Sunday, October 16, 2022

Plastic Surgery Year Two: First Quarter Update

In my element :)

Can you believe it's already October?!?! I feel like this year has flown by so fast! It's been 4 months since my last update which was right at the start of my final month of intern year. After going through two separate intern years, it feels good to finally have PGY2 status and never have to go through that again! Right now, I am currently in the fourth month of my second year as a plastic surgery resident physician, which means it's time to update everyone on the past few months.

A fun weekend of plastic surgery education in San Francisco

June: When I last left off, I was just starting my final month of intern year. This was a fun month on the plastic surgery service! I had the chance to do a lot of procedures both in the office and the operating room, and got to spend the month working directly with my program director. I even had the opportunity to fly to San Francisco at the beginning of the month to attend an Allergan KEYS conference where I learned all about a variety of topics such as breast reconstruction, cool sculpting, Botox, and fillers. There was even a hands-on injectables session where I had the chance to perfect my technique using silicone model heads.

My super awesome plastic surgery attendings

July: I started off my second year on a combined Burn/Trauma plastic surgery service at an outside hospital, and it was busy! Between Fourth of July firework celebrations and people having a whole lot of free time to do silly things, every day was a new experience. I experienced a lot of professional growth, and it was a good start for what has been a busy second year. 

Dr. Velma Scantlebury: Super Doc and best mentor ever!

August: August was another surgical critical care month, but thankfully the last time I would have to spend a month in the ICU. This time around wasn't as bad as January (maybe because I was a bit more comfortable?), but I was still ready for it to be over. One on hand it's a blessing to be able to take care of the some of the sickest patients in the hospital, but doing it every day can get to you. The true highlight of the month was getting to see my mentor Dr. Scantlebury! She was in town for a short time speaking at a conference and it was amazing how our schedules magically aligned to meet up and catch up. I don't have to tell you how much I appreciate this woman...my old blog posts do that for me :)


September: 
For my third month, I was back on the general surgery service, but in my home hospital, so it wasn't bad. We get a lot of hands on operative time in my program, so I enjoyed being in the operating room daily. The patient census also wasn't too bad, so the month was smooth sailing. I will say that my favorite part of September was finally getting in a vacation! My last vacation was back in February as a belated birthday celebration, so I was ready to have some fun. My little sister blessed me with a gift of a FREE Virgin Voyages cruise, and it was amazing! I had never been on a cruise, so I was a little apprehensive at first (especially given it was the height of hurricane season), but I am so glad I went. I ate a ton of food, had some great drinks, and even visited Cozumel, Mexico and Bimini, Bahamas. It was a much needed reset button and I've included a quick Instagram video recap above. 

Random early morning selfie

October: This month I am on the acute care general surgery service but back to rotating at a hospital a little over an hour outside of Miami. The service isn't too bad, and I'm getting a ton of OR time, but I miss being able to go home and sleep in my own bed. The hospital has also switched from 24 hour call to a night float system which means I am alternating between days and nights this month which messes up my system. Right now, it's 4am, I'm at home (yay!), and I'm typing this post as a way to stay awake since I switch to nights tomorrow/today after being on days all month. If you've been following my blog since my original intern year in Philadelphia, then you already know how much I absolutely love post call days. These no longer exist with the night float system, but it is nice being a little more refreshed at night and not having that drunk feeling that occurs after being awake for 20+ hours.

My phenomenal daughter!

Mommy Life: I'm always getting asked about my daughter (and she loves seeing herself on my blog lol), so I'll update on her too :) I officially have a 10th grader! My daughter is still heavily involved in color guard and pretty much every weekend she's away at some competition, but she is doing amazing and absolutely killing it! This semester she's taking a health core science class, and seeing her in her little white coat and scrubs made my heart melt! It's so interesting seeing how excited she gets showing me how to put on sterile gloves or going over different body parts. She's still undecided on what path she'll take in life, and I honestly wouldn't push medicine on her given all the struggles and sacrifices that come with it, but I fully support any route she chooses. She also has a learner's permit and has been practicing her driving too. Next month she'll be turning 16 and has been bugging me for a car, but doesn't seem to understand that it won't be possible since I'm back to being a broke resident. Oh well, hopefully she'll at least find my uninterrupted presence meaningful. Other than that, she surprisingly continues to be a super sweet and responsible teenager, and I'm thankful for that :)

A future Dr. Ward?

