Archive for tag: chicago

Classes Countdown and a Chicago To-Do List

Another big week down and only 4 more to go until the end of my 9th trimester and the end of medical school classes! The way our schedule works, you should always finish your tenure with NUHS with a class-free 10th trimester. I gotta tell you, it's become a mantra among my fellow 9th tris to remind each other several times a day the number of weeks left of class before we get to focus solely on patient care and our plans for life after school. You could definitely say all 10 of us have "senioritis," and it takes those daily reminders to one another to keep a smile on when we sit through 2.5 hours of Wednesday morning lecture and move on to complete another 7 hours in the clinic.

Big days happening around here! In the midst of all the school I am getting done these days, I'm also taking the time to explore Chicago because I'm closing in on the end of my time in this city.

Finally made it out dancing at the Empty Bottle

This past weekend I finally made it to The Empty Bottle on Western Ave in Chicago for some dancing! Hanzi and our friend Reed and I also trekked down to Chinatown on Sunday for Dim Sum, which was all kinds of flavors. On Saturday night, Hanzi and I brought stuffing and a vegetable dish (so naturopathic, I know) to a Friendsgiving dinner with library friends. Hanzi works at the Oak Park Library and we've met some really lovely, intelligent folks with a great sense of humor and a shared love of books. Our festive meal was definitely a holiday season highlight.

Hanzi and I have been working on a Chicago to-do list. It includes riding the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, seeing a show at the House of Blues, skating the ribbon rink, and visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. I know, I know, I can't believe I haven't done some of these things yet! I've been here for 3 years and some days it absolutely feels like it's been that long, and other days, I wonder where the time has gone and realize that April will be here in no time....

So, can you see the picture here? I'm trying to focus on this last month of 9th tri with studying and assignments, while also realizing I have a substantial checklist of Chicagoland activities to attend to. I'm also enjoying every busy clinic day seeing patients and, oh yeah -- we had our first snow! It went from fall to February-like winter overnight!

All the smart, beautiful women working in the ND clinic

Also, it was the 100th anniversary of the American Medical Women's Association this past week so we took a picture of all the ND lady interns and docs. I think we look fabulous! So yeah, no huge news here, just that winter and crunch-time have arrived, and we're still all working hard to become doctors someday soon....

A Surprise Day Off Spent with Plants

This past week we had a surprise day off! Though not under the best circumstances (a power outage at the clinic that lasted all day), we did take advantage of the free time. We went to the Morton Arboretum! Yes, we'll have to make up those hours "lost" among the plants rather than in patient care, but that dose of nature did so much good for me that I'm totally OK with an extra Friday shift sometime soon.

photo of friends at arboretum
Group Hug! (Thanks to Joe for the picture!)

Kaila, Lisa, Joe, Brad, Blaine, and I carpooled to the Arboretum once we found out we were free for the day. Mallory met us there a little while later. We wandered the gardens, explored the old buildings, ate lunch at the café, and sat for almost an hour in the library reading old botanical medicine books! This was the nerdiest and possibly the best part of the day. 

I also loved wandering the paths, reading off scientific names of plants and recalling their medicinal uses. There were many plants whose names I know but whose medicinal actions I cannot remember. We vowed to return soon with our bot med notes and do some real review with the actual plants in front of us.

Strolling at the Arboretum

I've been meaning to visit the Morton Arboretum since I learned about it when I started here at NUHS 3 years ago. If you can find a friend who is a member, it is cheaper to visit for the day. If you can't find a member to tag along with, I suggest paying the $14 (or on Wednesdays it's only $9!) to explore that beautiful place; it's totally worth it. The arboretum is a haven for nature-loving folks in this very suburban area. If you go once you've taken a few bot med classes, you can study while you're there! I promise, it's rewarding to see the plants in person and make that mental connection by touching, smelling and observing medicine as it exists out in nature. 

Reading old botanical medicine books.

Apologies to our patients that we did not get to see that day! Lucky for you though, we are now more clear-minded thanks to a day spent in the natural world. Not seeing patients yet? I still suggest getting outside to clear your mind after these recent midterms! Oh yeah, everyone else is taking midterms these days, while I'm over here in 9th tri giving presentations and taking online, open-note quizzes instead. ~Happy Sigh~

Finding Time for Art

Happy belated Halloween! I think once Halloween has come and gone, fall has really shown itself and we're officially getting closer to winter. Winter's impending presence is evident around here; it has been in the 30s at night. Brrrr! We even had our first snow last week!

