Friday, May 18, 2018

Vacation Recap - Cartagena, Colombia 2018

Hola Colombia!

Last month, I decided to be spontaneous and finally do something that was just for me. I was officially done with all of my required medical school clerkships, and had just finished my term as SNMA National President, so I had a lot more free time on my hands. Plus, with all the hustle and bustle of this past year, I was beginning to become completely burnt out and was in desperate need of a vacation. So what did I do? I booked a one-week solo trip to Cartagena, Colombia, and I enjoyed every last second of it!

Familiar faces in new places

Right after I returned home from the SNMA AMEC, I repacked my bags for my trip to Colombia. There were some amazing flight deals that I couldn’t pass up, and Cartagena kept popping up on all my searches for the best places for solo female travelers. The funny thing is that when I arrived in Cartagena, there was never a moment where I ever felt alone. Even when I arrived in Cartagena, I ran into one of the SNMA National Committee Chairs who had just been at the conference with me! We had no idea that either of us would be there, so it was a super crazy moment. She was staying not too far from my hotel, so it was nice hanging out with her and her friends while also getting my bearings and a feel for the city on the first day.

Melanin in Colombia

On the second day of my trip, I had an excursion to Playa Blanca that I booked through Alex Rocha (The Real Cartagena). Now let me just stop here and say that if you are planning any trip to Cartagena, then he is the person to go through!  I not only got to fully experience the city and areas I visited, but the tour guides were simply amazing and always on time. Plus, I had the pleasure of meeting other tourists who were a joy to hang out with. During my trip to Playa Blanca, everyone in the van was from Atlanta (I told you those flight deals were crazy lol), and I had a blast with the ladies on the trip. We were taken to a secluded area of the beach that had very few people stopping by to bug us with selling things, and it included a delicious lunch, and a tour to some lesser traveled areas of the city. It was definitely a great way to ring in my vacation, and I ended the evening with a nice dinner at a lovely French restaurant called Restaurant Montmartre. 

Ser Negro es Hermoso

On day three, I participated in “The real Cartagena” tour and was floored by all the beauty in the city. Not only is over 75% of the population in Cartagena black, but after a visit by President Obama in 2012, the “Ser Negro es Hermoso” (Black is Beautiful) movement was started. The city is literally filled with murals and statues celebrating black people. I was in heaven! Plus, there was more great food involved, and I got to interact with more awesome tourists. After the excursion, I went to the Choco Museum and participated in a 2-hour class that involved making chocolate straight from the cocoa bean. It not only was a fun experience, but I also ran into more Americans who invited me to spend the next day with them on a boat. There was no way I was passing that up!

Had a blast with great new people

On day four, I met up with the guys who I met the night before and spent the day having an absolute blast! It was also kinda cool finally hanging out with people who didn’t live in Atlanta, and being from the northeast, they were actually familiar with PCOM. They rented a boat for the day and we were taken to a beautiful private island that was literally a party. There were underwater huts where food and drinks were delivered to us, music, and a ton of people partying on their boats. It was a surreal experience, and I literally had the time of my life!

Wakanda Forever! (Even in Colombia lol)

Day five involved a trip to Palenque, which is the first free African village in the Americas and established completely by runaway slaves/freedom seekers. I was immersed in the culture, had more great food, and loved being around beautiful black faces. I also got my tour group to do the Wakanda pose!

A night on the party bus with other solo female travelers

When I arrived back to the hotel that day, I found that the power was completely out in the old walled city where I was staying. Luckily, the HOTEL I was staying at had a great rooftop bar with unlimited ice and drinks for everyone. I stayed there for a while sipping on drinks with my feet in the pool, and then as the sun was setting, I took a beautiful horse-drawn carriage ride through the old walled city. I then remembered I had signed up for the Chiva (Party) bus that evening, so I returned to my hotel room, managed to get dressed in the dark, and went out for some fun. It was great dancing the night away while meeting more fun tourists, and when I returned to the hotel, the power was finally back on!

Med students in Colombia!

I had reserved day 6 for relaxation and exploring, so I slept in and started my day with a trip to the Historic Museum of Cartagena. I spent a few hours there learning about the history of the city I was in, and then I decided to go check out the Gold Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed that day, but I was directed to the Emerald Museum next door. It was here where I ran into two more tourists who not only also lived in Atlanta, but they happened to also be two 4th year medical students from Morehouse School of Medicine who just matched into orthopedic surgery. How crazy is that?!?! We hung out a bit and then went our separate ways, but agreed to reconnect later. After that, I explored some more, managed to have dinner in the famous Don Juan Restaurant without a reservation (yay for being solo and cute! lol), and then reconnected with the med students I met earlier. We hung out, discussed our medical journeys, and then hit the club where I got the DJ to play my favorite songs and played pool with Canadians.

