Summer 2015 Wrap-Up

What a summer! After Camp Holiday Trails, I went on my two away rotations, both a sizable distance away from my home and from my home institution. While I hoped to have time to explore the cities, that did not end up panning out. Nevertheless, I had a fantastic time at both rotations!

Highlights

  1. Living in a studio apartment for the first time and loving it! I can’t wait to get my own place next year.
  2. Walking a ton… to, from, and in the hospital, I somehow averaged about 3 miles a day. What?! That’s more than I can even begin to comprehend.
  3. Being treated like a “sub-intern” for real — I was so happy that on both of my away rotations, I truly felt like a member of the team, and I had a ton of responsibility. I’m one of those people who prefers to have a lot expected of her because it pushes me to be my best self. I learned more subject-matter during my first away month than I had in probably a year of medical school, and I learned more about being a clinician on my second away. I’m starting to come down from that high now that I am more than one week out, but man, those were the glorious times. And it honestly makes me look forward to residency! (Glutton for punishment?)
  4. Making new friends. I always love meeting new people in general but I was surprised how much I got along with the residents at both of my away institutions. With the first group, I felt like they were really looking out for me, and with the second group, it was like a big family of friends. I hope that regardless of where I end up, I can maintain those relationships.
  5. Surviving a long drive — I detest driving long distances (and I define long as anything more than 30 minutes… hah). It’s just so boring and feels like a huge waste of my time, and my leg always falls asleep. Thank goodness for discovering cruise control this year (I know, I’m behind). Also thank goodness for AUDIOBOOKS! I actually survived an 8+ hr drive (one direction)!

Purchases


Barrington Gifts bag — OMG, I love this beautiful bag. The print is classic, and I feel like I can use this both as a work bag and as my interview bag (although the colorful part of me really wanted a brighter one… oh well, another time). I decided not to get the ever popular St. Anne tote since it seemed too big and I wanted to have one with a zipper closure on top; I’m so happy with the Savannah! After using my navy large Longchamp Le Pliage for years, I love how there are COMPARTMENTS in this bag. I haven’t moved into it yet since I’m scared of messing it up, but it’s so pretty to look at. :) I definitely want to buy more in the future! I had been eyeing these bags for a while since they popped up all over the blogsphere and instagram, and I finally bit the bullet when there was a sale. And speaking of sales…


The mother of all sales — Lilly Pulitzer’s after party sale was when I bought my first ever LP. This year, I was actually awake when it opened because naturally, I was in the OR. I was overwhelmed trying to shop online on my phone so I gave up. But then later that week, I went to the mall for some reason, and I decided to walk by the Lilly store. They happened to still have things on sale, so I eagerly tried on just about everything. I came away with two beautiful dresses that I can’t WAIT to wear.


wet n wild eyeshadow palette in “Walking on Eggshells” — I stupidly did not pack much makeup for my rotations thinking I wouldn’t have much time to deal with that. I was mostly right since I barely had time to do my brows and mascara on some days, but I completely forgot that I was doing an official interview on one of my aways. I quickly bought this very cheap eyeshadow palette on a whim (and TiffanyD‘s and Ingrid‘s recommendation). I was pleasantly surprised by the pigmentation and how natural and easy this palette is! The browbone shade is my favorite I’ve used thus far, and overall it’s perfect for a neutral classic look (that I’ve been wearing every day since I bought this palette!). Who would’ve expected from wet n wild?

Books Read (I think I did pretty well considering I was working my butt off!)

