Hello from Montana! Hanzi and I left Chicago after clinic on
Friday, spent the night in Minneapolis with one of his oldest
friends, and then drove 13 big hours to Billings on Saturday. We
arrived at night, tired, hungry, and ready for bed.
Truck all packed up ready to head out.
(We did strap a tarp over everything; don't worry.)
On Sunday we drove all around town without our GPS/Google maps
in order to get acquainted. We found the local Co-op and stocked up
on the essentials for my kitchen. We explored the rims to the north
of Billings where the view is spectacular and simply cannot be
captured by me on camera! I tried though.... Out here you can watch
the weather move about, you can see the grey sheet of precipitation
a few miles away, and then minutes later it's upon you as whopper
snowflakes (this happened today!)
I'm writing this post on my second full day in Billings, at the
end of my first day shadowing at the Yellowstone Naturopathic
Clinic. Hanzi flew back to Chicago today, though not without some
difficulty.... It's been dumping snow in Denver, Colorado, and so
his first flight was cancelled. OK by us though! He got to explore
some ranchland 10 minutes outside of town with his camera, and we
shared lunch before his flight out.
Hanzi exploring/photographing on the rims to the north of
(That's the city down there behind him.)
I could go on about each little remarkable thing I've observed
in this town in the past 2 days, but what's more important is how
I'm actually feeling in this experience. Let's recap here. In the
past week I have: packed up all my stuff into the back of a truck,
driven 1800 miles in 1.5 days, moved into a cozy basement apartment
in a Western town I've never been to before, and Hanzi headed back
to Chicago, leaving me to live alone for a few months after 8 years
of sharing our everyday lives.
These are all big and stressful changes, but I welcome them
because I've already learned so much at the clinic here from
witnessing how NDs in Montana practice. I'm scribbling notes about
products and treatment plans, and am exploring a new dispensary. I
am learning what I know and what I do not know about how to provide
primary care. I am a sponge and it's totally awesome.
I highly suggest setting the goal of spending time here, or at
any other clinic, so as to suggest to the universe that this is the
right path for you. There is so much to learn from watching doctors
work that simply can't be taught in a lecture or by trying to do it
all yourself. I gotta tell ya, I'm feeling right at home in this
thriving naturopathic practice.
Looking back at it now, this past week was hugely busy, despite
being only 4 days long due to the MLK Day holiday. On the holiday,
I met up with a few friends in the city for lunch as a little
send-off for Guy who graduated in December. Afterwards, I got to
introduce my good friend Alex to Hanzi, and we sat around chatting
over tea for a while. It was lovely!
MLK Day lunch date with NUHS friends
On Tuesday, I worked a double shift at the Salvation Army and
Lombard clinics, then headed straight home to work for several
hours on my grand rounds presentation. Wednesday was the day I gave
my said presentation titled, "ADHD and The Italian Grandmother."
This was my last big assignment of medical school! My presentation
was centered on a case I saw in clinic, and examined research on
naturopathic treatment options as well as obstacles to cure in
treatment of a pediatric case of ADHD.
I was nervous about presenting until I realized several of my
friends came to watch me speak, AND that they were each wearing a
piece of clothing I had given them! It made my heart sing! Because
I am moving, I gave away some scarves and tops and a handful of my
girlfriends all happened to wear these things on the day of my
Another friend stopped by before my talk to give me a little
gift. All the support from my buddies calmed my nerves and by 10
minutes into my presentation, the jitters were gone and I hit my
groove. Thank you all for tempering my stress!
Hanzi hanging out in the new truck
On Thursday, I worked another double shift at both clinics and
then did one of the most grown-up things I've ever done; Hanzi and
I bought a car! We've been scouring the Internet for a car in
preparation for my leaving for Montana and taking our one vehicle
away on the trip. Now, we are the proud owners of a little red
Tacoma truck. It's so funny; it has Bluetooth and a touchscreen but
crank windows and manual door locks. Anyway, it's exactly what
we've been searching for and I feel much better knowing I'm not
leaving my partner immobilized in Illinois while I head off on an
Speaking of this adventure, I leave at the end of the week and
should arrive for my first day at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic
on February 1. Hanzi will come along for the ride and then fly back
to Chicago to keep working and job searching. I cannot express how
much gratitude I have for my clinicians and peers who have helped
me get things done so that I can go learn in another environment. I
am especially grateful for friends who prioritized a surprise baby
shower for our girl JheriAnne so that I could participate in
celebrating the twins she and her husband Shane are expecting in
April! I wish I'd had more time to hang and say bye, but such is
the nature of medical school; stuff happens all at once and then
bam! -- It's on to the next thing!
