Sunday, December 10, 2017

When Dreams Start to Become a Reality

Surgery with Dr. Velma Scantlebury, the first balck female transplant surgeon in the US

In my previous post, I promised I would do a quick recap of my experiences in Delaware last month. This was an exciting month not only because I was finishing up the last of my general surgery audition/away rotations, but because I was blessed with the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals while having awe-inspiring experiences. If you follow me on my Instagram or other social media accounts, then you already know my most memorable experience was being able to assist Dr. Velma Scantlebury, the first black female transplant surgeon in the United States, with surgery! I’ve had so many great moments during my time as a medical student, but this has probably been my favorite thus far. It was definitely something that I will never forget, and it really gave meaning to all the long nights spent studying, the constant sacrifices, and the many times I began to doubt if I was even on the right path. It was just what I needed to further drive my passion to become a surgeon, and I will forever be grateful that I even had the chance to experience this.

Blessed to called her both a friend and mentor

Speaking of great individuals, it’s one thing to have role models in life who you aspire to be like, but to actually meet them and have them be even more fantastic in person is simply amazing! Not only did Dr. Scantlebury open her home to me for the entire month I was in Delaware, but she always made herself available to answer my millions of questions and she gave the best advice. It was so cool being able to hang out with her and I am so blessed to have her in my life as both a phenomenal friend and mentor. I also got the chance to finally meet some of my other mentors while I was in Delaware, and it was so nice to have a support system while I was busy making it through the surgery grind. The hours were rough (especially during the first two weeks I spent in the SICU), and it was stressful at times, but receiving texts and visits throughout the day from some of my mentors made me feel super loved :-)

Some the the University of Delaware SNMA MAPS members

Another highlight of my month in Delaware was getting to interact with some of my SNMA family. I had the pleasure of attending a diversity event where I met some awesome pre-medical students from the University of Delaware who also happen to be the Student National Medical Association’s Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) chapter members. It was a pleasure being able to get their insights and discuss medical school and the admissions process with them. A huge portion of my agenda this year as SNMA National President focuses on inspiring our youth and encouraging students to pursue medical school, so it is good knowing that my efforts are not going unnoticed. Speaking of which, the next SNMA National Leadership Institute will be held in New Orleans, LA January 26-28, 2018, so if you’re a pre-medical student interested in workshops designed to provide you with the knowledge to successfully get into medical school, or a medical student interested in building your leadership skills, click HERE to apply today! I look forward to meeting you and seeing some old faces.
I think this pretty much covers everything I wanted to say about last month. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think back on how much of a struggle it was to just get into medical school to now where I am getting opportunities to perform surgeries with legends. It is a true reminder of how far I have come, and it reminds me to not forget to bring people up with me along the way. I will continue to share these moments with you all because I want everyone to know that no dream is impossible, and that everything works out and happens at the right time. Just keep pushing, stay determined, and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren't capable of achieving your goals. Anyway, I’m beginning to rant, so I’ll end here. I hope everyone reading this has a great week!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Getting Closer to the Finish Line

All smiles at pursuing my dreams :-)

I’m Baaaaaccckkkk!!!! There are no words to express how busy, stressful, and hectic the past few months have been, but I continue to enjoy every moment and chance I spend continuing to strive for my dreams. I’ve prayed for a long time just to have a chance at the opportunity to start the path towards medicine, and now that I’m here I’m going to embrace every second of it. In a little over five months, I will be Dr. Ward, and that alone is a reason to smile.

A pic that sums up the last several months of my life perfectly

I’m not going to lie and say it has been all rainbows and sunshine over the past few months, because at times it has been far from it. I recently completed the last of my general surgery audition/away rotations, and while it was an amazing experience traveling to different states and experiencing different residency programs, I am so happy to be finished. Having to be on 24/7 while people constantly judge your skills, knowledge, and actions is beyond stressful. Plus, being around other exceptional students who are always on top of their game is enough to foster feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. If I learned only one thing the past few months, it is that I don’t know much of anything. Nevertheless, I have utilized these experiences as learning opportunities, and I feel I have grown tremendously in both my skill set and knowledge base. Plus, I am not afraid to put in the work and do whatever I need to do to make sure I learn everything I need to care for my patients.