First snow! Early morning on campus before classes began on Halloween day.

To celebrate Halloween this year, Hanzi and I went out to support the arts in Chicago. We saw a creepy opera put on by the Third Eye Theatre Ensemble called "The Medium." The show is about a woman named Madame Flora who scams customers by putting on fake séances with the help of her daughter and a "deaf and dumb" boy she has taken under her wing. When Madame Flora feels icy cold hands grab her around the neck at one of her séances, she gets terribly scared, admits her dishonesty and tries to give the people their money back. But the couple and the mother who have been coming to her séances to speak with their deceased children are convinced that Madame Flora has truly helped them to connect with their lost loved ones, and they fight her on her claims. Her customers say they know the voice and the laugh of their dead children and she must continue to help them connect with their dead!

The story is lots of fun and this particular show was put on in a black box theater, with two rows of seats along two of the walls. It was incredibly cool to feel that we were participants in the events taking place in Madame Flora's parlor.

I left this little rhyme outside our door incase we had any trick-or-treaters come by while we were out.

It is really very easy to forget our creative side when we are so busy with school, but taking the time to either make art or appreciate it brings me so much more alive! This is something I speak with my other student friends about often; when we're really dragging we encourage each other to go create something or find something artistic to enjoy. The experience of using the other half of our brains seems to really help put everything back in balance!

On the set of "The Medium"
(Photo credit: hanzi d. -

After the Halloween show, as Hanzi and I hustled through the freezing rain back to our car, we had to make a stop at a bookstore called Myopic Books. It was 10:15 p.m. and the glowing red 'OPEN' sign in the window was intriguing. The place was packed with books from floor to ceiling, some narrow shelves constructed from raw 2x4s made for several narrow halls and fantastic browsing. The whole place was 3 stories, and packed with used books! I bee-lined to the third floor and parked myself in front of the alternative health section. Our spur-of-the-moment stop at this shop was totally worth it; I found a copy of "Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Health" by Tori Hudson, ND, know as THE women's health doc in naturopathic circles. And it cost me less than 10 bucks! There were signs inside the store asking us to not take photographs, so I had Hanzi snap this shot of me outside on our way out. The blustery, seriously chilly night combined with the red light in the window made for an appropriately spooky setting!

My fab bookstore find! On Halloween night at Myopic Books in Wicker Park.
(Photo credit: hanzi d. -

After our artsy and interesting Halloween night, I am inspired to seek out artistic endeavors in the midst of my studying. Maybe I'll doodle when I'm losing focus in class, or maybe I'll take more creative pictures on my short walks between buildings on campus. I do really love to patronize the arts; this is perhaps the best use of my time (and money), as I don't really trust myself to find time to follow through on my own creative projects in the midst of med school. Now that I think about it, I have been getting more exposure to the arts... Just last week Hanzi and I went to a show at Cole's Bar in Logan Square where several hard-rocking local Chicago punk bands covered other awesome bands like Led Zeppelin (my absolute favorite!), Bikini Kill, and LCD Soundsystem. It was such a treat to lose myself in the music, all the while surrounded by people who sought out this show to do the same exact thing.

If I can't enjoy and create art on a regular basis right now because I am too busy studying medicine, I can at the very least let the little exposure that I do get to the arts fuel my studying. I'm writing this on Sunday, and am feeling totally ready to sit down and dig in to my Phys Dx lectures in preparation for this week's exam. I realize that I've had a good fill of art lately, and it would serve me well to remember, over the next year or so of school, how it truly helps to balance my brain.

Examining Place - The Midwest

Ah, sigh. This weekend I finally got away into the outside world where the air is significantly different from here in Chicagoland. I took in gulps of fresh air and smiled. I experienced my first corn maze in the flat, flat Midwest and sat under a tree whose red leaves came drifting down into my lap as I chewed my apple brat. I ate a candy apple, but we didn't get to pick our own apples because we were a little too late in the season for that.


These past two weeks, for some reason, I've found myself answering questions about my life before medical school. People have been asking about the places I've lived and the cultures there. I'm quick to tell a story about places outside of the Midwest, so this weekend's little adventures served as a good tether to pull me back, and to examine my current place.

