Archive for tag: classes

A Big Start and My Washington Adventure

Wow. It's been an enormous few weeks since I last sat down to write! First of all, I get to start seeing patients in the clinic! The time has come. We've been doing something called Counsel Practice with Dr. Marier, one of our ND clinicians, and we always start this practice of speaking in a circle by checking in. If I were holding the talking stone right now I'd tell you I am overwhelmed, excited, thankful, nervous, and ready to learn from my mistakes.

All of us 8th Tri ND students spent last week's clinic hours in orientation, which was all about drinking from the fire hose of information. We learned a wonderfully overwhelming mix of things, from tips on how to work with patients, to the tedious checklists to keep in mind, to learning the machinery that keeps our campus clinic running. There is so much to learn!

Besides starting in the ND clinic, I am also starting in the Massage Therapy clinic. After working on two of my professors last week, I have been granted their approval (not without a list of things to work on, of course), and will begin seeing real live clients this week, eek!

In the midst of all this clinic-starting excitement, I am still responsible for taking 10 other courses: eight in the ND program and two in the massage program. One of my massage classes is called Chair, Sport, and Trigger Point. I came home from our first class last week to a message from a friend telling me how great he felt after I'd worked on him in class a mere hour earlier. Positive feedback from peers is so reaffirming! Note to self: communicate to my peers when they do an awesome job… maybe it'll be just the boost they need!

So, I'll be working hard this summer, but let me catch you up on my exciting break!

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Katie and me on Lobby Day.

On May 4th, I participated in the [American Association of Naturopathic Physicians] DC Federal Legislative Initiative, the naturopathic community's lobbying day in Washington, DC. During the two days preceding our day running from senate office to house office and back again, we had lectures and workshops on our initiatives and on how to articulate our medicine. I left the event with the realization that participating in democracy is relatively easy! Showing up for a meeting with a legislative assistant is intimidating at first, but after a meeting or two, the jitters disappear and you have fun explaining what you do and why it matters.

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In the Library of Congress

I learned a lot and also made some powerful connections with students from other schools while at DC FLI. We have some incredibly motivated student leaders, and I imagine these will be the people who rally in the public eye to carry our profession forward as we graduate and become practicing doctors. I also realized that our program here at NUHS is really excellent; it keeps pace with the other, more established programs, and our work alongside chiropractic students is pretty unique.

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Exploring DC's botanical gardens

Not only did I meet and enjoy the company and camaraderie of students from other schools, but I also got to know a totally fab group of Tri 2/3 ND students from my very own school! Starting clinic certainly makes me feel like I don't know anything, but networking with students from trimesters past has given me some confidence by remembering how far I have come over the past two years. I fielded questions, offered advice, and learned a whole lot about myself from my interactions with Mariah, Sarah, Katie, Michael, Kolby, and Alex. Thank you all!

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All of us from NUHS at DC FLI.

Rain, Looming Finals, and a Trip to the Spa

It's springtime! And so it is also, inevitably, final exam time. Talk about torture...staying inside to study while the birds are chirping and the neighbors are out grilling and chatting and generally having fun without me; story of the student life. I've started my tri-annual 2-week-scramble as I head into the last week of classes, also known as the first week of finals. I have been busy tracking down research (for a paper I have yet to write), making checklists, studying modalities and psychopathology, and writing up a business plan, while also filing my taxes, cleaning the bathroom, and.... Do you even care about the details? Let's just say things are winding up (and taxes are a huge pain!)

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Last week's storm clouds clearing, leaving behind super green grass on campus!

In between the torturous number crunching for my business class and scouring PubMed for articles, I managed to get out to our botanical garden season-opener party and pull last year's leaves off an awakening Ruta plant. I also practiced massage in preparation for starting in the clinic next tri (exciting!) and got out for a date night with my main man.

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Headed into the King Spa!

Hanzi and I redeemed our Groupons for the King Spa over the weekend. If you haven't been there, seriously, do yourself a favor, you stressed out student! The spa has about 8 or so different rooms ranging from warm to wickedly hot, the walls covered in all different things from salt to gold to amethyst to coal. These rooms are co-ed and everyone wears the same funny T-shirt and shorts uniform (gals in pink, guys in grey). Hanzi and I started out sauna-ing in the various rooms, our favorites being the salt room and the amethyst room. Oh, and the Ice room also feels really excellent after working up a sweat.

Once we'd had our fill of lying or stretching quietly in each of the rooms, the two of us split up and headed for our respective sides of the spa. In the ladies-only section, there are three different temperatures of hot tub, one cold pool (eek!), and a steam room. Each time I've been to the King Spa I rotate through the tubs, then dunk in the cold pool, and move to the steam room. I do this routine 2 or 3 times and I leave feeling absolutely divine! (Note: no bathing suits allowed. You've been warned.)

