Traveling with Med Students 101

6 Apr

I learned some very valuable lessons over Spring Break. Twenty of us rented out an awesome house in Florida and pretty much forgot we are even in med school for an entire week. It was OUTSTANDING.  I’ve never gone on a trip with a lot of friends before and was nervous about negotiating group dynamics and not having any personal time/space. But honestly, this group couldn’t have been picked better if there had been freaking auditions, because it was just a perfect combo of personalities and energies. (Can you guys tell I’m going through withdrawal here??) So, here’s what I learned about how to go on vaca with a bunch of brilliant, effervescent med students:

1. Wake up early every morning, regardless of how late you were partying the night before, and either go for a run or do Crossfit. (Bonus points if you do pull-ups on the dock.)

2. Wear tiny bathing suits, because everyone in your group is going to look bomb and like a super-athlete, so you have to make sure you fit in. (Bonus points if you’re a guy in a rainbow Speedo.)

3. Catch a beach sunset. Take cheesy pictures, then stop in time to watch the sky glow.  (Bonus points if there is a pirate ship sailing across the horizon at the exact instant that the sun disappears… where’s Johnny Depp when you need him?)

4. Don’t read anything for school. Instead, have your classmates read out loud from Cosmo and “think aloud” from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. (Bonus points if you can keep a straight face during any of these read-alouds.)

5. Play the drinking game Horserace. No further elaboration allowed on this one. (Bonus points if you can create a unique, absurd, yet appropriate cheer and hand motion to go along with the suit you’re betting on. Cluuuuubs!)

6. Have at least one member of your group act out a scene from a movie. We chose one from Slumdog Millionaire… (Bonus points if you get to be the one to hose off the smelly victim after the drama.)


7. Have at least one member of your group willingly become the poolboy. (Bonus points if the actual poolboy stops by one day and teaches him all about how to properly clean the pool.)

8. Film a three-minute tutorial on how to test the cranial nerves using one single cob of corn. (Bonus points if your “standardized patient” can accurately follow the corn with her eyes, feel the husk on her face, push against the corn with her cheek, and lick the corn.)

9. Wear an absurd amount of sunscreen and constantly check that all of your friends are also wearing absurd amounts of sunscreen. (Bonus points if you can find the one guy who always seems to have white smears of sunscreen left on his face and rub them in for him.)

10. Make a ridiculous collection of personal jokes that you will refer to constantly for the rest of the year until the rest of your classmates who weren’t on the trip hate you. (Bonus points if you keep saying them long after they should have stopped being funny. #blessed)

Absolutely wonderful trip. Thank you all for being amazing and helping me rejuvenate before our next monster sequence begins. In my mind, I am doing this to all of you:

Dr. Hair Stylist, MD

30 Mar

I apologize in advance for what may seem like a venty and/or judgy post… But I just feel the need to comment on this odd phenomenon that seems to keep recurring in my life… There have now been two times in the past year where I have gone to a salon to get a hair cut/color and have had the stylists (two different people at different salons) insist that their job is a lot like being a doctor.


I will start by saying that I have a ton of respect for anyone in a service industry. It is not an easy job to please a lot of opinionated people all the time and it often involves long hours, low pay, and a lot of time on your feet. I worked as a waitress for several summers, I get that it’s not a slack-off job. Medicine itself is becoming more and more of a service industry every day. But I just really don’t understand the basis for conversations like this, sometimes:

Stylist: “So what kind of medicine do you want to go into?

Me: “Probably Emergency, but maybe surgery. I am very interested in trauma and acute care situations.”

Stylist: (while foiling my daunting mass of hair) “Yeah, this here is hard work. It’s a lot like emergency surgery, actually. What we do is very similar.” 

Me: “…..Yeah…. that makes sense….” 

Or take this conversation from an earlier appointment at a different salon last year:

Stylist: “Oh, you’re going into medicine? That’s so cool, what I do is a lot like being a doctor.”

Me: “Oh, cool, how is that?”

Stylist: “Well, we get to go in the backroom and mix the colors together for dyes and it’s kind of like chemistry at a hospital.” 