Welcome back for Spring Tri and my very last one at NUHS!
Congratulations to all my fellow 10th tris on making it this far,
oh my god! The 10 of us ND 10th tris had a pretty good break
working at the clinic. We had a generous number of days off around
Christmas and New Year's and got to see plenty of patients, as well
as give each other some well-deserved treatments. Two of us
finished and sent off our residency applications -- a very exciting
and curious process. I am proud to share with you that I finished
up my numbers at the end of last trimester (Disclaimer: the way to
do this is to never think of your patients as numbers!), and am
preparing to head out to Montana for a preceptorship in Billings
starting in February. So, get ready for stories from the West! But
first, let me fill you in on the latest.
Made it back East to celebrate Christmas with my
This first week back I worked at the Salvation Army clinic in
the city, where I got to suggest treatment options and watch my
fellow DC interns do rehab with their patients. The most striking
case was a patient with a history of a self-inflicted gunshot wound
to the foot. The patients at the Salvation Army clinic are all
residents of a program for recovery from drug and alcohol abuse
and/or addiction. They live and work in the same building as the
clinic, and come in for supportive care during their stay in the
program. The patient population at the Salvation Army clinic helps
to put into perspective some of our patients seen in the Lombard
clinic. In Lombard, it is easy to get worked up over the evils of
gluten and a lack of sleep, but working with patients who have
spent the past months to years addicted to cocaine and living on
the street sure provides some valuable perspective on the
definition of health and disease.
DC Intern Andrew checking out the view from his office at the
Salvation Army Clinic
In preparation for my departure for Montana I've been getting
all my ducks in a row. Lately, I've been catching up on some
volunteer hours with the very organized Oak Park Food Pantry. This
past week has served to remind me of all the different types of
people out there in the world that I can help by sharing my
medicine and my time.
Holiday twinset photo with Dr. Dybala taken by Dr.
At the Lombard clinic I've been tying up all the lose ends,
preparing a Grand Rounds presentation for this week, and spending
time transitioning my patients to their new interns. It is hard to
say bye to my patients! They have taught me so much and I like to
think I've really helped them to feel better, too. Thankfully, I
know they are in good and capable hands, and will get to learn and
heal with the help of different minds than mine. If all goes
according to plan, you should be reading one last post from
Chicagoland, and the rest will come from Montana! Here goes the
beginning of the end!
My wonderful peers rallied around me when I started coming down
with a migraine in clinic last week. I collected 2 more
secondaries to help get everything accomplished for my patient's
visit. It was a testament to hardworking peers, helpful
friends, people who are prepared to drop everything and help you
and your patient, and of course, it was a testament to that
ever-present need to care for myself.
Foggy morning on campus; finals are beginning
I slept very little during the week due to waking up early to
finish assignments at the last minute. I know better; if I
don't sleep enough I can be sure I'll face the consequences in the
form of a nasty headache.
I had an amazing team. My clinician used up every ounce of
thumb strength pressing on trigger points to keep the nausea at bay
while I finished writing up my chart. Some of the greatest
gals helped me collect products from the dispensary, and others
helped me chart my findings and watched my work while I performed
the physical exam. I finished up the entire appointment
swiftly and smoothly because of the ready help that came to my
On a side note, I currently don't have any patients scheduled
for Thursday this week and I wondered why until I recalled who I
saw this past Thursday and the week before that. All of those
patients who had been seen on Thursdays have gotten better! Oh
my god! (Not feeling great? Perhaps you should come see
me on a Thursday, the odds are looking good...) I saw a
chronic condition improve dramatically in 2 weeks. I saw one
acute condition improve 80%, and another clear completely with full
patient compliance with my treatment choices.
I was given a few beautiful reminders this week, the least of
which was the obvious one that our medicine, nature cure,
absolutely works (and that I need to use it to care for
myself). The other reminders involved giving thanks to friends
and coworkers. Thank you to my people for carrying me along
during that impending headache situation and letting me draw on all
your strengths to bring about a personal success. Thank you
also to the kind ones who complimented me this week on my hard work
and my easy patient interaction, and who told me it would be fun to
work with me in the future.
