Archive for tag: travel

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

NDs Around the World

Over the weekend, I got to speak with one of my dearest friends for the first time in two years. She has been living in South Korea with her husband where they both work as teachers. Sara and I met when we studied abroad in Australia 8 years ago. In the years since then, I've been the lucky recipient of many visits from Sara and her husband wherever I've lived, all over the country. I have totally reaped the benefits of their summer vacations as teachers. This time, they are in the U.S. for a few weeks seeing family and I am so excited to pay them a visit in Michigan next weekend! It's my turn to make the trip to visit them.

When Sara came to visit in me in Truckee/Tahoe.

One of the most important reasons I moved out west from New England after college (where I subsequently decided on naturopathic medicine as a career), was based on my experience of studying abroad in Australia with Sara. While studying on the other side of the globe, I met so many Americans who hailed from all the very different parts of the United States. I realized that I, an East Coast girl, was so different from those girls from the Midwest, or those girls from Southern California. We all came from very different American backgrounds, and yet these Australians, as well as all the other foreigners we met while out exploring, grouped me in with all the others. I was just another American girl to them.

Adventuring in Australia -- getting inspired to explore my own country.

On account of this, I decided I had better go figure out what the rest of my country was like before I went travelling abroad again. While we all had some American patriotism and our language in common, I felt so different from so many of my countrywomen. I wanted to know what assumptions people might be making about me based on some other Americans they'd met who, as far as I could tell, were nearly as different from me as the Australian girls were, or the Germans.

Now that I can see the light at the end of the medical school tunnel, I am starting to think about where to explore next. I think I have a pretty good handle on what an "American girl" is, based on my experiences living around the country, so perhaps it's time to head into foreign lands!

Between binge-watching Anthony Bourdain episodes, perusing photographs of far away places on BuzzFeed, and reminiscing about our travels of the past, Hanzi and I have caught the travel bug. We regularly toss around the idea of living and working in another country, and have even set some lofty goals of learning a foreign language before we graduate with our respective master's and doctorate degrees (we haven't made any headway on this, yet). Even if we don't make it out of the country, we are ready to explore another region... perhaps Alaska, or Montana, or Maine...

Of course, I also have to think about actual employment after graduation, and for the record, I am equally excited to work as a doctor as I am to see new places. If you're like me and think you might want to explore, either now or later on, keep these resources in mind. There are several networks for naturopathic doctors around the world. Several of my friends at NUHS have traveled to work with Naturopathic Doctors International and Naturopaths Without Borders during their breaks between trimesters. My peers have returned with totally awesome stories of hands-on experience treating patients, living in rural areas, assisting in the delivery of babies by flashlight, and connecting with local people whose worlds are so very different from ours.

In addition to delivering care to the underserved abroad, naturopathic medicine is going global with the recent creation of The World Naturopathic Federation in 2014. This organization connects naturopathic doctors in 40 countries around the world, and endeavors to connect our work with that of the World Health Organization. We might be a small population here in the United States, but we are also out there, all over the world, sharing and advancing our medicine!

Holding Space and Learning What I Am Not (Yet!)

What roles do we play; what shoes do we fill for our patients? I just spent the weekend holding a wide, firmly calm swath of space for my mom, her siblings, and my grandparents (their parents) as everyone prepared for a move from Michigan to Massachusetts.

Family time, my grandmother and her kids, visiting her father's resting place

My grandparents are in their mid-80s and have lived in Michigan their whole lives. My grandmother has always lived in Kalamazoo, and it seems that the entire city knows her. The reasons for their move are simple and complex all at once. Not only is it easier to bring food down the road than to have it delivered by a stranger, but standing in the same room softens the frustration of repeated instructions or stories.

Visiting the war memorial in Kalamazoo, my great-grandfather, Arthur D. Bush

This past weekend I was a space-holder, a hugger, a cheerleader, and a diffuser of tension. It's an exhausting task but I'm proud to say I think I'm getting rather good at it. It took less than 24 hours for my auntie to tell me she was glad to have me there. I tempered anxieties, I held my grandmother's hand, I hugged my grandpa and delivered him snacks. I think I tactfully cut some sharp remarks short and replaced them with gentler words. I believe even my kindergarten report card said I was a quiet problem-solver, the voice of reason, or something more suited to a 5-year-old, but to that same effect.