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman — my first NG, and what a powerful piece. It was slow throughout most of the book, which is why I gave it a 4/5, but wow, the ending just threw me for a whirl. I think it is one of the most profound things I’ve read, and I’ll have to go back to it someday.
  2. World After by Susan Ee — book #2 in the Penryn series. Love Raffe, love Penryn, not much to say about this YA book except that I just devoured this entire series.
  3. End of Days by Susan Ee — and book #3.
  4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik — first heard about this book from All the Books!, and it stuck in my mind so much that I had to read it finally. What a great read. It takes this turn you don’t expect, the mythology is just beautiful, and like American Gods, I’m still not quite sure I got it all in the end so this will also require a reread.
  5. House Rules by Jodi Picoult — my first JP in a long while (years) after I got tired of her style for a bit. This one thankfully deviates from her norm in that the ending wasn’t totally predictable. I liked the autism angle, but I thought it was a little too preachy at times. This one I actually read on audiobook, and I really enjoyed all of the readers of the characters. I thought that the reader for Jacob got autism perfectly (based on the autistic people I know).
  6. Emma by Jane Austen — another audiobook from Librivox. I liked seeing the connections to Clueless as I read along. :)
  7. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari — this was a fast and interesting read looking into what romance and dating is like in this modern world with texting, social media, etc. I learned a bunch of stuff in here that I did not expect, and dare I say that I used some of the advice already? … #millennial
  8. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — OMG. I can’t express enough how awesome this book was. This was the audiobook I listened to on my drive back from my last rotation. The language and story was so beautiful. I think in general my favorite *amazing* books are historical fiction that captures real and sweeping characters and relationships through time (Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is the other one that comes to mind), and this just blew away all of my expectations. The fact that this was based on REAL LIFE was even more delicious to discover at the end. Sarah and Handful are amazingly authentic protagonists.

Now… back to my ERAS application. :(

Away Rotations Part 1

These days, it seems like a bunch of medical students are doing away rotations. They offer a bunch of benefits (and harms) — exploring a new city, a new hospital, moving closer to a loved one for at least a little while, and sometimes, they can help you match at a residency program. Now I say sometimes, because if you’re planning on going there, you need to be on your A+ game. Having just finished two away rotations fairly successfully (I think), I’m writing this post to offer some advice to those who are interested in doing away rotations.

I’ll be breaking this post up into two parts — first, what to do before you get to your away institution, and then part two will be what to do once you are there.

Should I do an away rotation? This is something for you (and your adviser) to discuss. For most of the uber competitive specialties, it’s almost “required” for you to do an away rotation. For the less competitive fields, many argue that away rotations end up hurting more than helping. If you are dead set on going to a certain program for whatever reasons (e.g. your fiancee has a job in that city), you probably should do an away rotation. Otherwise, I think most people do not need to do an away rotation.

How do I apply? VSAS, affiliated with AAMC, is the site that most institutions use for away rotations. I say most because there are some institutions that have their own application for away rotators (off the top of my head, I know that University of Alabama and Thomas Jefferson University do). You log in with your same ID and password for you AMCAS if you happen to remember that. You can find a variety of different rotations from your typical 4 week sub-internship to more “fun” rotations like medical disaster management. Most institutions open up their applications in May; however, you can look at what they require earlier than that. Almost every school requires its own immunization form (some require titers, others just documentation that you have had a vaccine), and some require combinations of background checks, urine drug screens, LORs, etc. Make sure you have everything prepared as soon as possible since away rotation applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

I’m not sure what the “right” answer is for how many to apply to. I was planning on doing two, and maybe three, so I applied to five institutions. I got accepted at all of them (to my knowledge, it’s not usually “hard” to get accepted at away rotations) and then picked the ones that worked best with my schedule (some institutions overlap their rotations with others, so you need to plan accordingly). Make sure that if you accept an offer or reject an offer that you do so in a timely fashion to be professional (at least 2-3 weeks in advance of start date). It appears that most places get back to you within one month of applying.

I’ve been accepted; now what? My biggest stress prior to going away was finding housing. Oy, what a nightmare. Here are some of my tips:

  1. Rotating room — this website was designed for away rotators. You can trust that most of these places are fairly reliable since you cannot list unless you have a university-affiliated email address. You can search by institution and then by hospital. I used this service to both find a place for me to sublet and to list my own apartment. I had no issues with either of them. I did not think many people would want to stay in my apartment, but I actually got four inquiries, so I can only guess that lots of students use this site!
  2. Craigslist — everyone knows craigslist, right? Unfortunately, one of the places I went to rotate at did not offer much on rotating room, so I was forced to resort to craigslist. You have to be smart on this website is all I have to say. To weed out sketchy people, I look for good grammar/spelling in the post, lots of pictures of the actual room you will be renting, and at least some information about the people who live there (roommates or whoever you’re subletting from).
  3. Use your connections — I ended up not being successful with this but one of my classmates was able to find both of his places through his church network. If you know friends (or friends of friends), ask around and see if anything is available. Residents are also good resources since they come from all over. If your school has an alumni network that you can get in touch with, that is another place you can look for someone to stay with.