After at least half an hour rotating through the tubs and steam, I showered off, put on a clean pink outfit, and headed back out into the common space to meet Hanzi for dinner. We ordered some delicious Korean food with plenty of veggies. After dinner we retired to the comfiest chairs on the planet and lounged for a while, digesting dinner and letting our spa-ified bodies totally relax. Around 9pm, we split up again for our respective sides of the spa, changed back into our street clothes, carried our shoes out to the entrance, and paid for our dinner before driving home.

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Sunny spring day, brewing sun tea on my porch

I can't think of a better way to spend a few hours toguether before our household goes into finals mode. Hanzi's semester in his master's program at Loyola is also wrapping up, too. Taking the time to indulge in spa time quite obviously counts as "physician-to-be heal thyself." (See my last post for more on this subject.) It also fits with this emerging spring. Relaxing, sweating, and purifying at the spa mimicked the drenching April rain we had this week that left campus sparkling green. I might have a lot to tackle over the next 10 days (1 project, 1 paper, 1 practical, 1 quiz, and 7 exams), but after my evening at the spa, I'm feeling more centered and ready.

So here we go! I'll be back in a few weeks to regale you with tales from my break, and in the meantime, good luck with exams and enjoy your time off!

Physician-to-Be Heal Thyself

Last week I mentioned the principle of Physician Heal Thyself, a concept we discuss in our first trimester of school in our Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine class. To my fellow students reading this blog, when's the last time you pulled out those notes? Reading Dr. Lou and Dr. Draus' words and the notes I made in the margins reminded me of all the other-than-science things we learn and must continue to learn. As Dr. Draus reminded us, this is neither the first nor the last time we will learn anatomy, physiology, etc., and it's not the first time we learn about the importance of self-care.

I drove past the gym on my way home from school a few days ago and wondered how I had managed to get there to work out every other day while I was studying for boards and attending classes, but how I had somehow lost the time to go after I took that huge test. So, I made it a point to go and aaaahhhhhh it felt soooooo good!

I sat on a stool in the locker room after my workout and sauna feeling like melted gold, and as I stared at my satisfied self in the mirror, I realized, going to the gym needs to be a priority on my weekly agenda.

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Post-workout, reminded of the feel-good power of a workout

Physicians do not have a good track record of self-care. As a whole, physicians are statistically more likely to be depressed, sick, commit suicide, become addicted to or abuse substances. We are more likely to have tendencies towards perfection and yet, as Dr. Lou put it, there is no such thing as perfect medicine. As physicians we must walk a fine, exhausting line between using objectivity and engaging our emotions to care for our patients. The profession as a whole has trouble taking time off, and we rarely get a sense of closure or achievement as the process of healing is never complete. And then there are the inevitable financial pressures as we struggle to maintain an expensive business while still finding ways to offer care to all of those in need.

Dr. Lou reminded us in her Tri 1 lecture that we should take a page from our own book when we ask our patients to please take care of themselves so that they can take care of others; we must do the same. It makes me think of my father's wise words that I hold close: "You cannot truly love someone unless you love yourself." Well, as a physician, you cannot truly help someone unless you help yourself. To this end, Dr. Lou reminds us that "Self-care is not an indulgence -- it is a responsibility to the work and to your patients."

Part of self-care involves cultivating interests outside of medicine. We should all remember from our neurology and psychology classes that a healthy brain works on a wide range topics, skills, and problems. By diversifying our activities and interests, we support healthy neuronal growth and limit our risk of diseases of the brain. Robert Heinlein, a bright and controversial science fiction writer, once wrote:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

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Champagne and conversation self-care, toasting boards results and registering for clinic!

Now, I've got a lot to work on based on that list, but I'll allow that building a fort out of sticks and pine boughs might count as designing a building, and conning a ship could include paddling a solo canoe, and so I've achieved some of these things in their smaller forms. The point of sharing this quote is to remind us students and future students of medicine that we should make time, however miniscule an amount, to engage in things other than learning our profession. And yet, we should also remember that right now our job is to be students of medicine and that requires a lot of us. It demands that we spend an extra amount of time with this subject and this set of skills, for the time being. Believe it or not, a time will come when I can get exercise by hiking and skiing rather than biking indoors at the gym. Until then, I'll take the time to care for myself in the ways I can, within the limitations of the task at hand, and I know this will make me better at my job.

Crunch-Pop and Lovely, Intelligent Women

Here I sit, on a plane bound for Chicago after a weekend on the East Coast, listening to the air from the blower overhead and the rushing outside the window as we taxi. The deicers blast the window inches from my face with a heavy spattering sound. The engines roar a little louder and I think of the rattle my cousin's smiling, blonde 1-year-old used to fill my ears this morning.

At this past week's Nu Delta Sigma meeting, Nadene introduced us to sound healing as presented in the book, "Tuning the Human Biofield," by Eileen McKusick. I was the lucky recipient of a sound experiment from my friend John, a brilliant healer and doctor-in-the-making. You might call us crazy, but when was the last time you checked in with the sounds in your life? It had been a while for me.

