Archive for tag: networking

On Montanans and Thriving Outside

Thanks to new friends here in Billings, I spent most of the day this past Saturday climbing again, outside in the sun. It got so warm and wondrous that I had to hide away in the shade to keep from getting sunburned! In March! After hours of belaying and getting up on a few routes myself, I sat and watched the sun begin to set from our perch up on the rims north of town. I'd been outside on those rocks since noon, and was wishing I'd brought a picnic dinner so I could stay up there until the daylight left. All this time outdoors is absolutely bringing me alive. In one of my residency interviews, the doctor asked me how I refresh, how I ground myself, or how I rejuvenate. It took no thought at all to answer that I do this by spending time outdoors.

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At the end of a brilliantly sunny day out climbing.

On Sunday I didn't manage to do anything serious like file my taxes or study for boards, but I did spend an hour or so running along the rims, drinking up the sky and clouds. After my run I headed to a backyard goodbye celebration for Dr. La Deana Jeane, one of the associate NDs at YNC who is leaving to do some doctoring that doesn't require her to sit at a desk all day. We ate delicious food (NDs have a way of providing the most spectacular spreads at their get-togethers), and sat around the fire playing games and music until it was dark and chilly. By the time we left, we all wore that wonderful smoky fire smell heavy on our clothes and in our hair.

Backtracking to Friday, I found myself again at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company dancing to Jalan Crossland's lively guitar-picking and foot-stomping. I followed for a few spins on the crowded dance floor, and was asked if I was a Something. People who've been in this part of the West for decades know each other by their family names. I, apparently, look like one of the Something girls (I can't remember the family name). I've been asked 3 times if I'm part of this native Montana family, and each time I say, "No," I kind of wish I could say, "Yes." I've heard it's hard to get in with these folks if your family hasn't been ranching in Montana or Wyoming since the Homestead Act. It seems that there's something about a doctor though, and a naturopath especially, that I think might cracks this insular world.

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Entering the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic.

I've met several of the members of these old Western families at the clinic. Through our interactions, I've learned that they do not want to operate within the system, and that they've used natural medicine on their animals forever. This combination brings them to Naturopathy, because in Montana, our medicine still operates outside of the conventional healthcare system. Also, NDs and ranchers have a shared understanding of how the natural world affects both our individual and community health. 

I love the stories that come from the ranchers that visit the clinic. One woman illustrated the level of her fatigue by exclaiming, "I used to go out and lamb three hun'red head a' ewes, and now I can barely stand to lamb a hun'red!" Another rancher claims he can't make it in that week because it's calving season and they're just too damn busy for him to see the doctor about this virus. Another young rancher, when asked about her daily exercise tells us that she runs on the treadmill at least once a day, but really she's outside lifting and hauling, feeding cows and hefting her little boys around the ranch all day. She supposes that she gets plenty of exercise just by living her life, and she's absolutely right.

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In the hallway at YNC.

I'll be perfectly honest here, a few weeks away from providing patient care myself, and I notice I'm losing some of the details of medicine because they sink into the depths of my brain as I fill it with organizing residency interviews, observing people, and spending time outdoors. One of the residents here at YNC confirmed for me that this is natural; she feels she lost some of that more immediate knowledge as soon as she finished school and played the waiting game on starting her job at YNC. She reassured me it'll just take spending some time with the material to get it back to the front of my brain. 

After this recent revelation, I know I'll need to make the effort to spend more time with my books again. I also know that I have more energy and I feel lighter every day since spending time outside on a regular basis. So, I guess it's OK that I've taken a break from the intensity of studies. For the first time since I started the ND program at NUHS, I feel a desperate need to move my body and burn up energy at the end of the day. This feeling solidifies the fact that I thrive in a place with accessible nature and sky. One more month for me here in Billings before I head back to Illinois for graduation... let's see how much time I can spend outside under this big sky!

Connecting in Montana and Leaving Illinois

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 Park.

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.

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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!

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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. 

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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.

Savoring Studenthood and Conference Revelations

I'm drinking hot coffee and eating cold apple crisp, leftover from a mini-Thanksgiving dinner Hanzi prepared on Friday evening. We haven't had much time to cook dinners at home because if I'm not working in clinic until 7, Hanzi is in class or working until 9pm. A few more months of this and then, fingers crossed, we'll be back to a relatively normal schedule with evenings free for home-cooked meals!

But in the meantime, I'm savoring my student life. I know I have 7 months to go before graduation but I can tell things are changing. I'm realizing that pretty soon I won't have all my wonderful ND student friends around every day. I've always known I like to be around people, but it hit me especially hard the other day when I was laughing over a frustrating case with one of my fellow interns and realized that in a few months I might not have this kind of camaraderie to fall back on when I'm feeling spread thin. 

I realize now the importance of networking with my fellow NDs and NDs-to-be because I need them there to call on when I am frustrated or stuck on a case, or when I want to share a triumph. Everyone has always said to us, "Call or email your professors when you leave here. When you have questions, we are here for you!" And now I'm understanding why they make that offer; because leaving the comfortable clinic environment here at NUHS where everyone supports my thinking process and treatment plans is probably not going to be easy. These revelations are particularly appropriate given my experience this weekend attending the ILANP's (Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians) 3rd annual conference on campus.

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Samples, schedule and connections made--ILANP conference spoils

This was my third time attending the conference and I am proud to say that I actually understood all the lectures this year! For the first time ever, I realized why conferences are so amazing for doctors in practice. I was scribbling down ideas as presenters spoke on issues that directly related to my patients! I now have a good collection of thoughts to bring to my clinicians for their input on how my new knowledge can apply to the treatments I'm offering my patients. It was definitely a light-bulb moment. I've watched clinicians do this kind of thinking in seminars and conferences, lectures and classrooms for years now, but for the first time I actually got to join that club!

My favorite lectures at the conference this weekend came from Dr. Lise Alschuler, a remarkable ND who taught several of our NUHS professors in their med school days, from Dr. Crystal Foresman-Landers on supporting breastfeeding moms, and from Dr. Cristopher Bosted, who practices in Seattle and treats chronic pain and transgender patients. Dr. Alschuler is a brilliant presenter because she is able to zoom in and then zoom out effortlessly, focusing on reductionist research and then seamlessly bringing it back to the big picture philosophy of naturopathy. I aspire to present information so well and with such an ability to explain every little biochemical process, maybe some day! There is a depth to Dr. Alschuler's knowledge and an ability to articulate it that I have rarely encountered so far in my world.

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Practice Management class outside on the dock on a beautiful Thursday morning

Besides attending the conference on the weekend, we 9th tris had Practice Management class outside on the dock, practiced suturing again (it's getting easier!), and got to see lots of patients in clinic, especially as many of our first trimester students are coming in for their physicals. And now, it's Naturopathic Medicine Week and I gotta tell you all, the leadership within our NMSA is absolutely rocking things these days! We have events all week long to celebrate our medicine! Ah! I just love what I do.