The Move

June 19, 2014

Hello, Readers,

Greetings from “down East.” I’ve officially completed the move 4.5 hours to the East where I will be doing my residency for the next 4-5 years. I’m so happy to finally have finished unpacking the last box. You take small things for granted when you live in one spot for more than a few weeks. It’s nice to be able to go shopping for real housewares knowing that you’ll be in a permanent spot for at least a year.

Originally I had looked into buying a house here, but then saw that the housing market here has been really stagnant (houses on the market for 200+ days) so I thought it would be less complicated to rent for the first year. Being a college town, there are tons of apartments available, many of which are relatively new and competitively priced. I was able to find a brand new one within a mile of the medical center at which I will be practicing. I’ve had fun over the past couple days enjoying the amenities like the pool, fitness center, and club house while I have no serious obligations.

Orientation has technically begun this week. Monday there were 2 benefits sessions which were optional to attend, though we had been sent the links to sign up for benefits online, in advance. Signed up online, skipped the sessions and instead went to get my parking sticker and ID badge made. I had one of those epiphany moments when I got my badge and it had my name and in big letters at the bottom, MD. Sure I signed all of my graduation thank-you’s with an MD after my name, mostly to be cute, but it really sank in that I’m finally an MD when I saw the badge. In all of my excitement and anxiety about the Match and residency, it didn’t seem like I’d passed any significant milestones since I still have years of obligatory training ahead of me before I’ll be out there on my own.

Tuesday I wandered over to the [giant] hospital campus again, this time to get something called a One Card which is, from what I’m told, a door pass. Not sure why that can’t be tied into my badge and why it has to have my photo on it, but whatevs.

Yesterday was Occupational Health day. Thankfully they had the brilliant idea to send most of the paperwork ahead to us in one of those waves of online check-lists we have to complete (which I was complaining about a couple of entries ago), so when I made it back to my appointment, they had all the paperwork and shot records in order. There was just the annual health screen (height, weight, (bmi calculation) BP, vision screening, fingerstick for cholesterol check/blood sugar, waist circumference [eek]), yet another TB skin test (I just had one done in Feb but the hospital requires all new employees to have 2, so they counted the Feb one as #1 and gave me another ::sigh::), MRSA nares screening, a urine drug screen, and fit-testing for N-95 masks. I was happy to discover that my cholesterol had dropped from 144 at my pre-first-year-of-med-school-physical down to 129 (I attribute this to giving up red meat and taking a fish oil supplement), and my HDL had increased from 39 to 41. It’s still not where I’d like it to be, but I’ll keep exercising, pushing fiber and add oatmeal to my diet. Nephrology elective Doc was urging me to get tested for Diabetes back in April (he had just been diagnosed, himself, so I think he was projecting) but happily my fasting blood sugar was just fine at 84. Not all fat people have diabetes and bad cholesterol! ::Crosses arms::

Today’s orientation obligation was to go to the local Uniform shop and pick out resident-length white coats–yippee! The hospital gives us a $100 credit at the store so we’re allowed to pick out 2-3 lab coats and then the store will send them off to be monogrammed for us. That was fun. I like these coats much better–they’re a much more flattering length. After trying on about 50 coats, I finally chose 2. At the register, they asked me my name and department which yielded a piece of paper with how my monogramming was to look! Another epiphany moment (OMG I’m really a physician now)! After proofreading to make sure that everything was spelled correctly, we signed and were told they would be back from monogramming within 7-10 days, that they would call. With no other obligations, we went for a road trip to the neighboring coastal towns along the inlets–Washington, Bath, and New Bern. Lots of fun, very pretty. We ended up having lunch in New Bern at a famous BBQ place called Moore’s which is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having created the world’s largest open-faced BBQ sandwich back in 2010. Their chicken wasn’t bad but their hushpuppies were fantastic!

Tomorrow I have to go back to get the TB test read but then I’m free [to enjoy the pool some more!]. The parts of orientation that everyone dreads start next week–where you’re sat in a giant conference hall for 8-hours while the hospital higher-ups talk to you about avoiding needlesticks and PASS/RACE and customer service and all of that stuff we’ve all heard about 3000 times. Maybe they’ll make it fun. During the later part of the week, we have orientation within our individual departments, which means I’ll finally get to meet the other psych residents! That, I’m REALLY excited about!

Oh–the 2014 MUA Match list went up today: http://www.mua.edu/images/downloads/MUA%20Residency%202014-LR-1.pdf

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Graduation

June 2, 2014

Hello, Readers!

Back from Graduation! It was great. I was surprised–don’t get me wrong, I knew that it would be nice but I had no idea that it would be THAT nice. I had talked to former students who said it was alright but in general, a waste of time and money and not worth the trip. To be honest, I was on the fence about going, myself. I was planning on driving my folks up there even though it’s a 14-hr trip (not including stops), but then we ended up deciding to fly at the last minute which ended up being an expensive decision.

Not familiar with Massachusetts, I had never heard of Mechanics Hall before and thought that it would be some small municipal meeting area. Not so! Mechanics hall is this grandiose HUGE building built back in the 1800s which has a gorgeous cathedral ceiling with ornate decorations, a giant stage with built-in pipe organ. And then after the ceremony was over, the schools had actually gotten a really nice catering company to come in and provide “a light reception” of refreshments including sushi rolls, cookies, fruit, cheeses, foccacia, grilled chicken skewers, punch.