With my brave, supportive grandparents who told me, "There's no point
in procreating unless you improve on what came before... It worked!"

Now I'm riding on a swaying train, headed back to Chicago an hour late, rocketing into the setting sun. The train is full but I'm alone in my head, a welcome respite after 2 days of definitely having a presence. 

All of my medical school peers play different roles in our NUHS family. There are the out-spoken ones, the dissatisfied ones that cry for and produce change. There are the quiet ones that follow really well and help turn those tides. There are the ethereal ones who view the world as if through a smoky crystal ball, predicting the future, intuiting things to my amazement, sometimes struggling to see the point of the this-here-learn-it-now. There are the people who wisely listen and nod when you bitch, and there are the ones who reply quickly, ready with advice.

There are the doctors to whom patients turn for strict rules, for holding them to their word. There are doctors to whom patients turn to alleviate their suffering, sometimes only with a pill, sometimes with an ear, a hug, and an unconditional presence.

There are patients who look to their doctors for their willingness to be held on a pedestal and consulted as the wise sage. There are patients who look for the doctor that allows them to talk, and talk, and talk. Some doctors are best for the realism, their ability to break bad news in the most frank and comforting way. There are other doctors who act as cheerleader to the patients that seek them, and readily share their big hearts.

There are doctors who are sought for their acknowledgement of all the possibilities, others for their specialty. There are yet more doctors whose strength is their positivity and their smile. And there are many doctors who fill many of these roles, perhaps all of them.

I go to school with all of these types of people and I am learning what kind of doctor I am becoming. I am learning why people seek me out, and why they don't. The hardest thing for me to own is that there is a population of people out there that won't want me for their doctor because I can't be who they seek, whether it be due to lack of prescriptive rights, the way I look, my liberal morals, or that infuriating way I explain their condition. 

I am learning about being present for each patient, which means putting aside all of my "stuff" so that I can arrive and be ready for that person alone. I don't need to parade my morals ahead of me; I can just sit and be open, accepting, and ask questions in order to better understand. Until writing this, I thought I should just exist and see which patients showed up to receive my care. Now, I'm realizing there are holes in that theory. As an intern and soon-to-be baby doc, I should strive to make myself available and appealing to everyone, and so I should maybe seek out those patients who might not come knocking of their own volition. Alas, my sit back and let the world unfold attitude will have to change, at least a little bit. How will I learn if I don't make an effort to attract the education?

You Could Choose National for the Thunderstorms

I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. When I lived in the West, I realized that a big sky makes me feel that anything is possible and that I can never understand it all. I adore this feeling. I desire to be outside of my comfort zone as often as possible; so much so that at times I've had to give up and retreat to calmer waters.

I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. Sunrise on my morning commute last week.

On a long weekend during my first year at NUHS, before the program had a chance to wear me thin, my partner and I set out on a camping and fishing trip to Wisconsin's driftless region. We meandered through farmland and found our camping spot as the clouds were gathering, no big deal. We'd once tried to camp at Vedauwoo near Laramie, Wyoming, in late October with a wicked, biting wind that threatened both to snow and to overturn our tent. When we realized they'd shut off the water and closed up all facilities for the season, we gave up.

My partner Hanzi tying flies at our kitchen table over the weekend, caused this story to surface.

On this particular trip in Wisconsin, we made dinner over our camp stove as the rain picked up. We ate our rice and beans on the tailgate to stay dry. As the downpour intensified, we climbed into our tent earlier than expected and snuggled into the center, trying not to touch the wet walls.

At 1 a.m., the 5th drop of water landed on my face and I realized my sleeping bag was totally soaked; our tent was no longer waterproof and the Midwestern thunderstorm was still raging. Soaked and sleepy, we sloppily disassembled our tent and crammed all the sopping wet sleeping stuff into the trunk and slunk out of the campsite, our tails between our legs.

The fishing the next day was terrible. The streams ran high and brown
with mud. You can see our soaking wet camping gear piled in the trunk.

We drove a wide-open rural highway with lightning cracking all around us in the longest, loudest and most spectacular streaks I've ever seen. This was some thunderstorm! If you've never experienced one, do come study naturopathic medicine at National. If you've not chosen our school for the strong philosophy and awesome collaborative learning environment, then do at least choose it for the thunderstorms!

