After a week full of residency interviews, pediatric cases,
diabetic patients who resist going on insulin, and Pubmed searches
on sacroiliac fusion and green-light laser for prostatic
hypertrophy, I took to the hills. I made a few new friends during
the course of a day of climbing some cliffs outside of Red Lodge,
where I went for a drive a few weekends ago. It felt SO GOOD to be
back in that world, drinking a cold beer with tired hands after all
day outside pulling on rock and belaying other climbers. I
remembered how clear I feel squatting in the dust, cutting chunks
of cheese and apple with my pocket knife and devouring that food to
feed shaky muscles.
Snack break, out climbing in Red Lodge
After years away from it, I got that carefree feeling of
slinging my pack into the bed of a truck and hopping in for a ride
out of town. It was one of those times when you find friends
because you share an interest in an activity that doesn't involve
any monetary compensation, or studying. So refreshing!
At the end of a day climbing those rocks behind us
I've been attending a weekly yoga class held here at the clinic.
It's taught by a man named Greg who takes inspiration from
Foundation Training, a series of exercises designed by Eric
Goodman, DC. If you're curious about an incredible way to build
core strength, I highly suggest you look it up on YouTube. Anyway,
Greg is also a potter, and he and his artist wife Nancy collaborate
to make some absolutely remarkable pieces.
Greg and I attended a yoga class together on Saturday morning at
the YMCA, and after class he brought me to see his and Nancy's home
gallery and studio. They each have their own studio -- hers is
above their home, and his is out back. Their living space is
decorated with their work, and they have installed track lighting
so that they can host gallery showings from home once a year. Their
motive is not to get famous making art. Greg makes practical,
useful pieces and with Nancy's added decoration/painting, these
pieces win awards and are featured in art books. Greg has strong
feelings against the concept of the gallery, where his pieces are
marked up 100%. He and Nancy have built a very practical and
authentic life around their art, which allows them to study all
number of other things that bring them alive; Greg studies yoga,
Nancy was off at a print-making workshop that morning.
I know I've got to make some money to get by in my life, but I
am more inspired now than I was in Chicago to focus on what makes
my heart sing. I've turned down two opportunities for second
interviews for residencies because after the first interview, they
just didn't feel right. I want to provide primary care to all sorts
of people. I want to learn to practice in a licensed state so that
I am comfortable going anywhere. I want to live with my radical
partner (who I miss very much!), and I want to spend time outside.
I suspect if I keep focused on my goals, the right experience will
come my way.
My book of treatment notes has filled up over these past few
And to be transparent about all the things, I do have all those
flatly practical goals too. I just received my boards study books
in the mail and want to get to work on that. I want to find a job
for the summer, as I study for boards in August, that allows me to
pay my bills. I have a checklist of things to read, topics to
research, phone calls to make, and flights to arrange. I guess what
I'm saying is that whatever's on your to-do list, I hope you want
to do it, or that you want the end result of all the doing. As a
medical student, sometimes all you can do is keep your eyes on the
prize and remember the end will come. Then, when you're reaching
that end of school, your to-do list remains, but your world opens,
you meet artists, and you get out climbing again.
I went to the Billings premiere of the film "Makoshika," which
is about the boom and bust cycles of Eastern Montana and Western
North Dakota. The current cycle of this involves the Bakken
oil field. The crew filmed from 2014 til 2016, which means
they captured the full scope -- the boom, and the bust. The
price of oil recently dropped below $50 a barrel.
Flyer for the film "Makoshika"
There was a big turnout of locals to support these young
filmmakers, probably all about my age. There was humor and
there were images that made me grimace. The scenes of change
from quiet country road to lines of trucks in traffic contrasted
sharply to the scenes of fifth generation farmers driving ancient
Fords along empty roads to their pastures. There was the shot
of light from the oil well flickering through the drawn blinds on
the front windows of a farmer's home that was hard and sad to
At the end of the film when the credits rolled to a standing
ovation, I saw a long list of local Billings family names as donors
to the group's effort. The filmmakers expressed, over and over
again, their gratitude to this community that got their project off
its feet and into film festivals at Big Sky and in Europe. There
was some serious pride in the air at the Babcock Theater, and it
came from that whole Billings community. The whole group of
them really is what made that film.
A weekend hike with resident Drs. Schenewerk &
At a live blues show on the weekend, I watched and danced as a
group of spectacular local musicians played in support of a local
non-corporate paper called The Last Best News, and rallied
around one of the guitar players, a man who is dying of
cancer. The Billings community came out in force that night,
bidding on a silent auction and packing the brewery with boogying
bodies. You should know that it's the doctors at YNC who took
me out to these events and who danced until they closed down the
dance floor. They're the docs who remarked to me the amazing
community they live in. Some of the younger, newer docs will
avoid their patients in public environments, but these older and
wiser ones just get right in the middle of things and embrace their
community full on. I know that confidence and the ability to meld
the doctor-patient relationship into everyday life takes practice
and time. So, I'm watching and making mental notes.