Welp, it's now after 5am and I think that about sums everything up. As I'm reflecting back on the past few months, I'm realizing this post misses so much and I really need to do a better job of updating everyone on here a bit more frequently. I can't promise I'll post again next month, but I will definitely post again before the end of the year. Right now, I'm going to go watch a movie, sleep, and then get ready for my night shift. As always, I thank you for reading!



Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Plastic Surgery Intern Year: Catching up on 6 months of Updates

1 month away from being a 2nd year Plastic Surgery Resident!

Can you believe that today is the first day of my LAST month of intern year?!?! This year has flown by incredibly fast! I have been severely slacking with update posts, and so much has happened since my last full update six months ago. My intent this year was to at least update everyone at the end of every month, but work and life distracted me from my favorite hobby of writing. I'll try my best to catch everyone up with this post, and for the sake of time, I'll try to keep it relatively brief since I know I can get a bit wordy.


I love my Plastic Surgery residency family!

During my last official update, I had just finished my Mohs and Surgical Dermatology month in November and was headed into Emergency Medicine for December. I'm not going to lie, after two years of working in the urgent care setting, being in the ER was super chill for me. I enjoyed the shift work, the variety of cases, and being able to have time for a little fun. The past few months have been a bit of a blur, but in December, my highlights were participating in a craniomaxillofacial cadaver lab with my residency program, and I remember the wonderful feeling of going to the beach in the middle of December, enjoying the 80 degree weather, and just loving life.


Celebrating my birthday with my favorite lady docs :)

January sucked! My rotation for the month was ICU and it was also during the time when COVID cases were crazy. I don't have anything good to say about the month other than my birthday was on the last day of the rotation, so after I finished that day I happily went out to celebrate both being finished with ICU and making it to see another year of life with some of my favorite lady docs :)

16-course menu at Joel Robuchon Bucket List item complete!

February was a bit more relaxed and I was back in the operating room for my Neurosurgery rotation. It was my first time having to operate under a microscope, and I struggled a bit trying to suture under it. I have a horrible habit of hunching over and getting close to suture, so that month I was forced to stand up straight and work on proper technique. The cases were pretty cool and it was something I wasn't exposed to much previously, so I learned a lot. I also went on a late birthday celebration vacation trip to Las Vegas toward the end of February, and it was epic! I stayed in an incredible suite at the MGM Grand Skylofts at ridiculously cheap price (yay for off season birthdays and pandemic prices!), and I checked a major item off my bucket list: the 16-course menu degustation at Joel Robuchon restaurant. It was a much needed break and reprieve from the trauma of the previous month.


Survived my first Plastic Surgery In-Service Exam


March was a bit busier, but it wasn't too bad. I took my Plastic Surgery In-Service exam during the first week of the month and I was happy to get it over with. There's definitely room for improvement, but at least now I know what to expect and how to strategize my studying. My rotation for the month was Trauma/General Surgery. It kept me busy, but I really enjoyed the hospital I was rotating at, and the attendings let me do a lot in the operating room. My favorite moment was probably when we had a laparoscopic appendectomy (appendix removal using small incisions and a camera) and the attending stood patiently waiting for a while as I tried to find the appendix. It was a highlight because it was probably my first time having laparoscopic tools in both hands and taking charge. I gave up after a while and it turned out to be a difficult case (the appendix was retrocecal, severely inflamed, and there was pus everywhere), but I appreciated the fact that I was given the chance to try on my own. It's the little things that make me happy.


SNMA AMEC 2022


My rotation for April was Anesthesia. I had never rotated in it when I was a medical student, so it was kind of cool being behind the curtain. I definitely was not used to being able to sit in the operating room and I never really realized how cold it is when you're not scrubbed in. The best part of the month was being able to scrub into plastic surgery cases after I helped with sedating and intubating the patient. April was my first time being able to operate with my program director and alongside some of my co-interns since we're usually spread out at different locations and rotations, so I really enjoyed the month. Oh, and I almost forgot: I got to attend the Annual Medical Education Conference for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) in Orlando, FL in April where I held a workshop for premedical students, served as MC for the President's Luncheon where I addressed some of the 3000+ attendees, and reunited with some of my faves. 