Me: “Yes. Exactly.”

Am I missing something here? Am I being overly judgy? Perhaps… but I will also say that both of these stylists, coincidentally, are the only people EVER to take 4+ hours at one of my hair appointments. Which is absolutely ridiculous, even with my intimidating mane… So maybe for them it is more like being in a surgery after all?


You Should Go Into Peds Because…

28 Mar

Match Day recently came and went with a flourish… Congrats to all my M4 buds! Everyone I spoke with seems thrilled with their Match, which is pretty encouraging for a lowly M1 to see from afar. And the M2s just shipped on out for 5+ weeks of boards studying. Watching all the “upperclassmen” move onto next phases definitely makes me realize just how quickly school is moving along and, of course, brings up the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” even more frequently.

I had kind of an amusing interaction around that question recently… I finally cashed in a Christmas gift from the all-knowing spouse and went to get an amazing massage after my CNS anatomy practical last week. The massage therapist was excellent and I left feeling as though I had been severely beaten up, which is exactly how I want to feel when I leave a massage. But I just had to chuckle at one moment during the appointment… After hearing that I am a medical student, this very well-intentioned woman asked what specialty I want to go into. I gave my standard answer- probably EM, but surgery has been creeping into my periph, and it’s really too early to know yet, any way. She politely asked if she could make a suggestion… And then suggested that I go into pediatrics, because a nurse once told her that pediatric patients are much easier to pick up and physically manipulate when caring for them. I didn’t quite know how to respond to this… A couple gut reactions included:
“Thanks, but I won’t be basing my entire profession around whether or not I can pick the patients up…”
“A lot of peds patients in the Midwest weigh more than I do, so that’s a moot point, really…”
“Thank you! I was wondering what I should do and now I know! Pediatrics it is!!”

I ultimately just stayed silent. Sometimes that’s the best way to not offend anyone, right? Any way, just found the whole interaction to be amusing… Time to go pick up some patients in our neuro exam practice now! Last day before break…

The End of Anatomy

25 Mar

Well, I guess I’ll start with the obligatory apology for not writing all month. It has been a crazy one, full of performances, late nights in the dungeon, and brains. But, more about that later… Right now is a time to commemorate the end of an era… The end of Gross Anatomy Lab. I’m simultaneously excited and depressed by this… I loved Anatomy. It’s so reliable, feels so personal. I feel like anatomy lab is the one place where I really have learned all of the secrets of the human body, as cheesy as that sounds… I felt sad to say goodbye to Ari, our wonderful teacher and incredibly interesting cadaver. So, I suppose it’s time for a commemorative list to recognize the highs and lows, because anything worth celebrating deserves a really good list. :)

All My Favorite Parts:

  • MusclePalmaris Longus in the forearm or Plantaris in the lower leg… love those long tendons. Oh… and Sartorius… this one is hard, I love muscles.
  • ArteryFemoral Artery. Finding that sucker was so satisfying.
  • NerveSaphenous Nerve in the leg for its interesting route or Facial Nerve for its lovely branching.
  • VeinInternal Jugular. Fat and reliable. Ready to stick a bunch of CVCs in that one day. :)
  • Plexus – Why, the brachial plexus, of course!
  • BoneEthmoid bone, behind the nose. Talk about a crazy shape.
  • Organ – Yep, gonna do it… testes. Just so cool, inside and out. The first runner up is the kidney.
  • DuctMain Pancreatic Duct, just for being so incredibly important, but also impossible to find unless you actually cut the pancreas in half.

