Friday, October 23, 2015

AMA: medicine

Have you always wanted to be a doctor?

Nope. In high school, I really loved my English classes, but was always pretty interested in science as well. When I got to college, a huge university after leaving my tiny high school, taking a science class really intimidated me. So I spent my time taking a bunch of really interesting classes, but didn't really have a direction. During my sophomore year, my parents asked me if I could be anything, what would I be? And I said doctor...and here I am.

How do you study for hours and hours on end?! Maybe it's just me, but I HATE studying and I honestly can't imagine how you do it! I think it's because you're so dedicated and you like what you do?

That is a part of it - much of what we learn is really interesting to me, so I enjoy learning about it. Of course, there are a lot of things I don't find that interesting that I still have to learn anyway. I generally have a pretty short attention span, so what works best for me is using a timer. I study for 25 minutes straight, and then I allow myself to spend 5 minutes checking emails or instagram or buzzfeed. It's the only way I've found that keeps me on task!

I'm a bit interested to hear about how you deal with having classmates/peers who are younger than you.

Well I'm really not that much older than most of my classmates! I was 25 when I started school, and the average age of our class at the time was 24. But I think for the most part, most of my classmates were pretty mature, so I didn't really see age when it came to picking friends. I have friends 3 years younger than me, and friends 15 years older. Once we started medical school, we all kind of were at the same place in life/ our careers, so age became less of an issue.

How do you manage to find balance in your life with all of the demands of attending med school?

I just make sure I make certain things in my life a priority, which means I do less of other things. For me, on a daily basis it was always most important to make time to connect with CR, be able to hang out with my friends, and take care of my dogs. Sometimes two of those are connected, like taking the dogs to the dog park with my friend, or having all of us hang out together. Making time for one thing means taking away from other things. In general, I watch less TV and take less naps, but I'm able to stay sane (and still find time to blog!).

How do you make time between school and studying for your dogs? Do you have any tips for spending time with them with a busy schedule and small living space?

My dogs are a bit older now (they are both 6), so they are mostly content just hanging out with me! The biggest thing was scheduling time to take them to the dog park back when I still lived in an apartment - I always went with my bff Caitlin and her dog, so it was a great time to run the dogs and be able to see each other somewhere other than the library table. The biggest thing for my dogs is that they like having their space, so even though we live in a pretty small house now, they have their little corner of the house they can retreat to if they need space.

I'm personally interested in things like your thoughts on being a woman in med school/the medical field.

Oh boy. I have lots of thoughts on that! Women make up more than 50% of medical school classes now - that's amazing! It's frustrating sometimes when that's not acknowledged - that women can become doctors. I'm always asked if I'm a nursing student, or what kind of nurse I want to be when I'm introduced as a medical student. Our locker rooms at my hospital say Nurse's locker room (women's locker room) and Doctor's locker room (men's locker room) - seriously, it says those things on the doors. It's frustrating.

I think it's also a bit hard sometimes in school itself, because the topic of family comes up a lot for us. We know that for the most part, we are probably pushing off things in life until we are in a more stable position. That seems to always be less of an issue for my male classmates. In the past 2.5 years of school, at least 20 men have had children. One woman in my class has had a child. It's just something that you think a bit more when faced with every day.

What would you recommend to other women starting to move forward in the medical field?

Try to always be happy with where you are in life. You will see friends and family getting married and buying houses and having babies, and you may feel that's not something you can do right now. That's not to say you can't - plenty of people do it (look at one of my favorites living that right now!). But I've had this conversation with many ladies in my class, and we just have found that as long as we try to be happy with what we have (which is a lot - great friends, an interesting future career, health), then it's a lot easier to be happy for others too.

What's your take on homeopathic treatment? I've had very good success with it. Is it even addressed as an alternative treatment in med school?

My general philosophy is that if you think it works and it makes you feel better, then do it! As we also learn osteopathic manipulation in school, which is basically learning how to manipulate the musculoskeletal system, I'm open to those kind of alternative treatments. I make CR do a couple of those techniques on me all the time. We do learn a bit about other alternative treatments while in school, but not in depth.

HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR THIRD YEAR? I loved it so, so much.

IT IS THE BEST. Seriously, all of you second years out post boards is the best. Every four weeks your life completely changes and you have the chance to learn something completely new. It's amazing.

What apps do you use on your iPad for studying, note taking, etc?

When I was in my first two years, I used Notability for notes, Brainscape for flashcards, Memorang for pre-made flashcards (great for boards!), and the Picmonic app. Now during my clinical years I've been using UpToDate, Epocrates (for drugs), Lab Values+, and USMLE (for studying during down time).

Do you have any advice on how to stay positive in med school?

I think it can be pretty easy to get a bit negative during school - you study a ridiculous amount of time, or spend 60 hours in the hospital, and you pay $1000+ a week to do it. I personally love school, and while I'm sometimes not like super thrilled about getting up at 3:30 to go to my general surgery rotation, I just know that I'm so privileged to be doing this. That keeps me pretty positive :)

When do you get to be a doctor and not a student doctor?

May of 2017. Technically, in 583 days. Not that I have a countdown on my phone or anything ;)

Do you get overwhelmed with your life? Studying and blogging and maintaining a romance seems like it could/would consume all your time and yet you seem to have it all together and still find time to blog.

Not really? I think I'm just used to being on the go or busy all the time now that it doesn't phase me as much. I was super overwhelmed when school started though - the first semester was rough and there were definitely tears. But over time I've found a really great support system, and people who understand what my life is like, and that has helped.

Where would you love to end up practicing medicine?

We are hoping to end up in upstate New York, but will be applying broadly in the north east. Who knows, maybe we will fall in love with some other state!

Have you really avoided passing out at medical school? Regardless, you're my hero.

Yes! I have not fainted yet :) The back story to that is that I used to pass out at the sight of blood, and it took me a really long time to get over that. I shadowed a lot, and I think being in cadaver lab also helped. That's not to say that I don't get a little light headed when I watch a doctor cut into skin (for some reason, that's what is the hardest on me) but once we get past that layer, everything is great.

How do you manage your student loans?

We receive our student loan checks twice a year and my way of handling them is by having a lot of savings accounts! I calculate how much my rent, car payment, and bills are going to be, and then put that into one account. That way, I will always have enough money to pay my bills. I have another account where I transfer $150 every two weeks into my checking account - this pays for my groceries, gas, and fun activities. The rest I put into savings for whatever situations that come up, like needing new tires like I had to pay for two weeks ago.

I should mention here that my financial situation is a bit different than most just because I also have an income from blogging. I'm trying to be really smart about that though - almost all of that is going towards a down payment for a house, and for our graduation trip in two years. I allow myself to keep a small percentage of the blogging money to spend on clothes, which is where my clothing budget comes from. This is of course unique to my situation, but everyone is in a bit of a different financial situation in school. I take out loans, but I have friends whose parents pay for school and allow them to pay for everything on their credit card. Others take out loans, but their parents help with bills and so on. It's just different for everyone.

What do the next two years entail?

So until I graduate in May of 2017, I'm on clinical rotations. Our rotations are four weeks long, and we have 13 a year. We spend our days in either the hospital or the clinic, and our responsibilities change from one to the next. For example, I'm currently on psych and sit next to my attending all day as he sees his patients. When I was on OB, there were many days where I spent time laboring with the patient, or assisting in c-sections. Starting next summer/fall, we will be doing what are called audition rotations at other hospitals, the ones we hope to do residency at. Then during that fall/winter we will be interviewing, we match in March 2017, and graduate two months later!

How do you balance a relationship and medical school?

