Archive for tag: students

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.

2014-08-05_photo 1_small

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!

2014-08-05_photo 2_small

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!

2014-08-05_photo 3_small

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.

2014-08-05_photo 4_small

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 don't worry, here's the evidence that if this is how you feel, you're not alone!

2014-08-05_photo 5_small

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. 

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.

To Enjoy a Gorgeous Carrot

Our long weekend off due to Homecoming has come to a close and I am so, so thankful for having had those extra days without classes! While I suppose I could have joined in the festivities on campus, I decided instead to take advantage of 48 extra hours of unscheduled time and do some Mackie things.  

Don't worry! I did contribute to some Homecoming prep; we worked on beautifying the garden with more weeding and new mulch! Current students, if you'd like to stay up to date on garden happenings, check out the NUHS Botanical Garden Project on Facebook!


After classes ended for the week on Wednesday (amid the cracking of a powerful thunderstorm, the lightening vivid in the grey sky), I joined some ND girlfriends at a nearby wine bar for a drink and some appetizers. The five of us each toasted to intelligent and loving company, the beauty of a steel-grey sky amid the storm, and our ND student friend Anayibe, who took this tri off to go on an adventure to the World Cup in Brazil, and to visit her family in her home country of Colombia. Ana is a vibrant friend, so positive, so present, so quietly loving and funny. She may be only 4'11-¾" tall, but her presence is huge; we feel her with us every day. It is a powerful thing to find a friend like this, and I speak for many when I say we miss her in a wild way.

Illustration by Rigel Stuhmiller - www.rigelstuhmiller.comIn the spirit of my friend Anayibe, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain's newest show, "Parts Unknown," (a food travel show), that takes place in Colombia. Now I can't wait to tell Ana about my hopes that she'll take me on a trip to her country and show me around! (Maybe we can even apply our ND training somehow; I guess we'll see when the time comes for adventure…)  The best line in the show came from a Colombian musician-turned-chef who tells Bourdain, "I believe more in a beautiful carrot than in a good recipe." 

Thank goodness for chefs like this!  To me (and in the context of this show), a beautiful carrot signifies the harmonious interaction between humans and nature, the ability for humans to enjoy a gorgeous carrot born of the earth and to glean both nutrition and pleasure from it. According to naturopathic philosophy, if one lives by nature's laws, health is "the innate and natural state of being" because humans evolved on this planet, selecting for traits that allow for survival in harmony with the environment here. We practice Earth Medicine because we do so on Earth.

When I lived in the mountains of Northern California I got a CSA (community sustained agriculture) box bursting with fresh produce once a week. When I moved to Chicago, I vowed that no student budget would keep me from living close to nature through my food. As Michael Pollan says in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, "Eating's not a bad way to get to know a place." I shop at the farmer's market here in Oak Park every weekend.

Last weekend a few NMSA members met at the farmer's market
to stock up on veggies, flowers, and yes, those irresistible donuts, too.

Supporting local farmers, especially those who use organic or hazard-free methods, ensures that I get the most nutrients through my food. It also allows me to participate in one important aspect of my community that supports the basic determinants of health (hydration, sleep, nutrition, breath, and rest & recreation aka Vitamin R) that lie at the core of naturopathic medicine. In the back corner of the market there are always musicians gathered for a bluegrass jam session, the local church sells irresistible donuts to support their work, and the high school athletics department sells baked goods to raise money for travel and equipment.

The vegetable scene at the Oak Park farmer's market.

The weekly market cultivates community, good nutrition, rejuvenation and belonging. Some might say that life in the city is irreconcilably distant from the natural world, but I argue otherwise. I have found, through my friendships and through my community, many ways to live by nature's laws. To name a couple, I eat good food, and I take a wine break every now and then to stock up on some Vitamin R.

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.

Walk the Talk

I told you all about me last week, which is good for foundation, but now I have to catch you up on what actually took place during my first week of the summer tri! 

My first week of classes in the Clinical Sciences phase was awesome. We are at the point now where we get to apply the information we've learned about how the body works to clinical situations; how a patient would present in clinic. So far I think GI & GU & Reproductive Systems is my favorite class. We talked about fascinating stuff like where the problem comes from if a patient in pain vomits or has black stool. I suppose only doctors and future doctors can be so enthralled with the color of poop and whether or not someone's going to vomit so as to make it their favorite discussion of the week. I must be in the right place!

2014-05-20_John At Garden
Digging around the NUHS botanical garden

I ended my first week of the trimester at the garden party on Friday evening.  Those of us who love to dig in the dirt or who want to learn more about medicinal plants meet at our modest botanical garden where we gather to pull weeds, laugh, review, and learn about the plants from our professor, Dr. Lorinda Sorensen. Thumbs up from my friend John who is as happy as I am to spend his Friday evenings diggin' in the dirt!

In contrast to our first week, this past week it rained. A lot. The lacrosse practice I usually coach was cancelled due to the chilly, wet weather. Despite this, I did manage to commute to school by train/bike on Thursday, and the rain held off just long enough!

2014-05-20_Lilacia Park
Lilacia Park in full bloom! It's located next to the train station in downtown
Lombard. I wandered through while waiting for the train to arrive. 

Mostly, I spent this rainy week struggling over whether or not to take the NPLEX Part I boards this August. I am eligible to sit for the exam now that I have completed the Basic Sciences phase. All the other ND schools have the summer off from classes (as far as I know), and many of their students study all summer long. Here at National, I am taking a full course load of 28 credits and the board exam falls during the week right before final exams. While I don't doubt that I COULD do it if I HAD to, the prospect of studying every free moment all summer long is unpleasant and intimidating.

It's decisions like these that make me realize the importance of walking the walk. As NDs we will advise our patients to optimize the determinants of health -- adequate sleep, hydration, community support, and healthy food -- to name a few. It is a true challenge to live the life of a student and embody naturopathy at the same time. My conclusion has been to take the board exam in February. This decision comes after listening to the advice of upper tri students, and also by listening to my own heart. In doing so, I'm embracing the reality of what it takes for me to stay happy and healthy, all the while keeping my eyes on the prize: McKenzie Mescon, ND.