This weekend I tried to move slowly. I will spend all week
moving somewhat obsessively and efficiently from one task to the
next. I look forward to the weekend because I don't have to be
anywhere at any particular time with my brain on and ready to go.
Despite this, it's ridiculously hard to slow down after moving
through life at such a clip. I had to make a sincere effort to have
an unhurried shower on Friday evening. I had no plans, and yet I
was operating like I had better soap up quickly so I could rinse
off fast and move on to the next task. The weekends are supposed to
be my reprieve from go-go-go! I'm not kidding guys; I had to
actually think about lathering shampoo with patience.
While we're talking about unicorns and
(Image source: www.twisteddoodles.com)
Why move so fast in the first place? I would prefer to go
through life at a relaxed pace, but medical school is the perfect
storm of lots of time required for sitting in class and for
learning stuff, and high expectations for doing it well. I was
blessed/cursed with the ability to move quickly, as will happen
when you grow up with ambitious parents in a progressive Boston
suburb. Because of this, I can all too easily accelerate to match
the flow of med school traffic and maintain that speed.
Part of the reason I am drawn to massage and bodywork is that a
general attitude of peace and flow permeates such treatments. If I
want to give a good treatment, I must relax into the spa music and
foster an environment that allows my client to relax. I reap the
benefits of relaxation when I meet my client where they are, ready
to slow down and be quiet.
My home office, set up to practice massage and in doing so,
calm my mind.
On the other side of things, an inescapable aspect of working in
the ND clinic is that an air of quick anxiety permeates, especially
on certain days. It can be hard to come in to work a 2-hour
hydrotherapy shift and create a bubble of calm in the midst of an
existing sizzling atmosphere. I have found that if I can channel
that massage mindset and embody the feeling I'd like my patient to
get from their hydrotherapy treatment, the whole appointment goes
much more smoothly. If I succumb to the tension that lurks in the
clinic hallways, I have a harder time taking blood pressure, or I
forget to heat the hot towels for my transition phase of
constitutional hydro. Sometimes it takes this little moment of poor
planning or fumbling with my stethoscope to realize that I am
letting every one else's fervor drive my thoughts and actions.
In a recent appointment, I sensed that my patient was a little
more on edge than usual. Before entering the room again after
checking in with my clinician, I took a deep breath and made up my
mind to fill my being with the word "compassion." I moved more
slowly as I pushed gentleness out in front of me in an effort to
dissipate the angst I'd sensed earlier. And you know, I think it
I'll admit that pushing a positive emotion ahead of me, or
embodying a feeling or a word in order to change the feel of a
space and support a patient, is exhausting. However, I know it has
to be like anything else; practice will certainly make it easier
and self-care (physician heal thyself) has never been more
I've been both praised and questioned for my optimism. The
skeptical people want to know why I am so positive, especially in
the midst of finals, for example. My answer is that while it might
be tiring, I can always sleep. It is easier to be happy than to be
sad. It serves me so much better to look at the bright side than to
wallow in the fog. You can approach medical school as if it is a
dark and scary beast, or you can make it into a giant, shiny
unicorn that might blind you or run you over if you aren't willing
to grab it by the horn and ask for help. Yeah, I like that; medical
school is a huge unicorn. I think I'll stop there.
I think Week 6 is a good time to get into the meat of what I've
actually been up to so far in Tri 6. The best part about this
trimester is that I spend relatively little time sitting in
lecture, and most of my time applying and building upon what I
already know through discussions and hands-on learning.
Physical and Laboratory Diagnosis (aka Phys Dx in student speak)
is a beast of a class, with 6 hours per week of lecture and three
more hours per week in lab. Our first practical comes this week,
and I have been practicing several exams including taking vitals,
as well as the head and neck, pulmonary, cardiovascular,
neurological, eye, ear/nose/throat, and abdominal exams. Besides
demonstrating that we can actually execute said exams, we will be
tested on our ability to translate an objective finding into a
diagnosis (for example, dullness on percussion of the lungs in the
right upper lobe suggests consolidation and therefore pneumonia in
Friday Manual Therapies class celebrations! Tony's birthday
called for learning, pizza, and cupcakes.
Two other classes require me to sit in lecture. The first is
Imagining Diagnosis, in which we just finished learning about how
to recognize arthritides, like rheumatoid arthritis, on X-ray. The
other is Ethical Practice Management, a class that discusses things
like how to use twitter for marketing, and why networking is vital
All my other courses are significantly more hands-on and
interactive, the reason that this trimester is my favorite one so
far. In Homeopathy 3, we sit in class, yes, but we learn remedies
and have discussions about how to take a case, analyze a case, and
subsequently find the correct remedy for a patient. In Applied
Clinical Theory, we discuss paper cases each week and learn about
how to make a diagnosis based on a history and results of a
physical exam. Next, we discuss how to treat these patients by
working through our therapeutic order and addressing each
determinant that is out of balance.
These classes are directly allowing us to apply what we know and
understand about pathology, physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, etc.
(material from our first phase classes) to a theoretical patient.