Once I found my housing, I tried to figure out logistics. The way I ended up doing payment was I paid half of my rent (through paypal) upfront to “save” my room, and then I paid the remainder once I arrived at the location. I also asked for additional information like laundry, parking, where to buy groceries, etc. We also discussed rules of subletting, how to pick up keys, etc. The last thing you want to worry about on an away rotation is housing, believe me, so try to get this all sorted out before you go up there.

Transportation — at one of my rotations, I was going to be located within walking distance to the hospital, so I opted to fly there. At the other rotation, I would spend time at several institutions, all separated by at least 10 minutes, so I knew I would have to bring a car down. I don’t have much advice on this except plan, plan, plan.

Packing — I have such a love-hate relationship with packing. On the one hand, the planner geek in me goes crazy. On the other… well, the planner geek in me goes crazy. I always start out with looking up the weather for where I’m going to go, and then I try to think of what I expect my rotation to be like. Since I am applying for a surgical specialty, I had a feeling I would spend a majority of my time in scrubs, so I packed less “nice” clothes and packed my trusty Dansko shoes and two clean scrubs (I wasn’t sure if I would be able to wear their hospital scrubs or what so I wanted to be prepared). I packed a couple of what I call “normal people clothes” to wear if I ever had time off, and more on that later but I do not recommend wasting luggage space with this if you can. Do not forget your white coat, obviously, and try to get it as clean as possible. My white coat picked up some nasty stains over third year, so I actually went and bought a new one online to bring to my away rotations. Bring medical supplies as needed — I left my reflex hammer at home since I doubted I would require it (and I did not). And then otherwise, make sure to pack you usual toiletries, medicines, etc. Some places will interview you while you are there — if you can, ask your rotation coordinator about this sneakily, although most tell you upfront. If you are going to interview, make sure you pack interview attire!

Since I rotated over the summer, I knew I wanted to pick warmer weather clothing. I tried to pick colors that would complement, so the palette I ended up going for was roughly black, camel, pink, cobalt blue, yellow, and kelly green. For shoes, I brought flip flops for casual wear, clogs for the OR, and then two pairs of comfortable shoes that I could wear both for the clinic and outside the hospital (I went with brown loafer flats and black flats).

IMG_0565IMG_0564

Feel free to ask any other questions below about aways! Part 2 will go into the meat of rotating away, so stay tuned.

Audiobooks

I’ve mentioned previously that I love listening to things, especially books. My first foray into audiobooks was via librivox, which I discovered because it was free and I didn’t feel ready to delve into audible yet or anything else that required paying. The first one I “read” was Elizabeth Klett’s recording of Jane Eyre. I’m not even sure how it showed up on my iTunes podcast list, but it did, and I fell down the rabbit hole. Since then, I’ve listened to a bunch of other books to make a dent in my “classics” book list. My favorite readers have been Elizabeth Klett and Karen Savage. So I’m a typical American… I enjoy hearing a female Brit speak, and I’m shameless about that.

Librivox is awesome because it’s free, there are a gajillion readers, and you can enjoy a HUGE collection of books. I totally recommend it!

Once I jumped into the audiobook world, I of course had to sign up for Audible. I got my first book free from one of those sponsor links that basically everyone has (it shouldn’t be hard for you to find one). I like that I can set the speeds to finer calibrations than that of the Apple Podcast app that I have to use for everything else. Yes, I listen to everything sped up. Yes, that probably “ruins” the reading, but I am an impatient gal, and after years of studying to at least 2x recordings for school, I just can’t stand the normal pace a person talks at. I’m currently listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a massive endeavor (my app says there are 52 hours of recordings, yikes!). I’ve started and not finished this book so many times, and it’s my mom’s favorite book, so I always keep giving it another go unsuccessfully. Well, on my uber long road trip down to Florida for my current away rotation, I figured that this was the time.