Study break -- getting out of our creepy pink house to go for
I am going to miss the people here more than I know when I leave
NUHS for the big wide world. I work with some who challenge me
every day. And I work with others who seem to exist simply to lift
me up; they make me laugh, they give me words of encouragement,
they laugh at my absurdities and help me tether my
And I can't leave this last post of the trimester without saying
huge, enormous CONGRATULATIONS to all of our 10th trimester interns
graduating next week, OH MY GOD! You did it! I am so
incredibly proud of you and am grateful for having had the
opportunity to work and learn with you! This is the first time
I've felt really connected to those who are graduating and my heart
is bursting with pride; you're a smart bunch! As us 9th tris would
say, go out there into the world and Stimulate the Vis...
Lately I've been consumed with the idea of a residency after
graduation. The list of sites for 2016 just came out and the
application process is beginning! We do not have a residency
coordinator for the ND students here at NUHS so we get information
through our clinicians and our own research. I think we may be
getting an informational meeting from the director at Bastyr over
the Internet sometime this week, which is great news.
Blurry but festive! Hanzi and me in front of an enormous
decorated tree in Grand Rapids
Because of the relative lack of guidance when it comes to
naturopathic residencies, I'll give you an overview of what I
understand about the process. Remember, this is what I've found
from my own research, this information may not be perfectly
First of all, in mid-November a list comes out with the
residency sites. Sites are at various outpatient clinics and some
of the naturopathic schools. Each residency has a doctor listed
with the clinic that I presume we work under during our tenure. The
next things to consider are which sites look good to you, and which
3 faculty you will ask to write your recommendations. In addition
to recommendations, the application process involves a personal
statement, a general application, a CV/resume, and essays that are
specific to each site. The more sites you apply to, the more essays
you have to write, so be judicious. After applications are
submitted (by January 1st), the interview period begins. If you
interview with a site, then you are allowed to put it on your match
list. If you apply to a site but are not asked for an interview,
then you can cross that one off your list of possibilities. After
interviewing takes place, an official match session happens where
you select your top 3 spots, and the sites select their top choice
candidates. If you match with a site -- which means you chose them
and they chose you -- then you get offered the position!
I've started this process by reading about the clinics and
doctors listed for each site. As Hanzi put it, I really worked
myself into a tizzy over feeling like I have to decide RIGHT NOW
where I want to live FOREVER. This is plainly not true, but all
this future-talk has me absolutely shaken. I spent this weekend
combing through websites, diving down those rabbit holes, and
surfacing just long enough to make myself a cup of tea, or realize
I'm super hungry, or remember there's been laundry sitting in the
washer for 3 hours.
Our gray drive to Grand Rapids to meet Hanzi's parents for
Over the past few days I've learned a whole lot about the
current residency opportunities, and now I'm both excited and
overwhelmed. If you asked me to choose my top 3 right now, I just
absolutely couldn't! And, of course, I don't have to just yet, so
that's totally fine. Do you see what I'm doing to myself here?!?
While washing dinner dishes tonight I reminded myself (out loud)
that first things first, Miss Mackie! I have to finish my
assignments for this trimester, which include a business plan, a
case write-up, a research paper, and several exams. Then, I need to
focus on finishing up things in the clinic and getting all my ducks
in a row to try to take an externship during my 10th trimester.
Somewhere in there I'll finish applying to these residencies....
Then, I have to graduate. After that, I have to study for boards
for 3 months and then I have to pass those. If I don't have a
residency to head to come Fall 2016 I'll find myself a job, or
create my own!
And here I thought my last trimester of classes was going to end
peacefully, with the typical wind-up and wind-down. I figured I'd
just coast into winter break with a handful of patient visits to
complete and a spring of exploring ahead of me. I always imagined
I'd apply for a residency, and now that the time has come I am
overwhelmed with ideas. If I could just set aside those thoughts of
my future for a few hours, I'd be golden. Instead, I spent my 4-day
weekend fretting about a future I absolutely cannot affect from
this point in time. Minds are tortuous things sometimes, you know.
All in all, I'm so thankful for my wild mind; the one that takes me
on fabulous theoretical adventures at the slightest suggestion of
life in places like Montana, Vermont, Colorado, or Alaska.
And speaking of thanks -- a happy belated Thanksgiving to all!
We traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to meet Hanzi's parents
halfway to celebrate the holiday. I hope you had a lovely,
delicious holiday, too!
Receive blog updates by email.
Subscribe by Email
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
To read older blog posts, scroll to the bottom and click the "Older Posts" button.