The Difficult Classmate

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During my first rotation, Surgery, I didn’t work with another student for the entire eight weeks. I spent a lot of time beating myself up, wondering if I was doing the right things and if I should have been doing more. I was excited when I got my Peds schedule which had me teamed up with various students throughout our eight week rotation. Unfortunately, my first two weeks on the inpatient service began sourly due to a negative interaction with a classmate and someone who I thought was a good friend.

I’ve heard horror stories of medical students “gunning,” or trying to make oneself look better at the expense of dragging other students down. Even though I had already heard some unsavory stories about classmates this year, I decided, up front, not to blindly believe or fall into the gossip, especially since I don’t know many people in my new class. I like to and choose to see the best in people, and I refuse to believe that as future doctors with the common goal of caring for patients in the most compassionate and painless way possible, we wouldn’t help each other become the best doctors we can be. Maybe it’s naïve and optimistic, but providing and learning how to provide exemplary care absolutely takes priority over “looking good” or getting the best grades.

That’s why I was so troubled when another student on my service confronted me that she felt I was acting out of place. The patient she had been following was being discharged that day, and our senior resident asked who wanted to complete the patient’s discharge paperwork. I made (what I thought was) an encouraging look her way, as if to say, “You’ve gotten to know this patient and his family. Please, continue to work with them!” She, instead, expressed anger that I had assigned her work to do. That it was not my place to do so. That it was the senior resident’s job to tell us what to do. That she would never do that to me.

I was appalled that my seemingly considerate action could be so misconstrued! I quickly apologized, trying to explain that it was not my intention at all, and that, if anything, I thought I was being proactive and ensuring that I wouldn’t take on tasks concerning her own patient. Interrupting me, she rolled her eyes, angrily saying, “No, you are wrong,” as she turned and walked away from me, my cut-off words of apology and explanation dissolving into thin air.

I later approached her to ask if I could speak with her. After much resistance to a conversation (like, really?), I explained to her my gratitude that she had brought up the issue with me, my apologies that I had hurt her, and my promise to try to avoid making anyone feel the way that I had made her feel. I also told her about my own sadness and frustration that she hadn’t been receptive to my feelings about and perspective on the situation. I felt like what should have been a discussion of how we could ameliorate and avoid the situation in the future became a litany of things I had done wrong, things that were not meant to be malicious, as she implied.

As an introvert who absolutely hates confrontation and conflict, I was proud that I had asserted myself and my feelings in an uncomfortable situation. My heart still pounds thinking about it! I wish I could say that my bravery and sincerity in trying to smooth over a simple misunderstanding was well received, but instead, I left frustrated, with her last words ringing in my head: “I’ve wanted to be a pediatrician for 15 years.” As if that was an excuse for her attitude towards me.

I spent the long, awkward remainder of my time working with her walking on eggshells, trying not to offend her. I was hyperaware of everything I did, every word I said. I second guessed my actions, afraid that it would be misinterpreted. I tried extra hard to make amends, delivering heartfelt, legitimate congratulations when she did well on her oral presentation to the attending and asking her about her weekend. But anything and everything I did seemed to irritate her. And this still seems to be the case almost two months later.

This sucky circumstance has made me realize a few things:

1) The situation is totally out of my hands, and if she doesn’t have the desire or capacity to forgive me and move on, there is nothing I can do to change her mind.

2)  I don’t need to go out of my way to impress people or try to get them to like me. Obviously, being rude is never the answer, but I don’t need to bend over backwards for anyone and everyone I meet, especially if they have only demonstrated the opposite of kindness to me themselves.

3) There’s always going to be people in the workplace and in life that we just don’t mesh with. Maintaining professionalism within a team is essential for it to function at its highest (and happiest!) level. When a problem does arise, we have to be pros at learning how to address, solve, and diffuse a problem, all without compromising patient care. It can be uncomfortable to assert yourself and sometimes even demand that you be heard out, but if it will help you function better as a member of the team, it’s important. Your attitude affects everyone else on the team, for better or for worse. A happy and in sync team will better be able to provide better care to our patients, and that’s what it’s all about!

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The Girl in the Sports Bra

Race day.

I double knot my shoes and redo my ponytail for the fifth time this morning. My watch is synced, my thumb on the start button. Imprecise quantities of excitement and nervousness permeate the crisp fall air surrounding my best running-clothed self. I step up to the starting line and look ahead.

There she is. Just behind the men in shorter shorts than my own, the super fast looking woman in just spandex shorts and sports bra stands confidently in front of me. I’ve seen her a million times before: winning cross country races in high school and college, calmly gliding on the treadmill at the gym, and flaunting her toned abs on Instagram. Her confidence radiates like sunbeams ricocheting off her perfectly sculpted figure, and I swear I hear the echoing hum of angels projecting from behind her. Simultaneously intimidated and in awe, I start my watch as the gun goes off and watch her sprint ahead.