Missing my little love

Another thing that no one tells you about fourth year is that it can get pretty lonely. I have spent the past few months in some places where I knew absolutely no one. Not really a problem since 90% of my time was spent in the hospital, but I definitely enjoyed the times when I was able to run into classmates and hang out for a little bit. Plus, I had to be away from my daughter only seeing her in person maybe three times since July, and this was soooo weird for me! I went from seeing her every day and only being apart for maybe a month each year during the summer when she went to spend time with my parents, to only being able to interact with her through video chat. I think it was more of an adjustment for me than her, since she is used to me being busy anyway, but it was definitely bittersweet to see how happy she was that I wasn’t around. Bitter because she really didn’t miss me that much, but sweet because she was constantly surrounded by people who spoiled and made her feel loved. It’s a blessing to have a child who is not only supportive of my dreams, but who doesn’t get upset in my absence and continues to be happy and do well. I literally have no reason to complain, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience mommy guilt from time to time. I will say that the major highlight of the past few months was taking a weekend off to fly and surprise my daughter for her birthday last month. It was such a feel good moment, and I was happy to have my sister there to capture it on video which you can see below:

Now that I am finished with audition rotations, the only things left to do are have a successful interview season, match into a great residency program (prayers requested!), finish out rotations, and graduate! The coming months will be both exciting and somewhat scary, but I look forward to the ride :-)

Since I didn’t have time to detail my experiences in Delaware, my next post will be a recap of my month there since I was blessed with some pretty phenomenal experiences that deserve a separate post. I have a bit more free time now, so I will make sure to type it up in the coming days. Until then, I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful week!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Greetings From Ohio!

General Surgery Essentials

It has been entirely too long since my last post, so time for another update! After my general surgery audition rotation in Philadelphia, I landed right back in Georgia for a required 4 week rural family medicine rotation. I had a lot of autonomy, nice hours, an awesome preceptor, and plenty of relaxation time, so I was really happy. Plus, I really enjoyed my time back home, and I was able to spend time with my daughter who I hadn't seen in two months. We both enjoyed much needed mommy/daughter bonding time, and it made me really happy that she is still doing okay despite me being away so much for 4th year auditions.

Selfie with the Georgia Family Medicine crew

After a pretty chill month, it was time to get back into the operating room, so I hit the road to Ohio where I am at now for general surgery audition #3. Today marks the start of week three, and so far I am enjoying my experience. As with any surgery program, the hours are long, but here, there are a huge variety of surgical cases every day, the residents and attending physicians are all super nice, and I enjoy working alongside the other auditioning medical students. Plus, over the past few months I have become super comfortable with suturing, hand tying, and patient management, so everything is a lot less overwhelming now.

Snagging in a little extra study time in between surgery cases

In addition to being on the surgery grind, I also had to fly to Philadelphia last weekend for the Student National Medical Association's (SNMA) National Leadership Institute hosted by the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. As National President of the SNMA, I was responsible for securing the location, finding speakers, putting together all programming, and making sure the weekend ran smoothly. To say I was stressed would be an understatement! Thankfully, I had the help of amazing individuals who helped me with everything from planning these past few months to handling minor things during the event so I could tend to meetings and such last weekend. Team work truly does make the dream work, and I continue to be reminded every day that I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything without the support and help from the fantastic people who surround me. I am super blessed, indeed!

Thank you to everyone who attended the SNMA September 2017 NLI!

Lastly, in terms of general 4th year updates, I have submitted all my residency applications, and now I'm just praying for a decent number of interviews. This waiting game is sooo stressful! The good news is I have one more general surgery rotation after this one, and then I'll be able to head back to Georgia and breathe again.

I think that covers everything for now. The next time you hear from me, I should be in Delaware finishing up the last rotation of my fourth year general surgery grind. I hope everyone reading this is doing well, and I look forward to updating everyone again soon!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Greetings from Philadelphia!

Happy Tuesday and greetings from Philadelphia! Yesterday I started the third week of my 2nd general surgery audition rotation, and things are going pretty well. This month has been a lot less intense than last month, but I am still learning a lot, and I even have time to explore every now and then. Plus, it's been a pretty fun and interesting experience living the "city life".

Representing SNMA at the NMA annual convention

After leaving Oklahoma, I made the crazy long drive to Pennsylvania where I attended the 115th annual convention of the National Medical Association, and gave the "State of the SNMA" address. It was nice being able to network with physicians while representing my organization, and it's always a great time when I'm around my SNMA family.

Practice makes perfect!

