Away Rotations Part 2

Continuation of Part 1… now you’ve finally arrived at your designated away institution! Hopefully by now you have heard from your institution about what to expect for the first day, but if not, I would email the chief resident of service or the secretary about one week prior to your start day to at least figure out where and when to meet the team on day 1. You can get all of the other logistics after that. For my first away, I also spent my first day there (I arrived a day early) to get the lay of the land around where I was staying and where the hospital was. Make sure to set your alarm and get everything ready for your first day.

General Tips

  1. First one in, last one out — this one is probably the most commonly given advice for away students. This is highly variable on what you are doing but you should aim to be the first one on your team who shows up and the last one to leave. Sometimes, that might not happen (some residents will really insist that you leave), but try your best. The point of this is that you should never be late, you should never leave early, and you should never miss anything (AKA try to be present, always). At the start of the day, I would always get there first to print the list for the team and start collecting overnight events/vitals/labs for everyone. If you are fast at prerounding, you won’t really even be showing up THAT much earlier… for me, usually 15min before the intern showed up was what I set myself to. At the end of the day, make sure that everything has been tied up and ready to go — all notes are done, all consults have been seen, nothing pending. This brings me to the next point…
  2. Know everyone on your list, even if you’re not assigned to — I’ve found that starting off, most teams won’t let you do too much because they need to gauge where you are, which is why if you show that you can handle the entire service, you’re already off at a great start. I spent any free moment I had during the day reading about my patients, learning their latest labs/imaging/etc., so that I was the most up-to-date on everyone. You’ll never know when you can throw out a nugget that no one was expecting, and then you’ll just look extra prepared. And before I left everyday, I would do another run through the list just to make sure I knew the latest on everyone and generally what I could expect overnight.
  3. Take call — I’m not sure if every service will assign call, but if you have the chance to, you should offer to take call. With my specialty, call tended to be home call, which meant I usually gave the residents my phone number and they would call me if anything was worth coming in for. Even if you are never actually called, at least you showed effort by volunteering. This includes showing up on the weekend.
  4. Ask “how can I help”, not “is there anything to do?” — Residents always want to say “no” to the last one, so don’t let them! Also, the more you find out how you can help, the better you will get at figuring out yourself what needs to be done, which brings me to the next point…
  5. Anticipate needs and be prepared — This, I think, was what really makes you stand out. You should always be thinking several steps ahead of what’s happening. If you don’t know how to do that, ask first to learn. Have everything you need on hand for rounds. Since I was on a surgical rotation, my pockets were literally full of staple removers, suture removers, gauze, tape of all kinds, baci, steristrips, etc. In the OR, you should at least know the procedure well enough that you can figure out what comes next. Do you need skin hooks or a certain kind of retractor? Do you need scissors? If you can figure out these things before it’s asked of you, it just makes you look extra good.
  6. Make your residents look good AKA be a good team player — It’s not always about making yourself look good, it’s about being in a team. When your resident is operating in front of the attending, do whatever you can to make it stupidly easy for them. Grab things for your resident so they don’t need to waste time getting it. If you know an answer and the resident doesn’t, absolutely DO NOT show off in front of an attending unless asked. Say good things about your residents (if they are honest) if an attending asks.
  7. There is no “free time” — If you find that you have free time on your rotation, you’re doing it wrong. I’m not saying you need to be a machine, except that’s what I’m saying. Even if there’s no work to be done, you should be reading about something – your patients, conditions, surgeries, recent literature, etc. You never know when you’ll be asked about something.
  8. Be professional/polite but also be yourself and try to feel the program — Because away rotations are sometimes considered month-long interviews, you need to be polite to everyone you meet (you never know when something might get back to someone). But at the same time, you should also be yourself and see where you belong in that program. For example, on my second away I was really cautious at first, but I found that by letting myself go a bit, I could still be polite and at the same time made friends with a bunch of the scrub nurses and anesthesiologists so that by the end, they were telling my attendings how much they loved working with me, and honestly, I missed them! It made me feel like I really belonged in that program, and that’s the kind of feeling you want to leave with.

Mid-rotation — At about halfway through your rotation, you should try to get at least an informal evaluation by a resident and an attending (multiples if possible). Ask them to be honest, and most importantly, ask them how you can improve. It never feels good to be told that one is “bad” in any way, but you want to be the best you can be so let them give you pointers NOW while you still have time to show them you can change. For example, on my first rotation I was told that I seemed a little unprepared for surgeries. While that upset me a little bit because I thought I wasn’t, clearly I wasn’t studying enough, so I took the next few weeks to really read up as much as I could for surgeries. By the end of the rotation, that same resident told me I ended with the same knowledge as at least a PGY2 level.

