Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Still Kicking! An Update

Still here!

I'm back! First, my extreme apologies for the huge lack of posts this year. I tell myself that no one actually reads my blog (which helps me be more open and personal with what I write about), and it doesn't actually matter if I post or not, but clearly that's not the case. My mentee passed along a "formal complaint" today that some of you have felt a bit ghosted by my lack of posts and updates, so I promised I would do a brief update.

A text from a friend today that pretty much sums up the 2021 residency season for me

For those who are wondering, I have not given up on my surgery goals. I have submitted my completed applications, and since the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) officially opened to programs at 9am EST this morning, I am officially back in the residency program waiting game. Unlike prior years, I will share my experience with the entire process on my blog BUT you will have to wait until after Match Day in March 2021 to read about it. I don't want anything written to interfere with my chances, so while I plan to write frequent dated posts throughout the process, I will not actually hit the publish button on them until everything is all said and done. I will continue to post about things outside of this application season, and I am always happy to take requests if there is a topic you'd like me to address. What I can tell you regarding this season is I have only applied to surgery programs, and I continue to remain positive and hopeful that everything will work out the way it should.

Post work glow :)

As for work updates, I am still enjoying my work as an urgent care physician. If it weren't for my love of surgery and the fact that I deeply miss being in the operating room, I would be completely happy with this lifestyle. I work an average of 3-4 days a week, pretty much get to pick my schedule, the attending physician level pay is a plus, and I usually have time monthly to take a quick getaway or have a staycation for a few days. Plus, working in the urgent care setting offers a ton of variety, I still get to perform small surgical procedures in addition to suturing, and I rarely have to type up notes at home.  


Me and my not so little one

For those of you who care about mommy updates, my daughter continues to do well. She is currently attending school in-person, remains an Honor Roll student, and in a little less than 3 weeks, she will be turning 14 years old...Can you believe it?!?! This blog has been around for half of her life! She still remains very supportive of my surgery goals and loves to speak things into existence by telling all friends about her "surgeon mommy" :) My daughter remains the biggest reason why I continue to push forward and I hope to continue to make her as proud as she makes me.

I voted! Have you?

Despite being in a pandemic, my life hasn't changed much, so I don't have too much in the way of updates. I continue to stay pretty busy with work (COVID testing and telemedicine services have added a new layer to what I do), and I'm always keeping myself occupied with new activities. My recent hobby has been testing out new vegan recipe ideas, so I hope those of you who follow me on Instagram haven't been rolling your eyes with all of the food posts in my stories, LOL. I've also been trying to make a better effort at promoting my BOOK since a few people recently were super surprised that I wrote one, so don't be surprised if you see a few shameless plugs in each of my posts. Other than that, the most important thing I will end with is I don't care if it's via absentee ballot, mail-in, early voting (like I did last week), or in-person on Election Day, please do not forget to exercise the right that so many fought for you to have. GO VOTE!!!!


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

I Am Not Okay

I am not okay.

As a black woman, mother, and physician during the era of COVID-19, to say I am tired and overwhelmed at the moment would be an understatement. In just the past two months alone, I (and so many others like myself) have had to navigate the many emotions involved with trying to understand the loss of so many black lives. Black lives lost by being shot by police while peacefully sleeping at home (Breonna Taylor), being shot by civilians while taking a daily morning jog (Ahmaud Arbery), not being able to breathe due to asphyxiation caused by an officer compressing an individual's neck with his knee (George Floyd), and lives lost due to the many racial health disparities that continue to plague this country (the thousands of black individuals who have died as a result of COVID-19).

The only way to truly understand the loss of these lives is to acknowledge the longstanding history of systemic racism within this country, and actively work to change the system. Unfortunately, I do not see this change occurring any time soon. What I see instead, are those who refuse to acknowledge their privilege, but are okay with the status quo, as long as it does not directly affect them. Individuals who are absolutely silent about the murders of black people, but are vocal about the looting and protests. Biased preliminary autopsy reports released to protect murderers and deflect from the victim's primary cause of death. Individuals who try to justify these murders by bringing up something the victim may have down in their earlier years (we all have a past) or by saying that these deaths could have been prevented if the victims simply acted a certain way. I see myself, fearful that I would have the same demise as Sandra Bland, a few weeks ago, when I was not only followed for 15 minutes by a police officer, but then pulled over and questioned about why I was driving in a certain neighborhood (I was going to visit my parents, and doing nothing wrong...hence the lack of finding a reason to give me a ticket). I also see people who don't believe that racism exists simply because they have not experienced it in their small bubble of a world.

I think what gets to me most though is the apathy, indifference, and ignorance displayed by some of my peers/colleagues. Being completely silent about these injustices speaks volumes to me. Focusing solely on the protests and riots while ignoring the root causes behind them tells me exactly where you stand. Saying you're not racist, but being quick to say things like "all lives matter" (which if were true, we wouldn't have to remind you that black lives are included in that too), "these people" (we know who you're referring to), or referring to those who are protesting as "thugs" shows me your thinly veiled racism. And if I'm being completely honest, asking me to explain to you why people are upset, highlights your privilege and shows me your lack of motivation to do the work and find out for yourself.