My surgery rotation this month has been productive, but definitely different. I enjoy being able to see different team dynamics, and how the residents, attendings, and staff interact with each other. Plus, it's always fun exploring a new hospital system (which I'm pretty used to by now since my third year rotations had me at a new location every month). The only drawback with being at a smaller hospital with a smaller caseload is I don't get as much hands on time with cases this month, so I make use of my free time at home by practicing my suturing and hand tying skills with pigs' feet. I also take the time to read more on my weaknesses in medicine, since surgery requires knowing how to take care of and manage patients before, during, and after they are on the table.

Can't believe she's in the 5th grade!

Outside of rotations, I'm missing my little love! She started her first day of 5th grade last week WITHOUT me, and it was so weird! I've never missed a first day, and it kinda made me sad. Plus, it's been almost two months since we last saw each other, and although we video chat every day, it's just not the same for me. She's perfectly happy and fine though, which makes it even worse! She could at least pretend to miss me, lol. I'll be okay though, and after this I'll have a one month break from auditioning, so I'll be happy to see her and spend time with her again.

My favorite part of this rotation? FOOD!

But other than that, I'm just enjoying my time learning, getting to experience new locations, and meeting new people. Philadelphia has its share of headaches with finding parking, but having awesome food on every corner more than makes up for it. Plus, any day I get to spend pursuing my dreams of becoming a surgeon or being in the operating room is a great one :-) Until next time!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

General Surgery Audition Season in Full Effect!

First day of general surgery audition selfie :-)

The grind doesn't stop, and I am currently in Oklahoma for the month on my first general surgery audition rotation. In case you're not familiar with this, auditions are where medical students go to residency programs they are interested in and "act" as a resident for four weeks. It helps give the programs an idea of who you are as an individual, how you work with and get along with the current residents, and it allows you to not only shine, but get a feel of a program to see if it is worth applying to. In the MD world, these are known as away rotations, but they don't tend to carry a lot of weight. In the DO world, auditions are a big deal (well, at least when it comes to surgery anyway). Some programs will not even grant interviews to students unless they have auditioned at their program, so I would say it's super important. I will pretty much be in a different state every month until December, and super busy, but I will try my best to keep everyone updated.

So far, I am really enjoying my experience. I started last Monday and it has literally been non-stop since orientation. I was so glad that I brought my gym shoes with me the first day because right after orientation I was throwing on scrubs and getting straight to work! I've only been here a week and a half, but have scrubbed in on everything from debridements to below knee amputations to laparascopic cholecystectomies and hernia repairs. This morning I even got to scrub in on a few plastic surgery cases :-) There is something new and exciting every day and I absolutely love it!

My typical day starts around 430am, and I get to the hospital around 5am to round on my patients, type my progress notes, and then meet up with the resident I am assigned to. From there we might round again, and then we usually head to the OR for the procedures scheduled that day. After surgery, we round again, go see new consults, and if we finish early, I go find other surgeons and ask if they need help with anything or if I can scrub in on their case. On Tuesday mornings before surgery, I attend Grand Rounds, and on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6am, I attend didactics with all the residents and attendings. Thursdays are clinic days. At the program I am at right now, I am the only student auditioning in general surgery this month, so I am definitely taking advantage of this and trying to get in as much face time with the residents and attendings as possible. At around 530pm, if there are no new consults, then I go with the residents to do handoff to the night time residents, and I am pretty much free to go.  My evenings are filled with studying for the next day's cases and reading up on things I might have been questioned about earlier in the day. I also make sure to video chat with my daughter, which is always a great way to end the day. After that, if I don't have any conference calls or anything important to do, I either watch a quick show or read, shower, and then go to bed. This is pretty much how it goes every day, and that includes weekends and holidays. This weekend I have to fly out of town to handle some SNMA business, so I am kind of looking forward to being able to sleep in a for a couple of extra hours on Saturday, but kinda sad I might miss some surgery action.

With that being said, I haven't had much time to explore the area I am in because I literally go to the hospital and then my AirBnB location. Oklahoma is definitely way different from what I imagined, but in a good way, and both the weather and people are pretty great. I also ran into two of my classmates who are here auditioning for other specialties, so it was a pleasant surprise to see some familiar faces.

That's pretty much it on my end. The past month has been spent moving, transitioning, traveling, and dealing with a ton of changes, but luckily I adapt to change pretty well. Right now, my main focus is performing my best on this rotation and learning as much as I possibly can without getting in the way of the residents. I am also in the middle of applying to osteopathic residency programs and will be submitting applications in the next day or so. The next few months will probably be the busiest time of my entire medical school career, so please keep me in your prayers. I'll make sure to update everyone as I go, but if you don't hear from me, you know why. Until next time!

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