End of rotation

  1. If you have to give a presentation — make sure you pick a topic that at least some of the senior residents, who likely have seen other medical students rotate through, approve of. Usually, I try to pick a topic related to a patient that I’ve seen at some point so that you can have some clinical context. I did not repeat a single talk I gave, which meant I had to research for three; in the end, I’m not too upset about that because it meant that I learned A TON about three areas in my field, score! Pick sources that are in the literature, ideally from big-name journals if you can. Make sure you thoroughly read the articles and understand the experiments. Don’t make your powerpoint all words. Have summary slides. Run your presentation by a resident if possible before presenting to attendings.
  2. Ask for more feedback — When you’re done, you want to gauge how you did. Try to schedule meetings with attendings a week before your last week so you’re not just chasing them down to ask for feedback. This is the time to…
  3. Consider asking for a LOR — If you think you made a good impression, and it should not be hard to figure that out because hopefully you’ve been getting feedback along the way, you can consider asking for a letter. There’s a bunch of stuff out there about who to ask; in the end, I think you should ask whoever knew you the best and would write you the best letter, be that a chairman or not. Make sure that if you do ask for a letter, you have everything ready (personal statement draft at the very least and a CV).
  4. If you have an interview while you are there — Treat this like any other interview. Dress nice and look good. Make sure you’ve prepped before about the basic questions (“tell me about yourself”, “why this specialty”, “why this program”). Practice your answers. Be confident but be yourself. Be polite and professional to everyone you meet.

Whew, that was long and hopefully comprehensive. If you have any questions, leave them down below!

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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.

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. :)

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!

Intro to Anatomy thoughts

Before we first went into anatomy, we were asked to describe our feelings for a word bubble. I chose “epinephrine”, probably because I’m a dork, but also because it was accurate — I wasn’t really just anxious/nervous/excited, I was a bit of both, and all I felt was my heart rate speeding up and slight sweating and just adrenaline. I wasn’t sure how to feel. In the past, I’ve shadowed many surgeries, and I was never nervous around operations on open bodies. Something about the fact that we’d be with dead bodies, however, made me feel… eerie? I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I wasn’t alone in my feeling in the room.

As we changed into our scrubs, I felt the rush more. I frustratingly tried different combinations to get into our lab until I finally got in, and I was the first girl. The minute I saw the body bags, all I wanted to do was find my body. Immediately, I adjusted. I didn’t even notice a smell, although I’m sure there was one. When I found my body, the bag was partially cracked open, and it was all I could do to keep my hands away from the bag so I could open it all the way.

I wanted to wait until after our first true lab and dissection to see how I felt, and I suppose intuition always wins — I love it. Before the class, we watched a video about what it meant to donors, and many talked about how they wanted to be more beyond their deaths, how they wanted to keep teaching, etc. As desensitized as I am to the whole “OMG, there’s a dead body in front of me that I’m cutting into” feeling, I haven’t stopped forgetting what a gift it is for us to be able to have these cadavers. Even in my fury of excitement as we reflect muscles and palpate structures, I still think about how lucky I am that someone was so kind enough to donate her body to me to let me learn and further my education. I have never had any anatomy — I’m not even kidding. I never even had to memorize the bones or the muscles of the body when I was in elementary school. I’ve literally had no anatomy. So in addition to learning this whole new language of terminology, I’ve also had to learn about where things are, what they are, how they are, etc. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. I spend hours on the pre-lab readings hoping to identify as many things as I can on various forms of art/pictures. In the end, there’s nothing like learning from touching the muscle in my hand or feeling the bumps of the spinous processes. I’m so thankful to the donors in our program that they are able to help me learn anatomy.

One of the cooler things to me too is how everyone’s body is so different. My friend and I were discussing how something that you’d even think you’d take for granted, like the number of vertebra, can vary between human to human! What does that mean for evolution? Who knows. I think it’s fascinating that you can try to extract someone’s life and story from their body postmortem. My program doesn’t let us know about details of death (or life) until maybe later, so it’s truly all a mystery to me. But I know that even the basics we’ve seen already reveal much. For example, I now know that if I were a cadaver, I’d be a pretty boring dissection since I’m probably all bone and fat with very little muscle. That sucks. I really need to work out more. I may not have exciting skin lesions on me, but I have had enough sun exposure that I may have some macules worth checking out. Is my story cool? What would future students know about me? Here’s a girl who either goes outside a lot or is extremely sensitive to sunlight or doesn’t wear sunblock (middle is true). Here’s a girl who clearly avoids the gym (true). Here’s a girl who is really frail — why? What happened to her? (kidney failure) I just think that’s so great that you can guess at all these stories about someone.

I’ve so long wanted to donate my body to future patients that I never thought about another purpose for it. But as someone said in our video, what if your organs aren’t the best organs? (e.g. cancer/other diseases, you’re old, you’re missing some, etc.?) Is there any other way I could give back? Probably. I think it would be pretty great to donate my body to medical education if I couldn’t put it toward live patients. I’d hope that they would respect me as much as I respect my cadaver, but even so, I’d be dead, and the best I could hope for was that these future students would get something out of my body.