I can’t help but gawk. Her form is effortless. Her flawless anatomy seems made for running, and her arms and legs move in perfect synchrony and rhythm. She picks off the men, all while looking like she’s just out for her morning jog. She maintains equal parts tenacity and poise while surging ahead of her nearest competitors without batting an eye. Goodness, how does she make it look so easy?

I look down at my own body. I suddenly feel awkward and uncoordinated. My arms flail, crossing my body, while my legs struggle to maintain my stride as I ascend the hill. My breathing is labored, my movements beyond inefficient. I’m timid in moving past other runners, unsure as to whether they will re-pass me in another quarter mile. My eyes gravitate towards my watch to check my pace every two seconds. I have at least 30 pounds on her, and I feel every extra ounce in each step I take.

My mind begins to cloud with the same self-destructive thought that creeps up on me in almost every race:

I’m too fat for this.

It’s a bit of a complicated relationship, this running and body image thing. On one hand, this beautiful sport has taught me to embrace what my body can do, not what it looks like. It’s impossible not to respect that this incredible body of mine has literally carried itself on a bicycle across the country, completed an Ironman triathlon, and run thousands of miles over my lifetime. It’s fought hard and won epic battles against injuries, high mileage weeks, and sleep-deprived nights of studying.

At the same time, the competitive, perfectionist part of me repeatedly tears this same body down. I reprimand myself for not being able to say no to that ice cream, essentially choosing not to look and run like that girl in the sports bra. The harshest part of my brain tells myself that the less excess body weight I have, the faster I can be. I put so much time, effort, and mental space into running. Is it really that much harder to eat healthier and lose weight? Aren’t I better than this? Don’t I want to see how fast I can get?

It wasn’t always this way. The unwelcome negative words judging the way my body looks, how it should look, and how I’m so far from that ideal echo endlessly in my head, covertly chipping away at my self-value and worth. I’m reminded of the girl on the bus telling me, “You’re fat and ugly, and everyone in my homeroom thinks so, too.” I re-feel the insecurity provoked by the coach who transformed a discussion of my academic pursuits to one about my weight. I struggle, yet again, with the well-intentioned comments from family members that my joint pain and inability to own faster PRs would disappear if I shed more than a couple pounds. I carry so many unsolicited opinions and pieces of advice that I would give away without a second thought if I was in the business of making others feel awful about themselves.

Does it even matter? I know I’ll never be more than a slightly above average age group runner, but, honestly, the ramifications of such comments have affected me more than I’d like to admit, even beyond running. It’s more than easy to let these pessimistic lies snowball, a slippery slope of self-doubt and contempt that creep into my everyday, non-running life. As much as I try to cover up my insecurities with loose bandages of smiles and positivity, an “I’m feeling slow and fat today” quickly morphs into “I’m not and will never be good enough,” running and otherwise.

I shake my head purposefully and refocus. Maybe I don’t and may never look like her, but I’ve worked and will continue to work hard, too. Mile by mile I’ve slowly but surely mustered up something that almost resembles confidence, and I’m prepared to use it.

She might as well have a target on her back because I’ve made it my mission to reach her. My arms relax, my stride widens, and I take deep breaths. With each expiration, I forcefully kick my anxiety of and frustration with those hurtful words of my past to the curb. I reach deep in my memory, recalling the hours upon hours of training to get to where I am at this very moment. The sacrificed time and energy I spent burning off a disheartening day of work, catching up with friends, daydreaming about anything and everything, and getting to know myself more intimately are moments I wouldn’t give up for anything. The opportunities to test my physical and mental limits, to be disciplined in something when school is daunting and unpredictable, and to bond with others over a common passion are all God-given gifts that I truly cherish. My growing confidence and faith in my running ultimately translates to a growing confidence and faith in myself as a med student, future doctor, and general human being. These deep-rooted insecurities will always haunt me, but for a few miles, I’m able to reflect on the amazing journey towards inner peace that my (imperfectly) beautiful body has led me to. 

A smile widens on my face. I don’t look like her, and I’ve re-remembered that that’s okay. I, too, can be the confident, fast girl in the sports bra without changing anything about myself, including my body. But regardless of how we look and our times, what matters is that we do what makes us smile and respect our bodies as the amazing machines that they are.

