Monday, March 24, 2014

Two childhood dreams come true

It's not everyday that I get to fulfill two childhood dreams. But March 21, 2014 was that day. I got my first choice program! My Match letter is on my refrigerator door. It's Sunday now and I still can't stop smiling when I think about it or open my refrigerator door.

I'm going to be a doctor and I'm going to be a New Yorker.

I have wanted to live in New York ever since I was a child. First it was because I loved the touristy places that I saw when I was little. But I got older I loved New York because of the diversity of people and experiences there. I have no illusions about my upcoming life in New York. I'm not going to be living in a nice apartment and probably not even in Manhattan. But I'm going to live and work in New York.

I have wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a child. Everyone who applied to medical school wrote that (and that they "want to help people"). But that doesn't make it less true for me. My grandfather was an ENT specialist and my grandmother was a Chinese medicine doctor. When I was about five or six years old I remember their former patients came to their apartment in China to thank them, or visit with them, or something. I don't really remember the details but I do remember that the patient were very grateful. I also remember accompanying them to the hospitals where they worked before retiring. We'd run into younger doctors who told me that my grandparents had trained them. My grandparents modeled for me the compassionate physician and educator that I want to be. They are always on my mind throughout medical school and particularly now as I am about to be a doctor. I know that they would be very proud of me and the path I have chosen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Everest Base Camp: End of one trek and the start of another

I've started a travel blog called "Farthest Away from Home" about my upcoming trip to Nepal, including a trek to Everest Base Camp at 18,000 feet. This piece is x-posted there but I thought it relevant for medical school here on the eve of Match Day. I will be updating my travel blog now before I leave and along the way. 

The most important reason that I am going on this Everest Base Camp trek is because I believe I can do it. Finishing medical school has given me a kind of confidence in myself that I've never had before because I know that I have made it through a very challenging four years.

What have the past four years been like? Medical school was without a doubt the most demanding thing I have ever done. Maybe other people have been through more trying situations but relative to my experiences, medical school has the most challenging thing I have ever done. I had to learn more information that I ever had to before. I had to give up things that were important to me. I had much less free time to explore my hobbies and interest and to relax than I really wanted to. Many times I was really jealous of my peers who had money AND free time.

What have I learned now at the end of four years? I feel empowered. I feel like I can endure hardships for a greater reward because that's what I did every evening I spent in a basement study carrel. The trek to EBC will be physically demanding, I'm sure. But I know I can get to 18,000 feet because I feel like medical school was a mental challenge at least equivalent to that height.

I am less than 12 hours away from finding out the results of my residency match, where I will training for the next three years. It feels like the end of a long trek. As this trek finishes, it has prepared me to begin another.

Next time I will share with you some of the physical preparation for the trek...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday of Match Week

This is Match Week, which culminates on Friday, when I find out which residency program I will be in for the next three years.

Today at noon EST I found out that I matched into a residency program!

Last night I woke up three or four times because I was worried about the match. I didn't think it was likely that I didn't match. Rather I had some vague anxiety about if there was some computer glitch and my rank list got lost. Luckily that didn't happen!

But the Match system doesn't reveal which residency program I have match into.

That will happen on Friday at noon EST.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The end of the trail

I'm done with residency interviews and second looks! I finished last Friday.

Here's a summary of my travels:
44 days on the road from the end of October until mid January in
10 states for
14 interviews and
2 second looks

My first interview was New York City in the fall. 
My last interview was San Francisco, beautiful, sunny, and 70 degrees.
In between, I was in a grey Portland...

...and a frigid Chicago
... rainy New England

13,430 miles flown, including my first time traveling on Alaska Airlines, though not to Alaska (Unfortunately they were not all on the same airline so I haven't accumulated any free flights.)
633 miles by train (1 train cancelled due to snowstorm.)
511 miles by car and bus (1 megabus cancelled due to snowstorm.)

1 celebrity hand shake (Mayor Rahm Emanuel)
1 Broadway play seen starring
Sirs Ian and Patrick in "No Man's Land"
2 knights (Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart)
10 day vacation between interviews to Turkey!

Cappadocia, Turkey
Hagia Sophia at sunset

The best part:
Many, many nights with my wonderful friends and couchsurfing hosts.

I am so grateful for my friends who hosted me while I was traveling. Not only did they give me a place to stay but they showed me around their town. This goes for long-time friends and the couchsurfing hosts I had never met in person before. Their hospitality and openness makes me hopeful that wherever I end up for residency, I will have a network of friends to support me. Thank you all so much.