During this time, I worry that things will only get worse for people of color. That if a surge of COVID-19 cases occurs in the next few weeks (yes, we're still dealing with a pandemic!), Black Lives Matter protesters will be blamed and not the many people who decided to party it up for Memorial Day weekend (and let's not forget those who protested with rifles about being quarantined and having to wear a mask). I also worry that while some are trying to prove they are allies at the moment, in a few weeks they will forget about these events and go back to life as usual.

If you're wondering what emotion I feel the most right now, it is sadness. I am sad that no matter how many degrees, accomplishments, or accolades I have, I will always be judged first by the color of my skin. Sad that I have thoughts of being thankful that I am not raising a son during this time (I would be even more heartbroken), and even sadder for my five brothers and the other men in my family who will always have it worse than I do. I am sad that I have to have these painful conversations with my daughter who will likely grow up to raise a family and experience the same fears that I have now. Sad that I have little faith in a system designed to "protect and serve" and even sadder that I felt compelled to write this post.

So if you really care to know, I am not okay, haven't been (unfortunately events like the ones mentioned above are nothing new), and probably won't be for a long time. I am exhausted from constantly hiding my sadness behind a smile, exhausted from having to be pleasant in order to make others feel more comfortable (or else I get labeled as "aggressive" or an "angry black woman"...but that is a totally different topic), exhausted from dealing with individuals who smile in my face, but make it clear in other ways that I am not wanted, and exhausted, because even through all of the current turmoil, I still have to fulfill my duties as a physician even if that means caring for and saving the lives of those who hate me.

I think I'll leave it at that, but please respect my need to vent during this time. This post was not meant to be informational, but instead it was written as a way to somewhat help me process a very small amount of my inner thoughts. It's just all a bit too much to deal with right now.

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ” - James Baldwin

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I wrote a book! Atypical Premed Available Now!!!!

Click the picture to buy now!

I am excited to announce that I finally wrote and published my first book!

I have teased about writing a book over the past few years, but for various reasons I never finished the process. Well, it's a new decade and a great reason to stop procrastinating, so I finally got it done.

Writing this book was certainly not easy! I not only wrote the book, but completely self published meaning I was responsible for making sure every aspect was complete from finding an editor to book cover design to even creating the ebook and finding a distributor (please don't punish me on the ebook formatting...that was the hardest part!). I have developed a new respect for all authors out there, especially ones who self publish. It was a completely new world for me, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I am happy with the final result.

So what is the book about?  

Atypical Premed: A Non-Traditional student's Guide to Applying to Medical School is filled with advice, tips, and my own personal experiences to both guide and encourage students from all backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a medical career. Whether you are overcoming low GPA and/or MCAT scores, a single parent, changing careers, involved in the military, an older (or even younger) student, or involved in anything else that does not fit the typical view of an entering medical student—if you plan on applying to medical school, this book will have something for you.

In full disclosure, I will also say that the majority of my book comes from previous blog posts that have been edited to reflect my current status as a physician. This means you can still find answers to your most frequently asked questions within my blog since I have always been an advocate for affordable and/or free resources for premedical students. I am also open to feedback and suggestions so that I can create updated editions in the future to reflect the needs of current premedical students.

So surreal having a book with my name on it!

Help Atypical Premed reach #1!

Atypical Premed is available now in both paperback and Kindle ebook versions on Amazon, and can be purchased by clicking HERE. The book will also be available through major book retailers such as Barnes & Noble in the coming weeks (or you can request it directly at your local bookstore to get it faster), and I plan on putting out an audiobook version in the coming months.

For those of you who may already be medical students or physicians, my book would make a great gift for your mentees. For the premedical students, my book is an excellent starting point to helping you on the path to becoming a physician, and it was written by someone who has already went through the process (me!). I would be more than honored if you all would buy my book, take pictures of yourselves with the book, and post using the hashtag #AtypicalPremed. I not only want to hear your stories, but I want my book to reach those who may need it the most. I would also love it if those who buy the book would leave me a 5 star review on Amazon so that others may find it too (note: Amazon gives more weight to verified purchases when leaving reviews).

Win a free signed copy of Atypical Premed!

Giveaway Alert!

If you're tight on money, I have great news! I am offering the ebook version of Atypical Premed free for the next 24hours, and will have a few more free promotion days over the next couple of months. The ebook is also free indefinitely for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. As for the paperback version, I am giving away signed copies of my book to five lucky readers. All you have to do is the following:

- Follow me on Instagram
- "Like" the post on Instagram with the above picture of me holding the book
- Tag two friends in the Instagram post with this picture
- Extra points if you comment under this blog post and tell me what makes you an "Atypical Premed"

*Giveaway ends Monday, January 20, 2020 at 12am EST
*Multiple entries allowed with additional tagged friends
*Winner will be randomly selected and announced in both my Instagram comments and story section in addition to receiving a DM

Thank you so much for inspiring me to reach another goal, and I hope you all enjoy my book!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Featured on CBS46 News Atlanta

My first television appearance!

