Archive for tag: students

Med School Firsts and More Traveling

Another good week come and gone and we're already a month into the Fall Tri! This past week was marked in particular by more travel and some med school firsts: suturing and a Grand Rounds presentation.

Wendy, Mallory and Lisa prepare to learn suturing

For years I've watched my dermatologist mother suture her patients after removal of suspicious moles or biopsy of suspicious skin conditions. She works so methodically, looping the long end around the forceps and securing a tight knot in one smooth motion. After my first attempt at suturing I can tell ya, it's harder than it looks! However, after another hour of practice following that first attempt, I'm already feeling better about it, though I still need more practice. The tricky part is focusing on all the components; holding the tools properly, spacing your stitches just right, and pulling them just tight enough, but not too tight....

Lisa performs her first sutures on a plastic arm!

I also gave my first Grand Rounds presentation to a room full of interns, clinicians and students from lower tris. In 9th Tri we present for about 30 minutes on a clinical question, whereas in 10th Tri we spend an hour discussing a case and research. As I mentioned last week, I presented on The Case of the Missing Organ. My talk focused on the concept of considering a new basis for health in patients who present for care after having an organ removed, and on the importance of identifying the cause of dis-ease if removal of the organ has not solved the problem. This presentation was inspired by two of my patients, one who has had the colon removed, and another who has had the gallbladder removed. I was nervous, but it seems to have been well received and now I can check that off my to-do-list for the tri!

After an interesting week I took to the skies again for a trip to Vermont to celebrate the marriage of one of my very oldest friends. In addition to getting all dolled up with a delightful group of young women (I also wrote about them in a post from March: Crunch-Pop and Lovely Intelligent Women), I got to go for a beautiful, brisk morning stroll with my mom and discuss patient cases, and danced with my dad to music played by a live band. Everything about the weekend was beautiful!

A view from the top of The Flume, a little hike in northern NH.

Hanzi and I made a point to stop for a walk in the woods of the White Mountains on our drive back to Boston, where we caught an early flight back to Chicago the next day. We also got to watch the lunar eclipse/blood moon with my parents on their back porch. I hope you all got to see that celestial masterpiece; what a perfect symbol of the impressiveness of this world that has conspired to bring about all the things from the marriage of two wonderful people this past weekend, to my reaching this stage of naturopathic medical school. 

Hanzi checks out the White Mountains scenery from a covered bridge.

Speaking of a world conspiring to bring about things for us, please do not hesitate to email me with any of your questions, thoughts, concerns, or celebrations from your process of applying to, or considering this Naturopathic journey. I am never too busy to reply; I love your emails! You can reach me at

A Dormant Part of Me is Waking

There is this lively little part of me at my core that I was beginning to mourn having lost in the midst of school, but surprise! It's waking up! The first time I can remember discovering this glowing gold piece of my heart was when I lived in Wyoming, and it brightened significantly when I lived in California. Hunkering down to study, living in the suburbs, losing touch with music and wild land slowly shuttered me, dimmed that glow, and caused that spirited part of me to go dormant.

Sunset on a satisfying day in the clinic

I saw my first patients last week and the experience cracked my heart open, in the best way. I also made the decision to drop a few massage courses this trimester, including my clinic shift, which has opened up more hours in my week and also lifted a large burden from my shoulders. I'm taking only one massage class; it's perfect. I get to focus on my priority of becoming a naturopathic doctor.

This feeling I'm welcoming home is hard to explain, but it feels so much like me! I know I've mentioned before how my life here in Chicagoland is significantly different from what I feel brings me most alive. Maybe it's the realization that I have only one year left, and that the wide world is waiting for me over there next April. Mostly, I think it's the opportunity to practice actual doctoring that's waking this sleeping glow.

For years I was intimidated to go to medical school. It took me until I recognized I was ready to BE the doctor, rather than just work for the doctor, to even take the steps to apply for school. Now the end is in sight, and I have so much to learn! How am I ever going to fit it all in to one year? I'm really excited and actually totally floored to watch it happening. All of a sudden, there was a patient in front of me, asking me for help, answering my questions, asking me questions... And then there was another one! Another patient sat in front of me, answering my questions, looking to me (and my clinician) for answers. I guess I always knew this was coming, but I have completely shocked myself by letting it actually arrive.

