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!

Hello, again!

February 25, 2014

Hi, Readers,

Checking in again, as promised before the Match. Has been an interesting few weeks at home; took a while to settle down as this is the first time since 2009 that I haven’t had something pressing to study for/apply to–no board exams to prep for, no semesters to shop for, no rotations to set up. It’s a good feeling, relaxation, but I’m still nervous about the upcoming Match. I’ve gotten good news from many of the programs with which I interviewed–correspondence that they will be ranking me, which is great to hear, but it makes my ROL decision tougher. While I haven’t changed my original Rank Order List since I certified it shortly after my birthday, I think about changing it daily, sometimes hourly. There are so many factors to consider: location, program size, available fellowships, program reputation, graduate placement, research opportunities, facilities, gut-feeling, program director and faculty, call schedule, patient population, benefits. My head is swirling.

I’m facing the last big hurdle a student from the Caribbean must face. There’s a lot of nasty opinions and forum posts out there about how Caribbean grads never match and how there won’t be enough residency spots available in the coming years to support Caribbean grads.

I think it’s clear at this point that I will match somewhere, but now my dilemma is where to go.

A big concern of mine when choosing a Caribbean medical school was California approval. Ironically, I ended up going to a school which has not been visited by the California inspectors yet, but is not on their disapproved list. While I’m not pursuing a program in California, their list has had an impact on the licensing requirements of many state boards of medicine. I’d found comprehensive resources back in 2010 which stated that most of the states I was interested in settling down in, were not specific about IMG requirements in order to obtain licensure. Some states require careful scrutiny of a student’s Core clinical rotations and require them to be completed at a hospital either directly affiliated with a medical school or at a hospital in which there is a residency program in that field (“Greenbook”). Others are fine with core rotations which have been completed at a hospital which has residencies, but not specifically in that field (“Bluebook”). Some states have no requirements at all, as long as a student has successfully graduated from a medical school, has completed his/her clinicals in the US, has ECFMG certification, and has passed the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CS, and Step 2 CK exams. My research back in 2010 revealed that most of the states in which I was interested, fell into the latter category–there were no requirements.

During my 3-week hiatus, I took the time to contact the State Medical Boards of some states that I had interviewed in, just to make sure that things hadn’t changed and I wouldn’t have a problem obtaining licensure there, only to find out that they had changed their requirements. Uh oh. It’d be horrible to match to a great program and then not be able to go there because the state won’t recognize your clinical training and therefore won’t license you.

I’m waiting to hear back from the folks in my school’s clinicals department–surely they have dealt with licensure issues in the past and can offer some insight. Kind of coming down to the wire, though, since ROL’s are due at 9:00 this coming Wednesday. Might have to change my list and go with a more conservative option in a state where I know I won’t have licensure issues. #thoughtIMGproblemsweregone

Will keep you all updated on what I find out.

Update

February 5, 2014

Hi, Readers!

Checking in from my break-month, back at home in NC. Finished up in OK and have once again, relocated the bulk of my possessions back to my folks’ house for a temporary break. Interview season is over! It’s rank order list time! Tough decisions to be made, taking time to sit back and think “would I be happy there, with those people, doing that for the next few years?”

Got my last tuition left-over check back from my loan. It dwindles further. I got $600 to live on for the semester back after the school took out tuition from my $15k loan [minus the loan origination fee]. Ridiculous, no? I don’t know how other students from the US are doing it, other than perhaps utilizing the MBA program. Though I couldn’t imagine taking business classes when you need to be focusing on interviews, match stuff, and 4th year rotations. More power to those kids. I’ve accepted the fact I’m forever indebted to my parents and couldn’t have made it this far without their support.

Meanwhile, I’m working out on a daily basis trying to get back down to my pre-Chicago weight. (I’m close) And now, researching my March rotation in Louisiana–where to fly in, where to stay, etc. I have a place lined up to stay at in VA in April but I’m not getting a lot of details about LA. Oh well, patience.

Will be in touch before the match. Best of luck to everyone!

Assignment

August 21, 2012

Hi guys!