It is so satisfying to prepare for a class discussion and find out
the next day that your diagnosis was correct and that some of the
therapies you've chosen are the same ones your professor would
These classes are helping me to move beyond simply identifying
what is wrong with the body, to actually creating a treatment plan
to solve the problem. I have two more hands-on labs that fill my
week, one is phlebotomy lab where we've been learning to draw blood
and take urine samples. The other is a class called Advanced Manual
Therapies, which has proven to be a great review of evaluation
techniques we learned in our E&M classes, and allows us to put
it all together. For example, last week we learned the "upper
extremity evaluation dance," which will help us to determine where
a patient's source of pain or malfunction resides if they present
with a problem in their arm or shoulder. We also learn how to use
alternative techniques like pelvic blocking and activator to treat
stubborn or sensitive patients.
Crazy lookin', right? Lisa and Jack practice
My very favorite course this trimester is Hydrotherapy. If
you've been reading my blog the past few weeks, you'll know that I
adore this class. Last week, we practiced constitutional
hydrotherapy, a vis-stimulating treatment that involves alternating
hot and cold towels and applying electrical stim. Two weeks ago we
experimented with Neti pots, as well as steam baths and
naso-sympatico treatment for sinusitis.
Neti Pot time! Pouring water into my nose.
Lastly, I get to spend four hours a week in the clinic, which
you have also read about already if you've been following my posts.
Observing allows us to focus on understanding how the clinic
operates and to practice writing SOAP notes without the stress of
actually having to treat patients or think really hard about the
cases. I am so thankful that I get to watch and think and learn
from my peers; many of the interns I shadow offer useful tips,
teach me the finer points of writing a SOAP note, listen to my
suggestions, and answer my questions about their patients.
Oh! How could I forget to mention my massage courses! I love the
physically exhausting challenge of giving massage in my
Fundamentals of Massage class every Tuesday night, and my class on
Ethics and Practice Management is helping me to visualize how I
will apply this skill in my practice of the future. Despite how
satisfied I am with this trimester, I admit that I am already
looking ahead to what comes next! I can't believe I am already
halfway through medical school; time if flying. On that note, I
better get to work preparing for my Phys Dx practical! Wish me
Remember that sprained ankle I mentioned in my last post? I
finally went to the clinic for treatment and was reminded of how
lucky we are as students to have free care available to us! I
received some cold laser as part of treatment for my swollen ankle
and left with a BCQ (Boswelia, Bromelain, Curcumin, Quercetin)
supplement to decrease inflammation (half price for students!).
Cold laser therapy
If you're not an established patient of a student intern, I
highly suggest you spend the time for the initial intake and reap
the benefits! If you're stressed and over-worked, there are
hydrotherapy treatments waiting for you! If your neck and shoulders
are in knots from sitting and studying all day, there are soft
tissue treatments and gentle adjustments in your future. If your
skin is misbehaving or you haven't pooped in three days (or the
opposite... I mean let's be honest, stress wreaks all kinds of
havoc on our systems)... there is realistic dietary advice and
vis-stimulating/supporting treatments (like acupuncture or more
hydrotherapy) waiting for you at the clinic.
These are just the everyday med student woes that can be
attended to by our fellow student interns and future colleagues.
Don't forget they can also help address the bigger things. Perhaps
you arrived at NUHS to study naturopathic medicine (or chiropractic
or acupuncture or massage) because you or another family member is
wiser for experiencing a challenging health condition. Even the
conditions that require pharmaceuticals and other higher force
interventions can benefit from the complementary, supportive care
offered at the clinic.
Do you have family, friends or acquaintances that could benefit
from the services offered at the clinic? Refer them, please! In
fact, just last night our server asked for our advice to help with
his broken ribs. Since we're not licensed doctors and cannot give
medical advice, we referred him to our clinic. We also brainstormed
some homeopathic remedies anyone can find at their local health
food store that are indicated for stabbing pain and broken
An appointment at the clinic might take up your time, but I
encourage everyone to support our peers and future colleagues. If
you're not an intern yet, you will be soon and we'll all be
thankful for more patients to learn from as we hone our skills and
prepare for life after graduation.
So, what are the highlights from my week other than remembering
the beauty of free care and the fact that those cold laser
protective glasses really tied my outfit together? I practiced back
massage in my Tuesday night class, purchased some materials for my
massage table (fleece covers, a bolster, etc.), observed a few
intriguing patients in clinic, and continually wished my DC peers
good luck on their board exam (Congrats guys! You did it!) I also
fell deeply in love with hydrotherapy and totally forgive the
scheduling goddess for giving me class from 3-5 on Friday
afternoons. We practiced dry sheet wraps and salt scrubs;
techniques that elicited a feeling of true healing that I can see
using often in practice and assigning as homework for my
Painting with friends
Lastly, my best girlfriends and I celebrated our girl Mia, a new
bride who got married in India over this past break! We indulged in
a night out that included wine and painting and inappropriate jokes
and howling laughter. I am so thankful for these friends! They make
me laugh, they make me think, and they inspire me to embrace my
creative side in the midst of the brain workout we all endure on a
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,
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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