Happy New Year!!!! Last week I was given the opportunity to discuss the recent flu spike and its impact in Georgia on CBS46 News. 

I honestly had no idea I would be doing a news segment when I went to work that morning, and only had a few minutes to prepare for filming which took place in between seeing patients, but I'm always more than happy to educate my community. 

It was definitely a fun experience, and I look forward to doing more in the future. I am including it on the blog so that I have a fun memory to look back on. Plus, who knows? I may even get a chance to become a featured medical correspondent on national news one day ;) 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Celebrating a Decade of Accomplishments

So much to be thankful and proud of this past decade

I know everyone is currently reflecting over the past year, but can we talk about the past decade?!?! What an incredible ten years it has been! I won't lie and say it has always been happy and full of success, but looking back over the past ten years, I can't help but smile and feel a sense of pride about all that I have been able to accomplish.

Started the decade as a research associate

At the start of 2010, I was a few weeks freshly divorced, a new college graduate, and I had just moved into a new apartment. Since I had to leave my campus and work-study jobs behind after I graduated in December, I remember spending New Year's Day 2010 frantically searching for jobs because I had a child to take care of and I needed money! I was blessed not too long afterwards when I received an interview for a parasitology & immunology research associate position and got the job. This began a very rewarding career in research for four years, and during this time, I helped manage a laboratory, presented research, had my name published in a few papers, and even received a master of science degree in biochemistry. The goal was always to become a physician though, so my career happily ended when I finally received an acceptance and started medical school in 2014.

Became a Student Doctor midway through the decade

This blog started right before I entered medical school, so those of you who have been around from the beginning know what a wild ride it has been! If I have to go back to my first favorite memory of my medical school career, I would have to say it would be the day of my white coat ceremony, but there were so many awesome moments during my time as a medical student. I had the chance to meet and interact with many inspirational and influential people (such as television personalities, former surgeon generals and congressmen), became the first osteopathic medical student to ever serve as national president of the Student National Medical Association, was featured in various newspaper and online articles, and not only got the chance to perform surgery with the first black female transplant surgeon in the United States, but received the amazing blessing of her becoming both my friend and mentor! I ended medical school in 2018 with the Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal (the highest honor given to only one medical student each year at my institution), my picture hanging on my medical school's wall, and having achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a physician.

Ending the decade as a physician

The past two years have been mostly a transitioning phase. I made it through a grueling traditional rotating internship year in general surgery working in a program that tested my limits in every way imaginable, but I thrived as chief intern and finished even stronger than when I started. And despite two unsuccessful match cycles, I continued to press on by completing and passing my final medical board licensing exam, obtaining a full unrestricted medical license, and successfully landing a position as an urgent care physician this year. It's been a crazy transition full of opportunities that I never thought possible, and I'm looking forward to what the beginning of the next decade will bring.

A decade full of fun and adventure!

This past decade hasn't just been all work and no play though. I can honestly say I took advantage of living life to the fullest extent as much as possible, and I feel truly blessed for the many experiences this decade has brought me. I traveled to seven countries with a few solo trips that allowed me to meet awesome new individuals while finding myself and immersing into other cultures. I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried things like skydiving, surfing, zip-lining, and even pole dancing. I spent time with my daughter and had many memorable moments with her such as attending her first short film premiere (back when she was into acting), surprising her with a trip to Disney World for her 6th birthday, or even more recently taking her to France for her 13th birthday. I spent time with my family and loved ones whether it was just because, for the holidays, or girls trips with my sisters, and I kept up with blogging for the past six years. This has been quite a fun decade and I'm already excited for the adventures the next one will bring.

Stay tuned for more from Dr. Ward!

So what's next for the upcoming decade? I tend to stay quiet about my plans, but those close to me say I should speak my goals into existence, so here's what I see for the upcoming ten years:

In the first few years of the decade, I will have published my first book, started a business, and finally landed a surgery residency position. By the end of 2029, I see myself ending the year as a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and being a part of a growing practice. **Ten years gives a lot of time to accomplish this, so don't count me out yet ;)** My daughter will likely have just finished college (Can you believe that?!?!), and I will have finally settled down enough to be a homeowner. Because I love to travel, I already know I will have added at least five new countries to my travel list. I will also be very active in my community, likely through mentorship, but I wouldn't be surprised if I ended the decade in some sort of leadership position. Outside of that, the next ten years will be filled with me working towards my surgery dreams while staying true to myself and loving on those in my inner circle.

I hope those of you reading this had a decade full of accomplishments, and I wish you an upcoming decade filled with hope, love, and new adventures. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you will stick around with me into the next decade. If I don't make it back to post again tomorrow, I wish you all a safe night and a very happy New Year.

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