What roles do we play; what shoes do we fill for our patients? I
just spent the weekend holding a wide, firmly calm swath of space
for my mom, her siblings, and my grandparents (their parents) as
everyone prepared for a move from Michigan to Massachusetts.
Family time, my grandmother and her kids, visiting her
father's resting place
My grandparents are in their mid-80s and have lived in Michigan
their whole lives. My grandmother has always lived in Kalamazoo,
and it seems that the entire city knows her. The reasons for their
move are simple and complex all at once. Not only is it easier to
bring food down the road than to have it delivered by a stranger,
but standing in the same room softens the frustration of repeated
instructions or stories.
Visiting the war memorial in Kalamazoo, my great-grandfather,
Arthur D. Bush
This past weekend I was a space-holder, a hugger, a cheerleader,
and a diffuser of tension. It's an exhausting task but I'm proud to
say I think I'm getting rather good at it. It took less than 24
hours for my auntie to tell me she was glad to have me there. I
tempered anxieties, I held my grandmother's hand, I hugged my
grandpa and delivered him snacks. I think I tactfully cut some
sharp remarks short and replaced them with gentler words. I believe
even my kindergarten report card said I was a quiet problem-solver,
the voice of reason, or something more suited to a 5-year-old, but
to that same effect.
With my brave, supportive grandparents who told me, "There's
in procreating unless you improve on what came before... It
Now I'm riding on a swaying train, headed back to Chicago an
hour late, rocketing into the setting sun. The train is full but
I'm alone in my head, a welcome respite after 2 days of definitely
having a presence.
All of my medical school peers play different roles in our NUHS
family. There are the out-spoken ones, the dissatisfied ones that
cry for and produce change. There are the quiet ones that follow
really well and help turn those tides. There are the ethereal ones
who view the world as if through a smoky crystal ball, predicting
the future, intuiting things to my amazement, sometimes struggling
to see the point of the this-here-learn-it-now. There are the
people who wisely listen and nod when you bitch, and there are the
ones who reply quickly, ready with advice.
There are the doctors to whom patients turn for strict rules,
for holding them to their word. There are doctors to whom patients
turn to alleviate their suffering, sometimes only with a pill,
sometimes with an ear, a hug, and an unconditional presence.
There are patients who look to their doctors for their
willingness to be held on a pedestal and consulted as the wise
sage. There are patients who look for the doctor that allows them
to talk, and talk, and talk. Some doctors are best for the realism,
their ability to break bad news in the most frank and comforting
way. There are other doctors who act as cheerleader to the patients
that seek them, and readily share their big hearts.
There are doctors who are sought for their acknowledgement of
all the possibilities, others for their specialty. There are yet
more doctors whose strength is their positivity and their smile.
And there are many doctors who fill many of these roles, perhaps
all of them.
I go to school with all of these types of people and I am
learning what kind of doctor I am becoming. I am learning why
people seek me out, and why they don't. The hardest thing for me to
own is that there is a population of people out there that won't
want me for their doctor because I can't be who they seek, whether
it be due to lack of prescriptive rights, the way I look, my
liberal morals, or that infuriating way I explain their
I am learning about being present for each patient, which means
putting aside all of my "stuff" so that I can arrive and be ready
for that person alone. I don't need to parade my morals ahead of
me; I can just sit and be open, accepting, and ask questions in
order to better understand. Until writing this, I thought I should
just exist and see which patients showed up to receive my care.
Now, I'm realizing there are holes in that theory. As an intern and
soon-to-be baby doc, I should strive to make myself available and
appealing to everyone, and so I should maybe seek out those
patients who might not come knocking of their own volition. Alas,
my sit back and let the world unfold attitude will have to change,
at least a little bit. How will I learn if I don't make an effort
to attract the education?
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
And we're back! August break was absolutely fabulous! For me, at
least...I know that many of my DC student friends were busy
studying for their board exams coming up at the end of this
week.... Good luck to you all!
But I went exploring. To celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday, we
ventured into the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a 4-day,
3-night hut trip. Staying in the AMC
Huts is a total treat; they cook breakfast and dinner for you,
and you sleep in a real bed! (Albeit, in a bunkroom with
approximately 11 other people....) It makes backpacking with your
family a whole lot easier when you only have to carry your lunch
and there's no worry about tents and stoves.
Unfortunately for me, I sprained my ankle early in the trip, but
we taped it up and I continued on for another 14 miles over the
next few days. I am quite thankful that I can go to the clinic here
on campus to have a student intern help nurse my ankle back to
health! It needs it.
All 6 of us (Mom, Dad, my brother Arthur, my Uncle Nate,
Hanzi, and Me) on the summit of Mount Madison! Day 1 of 4.