#BlackGirlMagic in the Operating Room

Last month (May), I was back on General Surgery and at my main hospital. The attendings let me do more and more each day, and I've found that I'm starting to get comfortable with operating and trying new things. The only thing that I was so-so about last month was being on home call. One part of me loves being able to relax at home, shower, and sleep in my own bed during my call shifts, but the other part of me did not like all the gas I used having to drive back and forth between the two hospitals I was covering for consults, or the fact that home call means no post call days. Call is call though, and it's a necessary evil that no resident can get away from. My favorite part of the month was the #BlackGirlMagic moment pictured above. My hospital currently only has three black surgical residents (myself, my orthopedic surgery buddy, and the general surgery resident pictured with me above), so you already know I have to capture the rare and magical moments when we get to operate together :)



As for June, I started Plastic Surgery today! I am so happy to be spending the month in my specialty and I look forward to all the exciting things I'll learn this month. It will be a healthy mix of clinic days with operating days, and a good transition into my second year of residency. 


So proud of my daughter!

Whew! I think that's a solid catch up on all the months I missed updating everyone on. I don't have much else going on that's not work related outside of my daughter and she's doing well. As a matter of fact, I just posted about her the other day on my social media accounts because I was having a proud mommy moment. She just finished the school year and is now a 10th grader, has been working on her driving skills, staying involved with band and color guard, and is just an all-around awesome individual. It's crazy how when I started this blog in 2013, she was a tiny little elementary aged kid and now she's only a couple of years away from graduating high school and heading to college. Time flies!


Literally living my prayers and dreams!


I think that's all I have in terms of updates. To be honest, even though this year has been busy and not every moment is a happy one (it's residency, so not every day is as upbeat as my blog appears...I just choose to focus on the positives), every day I wake up incredibly blessed to be living my dreams. It wasn't too long ago when I was praying just for the chance to be where I am now. There have been many twists and turns along the way, but I love this journey I'm on and wouldn't change it for the world. Thank you to all those who continue to follow along on my journey and I appreciate those of you who stuck around from the very beginning of this blog when people doubted I would even make it through medical school. I've done and I am doing every thing I said I would do, and life really doesn't get much better than that. I am living proof that God's plan is the perfect plan, and I not only look forward to what my future has in store, but I hope my journey continues to uplift and inspire anyone reading this to pursue your own dreams. 



Monday, March 14, 2022

A Post for the Unmatched (Match Day 2022)

From unmatched to matched! 

I’ve been slacking on posts this year, mainly due to busy rotations and studying for my most recent in-service exam, but today I felt compelled to write. For those who aren’t aware, today is Match Day where thousands of 4th year medical students and graduates find out if they have secured a residency position. For many, this is a joyous day filled with celebrations and sighs of relief, but for the unmatched, this can be one of the most depressing experiences of an entire medical school career.

Most of you reading this already know that I was previously one of those students who failed to match, but if you weren’t aware, I’ll post links to my original Match Day experiences at the end of this blog post. My story isn’t one of not matching one year and then going on to match the following year. I actually failed to match twice! I still vividly remember how gut-wrenching it felt opening a “You Did Not Match” email as I was sitting at a stoplight on the way to my rotation as a fourth-year medical student, and how hard it was to fake positivity during phone interviews that day when all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and cry. The second time I didn’t match, I was in the middle of my original intern year on a busy surgery service. I was fortunate to know in advance I would not be matching, but having to manage patients and scrub into cases in between going through the process of applying to unfilled programs didn’t make things any better.