When I was studying non-fiction writing in undergrad, we often examined the concept of Place and wrote on the topic: what does it mean to be in a place, what makes a place yours, not yours, different, the same, why sit and become enveloped in this place now? It's a damn hard task, to sit patiently in place and observe it for what it is. This is especially difficult when your world moves so quickly and you are expected to work hard at attaining, achieving, getting there, making progress towards becoming a doctor.

Despite the rapid clip at which I am working to become a doctor, I try, try, try to slow down and observe this place, to take it in and notice the unique things. This weekend helped me to settle and gaze, to take in the flat farmland, to hug my boyfriend, to laugh with new friends, and to read through old physiology notes in order to refresh my memory and help me be more present in my current classes.


When you talk about the Midwest with anyone, they inevitably say something about how nice people are here. My initial experience with this Midwestern friendliness involved some confusion, seeing as I come from Boston, a place where nobody acknowledges anybody unless they definitely want to talk. When I arrived in Chicago, a stranger would smile and ask me, "How are you?" I inaccurately perceived this as an open invitation for a full conversation. Over the past two years of living here, I've learned that friendliness does not necessarily equate to a desire to have a conversation, they're just being kind, I guess. I'm still a little weirded out by this; if you ask me how I'm doing, I still look at you sideways to figure out if you actually want me to answer that question, or not. On the other hand, my rather immediate assumption to jump into conversation has served me well, and I've made friends with shop clerks at nearly every place I buy goods and services.

Right now, the Midwest is my home, though perhaps not my truest Place. Here in Chicago, I've had to stumble along trying to navigate the culture, and I finally feel that maybe I'm able to catch these Midwesterners in stride and keep up. I have learned so much about life in the heart of classic America by living here. My greatest adventures so far have been getting to know a place by living in it, participating in the community, and feeling out the social habits of the people there. From this perspective, it's no wonder I feel so slammed with new information; it's not just the study of medicine I've been trying to assimilate, but the Midwestern way of life as well.


So being in medical school is more than just your peers, your books, your lectures, and the other trappings of studying medicine. Many of us move to a new place to start this journey into medicine, and the culture of that new place also provides us with struggles and triumphs. If we can find the time to sit with our new place, in addition to our books, we'll learn more about the world, which will certainly make us better doctors, right?

On Community (and Chocolates for Breakfast!)

I went home. I flew in and out of Boston on my way to and from a wedding in the Adirondack Park in northern New York. My parents have 2 more weeks to pack before they move out of my childhood home, a place they have lived for the past 30 years. While the home itself is large and lovely, it is really the neighbors that make that place home.


On Sunday night we had our neighborhood grandmother, Mrs. Chris, over for apple pie to celebrate her 80-something birthday. She brought the remainder of a box of chocolates to share and when I asked if she had eaten the others for lunch, she giggled and replied, "Breakfast!"

The Hartnetts, our other neighbors, also came over to sing happy birthday and share dessert. You have to understand that all of this transpired over the course of about 15 minutes; my parents realized they had a pie to eat, Mrs. Chris popped her head in the door on her evening walk, I called my best friend Annie (living momentarily with her parents next door while she and her boyfriend wait for their new apartment to be ready), and within 5 minutes she and her family had walked the 100 yards from their front door to ours. And we had a little party!

After pie, Annie's boyfriend Drew helped my brother with his statistics homework, while Annie and I tried to come up with the perfect caption for the photo of Mrs. Chris and the birthday sparkler in her piece of pie.


This is the community I come from. It explains the high expectations I have for Home, wherever that place turns out to be. I know that Chicago is not my true Home, but while I am here, the NUHS community is serving and supporting me better than I ever imagined it would. I chat with my professors in the hallway and I see them at our botanical garden, on the train, and walking around campus. There is an online community too, on Facebook pages, where my fellow students and our professors post links to relevant articles and information about upcoming seminars, workshops, presentations and club meetings.

The recent improvements on campus at the library and the ongoing work in Janse are providing us with more places to congregate during downtime and create community on campus. You might think that 28 credits and all the work that goes into keeping current in all those classes would leave us little time to engage with our community, but it seems that all that work actually brings us together. We commiserate, we struggle together, and we experience success together. We are a small community of hard workers with similar goals and morals when it comes to healthcare. Some of us come from different states, some of us love Chicagoland, and some of us feel lost in this expansive city, but no matter your perspective on this place as Home, the NUHS community certainly offers a supportive community if you are willing to engage.