Camp days

I just finished my first week in my sub-internship at an away hospital. I think I’ve averaged 6 hours of sleep per night, so you can imagine… I’m pretty busy! But I did want to stick this post here about my experience as a med staffer for Camp Holiday Trails.

CHT is a camp for children with chronic illnesses. First of all, I can’t believe I got credit for this. It was basically like GOING to camp — we had our own cabin, we ate in the same mess hall, and we were encouraged to spend time with the kids at their activities should anything emergent happen. The children were absolutely a blast to work with. Of course, my best friend CT (who is going into peds) kept trying to convince me to pick pediatrics during these past few weeks, and I told her I could always go back and do peds in the field I’m picking! Overall, I felt really lucky to get to do this. Who says you can’t have a summer vacation during med school? Plus ever since I was a kid at camp, I always wanted to come back and be a counselor. Maybe I wasn’t exactly a counselor, but I got to do something that I think was better (although I seriously respect the counselors… they are incredibly patient and energetic).

One of the most meaningful experiences for me at this camp was getting to take care of a girl who recently was hospitalized for kidney disease as the initial presentation of some kind of autoimmune issue. Sounds familiar? This is exactly what happened to me eight years ago. It was also her first time at an away camp. She really latched onto me as a role model and as a caretaker for her. Sometimes it got a little overwhelming, like when she had a night in which she cried the entire time because she felt so homesick. But as I was lying down next to her in bed, I remembered what it felt like to be there, and I too started crying (not that she knew!). Because it is SO scary, and you feel so alone, and I forget sometimes that this happened to me, but wow, I was this sick too and now I am better and now I am taking care of patients. What goes around comes around.

Very kind note one of the campers wrote for us med staffers.

Very kind note one of the campers wrote for us med staffers.

So here were my camp weeks in numbers:

0 = # of bug bites I got… woohoo! Thanks, “Off”!
1st = guest on the secret party list :)
2 = # of seizures
3 = dance parties. One at MedKorner at night, one for Stampy’s 2nd year birthday party, one at the end of session 1.
4.5 = friendship bracelets I made
34 = lowest blood glucose
100% = sickle pain crises averted
250 = highest # carbs eaten in one meal (by a kid, not me!)

Kids/memories to remember:

Cochlear implant kid rocking out to Sia. “I have two down arrows… hehehe!” Kidney transplant kid who had such a strong throw he could destroy the insulin pod. “I didn’t know she had a sister!” Dunking ice water to become a 5 star doctor. Butter rap. Private show of butter rap and African dancing because G’s blood glucose was still too low. My diabetic kids: S, C, E, G, A, M, E; L, B, L, T, A, K, T. Lemon zesting. Cute lito button. “Well… uhhhh…”. Lancing an abscess. Thankful circle – “I’m thankful for America.” Winning Tidy Bowl! “Um, actually…” “Just so you know…” Moo-off. Edentulous shark. “I’d much rather dance with you but I couldn’t say no!”

Most delicious cookies made by the kitchen staff. And they weren't even being rude! I thought WE were the ones who were being inconsiderate :)

Most delicious cookies made by the kitchen staff. And they weren’t even being rude! I thought WE were the ones who were being inconsiderate :)

I’m sad that this’ll probably be my last time getting to do this, but maybe in the far future (like when I’m an attending with hopefully more flexible hours), this is something I will get to do wherever I am. :)

My cat is getting surgery!

My playful lovable kitty dearest!

My playful lovable kitty dearest!

My little love bug kitty has to have surgery this coming Monday! :( She’s been having what we thought was a UTI for a while now until the vet did an ultrasound. Apparently, she has a super inflamed bladder plus this ginormous stone. I mean, even I could tell what it was. Poor girl… no wonder she’s been so lethargic lately. So she’s going to have to have surgery this Monday and then probably run around in a cone of shame for a while too. Wish her luck!

Fourth Year Updates

I’m a fourth year medical student now. Wow. Well, my fellow third years who are reading this — there is truly a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I am actually maxing out my anxiety quotient because I’m preparing my application, but otherwise, fourth year is just nice. Why? You finally get to do things that you enjoy, and all of your clerkships understand and support this. For example, I am on neuroradiology right now, and the residents go out of their way to pull up images that are relevant to what I will be studying. That’s awesome.

