Archive for tag: friends

Examining Place - The Midwest

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.

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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 doctor.

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 classes.

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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.

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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?

Feel Human Again

An ND student friend of mine joined me for lunch on a bench outside on Friday and told me about how her friend who had come to visit. They went to a bookstore, they hung out, and to quote her she, "felt human again!" I'll admit, it's kind of the last thing you want to hear as a prospective student (for those of you reading this), but it's also true.

Med school has this paradoxical way of making you feel on the one hand like the most human human around, with everything that could possibly go wrong with a body probably having gone wrong with yours, and on the other hand, it makes you feel like a strange creature when it comes to "real life." As a student of medicine you will spend a lot of time in your own head, and a lot of time in the company of other med students talking about the trials and tribulations of learning medicine. I presume there's nothing quite like it.

I went out on Friday night to meet my boyfriend Hanzi downtown after his class and we went for a drink with his classmates. I was that girl who didn't order a drink at the second bar and then cut out early on account of having exams coming up this week. That's no lie by the way, week 5 has arrived, along with the first exams of the tri! So, my friend's lunchtime comment and my own experience of having my social life ruled by my books made me think.

When we interact with people outside of medical school, we get a valuable perspective on what we've actually been up to. Whether it's your parents, your best friend, your significant other, or your neighbors, having those conversations that don't require you to probe the depths for that piece of medical knowledge are wholly healing in themselves! We take our minds elsewhere. Also, these humans from outside the medical school world will often offer words of encouragement or awe or appreciation for what we're doing, even if they don't say so outright.

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Indiana vs. Northwestern field hockey game -- set up for a penalty corner

Over the weekend, I got to revel in the world outside of medical school. I went to see one of my very best childhood friends doing one of the things she does best -- coaching the Big 10 Hoosier field hockey team in their game against Northwestern here in Chicago. The experience took me out of my current world; it took me back. For a few years in college, I played Division 3 field hockey. My last year on the team, I spent most games perched at the top of the stands filming so we could study our game play later on. I eventually quit the sport due to injuries that kept me off the field and just wouldn't heal. This past Sunday at Northwestern, I climbed to my place at the top of the stands so that I could see the whole field. I was totally engrossed in the game, and loved getting a taste of the conviviality and competition of college sports. This was an environment that, at one point, played a very important role in my life.

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Coach Kate and me -- a gorgeous day on Lake Michigan

Watching the game was a blast (it made me use my brain in a totally different way than learning medicine does), but catching up with Kate, sitting on the lakeshore while she waited for her team to shower, was the highlight. We talked about our families. We reminisced. We don't see much of each other these days, but when we do it's like no time has passed.

This experience drove home the message to remember what makes me who I am, that I should not forget to peek back at the path I took to get here. The conversations we have with our non-med student people are capable of reminding us of all the other things we do besides study medicine. And actually, it helps me to recognize how many of my life experiences have pinballed me toward medical school and my specific areas of interest.

For example, why am I so intrigued by physical medicine? This is no doubt, because of my experience essentially studying the way my own body moves and how it endures training and sport. Playing college field hockey definitely forced me to do this, and my excursion to watch Kate's game this weekend reminded me of that.

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Shadowing ND intern Alaina in clinic

And now, I get to connect my ruminations with the highlights of my week! I got to observe a physical medicine patient with back pain in the clinic, and it was TOTALLY AWESOME. To clarify, it wasn't the patient's pain I found so awesome, but the fact that I got to watch naturopathic medicine in action, working on issues with ties to my days as a college athlete, with ties to the path that brought me here.

Go Us! Almost There!

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 hose.

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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!

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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!

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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 finals week.

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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 alone!

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Lastly, a little blessing for us all; may our professors ask us the questions to which we have all the answers! Good luck, friends!

Independence in Learning

A treat! Another day off during the summertime! Happy (belated) Independence Day! I went to the beach (again) on our day off with my boyfriend, my friend JheriAnne (also an ND student), and her husband Shane. During our afternoon and evening spent grilling, swimming, laughing, and lounging on the beach, JheriAnne and I talked about school (can't escape it!). Particularly relevant to the holiday was our conversation on independence in our studies and decision-making as we plan our schedules and careers. 

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Thanks to JA for capturing this picture of me on Independence Day
with the sun setting into the palm of my hand.

Let me preface this by saying that I am eternally grateful that I can be dependent on my friends at a moment's notice when the work overwhelms me or I have an idea that needs friendly scrutiny. My friends are there for me, and I am there for them. On the other hand, we can all too easily get wrapped up in each other's lives. As students, we spend around 30 hours together each week in class, and then also spend time outside of class recharging in each other's company. I've had to remind myself several times that I am, in fact, on my own journey here, despite how tightly bound my experiences are to those of the students around me.

One major challenge I experience daily is to break away from the established opinions and habits of students I study with, and those that came before me. Both positive and negative judgments about all things from professors to textbooks to scheduling are passed down from upper tri students and have, at times, been toxically pervasive among my peers. As medical students, we are juggling many balls at once, and it is easy to adopt an existing opinion (especially when you've just been thrown into 25+ credits of professional school), but I implore you to never forget to form your own opinions, no matter how exhausted you become. I truly believe independent thought wins when it comes to learning, which is after all, what we're here to do (whether we feel like it today, from this professor, or not.)

I am not suggesting that we just ignore all advice coming from upper tri students.  I am suggesting that we always take that advice with a grain of salt and view the issue through our own eyes, as we experience it on our own, individual journey through medical school.  Remember this tenet of our medicine: every person is different.

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John, Dr. Brad, Mia, Nadene, and a tree circle up
for a short group meditation session beside Lake Janse.

When I was 19, I worked for my mom, an MD, answering phones and filing charts at her dermatology practice. My first free lunch from a drug rep and his conversation with my mother was one of those experiences that every child dreads. I ate my free sandwich in horrified, bug-eyed silence as my mom interrogated this rep about the studies behind the drug he was touting. I swear that man shrank into his chair with every "Yes, but where is the research? I want to see the actual paper you keep referring to." For whatever reason, whether he was new or wasn't given the tools, this drug rep could not provide my doctor mother with the published paper showing the effects of the drug that this lunch was supposed to make her want to prescribe. By the time he slunk out of the office, promising to return with a copy of the published paper for this crazy doctor, I was just about never going to forgive my mom for displaying such unrelenting behavior. She sensed my anxiety and proceeded to explain that she would never prescribe a drug to a patient without knowing as much as possible about it. She would form her own independent opinion based on the evidence, and would not consider prescribing the drug until then. As NDs, we may not have a future full of lunch dates with pharmaceutical reps, but companies pushing supplements, diagnostic tests and other tools might surely come our way in this same fashion.

So, to my peers, I thank you for exercising your independence and forming your own opinions while on your individual journey. At the same time, I thank you for doing so as part of a team of students or interns who are present, ready to learn, and aware that we are all on our own path to doctorhood. And of course, thank you for allowing me my moments of dependence in the form of a hug, an ear, a shared moment of frustration, or a quiet group meditation session.