After a few breathtaking bluebird days in the New Hampshire
mountains, I continued on my high altitude journey to visit with
some of my best college girlfriends in the Adirondacks in New York.
In addition to spending time sunbathing and catching up on the
lakeshore, we visited the Sugarhouse Creamery, a dairy farm owned by some
other college friends who gave us a tour of the cheese-making
process! After our tour we bought up almost all the cheese in their
farm store to take home and share with our families. Yum!
Here's a photo of us in the cheese cave (underground!), and
another of the cows at milking time with barn cat Soup posing in
the foreground (In Memoriam: Soup disappeared a few days later; a
coyote had been afoot.)
After nearly two weeks of tromping all over New England visiting
with faraway family and friends, I came home to the Boston area.
There, I checked in on the progress of the construction at my
parents' new home and saw our old house for the first time since my
parents' move. It is now happily full of a family of six and I feel
good about that. I spent my last full day on the East Coast
drinking morning coffee and talking wedding plans with my oldest
childhood friend, followed by shadowing my Mom while she saw her
afternoon patients. It was the perfect way to ease back into
medical school mode after my vacation.
I arrived back in Chicago in time to organize my schedule and
have some school friends over to celebrate Labor Day. The first
week back at school was a short one, but whew, it was big. I have
started the massage program, which means I am on
campus two nights per week after my ND classes end for the day.
It's exhausting because I have to mentally prepare and pack both a
lunch AND a dinner, but it is also extremely rewarding because I
get to spend time learning with and from a different type of
Highlights from the first week include practicing phlebotomy on
bananas (before we "stab" each other this week!), and my first
clinic observation shift. I got to wear my white coat and see a
patient! It should be noted that when I say, "see" a patient, I
literally mean just that. As observers, we are not allowed to talk
to or give any input while in the room with the patient; we just
watch and absorb. No complaints here though. I learned so much by
observing everything that went into one blood draw appointment.
We watch as Dr. Aikenhead demonstrates proper technique in
Stab Lab, and one of my classmates brings his banana to
This first blog of my 6th trimester will serve as a reminder
that the time for adventures and spending time with friends and
family will come again.... Until then, it's back to the grind --
reading, writing, analyzing, thinking, puzzling, and occasionally
complaining about it all as we jump back into it for fall. Here
Whoa, here we are! It's already my last post for the trimester,
a sure sign we have only a handful of days left until we're done!
Week 14 signals the beginning of exams with all the lab practicals
taking place this week. My E&M Extremities practical on Monday
has required me to learn and understand about 60 different types of
orthopedic tests and 44 different types of
mobilizations/manipulations/adjustments. Let's just say this is
prime evidence of how medical school is like drinking from a fire
This trimester has been a significant one for me. I started the
Clinical Sciences portion of my degree, made a decision on when to
take boards, followed my intuition and decided to do a dual degree
in massage, and learned so much from my sim-patients about what the
real experience will be like. It was also the first trimester that
I haven't had any classes with any of my best buddies with whom I
started the program. This is a blessing and a curse because I miss
their company terribly, but I have also made new friends who I
value just as much. During this tri, I traveled to see some of my
favorite people make the promise to spend their lives together, my
best and oldest friend got engaged (I never told you this, ah!), I
wrote a blog post here that elicited tears from an exceptional
friend (the first time my written words have ever inspired such
emotion), and my parents sold my childhood home. All this, and it
still feels that these summer months have absolutely flown by!
If you're not here at NUHS yet, you'll soon learn the value of
our brief breaks between the trimesters. This time I will head
east, and go on a 4-day backpacking/hut trip adventure in the White
Mountains of New Hampshire with my family and Hanzi to celebrate my
Dad's 60th birthday (wish us happy trails, we might need it!).
After that, I plan to visit with some of my best college
girlfriends; one of them just bought a house -- OMG -- grown-up
things! Hopefully, I'll find a day to shadow my Mom at her
Integrative Dermatology practice, and will crack my Boards study
guide at some point (we'll see about that last one). I hope the
rest of my peers also have something fun, and especially something
relaxing, planned for break!
But before we can totally engage with our time off, we have to
give that last major push through finals. WE CAN DO IT! Remember,
it's OK for life to be totally, completely unbeautiful
right now. Also, the world is a whole lot bigger than NUHS
Throughout my post is a series of photos I took around campus on
the Friday before Week 14. I asked students to show me how the
impending last 2 weeks of the tri makes them feel; this is what I
saw. General consensus says we're all a little crazed, a little
worn out, and a little hungry for the sweet stuff...so don't worry,
here's the evidence that if this is how you feel, you're not
Lastly, a little blessing for us all; may our professors ask us
the questions to which we have all the answers! Good luck,
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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