I’ve finished my sub-internship for the specialty I will be choosing. It was stressful but I learned so much. It still surprises me when I am actually able to answer questions for third year students rotating through. I was in that spot only a few months ago! I’m also geared up for some away rotations I’ll be participating in in the upcoming months. I’m excited because I am forever restless, and I look forward to just living somewhere else for a while.

Things I’ve been enjoying lately as a fourth year:

1. Reading — I have time to read for fun! This always makes me happy. I’ve been inhaling books as fast as I can, both on audio and on my kindle. Check out my goodreads to see what I’ve been up to and feel free to friend me! I love finding new reading friends. I was on a classics kick for a while. Now I’m just trying to make a dent in my “to-read” list… starting with American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which has been on my to read list for more than 5 years… sadly. But hey, I’m making progress!

2. Podcasts! — I’m truly embracing my auditory learning style more. It was something I struggled with throughout medical school, especially the first two years, because everything here caters so much to those visual learners. I can do visual but I’m much better with auditory (maybe that’s why I picked the specialty I’m going into… ;) ). I also am weird in that I enjoy listening to certain voices. So I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts. Some of my favorites at the moment: Happier with Gretchin Rubin (easy to implement tips to make your life less stressful), Invisibilia (really interesting insights into human behavior; I can’t wait for it to come back!), All the Books! (best of the new releases). I might actually make a whole post about my current favorite podcasts.

3. Healthier? — Okay. If you’ve been following, you know that I have an autoimmune disease. Well, it’s been eight years, and my doctor has finally pulled me off of my last medication (mycophenolate) as of a few weeks ago. What. Now, this isn’t permanent because I have to give him some blood to see how I do, but still. I seriously don’t think I ever thought I’d get this point!

Another thing thing is I’ve been trying to be… well, healthier. I’m cooking now (this is also to try to save money…). I’m going to the pool to read/listen to podcasts (note: I am so paranoid about skin cancer so DON’T WORRY, I wear too much sunblock, but I am finally in “normal” vitamin D levels). I’m actually running every now and then. All these things? Happiness.

4. Cleaning and organizing — This is my #medstudent personality coming out. I’m in the process of overhauling and cleaning my apartment. One of my roommates just moved out, and before the new girl comes in, I’m trying to clean my space. There’s just something so therapeutic about sweeping, doing laundry, vacuuming, etc. It’s a slow process, but I’m enjoying the progress. I’ve also been cleaning out my closet, and every little thing I have sold on eBay makes me so excited. Yay for making a very tiny dent in my loans!

Lazy patient

I think it’s interesting how when it comes to being lazy*, I choose to take my antidepressant over my immunosuppressant. I’ve been taking my immunosuppressant forever so you’d think that that one of all things would be the one I’d associate most with habit. And, you know, there’s also the part about how it’s the only thing keeping my kidneys from dying. But unless I’m on dialysis in the hospital, I can’t really see or feel my kidneys failing. At least not until it’s too late anyway. And I’m a tangible person; it’s a huge reason why I love surgery, because I like to experience my results. And when I don’t take my antidepressant, well, damn, I know. I know because suddenly things that should not bother me bother me again. I know because I’m self-conscious perhaps to a fault. I want to tear myself down because I’m never good enough. And I might brew on that for a while until I realize that I have indeed been lazy and I should really get back on yet antidepressant.

I’m probably one of the few “surgeon” types who’s so supportive of psych medications. I know most people shrug mental illnesses off as not real or something that is just a weakness we have to deal with. But I’ve felt the effects, and the fact that they feel as real — even more real — than something as physiologic as kidney disease should speak for itself.

*I know… This shouldn’t even be something that one can consider “lazy”. But I’m not perfect, I’m just as much a patient as the next, and yeah, I try but I’m not the most compliant. It was so much easier when I felt every little symptom. But now at I’ve been in remission for almost eight years…. Okay, You know what? I still don’t have any excuses. I should try to remember this whenever I’m on the other side of have bed.