Met so many awesome people in Colombia

On my last full day in Cartagena, I took a trip to the museum, visited the university, and invited a few of the people I met during my time in Cartagena for a beautiful sunset dinner overlooking the ocean. We somehow ended up just having drinks and then hitting a pizza place afterwards, but it was an excellent ending to what couldn’t have been a more perfect trip. Cartagena was the ultimate trip of self-care, fun, and relaxation, and when the next morning came, I was not ready to leave at all. Out of all the trips I have taken, it currently stands as my favorite, and I can’t wait to return again.

A great ending to an amazing vacation!

Loved my hotel!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Recap of SNMA AMEC 2018: San Francisco, CA

Last month I officially ended my tenure as National President of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) with a successful Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC) in San Francisco, California. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that I hold the SNMA near and dear to my heart, but it has also taken up A LOT of my time over the past few years. This past year was especially taxing as I not only had to make sure my executive agenda was being implemented by our base of over 7000 members, but I also had to plan and organize three National Leadership Institutes, our annual conference, and stay the “face” of the organization, all while being on surgery audition rotations and completing other medical school clerkships. To say I’ve been busy is an understatement, but despite it all, it was an experience I wouldn’t have traded for the world.

The SNMA AMEC takes place every year the four days leading up to Easter Sunday, and it takes over a year to plan. As SNMA National President, my major role in AMEC was conference programming. This meant developing the theme for the conference (including coming up with the title and description), putting together workshops that fit within the theme, making sure each national committee had a role in the conference, and working with the convention planning committee to make sure everything was on track. I even got to pick out the food for my luncheon, and meet with key hotel staff, so that was pretty neat. Our National Headquarters staff took care of logistics such as figuring out which rooms to put speakers in, costs, sponsors, and other technical details, but for the most part, the majority of the conference falls on the president. Yes, this was essentially “my” conference, so the stress levels were to the max to make sure everything went smoothly and that everyone attending had a great experience. This conference was also extremely important to me because the very first AMEC I ever attended was as a pre-medical student in 2007 at the same location in San Francisco. It was definitely a full-circle moment for me!

From 2007 as a pre-med to now 2018 as a graduating med student

I arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, and the first point of business was helping to stuff bags for the conference attendees, followed by a pre-conference meeting with hotel department personnel. When we walked into the room we were greeted by about 20 friendly individuals from the hotel. We then discussed how we wanted the week to go, and I was very pleased that everyone was interested in my wants for the week. I was even given a VIP pendant so that I could be identified by hotel personnel in case I needed anything. I think the only major concern was that I had requested beef for my luncheon which was to take place on Good Friday, but after discussing with the hotel chef, I happily switched it with the fish that was being served for the Saturday banquet. 

The calm before the AMEC craziness hit

Since Tuesday’s task list didn’t take too long, and the first meeting on Wednesday didn’t start until 5pm, I was blessed with some free time to relax and explore before the conference craziness started. I linked up with an old high school friend who lives in the area and is also a great photographer, and we knocked out my graduation photo shoot. We also took a short trip to Pacifica, California where I got the chance to hike the trails and take in some awesome views. It was a very much needed calm before the storm.

Morning Views

Thursday was when the real work began. My day started with an 8am Board of Directors meeting where we discussed business and heard the presentations from candidates running for office. After that, it was off to the opening Plenary Session where I met with the speakers beforehand, gave a few remarks, and then listened to a great keynote speech by Brigadier General Telita Crosland. After that, we rushed to the exhibit hall where we had to do the opening ribbon cutting ceremony. I was actually surprised that I had a little time to visit some of the exhibits this year, and it was great meeting and interacting with some of the members. Sadly, I didn’t get to attend any of the workshops, and the rest of the day was followed with a 2-hour House of Delegates session, a Stanford reception, and regional meetings. I didn’t make it back to my hotel room until after 11pm, and I was too tired to participate in any of the night events. Luckily, the hotel gave me an AMAZING presidential suite with a breathtaking view of the city, so I was very happy to relax, listen to music, and enjoy my room.

Dr. Velma Scantlebury and my wonderful mentee D'Sena'

Friday was more of the same schedule, but it was an exciting day since it was also when I held my Presidential Luncheon and passed down the reigns to the new national president. The keynote speaker for the luncheon was my phenomenal mentor Dr. Velma Scantlebury (the first black female transplant surgeon in the US, for those of you who don’t know), and she gave a phenomenal talk. We also didn’t go over on time (the luncheon is only scheduled for 2 hours), which rarely happens! I was ecstatic! The rest of the day was a lot less busy after that, but I was still swamped with things to do, so I was extremely grateful for Dr. Scantlebury and my mentee who went out and picked up a cake I ordered along with drinks and supplies so that I could throw a surprise get together for the national committee chairs later that evening. I also had to briefly speak at the Osteopathic Schools reception being held that evening, but it was an absolute pleasure meeting with Dr. Adrienne White-Faines, the CEO of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), who even gave me a twitter shout-out!