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These deep-rooted insecurities will always haunt me, but for a few miles I'm able to reflect on the amazing journey towards inner peace that my (imperfectly) beautiful body has led me to. • • • Some (entirely too personal) thoughts on body image, self-confidence, and sports bras over on the blog today (see above for link)! Holla at @moiraleigh03 for participating in Operation-Take-Awkward-Pictures-in-Sports-Bras and 7ish effortless miles in the dark! • • • #strongnotskinny #sportsbrasquad! #medschool #medstudent #womeninmedicine #medschoolproblems #medschoollife #medschooldiaries #oisellevolée #capitalregionbirds #womensrunningcommunity #runnerscommunity #runnershoutouts #runshots #halfmarathontraining #mohawkhudsonhalfmarathon

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Watch What You Put in Your Mouth!

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I rarely eat at the hospital’s cafeteria because making your own food is 1) generally healthier (I also don’t trust myself to make the healthiest choices after not eating for hours, which can often be the case), and 2) cheaper .

Coming off a long weekend at home, I hadn’t had time to run to the store for groceries and I was on call Tuesday night, so between class and meeting the residents for sign-out to the other residents on night float, I settled for a quick chicken sandwich in the caf. Or rather, the chicken sandwich of doom. Within two and a half hours, I asked to be excused home, was throwing up, and, with stomach pains like I had never experienced before, regretting that seemingly innocent dinner decision.

Ah, the joys of food poisoning. The laundry list of symptoms: nausea! vomiting! abdominal pain! diarrhea! fever! headaches! Lucky me, I had it all! Which made me think, gee, I should share what’s going on in my life with the blogging world. Or at least share some more about food poisoning, something that affects an estimated 48 million of us each year.

There are nearly 200 known microbes that can cause food poisoning. While most cases are self-limited and resolve over time without any antibiotics or special treatment, some bacteria (such as Clostridium botulinum, Listeria, certain strains of E. coli, and Salmonella), can actually (although rarely) cause death. While a stool culture and other lab tests can pinpoint exactly what is causing your vomiting or diarrhea, this often isn’t necessary.

Based on a thorough history, focusing on what the patient ate, the time course the symptoms, and what his or her symptoms actually are (vomiting vs. diarrhea, which can be watery, bloody, or inflammatory), it’s possible to predict what the specific pathogen causing your awful symptoms is. For example, vomiting is the common presentation of food poisoning caused by eating Bacillus cereus-infected reheated rice, while while Staph aureus is found in dairy, produce, meats, eggs, and veggies (think potato salad at a family picnic that’s been sitting out too long…yum!).

To prevent food poisoning, anyone handling food should always wash their hands, especially after using the bathroom. Also, the world will severely judge you if you don’t.

Sunday Runday: Weeks of 8/29 and 9/5

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This has been a rough two weeks for me running and work-wise. Inpatient peds has proven to have longer hours than I thought it would be, but the work has been fun and the residents I’ve worked with have been awesome! Oh, and the kiddos are adorable. For the most part. Wish I could say the same for all of the parents… 😉

The long Labor Day weekend had me sort of thrown off (why/how do I get so lazy at home?!), and then I got food poisoning on Tuesday this week, so I have not been the happiest camper lately. My body was not having it on Wednesday and Thursday, and since then, I’ve mostly felt fine doing daily activities, but totally wiped out when trying to run. Hopefully things will improve and I’ll be back to baseline this week.

Part of this blog  and my Instagram is accountability, so, here is what I did, embarassing as it is!


Week of 8/29

Monday, 8/29: 8.5 miles easy (1:16:53)

Tuesday, 8/30: 2.5 mile WU + attempted mile repeats, but only did one in 6:34 before getting lightheaded because I didn’t eat lunch + 1 mile CD. 4.5 miles total.

Wednesday, 8/31: 2 mile WU + 3 x mile (6:41, 6:34, 6:24) with 400 rest + 1 mile CD (total = 7 miles). Wasn’t terribly encouraged by this workout because I was hoping for three miles at or sub 6:25 which would have given me the confidence to go for a sub-20 at Saturday’s race. Ultimately decided to switch to the 10K because I am a chicken.

Thursday, 9/1: 6ish miles (57:16) at the last Albany Running Exchange’s Summer Trail Run Series of the summer with Moira and Tiffany, who joined us for the first loop. We mostly went to it because of the the food. And we like trails. 😀

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Is it just me or does running just bring out the kid in you?! Enjoyed an awesome 6ish miles (57:16) with @moiraleigh03 And @zany_t at the last #albanyrunningexchange summer #trailrun series of the summer! And then ate ALL the food at the BBQ! Can you say pecan pie?! I'm learning that this third year of #medschool is going to be a lot of learning how to work and interact with different people. With each passing day, I'm learning to find my voice, not feel self-conscious or dumb asking questions, and stand up for myself even when it feels uncomfortable. Because I've fought hard, and I'm meant to be here just as much as anyone else. Ultimately the awkward growing pains are going to make me a superstar doctor who can better care for her patients in the future and THAT is what it's all about, people! #medschoollife #medschoolproblems #medschooldiaries #oisellevolée #womensrunningcommunity #runshots #runnerscommunity #halfmarathontraining #hansonshalfmarathonmethod #mohawkhudsonhalfmarathon

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Friday, 9/2: Planned off day in anticipation of work + class + traveling back home to Merryland.