10th tri almost-docs! (Minus Kaila, fingers crossed for a good
There's the Billings community, and then there's the
naturopathic community. My 10th tri buddies all had their
send-off dinner with Dr. Lou -- a tradition that all
10th tris partake of during Dr. Lou's last week in Lombard
during their last ever trimester. True to their word, they
Facetimed me and I got to wave hello to everyone around the
table! Oh! It made me miss their good company. They
happened to call before I had left the clinic for the day so I ran
over to Dr. Beeson's office and let her and Dr. Lou say hello
--theirs is an example of those amazing friendships formed between
remarkable NDs. That night, Dr. Beeson had me up for dinner,
stating that all my buddies were having their celebratory dinner
and I should have mine, too! We ate tuna caught by one of her
patients, and plenty of delicious vegetables. These
communities are the kind that I really want in my life. When
people ask me what my plans are, or where I'd like to be next, I
think the most accurate response is to tell them I want to be in a
supportive community, wherever that may be.
Time is speeding up again. For a while there, when I first
arrived in Montana, one week felt like a month, now I can't believe
February is almost over! Things are getting real for Hanzi and me;
he just moved all the furniture out of our apartment in Illinois
and is preparing to move up to Michigan at the end of the week. I
am doing all those annoying things you have to do when you move;
canceling the Internet service, submitting a change of address with
USPS, talking to Hanzi every day about what to keep and what can go
from our apartment. Hanzi has been my remaining connection to home
in Illinois and as soon as he is gone that will change. I am very
grateful to have a partner who defines home for me, and I wonder
how much more I'll connect with Montana once he leaves Oak
Lately, I've been receiving messages from friends from all parts
of my life about people they know who live in Billings, Montana.
One former sorority sister from undergrad told me, "I don't know
many people who move to Billings, so I thought I'd get in touch!"
She has a cousin who's a nurse here, and another college friend has
an aunt and uncle in Billings who would love to have me over for
dinner. An old summer camp friend reached out to me because he and
his family will be visiting his sister over in Bozeman this week,
so we have plans to meet up for dinner. It feels like the
powers-that-be are encouraging me to get connected in Montana, as
if it's a place I'm going to be for a while. This kind of thing
didn't happen for me when I moved to Illinois. Yes, I made many
wonderful friends through school, but the community connections
didn't come flowing in like this, without my trying. I am
cautiously optimistic about it.
Statue for auction at the Casting for Recovery Gala
Over this past weekend one of the resident naturopathic
oncologists at YNC invited me to be her guest at an event for
Casting for Recovery, an organization that takes women with breast
cancer, or who are in recovery from it, on fly-fishing trips. Dr.
Jennifer Krieger got to connect with the local chapter organizer
and discuss providing a survivorship talk at their weekend retreat
in Big Sky this summer. You may remember that Hanzi is a
fly-fisherman and has taken me fishing in some spectacular places
including the Truckee River in California, the Wind River Range in
Wyoming, and the Driftless Region in Wisconsin. My waders are
currently in the mail from Illinois so that Dr. Krieger and I can
do some fishing here in Montana sometime soon!
Grooving at a Railroad Earth show.
Dr. Krieger also accompanied me to a Railroad Earth show on
Wednesday night and we danced to some jammy bluegrass until
midnight. Later in the week I contributed to a Bon Appetit-inspired
dinner club with two other residents, Drs, Schenewerk and
Phillips-Dorsett. Dr. P-D made delicious short rib enchiladas,
which we all helped to assemble and then voraciously ate a little
while later. I've had a surprisingly busy social life here lately.
I am also starting to take on some more work for Dr. Beeson,
including small research projects for patient cases. Recently, I
recruited Russ, our reference librarian at NUHS, to help me hunt
down research on prophylactic treatment of malaria with Artemesia
and its synthetic derivatives for a patient who is traveling to
Uganda at the end of the month.
Drove as far as I could into the mountains.
I have to tell you that I managed to get out for another little
adventure, this time to Red Lodge, about 60 miles southwest of
Billings. I drove as far as I could on the road through the
Beartooth Mountains toward Yellowstone National Park (the
spectacular part of the road is closed for the season), and then
went for a gorgeous, sunny, and snowy hike. And now, I have to wrap
up this post and head to the post office to mail my apartment key
to my landlord in Illinois. It feels good to know I'm sending off
some of the last of my belonging to that place because I'm ready
for these new experiences, though I do think I'll miss our curious
little apartment in the dilapidated pink house.
I'm finally out of my shell. I think I mentioned before how
intense it was to pack up and move everything to a totally new
place, and so just this past week have I really started to unwind.
It's things like my sense of humor and self-confidence that are
crawling out of that deep part where I hide my personality when
things are just too new and different.
I've had an interesting run as a true introvert these past few
weeks. I didn't do a whole lot this weekend because I had a
residency interview in the middle of the day on Saturday, and then
just wasn't feeling great on Sunday. Instead of going out for an
adventurous walk with some of the residents at YNC as planned, I
took an Epsom salt bath and a nap to kick a headache
(physician-heal-thyself!). After waking, feeling much better, I
prepared a thermos of tea and set out for a drive. I kind of forgot
that when you drive in wilder places at dusk you have to be
vigilant about watching for deer and pronghorn, maybe elk, too. I
drove south of Billings into predominantly ranch land. Thankfully
no ungulates (have your dictionary handy?) tried to cross the road
as I drove, though I did stumble upon this spectacular evidence of
recent road kill when I pulled over to take a picture of the
A very dead animal, and a pretty sunset!
