And we're back! We're really back, full-on, cramming for boards,
prepping for patients and all. I'll admit it, the experience of
preparing for boards has taken some wind out of my sails. Last
trimester I was feeling ready to be a doctor. Spending time in the
clinic made me feel ready to see patients and puzzle through the
hard cases. More recently, I've been laboring with my 500-page
board review book and feeling inadequate.
Thankfully, I can see that the deflation of my confidence comes
in direct response to my anxiety about taking board exams. And I
guess I am feeling slightly more capable after finishing the Cardio
section yesterday and color-coding my weekly schedule this morning.
Wrapping my head around a new schedule always takes at least a
week, and getting it all organized definitely helps calm my
Yeah, my color-coded schedule for Tri 7
Seeing as we celebrated Martin Luther King Day this week with
Monday off (thank goodness, any extra study time is treasured!), I
am inspired by this piece of wisdom he wrote:
cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot
drive out hate, only love can do that."
In preparing for boards, it doesn't do much good to mix
negativity with those dark, foreboding clouds floating around
February 3rdon my mental calendar.... I'm trying hard to stay
positive while I study and am thankful for the encouraging text
messages I've been getting from my ND friends who are in the same
JohnnyD instructing me in the fine art of shooting a
As it turns out, even a 4-week break can't provide enough time
to study as much as planned. I do have a few good excuses
though.... My boyfriend Hanzi and I spent a week around Christmas
in Northern Michigan with his family; we skied, caught up with some
of Hanzi's old friends, and I learned how to shoot a pistol!
(Hanzi's Dad is the manager of a local shooting club.)
After returning from Michigan we had a few days before we headed
out to Boston to visit with my family. Our week in Boston was our
first visit to my parents' new house (I wrote about their move in
this post), and included pond hockey, dinner with college
friends, and some quality girl time for me with one of my oldest
friends. I was also lucky to spend a day working with my Mom at her
Integrative Dermatology practice where she incorporates diet and
lifestyle in the treatment of her patients. I had an absolute blast
interviewing patients and prepping them for their visit with the
doctor, though I found the electronic medical records a huge pain
to navigate... things to look forward to I suppose....
Ebola dinner lecture, my view from my seat by the
In addition to working in her office, my Mom took me as her
guest to an informational Ebola dinner (appetizing, huh?) hosted by
the local chapter of the Massachusetts Medical Society. I ate yummy
salad, roast beast, soup, and chocolate cake while learning about
Ebola. The lecture compared the first known epidemic in the 1970s
with the disease picture of today's outbreak. I met one
semi-retired female doctor who practiced general surgery who seemed
wholly uninterested in naturopathic medicine, and another
practicing female GP who asked me to send her an email with
information about what we naturopathic doctors do. How cool!
After spending time immersed in the conventional medical world,
I am happy to be back at NUHS, working on becoming a confident
doctor who can hold her own in the company of skeptical, old
medical doctors. If that isn't inspiration to crush these board
exams, I don't know what is! Back to the books now.... Welcome back
Ah, sigh. This weekend I finally got away into the outside world
where the air is significantly different from here in Chicagoland.
I took in gulps of fresh air and smiled. I experienced my first
corn maze in the flat, flat Midwest and sat under a tree whose red
leaves came drifting down into my lap as I chewed my apple brat. I
ate a candy apple, but we didn't get to pick our own apples because
we were a little too late in the season for that.
These past two weeks, for some reason, I've found myself
answering questions about my life before medical school. People
have been asking about the places I've lived and the cultures
there. I'm quick to tell a story about places outside of the
Midwest, so this weekend's little adventures served as a good
tether to pull me back, and to examine my current place.
