Music, Art, Hiking, and a Whole Lot of Medicine

It's the end of my first week at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic (YNC). I cannot believe it was only a week ago that I was driving through North Dakota en route to Billings - that feels like it was a month ago!

I'm renting a small basement apartment in Dr. Margaret Beeson's house, so this weekend she came down the stairs and invited me to join her and her son Julius at a live show by a local band one night, and for the Artwalk, an event that happens 5 times a year in Billings, the other evening. I followed these two around downtown, stopping in to galleries and watching them greet their people, appreciate local artists, hand out free Bernie stickers, and pass out flyers in support of the local co-op here.


The band Satsang, playing to a full house at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.

At the show, I danced to some groovy reggae-inspired roots music and watched the people of Billings love on this local band (check them out here: I hope I grow into the kind of healer and community member who knows someone everywhere I go and laughs as much with her people as Dr. B does.

As for medical things I've learned this week -- oh, my god -- where do I begin? Like I said in my last post, there's no comparison to learning by watching a doctor work. At YNC, there are 3 associate docs besides Dr. B, and 4 residents. There's also a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and a massage therapist. There are 2 front desk ladies and about 4 or 5 other employees working in medical records, dispensary, and other management positions. It's a busy place! 

All of the doctors are willing to engage my questions and teach. In this way, I get to understand a little bit about how each one thinks and works differently from the next. I've watched some prolo and PRP injection therapies, listened to a patient's story while he received a vitamin C IV as supportive treatment for cancer, and watched Dr. B doctor and refer a 70-something patient in need of back surgery.

I've learned from one of the associate docs about the difficult experience of having to tell her patients she is leaving the practice to do some volunteer work and ponder her next move. Her advice to me was "If you know where you want to live, go there and start your practice. It is so hard to leave your patients!"

Sheltering from the wind, taking in the view (this does not do it justice!)

Speaking of knowing where you want to go, now that I'm in the West, I am have a hard time picturing myself anywhere else. It feels really, really good to be here, under this big sky, with ranchers at the table next to me in the restaurant, and patients driving 3 hours from their very rural home to see the naturopathic doctor. It is very different from the big city, and that weight of millions of people has lifted from my shoulders; it feels much more like home.

In other news, I'm starting to hear from residencies and am hoping the communications continue through this next week. I'll try to keep you posted on progress with this, but at the same time not get my hopes up. I'm trying my best to relax into the process and trust that I'll end up wherever is best.

Strolling the ridge after scrambling up a cold north-facing trail

To take my mind off things, I went out for a little hike at Phipps Park to the west of town. It was brilliantly sunny, the view was expansive, and I found a cave to sit in for a few moments, out of the wind.

Lastly, I can't end this post without mentioning that many of my ND student buddies took boards last week. Congratulations to all of you on making it through that hugely exhausting experience! May the answers you didn't know be the same ones nobody else knew, either!

Hello from Montana!

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 Billings.
(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.

A Big 4-Day Week

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 presentation! 

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 adventure.

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!

The Beginning of the End

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 family

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. Coe

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!

Good People

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 rescue.

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 a walk

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 mind-floating-away-with-possibilities.

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... Doctors!