On my way back into town, I drove through an area that has
recently seen what I presume to be wildfire. I remember stretches
like this in Nevada and California, but forgot how eerie those
blackened trees look, especially when the color goes out of the sky
as the sun sets. I didn't stop to take a picture; I just kept on so
I could pass through that uneasy place.
Taking a break during a run along the rims after an
After another recent residency interview I had to get the shakes
out, so I took off before sunset after work for the rims above
town, this time in my running clothes. The weather has been so mild
here; I was able to run along the trail overlooking the city, with
its lights flicking on, in just a long-sleeve and vest.
So you probably want to hear more about my preceptorship too,
huh? I can't say it enough times; I'm so, so grateful for this
experience. Some combination of time and exposure has brought me to
a significantly more comfortable place with just about everyone who
works at YNC. As you know, I sit in with Dr. Beeson's appointments
and learn while I watch her work, but I also get to follow her
around when she discusses cases with her residents, or when she
gets called into another exam room to confirm their findings on
physical exam. I get to watch two doctor-minds thinking together,
and add mine to the mix (though I mostly just absorb.) In this way,
I am seeing even more cases throughout the day! Dr. Beeson is great
about asking if I have any questions and making sure I get to
see/discuss the cases I am most curious about or have had little
Happy belated Valentine's Day! I made these for the lovely
folks at YNC.
Despite having worked with doctors over the past decade and
crossed paths with many different complicated patient cases, there
is a definite change to how I view these cases now that I have an
educated mind. Even as an almost-baby-doc, my depth of
understanding is so much greater than it was one, two and three
years ago, before I learned all the things about how the body
works, what goes wrong with it, and how to fix it. If there's one
thing I've learned for sure over these past few weeks, it's that I
will never be done learning those three things: how the body works,
what goes wrong with it, and how to fix it. Doctoring is learning
It's the end of my first week at Yellowstone
Naturopathic Clinic (YNC). I cannot believe it was only a week
ago that I was driving through North Dakota en route to Billings -
that feels like it was a month ago!
I'm renting a small basement apartment in Dr. Margaret Beeson's
house, so this weekend she came down the stairs and invited me to
join her and her son Julius at a live show by a local band one
night, and for the Artwalk, an event that happens 5 times a year in
Billings, the other evening. I followed these two around downtown,
stopping in to galleries and watching them greet their people,
appreciate local artists, hand out free Bernie stickers, and pass
out flyers in support of the local co-op here.
The band Satsang, playing to a full
house at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.
At the show, I danced to some groovy reggae-inspired roots music
and watched the people of Billings love on this local band (check
them out here: reverbnation.com/satsang). I hope I grow into
the kind of healer and community member who knows someone
everywhere I go and laughs as much with her people as Dr. B
As for medical things I've learned this week -- oh, my god --
where do I begin? Like I said in my last post, there's no
comparison to learning by watching a doctor work. At YNC, there are
3 associate docs besides Dr. B, and 4 residents. There's also a
chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and a massage therapist. There are
2 front desk ladies and about 4 or 5 other employees working in
medical records, dispensary, and other management positions. It's a
All of the doctors are willing to engage my questions and teach.
In this way, I get to understand a little bit about how each one
thinks and works differently from the next. I've watched some prolo
and PRP injection therapies, listened to a patient's story while he
received a vitamin C IV as supportive treatment for cancer, and
watched Dr. B doctor and refer a 70-something patient in need of
I've learned from one of the associate docs about the difficult
experience of having to tell her patients she is leaving the
practice to do some volunteer work and ponder her next move. Her
advice to me was "If you know where you want to live, go there and
start your practice. It is so hard to leave your patients!"
Sheltering from the wind, taking in
the view (this does not do it justice!)
Speaking of knowing where you want to go, now that I'm in the
West, I am have a hard time picturing myself anywhere else. It
feels really, really good to be here, under this big sky, with
ranchers at the table next to me in the restaurant, and patients
driving 3 hours from their very rural home to see the naturopathic
doctor. It is very different from the big city, and that weight of
millions of people has lifted from my shoulders; it feels much more
In other news, I'm starting to hear from residencies and am
hoping the communications continue through this next week. I'll try
to keep you posted on progress with this, but at the same time not
get my hopes up. I'm trying my best to relax into the process and
trust that I'll end up wherever is best.
Strolling the ridge after
scrambling up a cold north-facing trail
To take my mind off things, I went out for a little hike at
Phipps Park to the west of town. It was brilliantly sunny, the view
was expansive, and I found a cave to sit in for a few moments, out
of the wind.
Lastly, I can't end this post without mentioning that many of my
ND student buddies took boards last week. Congratulations to all of
you on making it through that hugely exhausting experience! May the
answers you didn't know be the same ones nobody else knew,
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• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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