The sim patient I saw this week in my Advanced Clinical Problem Solving class complained of tinnitus, a rushing sound in his ears, and was nearly deaf. This was the only abnormal finding on physical exam as we searched for clues to the cause of his dizzy, vomiting spells. When I made kale for dinner on Wednesday night, the leaves squeaked when I stripped them off their stalks. The sound reminded me of lemons and a crisp, cold, clear evening with a sky full of stars, when the frozen snow sings underfoot.

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So excited to be out skiing in celebration of one of my very oldest friends!
(She taught me to suck my thumb when I was 2.)

When I rode the chairlift at Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire with my childhood friends over the weekend, the chairs clunked as only chairlift chairs do each time you reach a tower. I reveled in the swish of skis and the crunch-pop of poles into snow, the whoosh and shudder of skiers of various skill levels as they rocket downhill beside you. There were also those split seconds of silence when I caught a little air and my skis left the snow, allowing me to hear only the wind in my ears.

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Beautiful bluebird day in the White Mountains! There are my friends, waving at me from the lift.

On Sunday morning, I listened to the coffee maker grumble and splurt that divine bitter stuff into the pot. The bottle of champagne made an adorable pop! And we toasted our friend, a bride-to-be. We thanked her for bringing together such an intelligent, fun, active and clever group of young women. Our glasses clinked! I am back at school now, refreshed and grateful.

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All the lovely, intelligent women in our PJs, toasting our bride-to-be!

So now I sit here typing, my fingers trickling across the keys making that distinct blipping sound with each letter. I spend so much time using my eyes and my hands to observe and palpate in medicine, but I haven't engaged nearly enough with my ears. The more blood pressures I take and the more lungs I auscultate, the more familiar those healthy sounds become. I listen to the normal sounds in hopes that I'll recognize when they are different, when the lungs pop or crackle or gurgle and tell me something about the environment inside my patient.

I Give You Permission to Research Colorful Sex

Where do we start when we talk about love in medicine? In naturopathic philosophy, love is one of our basic determinants of health; we require it to be truly well, just like we do air, water, and nutritious foods. But there are endless ways to love, and a doctor can never understand them all. What a doctor can do is appreciate love's presence with an open mind, without judgment, and with the awareness that love comes in all forms.

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(Image via www.dawn-productions.com)

Dr. Stephanie Draus' lecture in Clinical Problem Solving class this week was inspired by love. We discussed how to talk about sex with our patients. One excellent phrase I collected from her lecture was this: "Do you have sex with men, women, or both?" I never realized that question could be phrased with such simplicity. We talked about the out-dated stigmas attached to sexually transmitted diseases and why a lack of sex education causes these to run rampant, especially in the geriatric population.

We touched on the fact that sexual preference, desire, and practice are similarly stigmatized; we assume everyone having sex likes it "vanilla," that is to say, plain and simple, no bells and whistles, no games, nothing interesting. Just sex. As doctors, we cannot assume this about our patients, nor do we always need to know all the juicy details. What we do need to try to gather is whether our patients' health is at risk based on their sexual preferences, whether in regards to use of protection, or the myriad of alternative ways to experience pleasure.

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Mary Calderone was a physician and public health advocate for sexual education
(Image via izquotes.com)

So, what do we do as doctors-to-be if we find ourselves judging based on our own histories, the things we've been taught, or the lack thereof? I suppose the best place to start is by talking about it with our professors, and with each other. If you are someone who finds his or herself cringing inside at the notions of same-sex love or multiple lovers, I personally think you need to start learning by reading, listening, and well, Googling stuff. Perhaps your professors and friends can't or won't expound on the vastness of possibility and risk involved in more colorful sex, but we need to remain open to the frank notion that lots of people in our world experience pleasure in unorthodox ways. As doctors, we must be prepared to listen without judgment. We must also be willing to do our research so that we can advise our patients appropriately.

So, yes, in the name of becoming a better doctor, I am encouraging you to read up on any alternative sexual practices you can imagine. I've just given you the go-ahead to research gay culture, to wonder at how polyamory is comfortable for so many, to investigate the intricacies of anatomy and physiology in trans people, and to look up that thing you've always been curious about. I encourage you to explore resources for learning about and finding compassion for the zillion ways that one can love and be loved in this world.

My experience in finding acceptance for ways of loving that differ from my own can be understood like this: my partner doesn't like feta cheese. I like feta cheese! When I cook dinner with feta cheese (because I think its delicious!) he just decides to eat the food because he knows I'll be hurt if he doesn't eat what I've cooked, and you know what? After a few feta meals he decides he doesn't really hate feta cheese. After a few more feta meals, he decides he might actually kind of like feta cheese. What he does know is that he appreciates my satisfaction at the taste of this food, and he loves me, so he eats feta cheese for dinner with me. And of course, I do make sure to cook feta-less meals, too.