I have some good news to share!  After I received the email about my USMLE scores last Wednesday, I forwarded the information to the appropriate people at the school’s office and have now officially been given my clinicals assignment!  I’m headed to…::drumroll::…CHICAGO!

I was very impressed with the speed at which things happened; I received a call from the school’s clinicals scheduler on WEDNESDAY letting me know what my options were, then ended up signing a contract with my coordinator yesterday that said that I would be doing all cores and 1-3 electives in Chicago (so no moving around…YEA!).  The only downside is that my first rotation starts September 10, so I don’t have a lot of time to prepare.

I’d read horror stories in the forums about having to wait months to receive an assignment, then there not being enough spots open, and quite honestly after the scheduling delay before I could take my step, part of me was very concerned that there might be issues with clinicals.  I’ve never been so glad to be wrong before.

In the interim, I’ve ordered books for my first rotation, re-purchased a stethoscope (since mine was sold in the student sale back on the island), and gotten started on amassing the documents requested of me–passport copies, police report, proof of insurance, etc.  I’m still due to go shopping for professional attire and to sit down and attempt to find a suitable apartment before we head up to the Windy City on Labor Day weekend.  It’s odd suddenly having all these requirements and deadlines after you’ve been lax and responsibility-free for the past 3.5 months.

On the home front, things have been complicated by the fact that my old trusty school laptop has contracted the google re-direct virus (and apparently a plethora of other spyware).  Any suggestions on anti-virus software?
Also have been busy with fair board duties over the past 2 weeks–in fact, last night was our first night away from the fair grounds in a loooong time.  We didn’t make it home before 1:00 in the morning last week.  I’m trying to readjust my schedule (so I can visit everyone before I leave) but it’s proving difficult so far.

Another complication of fair week that I’m dealing with is that I went off my diet.  It’s hard enough avoiding red meat during fair week when you routinely spend 10+ hour stretches surrounded by burgers, hotdogs, Italian sausages, livermush sandwiches, ham biscuits, etc., but to avoid carbs would leave me starving.  I was thrilled to spend the week snacking on local delicacies like funnel cakes, fries, roasted corn, and frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate, but now I’m starting back up on the diet and in carb withdrawal.  Given that I’ve only got 2 weeks left before I have to move, I’d love to spend the rest of my time in the South eating whatever I pleased but my week off has cost me +6 pounds already.  I’m afraid someone would have to roll me onto the airplane if I didn’t exercise some self-control soon.

Update

August 9, 2012

Hi guys,
Still here.  Life with med school on pause is, as you would imagine, BORING.  Another Wednesday has come and gone with no USMLE scores, so I’ll sit and twiddle my thumbs for another week.  Your questions have been great, though.  Keep them coming and I shall try to answer to the best of my abilities.

Jenn

Life after the Step

July 28, 2012

Hey guys!  Greetings from the other, other side!  I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders!  I went and took my Step I this past Monday and am soooo glad it’s over.  It gets so tiring feeling guilty (for 3 months) when you’re doing anything other than studying–it’s nice to have a normal life (even if it’s only for a few weeks) now.

What can I tell you about the Step?  Well, I think there are a lot of patrol dogs out there looking for people giving out USMLE secrets so they can void their scores, so I’ll avoid talking about the subject matter, but will say that overall I found the test very approachable and wasn’t frightened off by any “out-there” questions where I had no idea what the test was trying to get at.  Actually, I thought the comp shelf was harder–that might have been because I didn’t study as much for it, but then again, I only spent a month doing U-World for the Step after taking 2 months leisurely reading First Aid and a couple of the Kaplan books (Path and Pharm) during my workouts–not exactly strenuous.  It goes to show you, just like back on the island, you SHOULD NOT listen to your peers and feel pressured to study as much or as little as them.  I know it’s a competitive environment, but what works for them might not work for you or might be too much content or too fast for you.  I’m glad I didn’t overstudy and get to the point where I was burnt out the week before my test and couldn’t go near a book.  Pace yourself.  Also, don’t let anyone tell you that last-minute studying is a waste of time and you won’t remember anything from it.  There are many professors I’ve had–and respected–who looked down upon “cramming” before the exam but I’ll be honest and say that there were a couple of questions that wouldn’t have been so easy for me had I not reviewed their subject material mere hours before the exam.  It’s never too late.