In the end, everything worked out perfectly in my favor, and I was shown that God’s timing is always perfect. After not matching the first time around, I was blessed with a position for a General Surgery based Traditional Rotating Internship. It was a grueling year, but I definitely came out stronger and it opened so many doors for me. After I didn’t match the second time, I had the benefit of having passed all my medical board exams and I was almost done with twelve months of post-graduate training which allowed me to obtain a medical license and start working. My two years spent working as an urgent care physician allowed me to become comfortable managing acute issues on my own, gave me the freedom to enjoy life on my own terms, and provided the financial means to apply to as many surgery programs as possible during my third application cycle.

Tomorrow marks exactly one year from when I found out I matched into Plastic Surgery. It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life, but to be honest, the whole match process still gives me a little PTSD. I remember the weeks leading up to receiving the “Congratulations, You Have Matched!” email and how incredibly stressed out and defeated I felt. I honestly didn’t even want to open the email when it came because I was sure it would be another year of disappointment, and I only did so because I wanted to be ready for the process of applying to unfilled positions.

For those who may not have matched today, I’m just going to keep it real with you. Not matching sucks, and unless someone has been in your shoes, they probably won’t understand your pain. You’ve busted your ass working towards your goal, have most likely spent an insane amount of money applying to residency programs, and sacrificed so much in the process. It’s also probably hard to envision your future right now. Trust me, I’ve been there. But please know that this is not the end of the road for you. This is just a minor setback for a major comeback. Take the time to grieve and experience your feelings, and afterwards, get ready to get back in the fight. It isn’t over yet. There is still time this week to secure one of the unfilled residency positions via the process known as SOAP. There may also be positions that open up until July, and if you’re someone who is going unmatched after completing a preliminary year, keep in mind there may be a chance to jump into an unfilled PGY2 position. As I’ve said before, delay does not equal denial, and chances are you will either get to where you want to be eventually or find something even better that you probably never could have imagined. Let my story inspire you to know that anything is possible.

My DMs are open and I’m rooting for you.

 

My Previous Match Day experiences:

2018 - Not matching as a 4th year medical student

2019 Part One: Not Matching for the 2nd time (Part one)

2019 Part Two: Not matching a 2nd time (Part Two)

2021 - I finally matched!



Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Blessings on Blessings on Blessings!

Spending NYE 2021 living my dreams! 

It's New Year's Eve, I'm currently in the Emergency Room working my final night shift for the month, and you know what? I am overjoyed beyond words!

2021 was a true reflection of what staying prayed up, being patient, keeping the faith, and trusting in God's plan will bring. At this time last year, I was praying to be in my current position. Being a plastic surgeon was something that I have always imagined, but I honestly never thought at this point last year I would be a Plastic Surgery resident physician (in Miami of all places!) and on the way to achieving my dreams just 12 months later. 

If I had to come up with a theme for 2021, it would be: Trust God. Those of you who have been following along with me over the years, know that despite all the obstacles faced, I've always kept the faith that I would one day achieve my dreams. At let's be real, to have this faith when it felt like everyone around me was starting to doubt me was hard! God truly showed out this year in more ways than I could explain in this post. I am beyond thankful, and I hope to continue the grind and achieve great things in the years to come. If this year only showed me one thing, it's that my dreams are valid and I am capable of accomplishing any and all that I put my mind too. I just feel so incredibly blessed and happy.

Now for some of my highlights over the year :) I wrote this portion out on my social media accounts, but going to repost here because if it's not on the blog, did it really happen? LOL

Pursued my passion of surgery

- FINALLY matched into Plastic Surgery (my dream specialty!) after years of unsuccessful cycles

- Completed my last day of work as a full-time Urgent Care physician⁣

- I was featured in Forbes alongside other phenomenal women in medicine ⁣

- Produced my 1st first-author publication (my book doesn't count in the academic world lol)⁣


Enjoyed speaking and mentoring across the world


- Had multiple speaking engagements that allowed me to continue my passion of mentoring and inspiring⁣


I am truly blessed to be her mother

- Continued to have the blessing of being the mother of an absolutely AMAZING teenager.


