classroom to learn and outside the classroom to apply my knowledge to make me a better person.

So long, cozy lecture hall!


Hello, doctor’s offices!

Rambling Thoughts on Saturday

Life in a Cubicle

                My medical school is integrating this new program into our curriculum where we are in groups of 4 along with a resident/attending and we go into the hospital and do a full history and physical exam on a real patient. I think it’s wonderful that they’re trying to lower the shell shock from pure classroom learning to pure patient interaction. Getting to put on my white coat and interact with a real patient is a great reminder that what we’re doing these first two years really is important. For example – today I read a patient’s med list (with 18 different meds) and whereas a year ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything, I could now say what every drug was for and (mostly) how or why it works. It is validation that I’m actually learning!

A full Review of Systems

                So while studying in a cubicle in the library all by yourself for 8 hours a day may seem unduly harsh at times, when we get a glimpse into the future it all seems worth it! I was also recently reminded of something  – that these lives that are going to be in our hands is a huge responsibility. I mean, that seems obvious. But it’s not just their life, it’s also their fears and goals, and their families’ lives. Every patient we will someday treat has people in their lives who will be affected by their illness and we have the power to determine their perception of medicine for the rest of their lives. Will we make that a positive encounter? I sure hope so. I know that death is inevitable as a doctor and that I won’t be able to save every life. But I also know that doesn’t mean there’s no after effects on their family and even myself and I hope that always remains a forethought and that I can do everything in my power to help not only my patients, but their families as well. [A little bit of time spent in the hospital, and I’m a little less cynical and the enormity of my future responsibilities causes me to really appreciate being chosen for this career path.]

What I feel I should wear some days

                In my other world…BJJ. I’ve realized lately that I’ve been my very usual harsh self in critiquing myself. It’s easy in medical school (or school in general) to know when you’ve EARNED a grade or an acceptance or whatever it may be because there is quantitative proof. It’s nearly impossible for me to accept progress without such statistics which is why I think I’ve trapped myself into thinking the worst about my jiu jitsu and feeling that I’m not where I should be or worse than I probably am. And then conversations like this happen: [insert name of new guy] “you really surprised me”. Actually, I don’t think it’s necessarily a compliment for me –  I think it’s a compliment to every single person at my academy who has worked so hard to make me better. I feel SO lucky that I get to regularly train with all of the upper belts and that their patience and continued helpfulness has caused me to get to where I am today. So maybe I should start listening to people who tell me that I am improving and stop holding myself back with my own negative thoughts. Guess that goes back to my post about fear dictating my life. Hmm. Side note – I also have reverted back into my “spazzy” whitebelt phase – I’ve got to chill out (I feel like I should wear this rashguard). It’s probably because Chicago is so close and I’m *mildly* freaking out.

                Tonight is the first women’s fight in the UFC and that’s a giant step forward for women’s equality in sports. In a sport that has been so male-driven, full of testosterone and alpha-males, it’s awesome that women are not only being incorporated – they’re the main event! It’s so important to have role models in life whether it’s your mother or your favorite sports figure – and with all the rising black belt women in BJJ and now professional women fighters in the UFC hopefully it inspires more women to join us in these amazing sports! So to all the women who came before me who inspired women to be more and do more – thank you. Thank you for paving the way so that I never once felt like I couldn’t be a doctor or couldn’t participate in sports or that because I was a woman I had limitations on my dreams.
13 days until my next path/physio/pharm exam on the respiratory & nervous systems.
14 days until Chicago.

These next 2 weeks are going to be full of pushing myself hard both mentally and physically, but I’m ready and I’m actually excited. [And if anyone is willing to bring me coffee in the next 2 weeks, I would be extremely grateful!]