Now that the step is over, I am feeling a void where the drive to go study for the step used to be.  I have been watching Fringe and the Olympics,  and playing Tetris Attack and Backgammon online (simultaneously with TV–can’t NOT multitask) just to keep my mind occupied, but meanwhile have ordered a variety of books on clinicals to begin reading if they’ll ever get here!  (I’m still trying to regain my patience…obviously.)  I picked up a course on Medical Spanish from a local bookstore a LONG time ago that I might start, as it seems like something useful to do with down time before I go to the wards.  Meanwhile, I started back on my diet after taking a week’s break for the test.  My temporary reunion with carbs was wonderful–I miss them already.  I also took a week off from the gym, so I’ll start back at that tomorrow.  The local agricultural fair is about 2 weeks away; I’ve been spending some time over at the fairgrounds helping to get everything cleaned up and ready.  I think my Dad was really surprised that I jumped in and volunteered to do manual labor and clean–I, admittedly, can act a bit like an entitled Diva at home–when given the choice between doing a set of practice questions or dishes, which would you pick?  Anyway, that work is exhausting but very fulfilling and hopefully we’ll have a great fair this year.

Will keep in touch when I have more news to share–just waiting right now.  Scores will be back in T-19 days!

Routine Eye Exam

May 15, 2012

Two weeks later, after being pensive and reflective about my 5 semesters on the island, I am wide awake at 4:00 in the morning with not enough energy to work on Kaplan, but too much energy to fall back asleep and a lot on my mind.  ::sigh::

I’ve been out of touch intentionally–I can’t imagine that reading about someone who lives in the middle of nowhere waking up and studying everyday can be that interesting.  So instead, I think I’ll discuss the non-studying outliers.

Yesterday was my annual eye appointment check-up.  This was the first follow-up appointment since my big eye crisis last year where I was afraid that I was going blind/had a brain tumor.  I went to the office with the intention of getting contacts fitted and mentioned nothing to the flippant eye assistant who was updating my history about last year’s traumatic events.  I mean, after all, it should all be there in my chart anyway, I haven’t had any follow-up symptoms, and technically she asked me if I’d had any previous conditions and at that point I still didn’t know what the technical term was for what happened to me.  Eye-numbing drops, dilation drops, and subsequent ennui associated with waiting for my eyes to dilate were all routine.  Eye exam went fine until we got to the part where my ophthalmologist was in the room and went to do the advanced ophthalmoscopic exam; he spent 2 or 3 minutes shining an extremely bright light into both of my eyes then said that it looked like there was something “floating around” in my left eye (the bad one) and that he’d have to “give the drops more time to work” (i.e. more dilation).  Crap.

Half an eternity or 20 minutes later, he came back with a brighter light and after about 5 minutes of looking around, told me that I still had drusen in my left eye.  Oh, so that’s what it was.   Drusen.  We’ve talked about this in class before–now what was it concerning?  Also he mentioned that where the optic nerve enters the eye, that the vessels were still enlarged.  Papilledema?  But just on the left side.  He seemed puzzled but not panicked at all.  I calmed down.  But then he kept talking.  He also said that I needed to make sure that I kept coming back every year for check-ups, that he’d noticed a spot on my left lens.  He said it was below my field of vision, but then proceeded to show me my chart where he had marked the site on a diagram of an eye and scrawled PSCC below it. Wait a minute.  What involves a C and spots on the lens? “…cataract?”  I asked, before he could explain what PSCC completely stood for.  “Yes, how did you know that?” He responded incredulously.  At this point, I sort of tuned out.  I heard “…not anything to worry about right now…can be fast growing…” and then found myself alone in the room again, waiting on another assistant to come in and fit me with my first pair of contacts.