The Moments:

  • Best Dissection – Forearms, flexors and extensors… Still love that MSK anatomy and the fact that you can separate out each beautiful muscle and follow it to each shiny tendon… and then pull on it to see what it does! First runner up: all endocrine/reproduction dissections. :)
  • Worst Dissection –  I’m not the biggest fan of the GI tract so those dissections weren’t quite as interesting to me.
  • Biggest Surprise – When our IVC was filled with bright red blood which nearly sprayed me in the face when I cut through it to remove the heart from the chest cavity.
  • Most Memorable – No surprises here… bisecting testes and a penis, with far too much pomp and circumstance.
  • Grossest – Mouths. I hate the mouth. It is just super gross and I don’t like finding random teeth stuck in places that don’t even seem to make sense after the head is hemisectioned…
  • Weirdest – Removing the eyeball from it’s socket… and then cutting it in half. But man, what an amazing organ.
  • Guiltiest – Skinning the eye and eyelids… That was just super odd and I felt terrible about it after.
  • Biggest Disappointment – The pancreas. Such a cool, important organ and we barely even realized it when we found it because it just looks like a mushy mess.
  • Most Satisfying – Cleaning off and identifying all of the beautiful branches of the brachial plexus.
  • Couldn’t Look Away – The inside of the eye… the iris looks amazing.
  • What I’ll Miss - Skinning, cleaning off vessels, playing with my tablemates. Yes, playing… we really did have quite a bit of fun.
  • What I Won’t Miss - Constantly wondering whether or not the pen I was just chewing on was one I used in the lab…

Definitely noticing a trend here in my interest in musculoskeletal, reproductive organs, and the eye over most other systems… Thank you, Anatomy Lab, for scarring me, torturing me, confusing me, and teaching me a TON. Peace!

 (photo from

Getting Closer to the Sun

25 Mar

Seriously, it’s the end of March. This winter NEEDS to end, but on my walk to the bus yesterday morning I was accosted by these big fat snowflakes, once again. I’m starting to get offended. On the bright side, I’ll be in Florida in just a few short days with a group of 20 of my favorite classmates. So, Midwest, bring on the next polar vortex- because I won’t be around to hate you for it!

My fantasies for spring break include… a perfect tan on the first day, excessive amounts of tennis and long runs in the sunshine, a euchre tournament or two, watching my main men move onto the Elite 8 and Final Four, perhaps indulging in a drink or two. Not studying. At all. Enjoying excellent company. I think we have all definitely earned this trip and I can’t WAIT to head down toward the sunshine this weekend.

The horrible weather has definitely taken a bit of a toll on me over the past few months. Or maybe it’s all those extracurriculars…. I have participated in some really fun events this winter – a big dance show at the end of January, a massive med school musical in the beginning of March (which I am still recovering from…. I miss you, cast!) and an a cappella concert the weekend after that. Life has involved just as much rehearsing as it has  studying, which is kind of fantastic, but then normal things kind of fall out to the periphery and I feel like I’m floundering around a lot. Since January we have somehow already completed GI, Repro/Endocrine, Immunology, and Central Nervous System. That’s an immense amount of information to pack into our brains in just a few short months. On the bright side, this week (clinical skills,  babyyyyy) and the upcoming break give me the chance to rest and become a real person again. Thank goodness… When we come back from break, we will be facing Infectious Disease, which is supposed to be an extremely time-intensive sequence. I’m really looking forward to it, though. The material and professors are supposed to be great (even though I am slightly nervous due to my recent stage role as the ID sequence director in the vulgar and satirical school musical… she doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge yet, though! :) ) Plus, I have some new studying strategies I’d like to put in place for this beast, and I’m hoping to get back on a Friday quizzing schedule. Dreaming big here!

Any way, boring entry, but I figured a general life update was in order after my month-long absence. A few more tidbits for the moment…

Song of the Moment: Firelight – Young the Giant

Next Book to Read: The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

All I Want to Do Every Day: Rewatch the entire Game of Thrones series, in anticipation of the next season.

Most Shameless Move of the Week: Wearing my white coat around to lecture all week because it’s freezing in our school and I keep forgetting to bring a sweater.

How I Feel Most Days:

And, most importantly…. HAPPIEST OF BIRTHDAYS (tomorrow) to my not-so-wee little brother and my soon-to-be new sister!