I am lucky that my boyfriend is also in medical school, and having been in all three situations (dating a med student, being a med student, and dating another med student), I like this the best. We really understand what the other is going through, we get to help each other when we can, and we get that our day to day life is not always as set in stone as we would hope. For us, it's important to sit down and just chat every day. Sometimes that may not happen until we are laying in bed, but we make it a priority to know what's going on in the other's life, especially now that we aren't together all the time like we were during the classroom part of school. It's also great right now because our schedules kind of flip flop - so when he's on an harder/longer rotation, I'm typically on a rotation that has shorter days. That makes it easier to keep up with the house work and our pets. I wrote this post last year that goes a bit more into medical school and dating.

Could you talk about your transition from college to working and the back to med school? I'd love to hear about it!

So after I graduated from college, I worked for two years for a pharmaceutical development company. The first year was great - I was really burnt out from school after trying to cram all those science classes in, and I was ready to feel like an adult. After I didn't get into school after applying the first time, the second year was a bit harder. I was ready to be in school and learn and move towards a future, instead of just biding my time. Once I finally got in, most of my life revolved around preparing to move across the country. Starting school was rough - you went to school all day, came home and immediately started studying, and then went to bed and still dreamed about school. Once I got a hang of it though, life got better. Now that we have transitioned into our clinical years, which basically is like showing up to a job every day, I found that transition pretty easy. I was already used to showing up at a specific time and having specific tasks to carry out, so maybe I had it a bit easier than others.

Is it hard to take care of a pet in med school?

It hasn't been difficult for me, but that's because I had a really great roommate for the first two years and now my boyfriend. My roommate loved my dogs as if they were her own, and since she preferred to study at home, she would take them out to go to the bathroom on days that I spent at the library. Now living with CR, we share the animal responsibilities (since we have a cat too). If I were someone going into school now, and wanted a pet, I would suggest a cat...BUT my friend Caitlin got a dog during first year and she's doing more than fine too.

Did you find out what kind of doctor you want to become?

Now I'm pretty sure I want to be an OB-GYN :) That said, I still have a lot of rotations left, so I'm trying to keep an open mind!

What's your favorite thing about medical school?

It's not boring - you will always learn interesting things and meet interesting people. There are definitely boring moments, but overall, I'm excited that there is always more to learn!

What is the hardest thing about creating a wardrobe when you're in med school?

How restricting a dress code is at times - I just want to wear jeans!

What were your expectations of medical school and how are your expectations different from reality.

Ohhhhh, good question! The thing is that before I started school, I was dating someone who was in medical school, and having gone through that whole process with him, I kind of knew what I was getting in to. I understand the amount of time you had to study, and how long your days were going to be during clinicals. I guess the thing that I didn't realize was just how hard you would be on yourself during this process - especially when we had tests every week, I always wanted to do just a little bit better, or be a certain classrank on every test. Thankfully now that that part is over, it's no longer as much of an issue!

What would you recommend doing the summer before medical school?

Enjoying your life! Go on a trip, hang out with your family and friends, and enjoy the sunshine.

If you weren't in med school, what would you be doing (and wearing!) with your life? Would you still live in Madison and work in a lab?

Ugh, I hope I wouldn't still be working in a lab. I have no idea what I would be doing! I try not to think about the past because it got messy towards the end, so I just try to enjoy the present. But...I do miss Madison a lot.

I am baffled that you are in medical school yet don't know the exact field you'll be working in. Can you explain this a little more? I would think a person would have a passion about, say, "I want to be an OB when I grow up," or something like that. (I was a history major and my husband is in sales, so med school is a mystery to me.)

So the thing about medicine is that no matter what speciality you go into, the core of medicine is still the same. It's still science about the human body, it's still about helping people, and using your knowledge to improve someone's health. I think that's why many of us went into medicine - now it's just about figuring out exactly what combination of skills we want to use on a daily basis. That's the whole point of clinical rotations - we see a little bit of every field and how doctors spend their time, and decide if that's how we want our days and lives to be like too.

I hope that answers some of your questions! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask below in the comments. You can also ask me here - I will be including three questions a week in my Sunday post, so don't hesitate to ask :)