Category Archives: medschool

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.


My (In)Glorious Return to BJJ

Since the start of third year of med school I have been extremely inconsistent with my BJJ training. In part because of long hours with studying piled on top of that and also in part because I have awful time management skills. Add to that the months I’ve been away for rotations, the times I was sick, and the times I really did work until 10pm and you’ve got quite a disjointed training schedule.

I just came back from a 3 week break while I was on a rotation in Michigan. And when you return to BJJ, here are the top things you notice:

The first thing you notice when you get back is how much you’ve missed your BJJ family. You walk through the door and are immediately met with mixed greetings such as the sarcastic “oh, first day? Here, I’ll show you around” or “you guys remember Meghan, she used to train here forever ago” to the genuine “welcome back! We’ve missed you” or the “Meghan’s back!”.  And you appreciate each and every one of those, because you know you’re truly part of their family if they’ve got enough sense to mess with you.

What’s the second thing you notice? You inevitably forgot something because you’re bad at packing your bag. Belt- check. Gi-check. Sports bra-check. Fight shorts-check. Rash guard-dang it! Luckily you always keep an extra set of gym clothes in the car. Hair tie-shoot! Good thing many girls train, you snag an extra from one of them. You’ll get better again with practice.

The third thing? You really didn’t “forget” much. You still remember how to move and while you’re drilling you’re breaking free some of that rust in your brain. But DANG are you out of shape! It doesn’t matter that while you were gone you were running 4-5 times a week. BJJ in-shape is an entirely different animal. And you, my friend, have not tamed it (kind of like your hair at that moment, you’ve gotta remember how to keep it from looking like a wild monkey attack).

The fourth thing? This is my favorite. Sure, you’ve been gone for a while, and sure you’ve been inconsistent with your training, but when you start that first match during open mat it doesn’t matter because muscle memory kicks in. And yeah, you’re a little ‘white belt spazzy’ all over again, but hey – you’re pulling guard and sweeping and getting out of mount like you haven’t missed a beat (until the guys pull out their new tricks and you find yourself in an uncomfortable submission and remember the humility in tapping).

So overall, a return to the mat is never without its flaws, and it may not be the glamorous return like a movie star to the silver screen after a break, but hey – if you can keep coming back you’re well on your way to black belt. Because if you’re crazy enough to ENJOY getting beat up on a daily basis and actually WANT to go back after a break, your mind is set on the path.

Like my coach says, you’re either one day closer to quitting or one day closer to black belt! (Spazzy inglorious blue belt return and all!)

Thanks to all my favorite teammates for welcoming me back then showing me my game needs a lot of work 🙂

sign 1

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.


What I’m Thankful For

I know I missed Thanksgiving, but I thought I’d post about why I’m grateful anyway, since I try to remember how lucky I am every single day. Since this blog is all about med school and BJJ, I figure I’ll focus on those.

Medical school. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a doctor; in fact, I really wanted to be a teacher and just the sight of blood used to make me cringe. In high school, however, one of my brothers hit my other brother (accidentally, of course) on the side of the head swinging a golf club. Let me tell you, there was plenty of blood. I held bandages to his head on the way to the ED and the rest is history. I fell in love, became an EMT and ended up as Chief of my college’s EMS department. I volunteered with fire departments and in hospital EDs and now I can’t imagine doing anything else. But let me tell you, the path to medical school isn’t easy. You are forced to give up a lot – Thursday nights out in college because you have a biochem test Friday, weekend outings to study for the MCAT, and time with friends to go to interviews. I would still choose the same path.

To be able to help someone when they are at their most vulnerable is an incredible feeling. Truthfully, it’s addicting. Knowing you are truly going to make a difference in people’s lives, and therefore make a difference in this world is a one-of-a-kind feeling. I will be the first to admit, that after a week or two with very little sleep, and 15 hour study days, I may not be the most grateful. But every morning I remember to take a minute to be thankful for this incredible journey.

As for BJJ, I genuinely think it found me, and has saved me. I know very few girls who are comfortable with their bodies or their abilities. On the mat, it doesn’t matter if you think you need to lose 5 pounds, or if you’re insecure about your strength. When you finally have that moment when you catch someone in an armbar or you escape a bad position, you get to be proud. You’re proud that you, a “little girl” can do something that could one day save your life. No matter how bad your day has been, when you step on the mat you get to wipe your slate clean for 2 hours. And that has been my saving grace this year. We med students tend to have lots of stress, so being able to forget about all that for 2 hours several days a week has kept me sane. But what I’m most grateful for is being a part of a team. Every  training partner you have only wishes for you to get better. It’s a camaraderie and a friendship forged from love of a sport that truly changes your life. I feel incredibly blessed to have been accepted into that circle. BJJ is more than just a sport – it teaches you to respect yourself and others, and it forces you to live in the moment; you learn to appreciate what you can do and what you can accomplish.

I’m also grateful for my family, my friends, and the countless other blessings that I have in my life. There is something so incredible about the fact that I am so lucky to be both in medical school (my dream job), and BJJ (my dream way of life). To have goals and dreams is what makes life worth living. I will one day be a doctor. And I will also one day (fingers crossed) be a black belt. Two prestigious honors to one person. And that is something I am incredibly thankful for.

So every morning and evening, remember to be thankful for everything you’ve been given. And never take it for granted.


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.