After a drive through the downpour and lightning, we checked into the only room left at the nearest hotel, a suite with a hot tub in the corner and the fluffiest king size bed ever (save for that one that enveloped me during that bout of food-poisoning I got in Banff, Canada after eating scrambled eggs at the airport. Don't ever eat scrambled eggs at the airport.)

When you're in medical school, you pretty much can't do these adventurous, uncalculated things. They squash that tendency to toss logical thinking to the wind (like setting up camp in the midst of a deluge) in the process of teaching us to be responsible doctors. I don't mean my professors tell me to stay out of the rain. I mean that medical school in general takes you away from the fun stuff by sucking you dry of energy and sitting you down for some serious business. It's all worth it though, I promise.

I may not be able to adventure, but I guess my education does cause me to constantly move beyond my comfort zone. Each new class I take demands that I commit to memory information I've never known before. When I see a sim patient, I have no idea what to expect and have to dive in ready to grapple with whatever story they tell me. This is undoubtedly like the real world of doctoring and so I rest assured; I totally AM in the right place.... If doctoring is a process of continually stepping out of your comfort zone while seeking the patterns that help you find your way to healing a patient, then I think I'm on to something.

Really though, I already knew I was in the right place before writing this rambling essay on thunderstorms and airport eggs and squished adventures. I came to naturopathic medicine because I thrive on the different stuff. Our medicine is not well known but it is intelligent. Our medicine is not entirely understood in reductionist terms, but it works from a place of truth. Camping in the rain is not a comfortable choice, but it does make for a good story.

Crunch-Pop and Lovely, Intelligent Women

Here I sit, on a plane bound for Chicago after a weekend on the East Coast, listening to the air from the blower overhead and the rushing outside the window as we taxi. The deicers blast the window inches from my face with a heavy spattering sound. The engines roar a little louder and I think of the rattle my cousin's smiling, blonde 1-year-old used to fill my ears this morning.

At this past week's Nu Delta Sigma meeting, Nadene introduced us to sound healing as presented in the book, "Tuning the Human Biofield," by Eileen McKusick. I was the lucky recipient of a sound experiment from my friend John, a brilliant healer and doctor-in-the-making. You might call us crazy, but when was the last time you checked in with the sounds in your life? It had been a while for me.

The sim patient I saw this week in my Advanced Clinical Problem Solving class complained of tinnitus, a rushing sound in his ears, and was nearly deaf. This was the only abnormal finding on physical exam as we searched for clues to the cause of his dizzy, vomiting spells. When I made kale for dinner on Wednesday night, the leaves squeaked when I stripped them off their stalks. The sound reminded me of lemons and a crisp, cold, clear evening with a sky full of stars, when the frozen snow sings underfoot.

Selfie photo on the mountain
So excited to be out skiing in celebration of one of my very oldest friends!
(She taught me to suck my thumb when I was 2.)

When I rode the chairlift at Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire with my childhood friends over the weekend, the chairs clunked as only chairlift chairs do each time you reach a tower. I reveled in the swish of skis and the crunch-pop of poles into snow, the whoosh and shudder of skiers of various skill levels as they rocket downhill beside you. There were also those split seconds of silence when I caught a little air and my skis left the snow, allowing me to hear only the wind in my ears.

Beautiful bluebird day in the White Mountains! There are my friends, waving at me from the lift.

On Sunday morning, I listened to the coffee maker grumble and splurt that divine bitter stuff into the pot. The bottle of champagne made an adorable pop! And we toasted our friend, a bride-to-be. We thanked her for bringing together such an intelligent, fun, active and clever group of young women. Our glasses clinked! I am back at school now, refreshed and grateful.

Photo of friends
All the lovely, intelligent women in our PJs, toasting our bride-to-be!

So now I sit here typing, my fingers trickling across the keys making that distinct blipping sound with each letter. I spend so much time using my eyes and my hands to observe and palpate in medicine, but I haven't engaged nearly enough with my ears. The more blood pressures I take and the more lungs I auscultate, the more familiar those healthy sounds become. I listen to the normal sounds in hopes that I'll recognize when they are different, when the lungs pop or crackle or gurgle and tell me something about the environment inside my patient.