Archive for tag: holidays

Why Keep the Future in Mind

Happy Belated Fourth of July! We were blessed with a three-day weekend and I took full advantage of it to get out of town and into the woods! Hanzi and I drove north to see his parents in Michigan, way up to the tip of the mitt. I had to spend a lot of time working on papers and presentations as it's midterm week (more like fortnight), but I did still manage to spend time outdoors. And, I always studied with the windows wide open because the air in Northern Michigan is clear and smells like the trees; I love it.

Over the weekend I learned how to shoot sporting clays for the first time,
and I actually met with some success! So much fun!

Besides playing outside there were those obligatory parent-child conversations about the future.

  • Where do we see ourselves headed next?
  • What kind of work will we look for once we graduate?
  • What is the job market like out there right now?

And you know, I must be growing up because I wasn't immediately turned off by these questions. Historically I'd never want to discuss my future; it will be what it will be, I would say. I'll just wait and see what comes my way! Lately, I'm willing to entertain some tangible ideas; I can picture myself in a clinic with my white coat on, seeing patients all day long. I know, too, that I want to continue writing, so I can picture myself at a computer, surrounded by books, crafting paragraphs that share my medicine.

Sunset from the Leggs Inn where we had dinner on Sunday night before
leaving at sunrise on Monday so I could get back in time for clinic.

I'm still relatively undecided on my future compared to many of my peers who either know where they want to go after school, or have a vision for exactly what type of practice they want to work in or create. I recently had the idea to construct a mobile clinic that I can hook up to my truck and tow off into the sticks to work with patients in rural communities. I envision a wall lined with rattling tincture bottles, waiting for me to mix up the appropriate medicine. Of course, this mobile clinic also contains all the necessary tools for physical exam, production of hot water for hydrotherapy, and space for physical medicine.

Regardless of the reality of the vision, I've decided that entertaining one is a good idea. Not only does it give me something to talk about with family, but also it helps keep me afloat when I'm dragging through that last page of a research paper, or waking up before sunrise to cram some information in my brain before a test.

So in the spirit of independence, cheers to our visions, cheers to our future!

Under the Gun - Ebola for Dinner

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 mind.

Photo of schedule
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:

"Darkness 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 boat.

Photo of shooting a pistol at firing range
JohnnyD instructing me in the fine art of shooting a pistol

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....

Photo of man speaking at dinner event
Ebola dinner lecture, my view from my seat by the fire

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 everyone!

Of Course, a Thanksgiving Post

Have you ever spent a holiday away from your family? My first Christmas without family involved working from 7-4 and coming home to a house full of stinky boys, recently back from skiing, cooking a bacon-wrapped turkey and imbibing generously of Pabst and homebrew. I cringed and thought, "This is NOT what Christmas is supposed to be like..." and then I grabbed a cheap beer and made the best of it.

In reflecting on holidays past without my close family around, I've got to say that this Thanksgiving was one of the best of all of those over the years. I may not have been home, I may have been without my cousins and aunties and uncles, not cooking alongside my parents and setting the table with my brother this year, but I most definitely was with family of a different kind.

Only missing a few, my ND family on Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)

If you read my blog with any regularity you know about the remarkable group of fellow ND student friends that I hold so dear. These friends are my family here in Illinois, heck, they'll be my family even when I'm long gone from here! JheriAnne and her husband Shane hosted one of the most relaxing, calm, warm and wonderful Thanksgiving dinners I think I've ever enjoyed. Twelve of us gathered with our dinner contributions and dug into JheriAnne's first turkey (oh yum!). Afterwards, we lounged around watching football, trading stories, laughing, playing cards, and pouring each other another glass of wine.

I've been through a lot with these friends over the past two years of medical school in a way that's brought me closer to them than almost any other friends I've ever made. For one, we're all a little counter-culture; people who study naturopathic medicine generally march to a different drum, and we tend to live and/or think outside the box. It's remarkable how people with such different personalities and backgrounds can have a common pulse that beats naturopathy through our veins,*and as a result, allows us to find comfort in each other despite any number of differences.

Future NDs and great friends Anayibe & Mia on Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)

In addition, we've all grown close in friendship at the same time as our brains have matured and we've grappled with new ideas, our minds stretching to accommodate buckets of new information. As I see it, we were poised for great assimilation of material and so stored the information about each of these friends at the same rate and intensity as we memorized every detail of glycolysis and human anatomy. Let me be entirely cliché, and also so extremely full of heart, when I say that I am so, so, so thankful for the friends I've made in the naturopathic program here at NUHS. I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving, too, and a wonderful holiday ahead.

* It sort of pains me to write that something pulses through our veins and neglect to mention our arteries, but for the sake of literary flair I have pushed aside my anatomy and physiology and left it be.

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. 

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.

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.

Make Time for Fun

Happy Post-Memorial Day! I had an exciting week and weekend. Week 3 of the trimester meant 3 quizzes to test our recall of information covered thus far, and also a review of some basic science information. I am still figuring out how to study for this new phase of my education because we are building upon an already-laid foundation. For example, we are learning to understand EKGs in my Cardiology class, and the process cannot be separated from reviewing the anatomy and physiology of the heart. As you know, I am also studying for boards and reviewing for class is a welcome parallel.

I stayed busy outside of class by coaching lacrosse on two beautiful evenings this week. Spending the time to engage with my community is made even better by doing so outside. My beginner team is finally starting to understand the game and ask good questions, how satisfying! I also attended the wedding of a college friend and her awesome fiancé over the weekend. It was such a treat to catch up with college friends I rarely see or haven't seen in 4 years! I took the time to play tourist in the city and lounge on the beach with old friends; so refreshing!


The highlight of my week at school was my Friday lunch date with my group of ND student friends. Most of my buddies that I started the program with last January have taken the flex track, while I have stayed on the full track of coursework. This means that I no longer have classes with my best friends here at National. Thankfully, my closest friends don't let my absence from their classes affect our friendship, and we all make the effort to spend lunchtime together throughout the week. Yeah, we eat our lunches in good company, but we also play together! Above is a picture of this week's group effort; Allison and Miranda make the base while I form the wheel on top! We couldn't have done this without 3 spotters (JheriAnne, Kate, and Mia) and the photographer (John.) 

What's the moral to this week's story? Take the time to play, explore off campus, and get some sun in the midst of all the classes and studying; it is so nurturing, and definitely helps me to love this process of becoming an ND.