27 for 27

28 Feb

Sigh… turning 27 today. I’m trying to not let the number depress me and to just enjoy the celebration and think happy thoughts about the year to come. So, here are 27 things that I either aspire to accomplish or already know I will get to enjoy in my upcoming year… 

1. Play more tennis.
2. See more live music.
3. Drink less cheap wine and more excellent wine.
4. Try sriracha… (I know, outrage that I haven’t already…)
5. Learn how to tie prettier surgical knots.
6. Go camping.
7. Submit another research paper for publication… (let’s just pretend it’s that simple…)
8. Spend more time people-watching and less time watching my phone. 
9. Pretend to be on Broadway for a hot second… (will get to accomplish that one next week!)
10. Eat lobster every day for a whole weekend… I try to do this at least once a year. Always a solid life decision. 
11. Choreograph a dance with a best bud for our school’s spring dance show. (Yes, NFlo…let’s make this happen!)
12. Get my heels on the floor in Downward Dog at the beginning of a yoga class. 
13. Shadow in fields that I haven’t spent much time considering yet.
14. Learn how to order food at an Indian restaurant. 
15. Keep journaling every day! (17 years and counting…)
16. Try to take more than two sips of a good beer without cringing. (Honey, that one is for you… I’m really making an effort here!)
17. Help my little brother and his bride smoothly make the long walk down the aisle! 
18. Take a few absurdly long, painful, glorious bike rides with my parents in Northern Michigan.
19. Learn how to study without stopping every 5 minutes to daydream… (how does one do this?)
20. Write an actual letter and send pictures to the child we sponsor in the Dominican… been meaning to do this for years! 
21. Grill something. (Will someone teach me how to do that?)
22. Spend several days getting heat stroke at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. 
23. Eat more Italian food in Boston. 
24. Learn how to change a tire. Because I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never done this on my own…
25. 5k!!! I should run a damn 5k!!! Seriously, no reason not to at this point.
26. Read the pretty books on my pretty bookshelf that I haven’t read yet, instead of re-reading my favorites for the hundredth time. (Though Cutting For Stone is looking mighty tempting… for the 4th time…)
27. Less “bull in a china shop”… more grace/impulse control. (Dreamin’ big here!)
Eh, maybe it’ll be a good year, after all. :) 

“You’re too small to be a doctor…”

24 Feb

Now that the majority of my life is spent in a dungeon-like basement of an old building, I truly relish the moments when I can come up for some sun and human interaction. (I don’t count any interactions down there as being human, because my classmates and I all seem to exist in a state of robot-like limbo when we are in the dungeon…) So I like to get my afternoon coffee and sit in a sunny area of the hospital and people-watch and pseudo-study… I’ve found that people in the hospital often feel inspired to strike up conversation with random strangers, so I’ve met a few interesting souls in this way.

Today I was approached by a polite, well-intentioned older gentleman from Nigeria - a spouse of a cancer patient in the hospital. He started out by asking me what I was studying, spoke about his own past as a mathematics professor, and his interest in genetics. Then he asked what I was studying to become and when I explained that I am in medical school here, he looked me up and down and said “But you’re too small to be a doctor!”

What is the appropriate response to a comment like this?

Yes, I am only 5’1″ and I believe that most people would describe me as petite (though I do have a charming friend who seems to really enjoy implying that I’m heavy lately… you know who you are and yes, it is incredibly annoying). And it’s true that I do look a bit younger than I am, or so I’m told… But the first thought I had when this nice gentleman made his remark was that he would NEVER have said that to a man. No matter how short or tall a man is, no one would ever doubt his ability to be a physician just because of his size. But here I am, a tiny woman, and I realize that there will always be people who will second-guess my abilities just because of how I look. Now, I don’t expect that my colleagues in academic medicine will consciously care that I’m a small female. But for my patients and their families… it’s going to be a thing. There will be times where I will be doubted, second-guessed, or even assumed to not be a physician, just because of how I look. Today was such a great reminder of the assumptions that people can bring to the table, even in this modern day and age where there are more female medical students than male.

So how did I respond?

I chuckled and told him that even though I’m small, my brain is enormous. He appreciated that and we ended up having a pleasant chat for awhile. I know he never meant any offense, I don’t hold his comments against him, I just can’t help but wonder how much more my female colleagues and I are going to have to do to legitimize ourselves in this profession in the future, compared to our male counterparts…

Gotta turn to my main man and my favorite play for some support here:

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” ~ A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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