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,
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
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
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
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.
In 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
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
to stock up on veggies, flowers, and yes, those irresistible
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.
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
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.
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!
Digging around the NUHS botanical
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
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
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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