Perseverance & OSS

Well we are currently in the midst of some of the toughest weeks I think I’ve ever had to face (these don’t even come close to “finals” weeks in college). A grueling 12-15 hours of studying for almost 2.5 weeks culminating in 60% of our grade for I&I. Why is it necessary to study 12 hours a day, you ask? Because the exam covers well over 1500 pages of notes, plus two full books on disease case studies. I’m not even sure if 12 hour days are enough to get through it all. But in the end, I know that my classmates and myself will prevail!So in the midst of all of this, I thought it was incredibly applicable to title this post perseverance. Because this has been a marathon, not a sprint, and we still have 5 days to go.

Side note… if you think you have any kind of bacteria/virus/parasite/fungus/immunological disorder, come find an M2. We’ll be happy to diagnose you.

I’m not sure there are people in the world who truly understand the amount of dedication and perseverance it takes to make it through medical school, unless you’ve been through it yourself. Picture yourself sitting down at a table (or cubicle) in the library at 8am and only leaving your seat for bathroom breaks. You packed your lunch and dinner (and made sure it was food that didn’t crunch when you ate it) and plan on sitting at your desk until 10pm. Without talking to another person and without looking at your phone. I’m not sure the majority of the world could do that… and for extended periods of time too. I’m not saying that no one else could, I just recently have been impressed with the amount of dedication and perseverance shown by my classmates doing this exact thing. 

In BJJ, there is this saying “OSS” that floats around everywhere. And I’ll admit – I had no idea what anyone was talking about for quite a while. Until one day, while reading a BJJ blog, I had discovered its meaning. OSS or “ossu” means Oshi Shinobu – which translates into “persevere under pressure”. It’s all about never giving up, and having the determination and motivation to withstand whatever is thrown at you. It’s all about the idea of inner strength. 

How appropriate! I feel as if I should write OSS all over every page of my notes to remind myself that even the hardest and most trying times eventually end, as long as you have the strength to endure it. 

Unfortunately, these 12 hour study days haven’t been extremely conducive to training recently. Though I did get to go Friday night after our exam, to work off some stress. There is a physician at my gym – very close to getting his black belt – that actually attended the same medical school I’m currently at. And guess what?! He not only survived med school – he worked his way toward the incredibly prestigious BJJ black belt. Now if that’s not inspirational, I’m not sure what is.

So to all my fellow classmates, keep it up! I’m proud of our class and how hard we work every single day. And to everyone else, no matter what you may be doing in life, make sure you do it with the perseverance and motivation that it requires. You will never be great at anything unless you truly put your heart and soul into it.


Back To Basics

What I’ve recently realized is that sometimes we’re in such a hurry to be “extraordinary” that we often forget that the most advanced techniques come from a strong base of basics. Take, for example, medical school. We started off in biochemistry – the building block, and are now in infection & immunity, a class I would consider to be advanced. However, the other day when studying I realized that simply memorizing these big “fancy” medical words weren’t going to make me a great doctor unless I actually understood what they mean- which meant going back to the basics. I don’t want to become the kind of doctor that can throw out all the medical jargon in the world, but cannot for the life of them have a regular conversation with a patient. Basics. A med student can get so wrapped up in the books and being sequestered in the silent library that they forget something as simple as how to communicate effectively.

This was true not only of med school this week, but of BJJ. We went back to the very basics this week – learning how to survive and escape. Something most white belts learn their first week of training. And yet, every week after that first week you are given 4 techniques a class, and if you go to 3 classes a week, that’s 12 shiny new techniques that you’re not only supposed to remember, but are also supposed to know how to put them into your game. Let me tell you, I’d like to think I have a fairly good memory, but I can barely remember what we learned 2 weeks ago. So when we were repping the basic moves, I all of a sudden realized that I hadn’t been using them. I had gotten so bogged down in trying to remember all of these advanced techniques that my entire game was suffering from lack of basics. There’s no way I am going to be able to get into a superior position or work toward a choke if I can’t escape a bad position. It’s all about basics!

So I’ve decided to take a step back in all aspects of life. Your foundation of basics is important in everything. Some days when I wake up, I feel so defeated and stressed by school that I forget why I’m there in the first place. The same goes for BJJ – after I get tapped out by a higher belt several times in a 6 minute match it’s easy to want to give up. But you stand up, brush yourself off, and start at the beginning – survive and escape. 

This has been the quote I’ve decided to live by this week by – 
     “Sometimes it’s a cry of joy, sometimes it’s a roar of despair. Once you walk on that mat, you know you have only two ways out – victory or defeat. How much of yourself you put into it everyday helps defining which one it’s going to be. So, how much did you put today?”

 It is true not only of jiu jitsu, but also medical school, and whatever else your goal is in life. If you want to be the best at BJJ, get a great residency, run a marathon, or be in a relationship you will either succeed or you won’t, and the choice is up to you. 

Side note…. On Friday there is a female only open mat for BJJ up in Michigan. Girls and women from all over come to train together and inspire each other to continue being a fighter in all aspects of our lives. They are there to let you know that, while you may be the only girl in your academy, you are not the only girl out there who loves the sport of jiu jitsu. And that girls can be just as strong, fierce, and athletic as men. I am incredibly excited. 

So, make sure you leave everything you have “on the mat” every single day. Every night you should feel like you did everything you could to make yourself a better person and that much closer to reaching your goals. But also remember it doesn’t have to be doing crazy complicated things. You want to run a marathon? It starts with running a mile. You want to be a great doctor? It starts with having compassion and understanding. Getting to the point where you can run 26.2 miles, or being able to diagnose patients using all the knowledge you’ve gained is the endgoal… but somedays you need to remember it only takes one step to get moving toward your dreams.

So here’s to you, dreamers. One step at a time.