Before I could pull up wikipedia on my phone, I was staring at the ceiling with nervous anticipation as a freshly-washed, yet ungloved finger ::shiver:: with a small bluish disc on the tip came closer and closer to the periphery of my vision.  All I could think about was the scene from the Star Trek TNG series of movies where Picard is transformed into Locutus and has an implant drilled into his eye.  ::Grips the arm rests tightly and tries not to blink::  Contacts weren’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined them to be.  They don’t feel like there’s a disc of gel-like plastic stuck to the front of your eye, but more like you’ve got some peripheral non-compliant eyelash intruding into the white of your eye.   Before wikipedia would load on my phone so that I could get back to my previous crisis, my doc was back to check my vision with the contacts in.  20/20.  Asked me in passing if I’d been on any steroids lately, “you know, for infections and stuff.”  Stuff?  What, like pseudotumor cerebri?  “No.” I said.  “Oh.” He looked slightly crestfallen.  He asked me how the contacts felt and I admitted with honesty that I couldn’t even tell they were there.  He giggled somewhat sadistically and remarked that the anesthetic solution must still be having an effect.  And with that I was lead off to the contact room.

Much like last year’s experiences during my emergency visit to the local eye facility, I was getting to see a new room in the maze of exam rooms and rooms with sophisticated instruments and a line of 2 or 3 old people waiting outside.  This time, it was a high-traffic room.  I walked in to a room that resembled Olivander’s shop in Harry Potter–with the walls stacked with small boxes.  There were two desks with mirrors and sinks, and a chatty lady in dark blue scrubs on the other side of the desks who was rattling off numbers to a man dressed in business casual, yet not formal enough to be one of the aging doctors in snappy suits and bowties.  Hmm, must be a sales rep.  This must be the contact lady.  She greeted me warmly, but with the professionalism that’s come from the routine of breaking in hundreds of newbies with their first pair of lenses.  I smiled nervously.  She pushed a mirror towards me along with a few sheets of paper towels, a box of saline, and a couple of empty lens cases.  Then it was like someone pressed play on the VCR.  She held up and demonstrated both cases and the differences between the two; described the importance of sterile saline and the brand preference of the establishment; gave a brief lecture about the importance of removing contacts nightly as prescribed and the gruesome consequences if these directives were not followed; explained the process of starting out wearing them just 4 hours daily, then 5, 6, and so on; then just like a flight attendant, began demonstrating on her own face, the awkward poses necessary to remove one’s contact lenses.  Suddenly, I was yanked out of my trance of head nodding as she said “Ok, now you try.”  Wait, what?  You want me to take these things out?  But we just got them in, they fit so nicely.  Crap.  Like trying to play out a jingle you’ve got stuck in your head, I remembered and repeated the steps she’d acted out and low and behold, 30 seconds later, my contacts were sitting in a case in solution.  Sweet.  Now her video-like demonstration started again, except this time, the poses were even more awkward and involved more steps.  Ugh, you want me to put them back in?  Isn’t this the part they make fun of all the time on tv?  I followed the steps and on the third poke of my left eye, I managed not to blink and looked around just enough to make the contact make contact (heh) on all edges and slide into place.  That wasn’t bad at all.  ::Jinx:: 10 minutes, 8 or so re-washes and seemingly 50 tries later, I lucked out and got the right contact in after much reassurance that I was doing fine, it wasn’t taking long at all and that I would get it any minute, and would most likely be able to do it without a mirror in 2 weeks when I came back for my follow up appointment.  Wait, I have to come back and do this song and dance in front of you again?  With the distinct paranoia that she’d been lying to make me feel better and that I might soon be the subject of exasperated discussion–I’m hard on myself, no?–as soon as I was out of earshot, I went to update my insurance information, pay the “fitting fee,” schedule my 2-week follow-up appointment and be on my way back home.

With a growing, familiar unsettling feeling of camaraderie with the older patients waiting to be tested on the sophisticated machines in the unvisited rooms at the eye doctors’ office, I googled “pscc.”  Too vague.  “Ophthalmology pscc.”  From what I could glean, it is a type of cataract and is fast-growing but is NOT usually seen in young patients.  Great.  The same unfamiliarity with association with my age group was the case with “drusen” although even more unsettling was the association of drusen with “macular degeneration.”  I read on.  There was a subtype of drusen called ODD or optic disc drusen.  Wasn’t it my optic disc the doc was talking about when he brought up the term ‘drusen’? It makes me very nervous to think about what I read concerning that subject.  Here–knock yourselves out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optic_disc_drusen.  In particular, the sections entitled “Epidemiology” and “Prognosis” are daunting.  Hmm.  Good thing I don’t want to be an air force pilot?