How Stress Affects Me

 Here’s a probably not-so surprising fact: I am fully stressed out. I’m not exactly sure when it started, probably after getting back from break. I’m dreaming about renal physio, I can’t seem to get drug names to stick in my brain, I’m behind on DIT, and with professors using the catch phrase “you’ll see this in June” every other sentence, I think it’s fairly understandable. What I didn’t know was that I was even that stressed, until I had an *almost* full breakdown on the mats yesterday. Yes, I know this is a public blog, but I know I’m not alone here. Essentially, I just couldn’t get a sweep down while drilling and all of a sudden I just hit my frustration limit – and I just couldn’t handle it. (And here I’d like to apologize to the guys I may have freaked out when I started talking in a pitch only dogs can hear). I took a step back and realized it wasn’t the sweep that was getting me, it was everything else, but somehow I let everything build up to the point that it affected me on the mat. And let me tell you, that made me very unhappy. I always saw BJJ as my escape from the stress and craziness of the world. So imagine my dismay when I realized it had followed me into my “safe haven”.

What I imagine I looked like while freaking out.

So why am I telling you this? Because I realized that’s perfectly okay. A year ago, I would have just quit what I was doing, probably grabbed some ice cream on my way home, and let it affect the rest of my day. What did I actually do? I took some deep breaths, refocused, and pressed on. I finished the lesson, did some open mat, then went home and finished studying for my exam. I didn’t quit – I persevered. The stress obviously didn’t just go away with a few deep breaths, but I have learned to deal with it much more effectively. Med school is really tough for everyone; and since we’re all super type A personalities we take “losses” very hard. Doesn’t matter what those losses are – I consider getting behind a loss, or having to take a whole weekend off of studying for a CDM exam a loss. I even consider it a loss when I zone for a few minutes in class and somehow miss something important. Those losses haven’t changed, I still have those the same as I did last year. What’s changed is my ability to deal with them, and realize that I didn’t lose. BJJ has taught me that – the only time you lose is if you fail to learn a lesson.  
After a night of BJJ

I guess the point is that I’ve grown. I think everyone has stress in their life (and if not, please tell me what you’re doing and how I can do the same!). For me, that’s unavoidable. What you can control is how you deal with it. (Ask my brothers or parents if I’ve improved from last year – I’m sure they’d love to tell you stories.) I know a bunch of my classmates who run or play soccer or basketball, and that’s great! What I turn to is BJJ. Because I don’t know any other sport where you can walk out of a 6 minute match having tapped 6 different times and still be smiling.


Endings and Beginnings

We survived. We all survived the end of I&I and are ready to push onto something other than bacteria and viruses and fungi for a while. We’ve moved onto the cardiovascular unit. And I think the heart is incredible, so I’m excited. Which also means we’re back to having class…from 8-3. Which is a change I could have done without, but oh well. I’m so excited to have successfully finished what a lot of people consider the “hardest” block in med school that nothing can bring me down!

In all this new found free time, I’ve also picked back up BJJ. The day after I&I ended there was a tournament up in MI that I went to and supported my team, and they did awesome. It gave me that push to want to train harder and smarter and become better every single day in BJJ. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m training harder – I make myself roll at least 4 matches in a row without a break to get myself back into shape (which I am definitely not in considering I ate nothing but junk food and sat in a library for the past month…). And you know what? It is slowly but surely paying off. No, I’m no where close to being good. But day by day I’m less and less bad.

Today was open mat, and I happened to be the only white belt among really great world class blue and brown belts. And you know what? I can hold my own. Was I forced to tap out? Absolutely. But I also was able to advance positions a few times (or at the very least, escape out of some really bad positions). And there is no greater feeling than a higher belt telling you that you did an awesome job. 

So needless to say, my life feels like it’s back on track. I’m happy, healthy, and so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m thrilled to be pushing forward in med school, knowing that in 7 months I’ll finally be learning from real patients in a hospital setting, and I’m pushing forward in BJJ. This year I hope to compete in several tournaments and slowly work my way toward being a champion. The other day someone asked me when I would give BJJ up – if it would be before I took the boards, during my clerkships, or when I was done with med school. I looked at them and told them I would quit when I could no longer physically or mentally train. I don’t ever plan on quitting. I can picture myself one day getting that black belt tied around my waist, and I will work for it every day until that day comes. It will be a long, hard journey. But I figure, I’ve got the attitude of a warrior. Every student in my medical school does.

To happiness, medicine, and BJJ. For endings and new beginnings. And to all other warriors out there in medicine and BJJ, keep on fighting.