Work hard, play harder

- I had fun! In 2021, I wasn't afraid to pursue what made me happy and say no to the things that didn't. I took risks, explored, spent time with old friends while making new friends, and enjoyed time with family and the people I love.⁣

- Took an unforgettable solo birthday trip to St. Lucia which included a beautiful suite with views you only see in the movies 🤩⁣

- Treated my daughter to a day at Universal Studios VIP style where we skipped to the front of literally every single line and got to see some behind-the-scenes action⁣

- Attended my first Annual Plastic Surgery meeting, learned a lot, and had a blast!

⁣- Partnered with multiple companies and shared awesome products with everyone that I also got to enjoy :) ⁣



- Made sure to spend time with friends and family. Life is short, and being a physician in 2021 was a daily reminder of this. 

That pretty much sums up 2021 for me. While I know that not everyone had a joyous year, just the fact that you are alive and reading this is a blessing in itself. Take the time to reflect on all the positive things you have to be thankful for. I hope you are able to end the year with all the happiness these reflections may bring. Also, to those of you who have read my blog over the past year and beyond, thank you for continuing to follow along on my journey. It means so much to me that people value my story and continue to gain from it. I look forward to bringing you more in 2022, and I hope you all will stick around.

Wishing everyone a wonderful New Year ahead filled with love, blessings, and joy 🎉⁣



Friday, December 17, 2021

It's My Eight-Year Blogiversary!

Celebrating 8 years of the "Aspiring Minority Doctor" blog

Today marks eight years since I typed and published my very first blog post. At the time, I was a premedical student who had just received my one and only acceptance to medical school the month prior. Although I was ecstatic about my acceptance, I remember searching the internet for people with a similar background and being so discouraged. There were many posts in premedical/medical forum websites written by anonymous individuals who stated that people like myself (single mother, low GPA/MCAT, osteopathic medical school matriculant, etc) could never make it through medical school, pass medical board licensing exams, or match into a competitive specialty like plastic surgery. I knew there had to be individuals out there who had made it through despite all the odds, but my internet search proved extremely futile. With that being said, I decided to start a blog to document my journey and prove to people that I would achieve my dreams and more. I started this blog off anonymously, but then I realized it was important to share my true self and aim to inspire those on a similar path. Who would've thought that 8 years later I would be sitting here typing this not only having accomplished my original goal of being an inspiration, BUT also as a medical school graduate and current plastic surgery resident?!?!

If you've followed my blog from the start, I truly appreciate you and thank you for sharing in this journey with me. It definitely hasn't been an easy road, but I've enjoyed sharing my successes and even the failures with you all. It was this blog and the encouraging comments/emails from readers that kept me sane and motivated when I adjusted to life as a medical student, went through the failure of not matching (twice!), experienced a grueling general surgery intern year, started a two-year detour as an urgent care physician, and even now as I navigate making it through residency. You all have watched my daughter grow from being a happy 7-year-old child to a super smart and sweet 15-year-old teenager. I've even enjoyed sharing all my fun moments with you all because I'm all about the work-life balance :)

I started this blog to inspire and share my story, but I have gained so much from it. This blog has connected me with people around the world with similar stories, served as a personal therapeutic outlet, and the demand for all my premedical/inspirational posts in one place allowed me to write and publish my very first book, Atypical Premed. You all helped me become an author!

I know a lot of people wonder why I continue to name the blog "Aspiring Minority Doctor" seeing as I've accomplished my goal of becoming a physician, but it's quite simple: I'll always be a minority, always a doctor, and always aspiring to achieve great things. I don't know if I'll still be blogging eight years from now, but my goal is to at least maintain this blog until I finish residency. After that I'll likely keep the domain for my own reflections, although a lot of the premedical and medical school advice will likely be outdated by then. 

Anyway, the whole point of this post was to say THANK YOU for reading! It truly means a lot to me that people actually care to read my story, and the fact that some of you have been reading for eight years warms my heart. I hope I can continue to keep you all engaged, inspired, and confident to continue on your own paths to greatness. I look forward to sharing more of my journey, but if you have a favorite post that helped or inspired you in any way, please share it with me in the comments below. It would really make my day :)


SN: the mug in the above picture was made by my mother and it's one of my favorites! On the back it has my favorite bible verse (Philippians 4:6-7) and underneath states "Living my dreams, one patient at at time!"



 

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