The rational part of me reminds my panicking self that I could be barking up completely the wrong tree.  I didn’t clarify with the doc exactly what my conditions were, HE didn’t seem to be overly worried or concerned, plus I have NOTHING as far as risk factors or family history or associated conditions that are mentioned on the ODD page.  Positives: I can see FINE right now, I’m losing weight thereby reducing my risk of developing NIDDM & HTN [and the associated ocular manifestations], and my main objective of visiting the eye doctor for my yearly checkup and leaving with contact lenses was a success.

When I started this blog over 2 years ago while I was still shopping for opportunity in the form of a legitimate Caribbean medical school, I didn’t dare think where I would be in 2 years and what it would feel like.

It feels great.

It’s finally sunk in that basic sciences are over.  Today, the first day of classes for the kids on the island, I am at home still in my pajamas in North Carolina while life on the island goes on without me.  There isn’t a classroom in that big shiny new building that I’m supposed to be in right now; I’m not missing the first few days of class to steal some last precious moments with my family before I miss them for a whole semester.  I’m done.  It’s very liberating.

It sounds cliche, but up until now I really couldn’t convince myself that it was over.  I actually found myself panicking last week because something in my brain was saying “It’s time to go back and you’ve not shopped for ANYTHING!”  I think back to preparing for each of the trips back, how the cynicism grew with each semester and admittedly, there’s a part of me that misses it.

Now down to business.  I have just under 2.5 months to take the USMLE step I.  After allowing myself a week back at home to acclimate and move back in, I’ve cleared out my bedroom/office of everyone else’s stuff that accumulated there while I was gone, unpacked and washed all my clothes and neatly stacked my Kaplan and DIT books on the giant L-shaped desk.  All that’s left to do is dive into those videos I’ve tried so carefully to avoid during Meds 1-5 so that they’ll be new and fresh and exciting.  With Dad retired and at home, I can tell it’s going to be difficult to study; he seems to find all these little chores and errands for me to complete and they seem so much more exciting than watching the animated Kaplan Micro lady or the dry Path guy, but I suppose I’ll have to be rude and draw the line somewhere.

Oh, the other thing I’ve done since I got home is to start trying to eliminate all the bad habits I’ve acquired both on the island and before I got to the island, which were rationalized by not having time or being stressed out because of all of the studying that I had to do.  These include eating horrible, quick & easy-to-prepare foods with little nutritive value; biting my nails; working out sporadically, when it’s convenient; and hoarding clothes that are YEARS old either because I think that I will wear them one day, or because I feel obligated to keep them because they fill a space in my closet that seems like it needs volume.  I’ve also come to the conclusion in going through my clothes, that I hate dark brown and when I wear it I feel like a giant piece of poop, thus I have removed all articles of this color from my wardrobe.  Small admissions of truth=victories.

The other big thing is that I’m back on the horse, trying to lose weight.  I did really, really well during Med 3 and 4, then kind of slacked off during Med 5, but managed to not gain all that weight back that was lost so quickly.  Now that I have access to lean protein and fresh veggies so readily available, between eating Whole30 meals and going to the gym daily for an hour of cardio, I’ve managed to lose about 12 pounds since I got home, bringing my grand total so far to just under 50 lbs.  I’m pleased, but I still have SO FAR TO GO that I am going to keep my head down and keep avoiding those carbs until I can get another 50 under my belt.

*In reviewing my immunization records, I have discovered that I’m a mere 15 lbs away from my weight before I went to NCSSM, so that’ll be the next victory.  Eep.

Tomorrow morning I fly out to Miami and then to St. Kitts.  On the one hand, I’ll miss the modern conveniences of home as well as the people, but on the other hand, I’m ready to get back to my friends and the island to finish up basic sciences.

Happy New Year, everyone.  2011 has been an interesting year but I’m ready for 2012.