Twitter shout-out from the CEO of the AOA!

I just realized this post is super long, so I’ll do a quick wrap-up of the rest of the conference. Basically more meetings, a great pre-medical luncheon, and a closing banquet with a graduation component for the 4th year medical students complete with a gorgeous blue graduation stole, free membership into the NMA, and a great keynote speech given by Dr. Zoanne Clack (one of the writers for Grey’s Anatomy and also a proud SNMA alumna). Overall, it was an amazing conference, and I received a ton of great feedback.

My National Committee Chairs were the absolute best!

I am so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as the 2017-2018 SNMA National President, and I am even more thankful to have served with a fantastic Chair, Vice-President, National Committee Chairs, and the Board of Directors. There are honestly no words to describe how good it felt seeing my vision come to life, and this past year has been an experience I won’t forget. I look forward to continuing to serve this amazing organization, and I can’t wait to see what the current SNMA president accomplishes this year. I’m also excited that his conference will be taking place in Philadelphia, PA next year where I will be for residency, so I look forward to seeing you all there!

End of conference slay

2018-2019 SNMA National President Gabriel Felix

Monday, May 7, 2018

Finished with my 4th Year of Medical School!

My last rotation as Student Doctor Ward

Happy Monday! Since I’m backtracking on updates, I figured my last physical rotation of 4th year would be a good place to start. I was fortunate to finish back in March since I never took a vacation month to study for boards, and I am so happy to be done. My last actual rotation was an online course, but prior to that, I ended my stint of having to wear the short white coat with an Emergency Medicine (EM) elective in Tennessee. It was an elective that I applied for through the Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS), and probably one of my favorite. EM is a required 4th year elective at my school, but since there weren’t any available slots open in any Georgia hospitals, I had to apply to out-of-state programs. I definitely wasn’t upset though, seeing as the program I went to not only put me up in a hotel for free for the month, and provided a nice food allowance, but the residents and attendings were some of the friendliest and down-to-earth people I had ever met. It’s just too bad they don’t offer a general surgery residency program, or I’d be all over it! 

I’d have to say my favorite part of the rotation was all the freedom I had. As a 4th year student, I’ve found that residents and attendings place a lot more trust in me to get stuff done. At this particular location, once they knew I had an interest in surgery, I was the go-to for all the laceration repairs, and I loved it! There’s something about getting my own supplies, walking into a patient’s room introducing myself and letting them know that I will be fixing them, proceeding to do it unsupervised, and having great results that completely made my day! It also freed up the attendings to do other work, so they seemed to enjoy it as well. It was kinda bittersweet when the rotation ended, but I couldn’t resist having the attending take a picture of me on my final rotation of having to wear the short white coat.

Safari Park in TN with my daughter and little sister

Another awesome thing about being in Tennessee was it wasn’t so far that my daughter couldn’t come for a visit. We visited a place called Safari Park where we literally got to drive around and feed zebras, giraffes, camels, kangaroos, and other exotic animals by hand! My daughter was slightly freaked out at first, but she eventually warmed up to it and participated. I also had the chance to visit Memphis for the first time, and I even discovered that my aunt, who I hadn’t seen since childhood, literally lived down the street from the hospital I was working at! I was so happy to have the chance to visit relatives and have people around that made me feel less alone during my rotation.

My first time in Memphis was a great one!

Now that I’ve been finished with rotations for a while, I’m in such an awkward place. I don’t quite feel like a medical student since I’m done, but I’m not exactly a doctor either since I haven’t graduated. I’m also excited for graduation, but I kind of like the security of still having the student title with no major responsibilities. I’m just one confused soul, LOL. Either way, it feels good to be done, and there’s only 17 days left until graduation!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Counting Down to Graduation!

Almost Dr. Ward!

I'm back!!!! So much has happened since my last post. I had a successful SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference in San Francisco, ended my term as SNMA National President, treated myself to a week long solo vacation in Cartagena, Colombia, and took selfies with Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Maxine Waters in Washington, DC. I've definitely reached the light at the end of the medical school tunnel, and in the coming days, I will have posts reflecting back on all my experiences over the past month and a half.

As for right now, I officially finished all of my medical school rotations, so most of my time has been spent living my best life or gearing up for graduation and residency. It feels so good to not have as much on my plate as I did before, and since it will be back to reality next month, I am thoroughly enjoying every last second of freedom right now.

It seems like it was just yesterday when I was celebrating finally getting accepted into medical school, and now I am just a few weeks away from graduating. It's both scary and exciting at the same time, but in 22 days, this girl will be a doctor!

Anyway, I only wrote this post to show off my graduation announcements :) I'll have a lot more posts over the next few days (yay for having free time to write), so stay tuned!

The back :)

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