When I was studying non-fiction writing in undergrad, we often
examined the concept of Place and wrote on the topic: what does it
mean to be in a place, what makes a place yours, not yours,
different, the same, why sit and become enveloped in this place
now? It's a damn hard task, to sit patiently in place and observe
it for what it is. This is especially difficult when your world
moves so quickly and you are expected to work hard at attaining,
achieving, getting there, making progress towards becoming a
Despite the rapid clip at which I am working to become a doctor,
I try, try, try to slow down and observe this place, to take it in
and notice the unique things. This weekend helped me to settle and
gaze, to take in the flat farmland, to hug my boyfriend, to laugh
with new friends, and to read through old physiology notes in order
to refresh my memory and help me be more present in my current
When you talk about the Midwest with anyone, they inevitably say
something about how nice people are here. My initial experience
with this Midwestern friendliness involved some confusion, seeing
as I come from Boston, a place where nobody acknowledges anybody
unless they definitely want to talk. When I arrived in Chicago, a
stranger would smile and ask me, "How are you?" I inaccurately
perceived this as an open invitation for a full conversation. Over
the past two years of living here, I've learned that friendliness
does not necessarily equate to a desire to have a conversation,
they're just being kind, I guess. I'm still a little weirded out by
this; if you ask me how I'm doing, I still look at you sideways to
figure out if you actually want me to answer that question, or not.
On the other hand, my rather immediate assumption to jump into
conversation has served me well, and I've made friends with shop
clerks at nearly every place I buy goods and services.
Right now, the Midwest is my home, though perhaps not my truest
Place. Here in Chicago, I've had to stumble along trying to
navigate the culture, and I finally feel that maybe I'm able to
catch these Midwesterners in stride and keep up. I have learned so
much about life in the heart of classic America by living here. My
greatest adventures so far have been getting to know a place by
living in it, participating in the community, and feeling out the
social habits of the people there. From this perspective, it's no
wonder I feel so slammed with new information; it's not just the
study of medicine I've been trying to assimilate, but the
Midwestern way of life as well.
So being in medical school is more than just your peers, your
books, your lectures, and the other trappings of studying medicine.
Many of us move to a new place to start this journey into medicine,
and the culture of that new place also provides us with struggles
and triumphs. If we can find the time to sit with our new place, in
addition to our books, we'll learn more about the world, which will
certainly make us better doctors, right?
I went home. I flew in and out of Boston on my way to and from a
wedding in the Adirondack Park in northern New York. My parents
have 2 more weeks to pack before they move out of my childhood
home, a place they have lived for the past 30 years. While the home
itself is large and lovely, it is really the neighbors that make
that place home.
On Sunday night we had our neighborhood grandmother, Mrs. Chris,
over for apple pie to celebrate her 80-something birthday. She
brought the remainder of a box of chocolates to share and when I
asked if she had eaten the others for lunch, she giggled and
The Hartnetts, our other neighbors, also came over to sing happy
birthday and share dessert. You have to understand that all of this
transpired over the course of about 15 minutes; my parents realized
they had a pie to eat, Mrs. Chris popped her head in the door on
her evening walk, I called my best friend Annie (living momentarily
with her parents next door while she and her boyfriend wait for
their new apartment to be ready), and within 5 minutes she and her
family had walked the 100 yards from their front door to ours. And
we had a little party!
After pie, Annie's boyfriend Drew helped my brother with his
statistics homework, while Annie and I tried to come up with the
perfect caption for the photo of Mrs. Chris and the birthday
sparkler in her piece of pie.
This is the community I come from. It explains the high
expectations I have for Home, wherever that place turns out to be.
I know that Chicago is not my true Home, but while I am here, the
NUHS community is serving and supporting me better than I ever
imagined it would. I chat with my professors in the hallway and I
see them at our botanical garden, on the train, and walking around
campus. There is an online community too, on Facebook pages, where
my fellow students and our professors post links to relevant
articles and information about upcoming seminars, workshops,
presentations and club meetings.
The recent improvements on campus at the library and the ongoing
work in Janse are providing us with more places to congregate
during downtime and create community on campus. You might think
that 28 credits and all the work that goes into keeping current in
all those classes would leave us little time to engage with our
community, but it seems that all that work actually brings us
together. We commiserate, we struggle together, and we experience
success together. We are a small community of hard workers with
similar goals and morals when it comes to healthcare. Some of us
come from different states, some of us love Chicagoland, and some
of us feel lost in this expansive city, but no matter your
perspective on this place as Home, the NUHS community certainly
offers a supportive community if you are willing to engage.
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