The school had reserved a block of rooms ($119/night + tax) at the Hilton Garden Inn in Worcester, where the ceremony took place, though those were sold out quickly. Most of the other places in Worcester were going for $150-200+ per night so we ended up staying a couple towns over in Framingham at the Sheraton for a thrifty $72/night (thanks Hotwire!). The hotel was described in reviews as looking like “the castle from Beauty and the Beast” and it did not disappoint. It was very nice with lots of amenities and huge rooms. We didn’t even mind that they charge $12/night for parking or $10/day for internet.

We flew into Boston on Friday, though the actual ceremony was on Saturday. Worcester is a good hour away from Boston so we decided to rent a car rather than getting around via taxi’s. The girl at the desk warned us that there were a lot of toll roads and suggested we get the unlimited E-Z toll pass for $11/day which ended up being great advice. I counted and we had to pass through 5 toll booths just on our routine trips between the towns. (Cash ONLY is accepted at the toll booths, plus you have to stop and pay–with the pass you just slow down but keep on driving right through). We settled in at the hotel then headed off to Worcester to scope out the hall and have some dinner. We quickly decided that our hotel (for $50 less/night) was much nicer than the Hilton when we drove past. We decided to have dinner across from the Hilton at a cantina restaurant someone had recommended. Bleh–not good. Bland and pricy. But on the plus side, they validated our parking and we were able to meet up with my relatives who had come into town for the graduation there.

The next day my folks dropped me off at the hall at 9:30 for the graduates’ brunch. At first I saw no one I knew–the reason for that later became apparent: Saba had over twice as many graduates as MUA, so most of the other people were there from Saba. The brunch consisted of an assortment of cookies, coffee, fruit and yogurt. What do you think I went for? Haha, that’s right–how often do you get to have a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast? I rationalized it, thinking how embarrassing it would be to pass out from low blood sugar during the ceremony. (Am I hypoglycemic? No, but it sounded good at the time.)

Slowly more MUA people started trickling in. You had to register and I finally got to meet some of the ladies in the clinicals office I’d been emailing back and forth with so much during these past 4 years. There ended up being 10 people from my class. All but a couple had matched–they were waiting to apply this coming year. Lots of them matched IM, a couple OB, and 3 of us were psych. (1 even in CANADA!) We looked at the program and there were 4 or 5 more whose names were there as graduates but who hadn’t come to the ceremony. Then there were quite a few people from other classes that were before mine. Saba had 8 rows of graduates and MUA had 3.5 for a grand total of about 150. We “rehearsed” which basically was the hall staff standing there telling us what we were supposed to do when we went up to the stage, then each school went down to the reception hall to have our class photos taken.

When we finished, folks were still being seated in the hall so we lined up and then in about 10 minutes, the ceremony began. We walked in to “Pomp and Circumstance” then heard introductions of all of the folks from administration at the schools who had come to see us. I was surprised–they’d flown up 2 of the Deans from the island to help with our graduation. We heard a speaker who was one of the higher-ups for our school. My parents said his speech was difficult to follow and sounded too “doctor-y” but which just sounded like he probably should have rehearsed a bit more to me; he kept losing his place in his notes. Then we heard from the student speakers. The guy from Saba was amazing. His speech was casual and effortless but at the same time, deep and summarized the similar struggles we had all been through up until this point. I knew when he finished that it was going to be tough for the guy from MUA to compare to. The guy from MUA who spoke was from my class. He did good, was a bit nervous, but it was just unfortunate that he had to follow such an amazing speech.

I found out at that point that we have an award called the Dean of Clinical Science Award–basically if you got straight A’s throughout clinicals, when you walk across the stage after you’re hooded, you get honor cords to wear. Also your name is printed in the program with an asterisk next to it. The speaker was the only one from my class to have received this honor. I was suddenly ashamed. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I suppose I can go ahead and share that during my clinicals, I got all A’s and just 1 B–it was during an elective, my adolescent medicine elective at Cook County Hospital in Chicago that I got my only B. That’s it, a 4-week elective (out of 72 weeks of clinicals) during which I’m not sure what I did wrong to get a B instead of an A. I know it doesn’t matter at this point, I’m already in a residency, but I felt like I’d let my parents and relatives down. I felt guilty for not going back and making an issue out of it to see what I’d done wrong or bad. Needless to say, knowing what I know about awards and rotations now, I won’t be recommending THAT elective to anyone.

But anyway, then we watched Saba stand and walk up to the stage and hear their name called, get hooded and receive their fake diplomas, then we did the same. After everyone had been across the stage, we all stood and recited the Hippocratic oath together, which was fun and monumental-feeling. Then we all left for the reception. Our “gift” was available at the reception–apparently they give out a book each year. This year it was a book about Henrietta Lacks (unknowing provider of HeLa cells from her cervical cancer sample so many decades ago) and the [lack of] medical ethics associated with her case. Oh, we also got to pick up our diplomas at the reception (those of us who graduated in May, at least). That was a happy moment.

After the reception, my family and I went back upstairs to the hall for a photo shoot on the stage and with the school banner. They were all very proud and a little tearful. When we went to leave, we noticed that lots of folks had parked on the street. We thought it was metered parking though looked as we walked past only to notice that the meters are not active on the weekends–free parking. Good to know for next year. I’m already planning on trying to get off so that I can go see the rest of the folks from my class walk across the stage!