It's the end of the interview trail but only the beginning of residency decision time!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

At the Trailhead

I had so much fun last weekend Asheville. I visited a friend of mine from medical school. We hiked to Looking Glass Rock and took these photos. 

It felt like fall: leaves changing colors, cooler air, shorter days. It also signaled that my summer of away rotations was coming to an end. 

Monday I start on a different trailhead: the residency interview trail. I'll be flying out for my first interview of the season, literally a quick 30 hour stop. I'll be back in Atlanta to finish my last week at the CDC, then drive back across the country. The interview trail will begin in earnest then because I have several consecutive interviews.

Thank you for reading this blog.  I've had some kind of internet writing up since Xanga when I was in middle school. It's nice to have an audience!  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Downton Abbey making a case for primary care? (or is it just me)

Downton Abbey

It's no secret on this blog that I will be a family physician, as I have said in previous blog entries here. It's not secret that I believe in primary care, as I have said here.

But now I'm bringing in my non-medical life to this blog: I wholeheartedly love Downton Abbey. I have shamelessly watched every episode at least once. Downton Abbey is about a British aristocratic family of a husband, wife, and their three daughters, and their servants set in the 1910s-1920s. They have a huge mansion in the British country side. 

I tell you this because this is relevant to my medical life! Downton Abbey shows that family doctors are important. Dr. Clarkson is the GP in the village where they live. There aren't other specialists in the village because, well, it's a village. 

I won't give away any plot points from season 3 but I will say that Dr. Clarkson's relationship with the family members was important to the care he provided. In one episode, a specialist was called in by the family to assess Sybil, another daughter. But this specialist hadn't known Sybil before whereas Dr. Clarkson had known the three daughters since they were girls. Because of this Dr. Clarkson picked up on a mental status change in Sybil, another daughter, when the specialist missed it. This missed sign led to a serious deterioration in Sybil's health. 

In the most recent episode of Downton Abbey last night, Dr. Clarkson mentioned that he was proposing to the hospital board to opening an out clinic. Don't worry, this is a minor plot point so I haven't given much away. 

Dr. Clarkson: I'm just on my way to convince the board of the merits of an out clinic so people can come early for treatment. 

I think "out clinic" meant an outpatient clinic for less-acute problems. Later Robert, the patriarch of the family, dismissed at the idea of the out clinic saying that it would make people go to the doctor more often than is necessary. Basically Robert's character is old-fashioned so it doesn't surprise me that he disagrees. 

Robert: Aren't we encouraging a nation of hypochondriacs if people rush to the doctor at every twinge? 
Isobel: On the contrary I think it encourages people to look after themselves, and not become a burden. 

There, I'm quite pleased to find common ground between primary care medicine and Downton Abbey! 

Dr. Clarkson

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Greetings from Atlanta

The non-essential staff at the CDC, including me, are at home because of the government shutdown. I'm supposed to be working in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention on a perinatal HIV transmission policies. It's really exciting stuff, though I've only been on the job for a week. So I've had a couple days off to be contemplative, or bored perhaps.

These past few months on away rotations I felt similar to when I studied abroad during my last year of college. The similarities is the constant stimulation of new experiences. There is always some new to do, a new restaurant to try, new people to meet. I'm in a new part of the country I had never been to before. I'm planning to go to a Korean Southern restaurant.

Today really felt like studying abroad because I had a Google Hangout with some classmates in Flint.When I was studying abroad I Skyped frequently with friends in the U.S. Today was actually for a med school committee I sit on, so it was for business. I've met other medical student doing this elective but it was nice to see some familiar faces of my classmates today.

Just like when I was in Denmark, I had so many new and exciting experiences but I also missed the familiarities of home. It's a bit wearing to always be navigating an unfamiliar city, always answering the same questions from new acquaintances. I never thought I'd say this but I kind of miss the Michigan fall. I find the climate here in Georgia strange.  It's literally 80-85 degrees here. It's October! I do a doubletake when I see Halloween merchandise in stores because it feels to me like summer.

I'm on my third and last away rotation of my fourth year. But I don't think I will feel like I'm home for some time. When my elective ends at the end of October, I will continue to travel. I'm planning to interview in November and December so I expect a lot of traveling, staying in hotels, and living out of suitcases yet. And still yet after that I will be living in a sublet apartment in Flint.

It had been and will be a nomadic year. Next summer I will have a place of my own, at an as-of-yet unknown city for residency. Maybe then I will feel like I am home.