Saturday, 9/3: Ellicott City Labor Day Classic 10K in 43:46 (7:04 pace)

8 miles total for the day. Race recap here.

 

Sunday, 9/4: Off because I am lazy.

Total = 34 miles


Week of 9/5

Monday, 9/5: Off because I am super lazy.

Tuesday, 9/6: 4 miles (37:48) before work at 5:15AM.

Wednesday, 9/7: Off due to food poisoning beginning Tuesday night. I had to leave call early because I was throwing up. The rest of the night, I was running to the bathroom. It was awful.

Thursday, 9/8: Off due to food poisoning. I actually had to miss work because I was still feeling super sick from the night before. Phil brought me OJ, sesame seed bagels with butter (from my favorite, Uncommon Grounds!), lots of chicken noodle soup, saltines, and Gatorade because he is the sweetest.

Friday, 9/9: 4.5 miles (~43 minutes) nice and easy at the Cemetery with Phil. Stomach still hurting. Feeling fatigued in general, but celebrated my stomach finally being able to tolerate something besides clear soups and plain foods with burgers and fries at Burger Fi (our first time there!).

Saturday, 9/10: 4.5 miles (43:16) nice and easy at the Pine Bush. Still felt exceedingly tired despite getting decent sleep.

 

Sunday, 9/11: Off. With sign out at 6AM and a 14.5 hour shift ahead, there was almost no way I was going to get a run in. Marathon training me would be disgusted with my complacency, but given that I was still feeling pretty awful on my runs the past couple days, I’m excusing myself for one more day of laziness recovery.

Total = 13 miles 

#pathetic #screwyoufoodpoisoning #thismakesmeangrysoletsfreakingrunthisweek

Demanding for Your Education

The only thing a med student has to complain about is being completely ignored.

The intern and I burst into laughter at the sad truth of his statement that resolved into, well, frank sadness at the truth of his statement. 

I thought we worked hard as med students, but interns and residents make our workload look like child’s play. Around 7PM the night before the first day of my vascular surgery rotation, I texted the intern, a friend who graduated from my school just a couple months prior, to ask when and where I should meet the team that morning for pre-rounding. He didn’t text me back the entire night, and I thought, “Hey, man. Rude.” When I woke up at 4:30AM the next morning (I heard through the grapevine that they meet at 5:15AM), I had a text on my phone with a 3:30AM timestamp. Later in the day, I asked if he was reaaaaaally up that early. “Yeah, we have to get here a little bit earlier than you guys do,” he shrugged and yawned immodestly. The poor guy was probably asleep when I texted him the night before! Or, at least I hope he was.

In my first eight weeks of third year on my surgery rotation, I’ve learned that a lot of our education from now on will be self-study. I’ve never been one to learn best from sitting and reading a book, but it’s definitely something I’ve come to accept and will need to learn to be better at.  In that same vein (lol vascular surgery joke…get it?), I’ve found that learning from the patients right in front of me, with the guidance of attendings and residents with whom we work closely, extremely valuable and rewarding. I’ve met some awesome, eager teachers so far, but I’ve also met some pretty unfriendly, cold, and downright condescending superiors who make learning (and honestly, breathing the same air as them) a discouraging challenge.

Med students are afraid of being “pimped” by attendings and residents, but as much as it sucks feeling like an incompetent idiot, being ignored is an even worse scenario. A family med resident told me a tale of how, during med school, she was told by the OR tech to “Go stand behind the soiled linens container.” Like really? Could anything else be more dismissive?!

The fact of the matter is paying nearly $55,000 a year to stand still on the sidelines is just absurd. It’s something I struggle with because I’m of slowing down the team or being annoying, but I’m slowly learning to be more proactive in my education by asking questions, even if I may look dumb. (True story: I went through nearly a week of vascular surgery not knowing what a BKA (below knee amputation) and AKA (above knee amputation) were because I was too afraid to ask). I mean, these are experts in a host of fields and I’m so lucky to be able to pick their brains (ugh, I hate this phrase) about their specialties and passions. If the question isn’t received well, well, maybe that person needs to remember what it was like to be a third year med student with hardly any clinical experience to her name! And maybe he or she is just a grumpy person and we shouldn’t take that personally. 

Ultimately,  I owe it to my future patients to demand for my education and learn as much as I can. Because becoming a superstar doctor who can really serve my future patients is what this whole med school shebang all about.