Lisa and me, and Wendy's FABULOUS lunch bag; it's how we feel!

I guess this feeling that's reemerging, slowly simmering in my core, is one of cautious confidence, of belonging, of good trepidation and that delightful unknown. I'm treading lightly so as to not snuff it out. Now that it's back, I'm going to do my darndest to nurture it, which I think means being truest to myself. I am wide-eyed and curious.

If You Can, Shadow a Doc!

The topic for my blog post this week knocked and then walked into the room while I was sitting in a peat bath, a regular weekly thing I've been doing per my ND intern at the clinic. Jen is a 10th tri intern in the ND clinic who was on hydro laundry duty on the day of my appointment. At the end of last tri, before the holidays, Jen and I got to talking and I learned that she has family not far from the little Northern California town I moved from when I decided to come to NUHS to study naturopathic medicine. Jen had plans to travel there to visit over the break, and I thought she should definitely take a day to shadow the naturopathic doc I interned with and subsequently worked for during my last year living in California. It was relatively quick and easy to put Jen in touch by email with Dr. Ann, who graduated from SCNM and practiced in Arizona before moving her family to Tahoe for the mountain culture, outdoor environment and beauty.

On a lunch break from my work at Dr. Ann's office

When I first reached out to Dr. Ann in 2010, she responded promptly to my request to shadow her. I told her I was deciding if I wanted to go to school to become a naturopathic doctor and thought I should see the thing in action first. Dr. Ann was super welcoming and told me when I finally left after a year working for her that if I ever had any peers who wanted to shadow her she would be more than willing to have them.

Even though I hadn't been in touch with Dr. Ann since I mailed her a Christmas card two years ago when I first moved to Illinois, I was pretty sure she'd be receptive to my connecting her with Jen. I also thought she would totally get it that medical school keeps you so busy you don't have time to stay in touch like you wish you could... after all, she went through the same process at SCNM!

A vista from the drive from Nevada to the north end of Lake Tahoe

So last week when Jen slipped into the hydro room to put away some towels, I stopped her and had her regale me with stories of her visit to Tahoe and her day spent with Dr. Ann. I learned that my mentor's practice is growing and that one of the women who worked the front desk with me is still there, translating Spanish for Dr. Ann and helping to connect her with the robust local Hispanic community.

The most heart-warming thing Jen told me is that as she watched Dr. Ann do her work, she realized that the vision she has for her own future practice after graduation is a realistic one. There was Dr. Ann, working with her patients in a small, cozy, downtown office, charting while they told their story from the easy chair on the other side of the desk. Jen told me that she hadn't actually seen a real live naturopathic doctor at work yet, and that the experience was reaffirming and totally awesome. I have to say that thanks to Dr. Ann, I, too, know that feeling.

Beautiful Tahoe views made studying for Organic Chem (a prereq for coming to NUHS) easier!

If you are just looking into starting naturopathic medical school, I highly suggest you seek out a practicing ND in your area and ask if you can shadow them for a day or even just for a few hours. It will give you a picture of what you can expect, and will help you to keep that vision in mind when you are wallowing in the recesses of the library, trying to memorize things that seem so far removed from actual patient care. If you are a current student and have not yet had the opportunity to shadow a real live working ND, you should find one too! As far as I can tell, in our clinic we have our clinicians who oversee our work, but it doesn't seem quite the same as watching an ND go about the day in their own private practice.

One of the best ways to find a licensed ND in your area who trained at one of the accredited schools is to visit and click on the link at the top that reads, "Find a Doctor." Or, ask around! You never know which of your professors or peers knows someone willing and able to take you on for a day. If you are not in a position to shadow an ND, or are not reading this blog post because you want to be one, becoming a patient is probably the very best way you can learn about naturopathic medicine.

My Favorite Tri So Far

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 that area.)

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 for success.

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 apply!

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 naso-sympatico.

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 luck!

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.

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.

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.

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.