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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

It's My Six-Year Blogiversary! (Thank You Gift Inside)

It has been six years since I wrote my very first blog post, and your girl is still going strong! It's been an absolute pleasure sharing my experiences with everyone from way back when I wrote my first post as a pre-medical student (who had just received an acceptance to medical school) to my journey now as a physician. It's amazing how much life has changed for me over the years, and some of you have been reading and following along from the very beginning. Whether I was preparing for medical school, studying for boards, going on rotations, or trying to survive as a new physician, some of you have cheered me on through it all and I truly appreciate you. 

***Update: The balance is now $0...Hope you enjoyed!***

It's the season of giving, and you all are definitely at the top of my Christmas list! Last year, I showed my appreciation by giving everyone free Starbucks, and since that was such a big hit, I decided to do it again this year with a larger amount so that all my readers have the opportunity to take advantage of it. Below, you will find a barcode for a $100 Starbucks gift certificate, and the same rules apply as last year. Use it to buy ONE small cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa (meets the needs of people like me who don't drink coffee). Please be fair and only use it for one cup, that way as many people as possible can benefit. Just tap on the above picture from your phone to enlarge it, and have the barista scan it at checkout. Super simple :)

Again, thank you so much for reading my blog and following along on my journey over the years. It really means a lot to me that people take the time out of their busy schedules to read about my life, and I hope you all will stick around with me for years to come. Wishing everyone a wonderful rest of the week filled with happiness, productivity, and good drinks :)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

2019 Holiday Gift Guide (Plus Giveaway!)

We bought an actual real and alive tree this year!
It's officially 10 days until Christmas, and if you're anything like me, you have yet to get a start on your holiday shopping. No worries! There's still plenty of time to order gifts and have them at your door by December 24th, so I figured I would share a few of my favorite items with you this holiday season here, and you can also check out my Amazon page if you want more ideas outside of this post. I even have a free giveaway for you below!

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the at-home teeth whitening system by Smile Brilliant (Click here to read full original review), and I absolutely loved how fast it whitened my teeth and brightened my smile. The company has excellent reviews, is unique in that they create custom-fitted trays, and they're a great choice for anyone considering whitening, but unsure if it is a good idea.  I highly recommend Smile Brilliant if you’re looking to brighten your smile, and the company has yet again graciously agreed to giveaway their awesome product (a $149 value) to one of my readers! Just follow the instructions below to enter for your chance to win! Or if you’re impatient like me and want to get started now, go to smilebrilliant.com and enter the coupon code below for 15% off storewide.

15% off coupon code: aspiringminoritydoctor15

·  The giveaway is for a $149 Smile Brilliant credit. It runs until January 7, 2020 at 11:59pm EST and is open to USA, UK, Australia and Canadian residents.
·  Smile Brilliant hosts the giveaway on its own website. It's done through an internal platform so you don't have to worry about third-party websites selling your email addresses.
·  All entrants must enter their email address to be entered!


There's nothing more timeless than a watch, and another awesome product I had the pleasure of reviewing this year was a Jord Wood Watch (Click here to read my original review). Their watches are absolutely gorgeous and would make for a great holiday gift for any student, woman, man, or child in your life. Even more exciting, for those of you who own Apple watches, they now make beautiful Apple Watch Bands to keep you fashionable while wearing your favorite time-telling technology. Not in the market for a watch? Well, they even have sunglasses, so make sure you go and check them out! At the time of this post, they are holding a holiday sale giving away $105 in gift cards with every order bought by December 19th.

For the busy professionals, I highly recommend Laborai: a clothing and jewelry line designed for "desk to dinner" looks. The company is not only woman-owned, but the owner/founder is a great friend of mine who, in addition to running the business, is a very busy family medicine resident in Atlanta. The dresses and jumpsuits are all tasteful, with just enough flair to make any woman feel sexy. There's even great jewelry to match. I'm sure you'll find something on the site to suit your upcoming holiday party needs :)

Next on my list is a shameless plug for my mother's side business Mugs and More by Kathleen. She custom makes beautiful bracelets, necklaces, and earrings all by hand! The items are all absolutely gorgeous and she is able to make your requested jewelry into any design or color you desire. On top of this, she also creates custom mugs (I'm still in love with the coffee mug she designed for me a few years ago!), does T-shirt vinyl designs, and can even personalize Christmas tree balls. How cool is it that our tree is personalized with our family pictures?!?! 

Next on the list is a book that kids, parents, and pre-meds alike will enjoy. My daughter and I recently received How Good Ol' Dr. V Came to Be by Dr. Renee Volny Darko, and we were absolutely in love with the colors and story line of the book. I think it's even more important that it's a book with a minority character that children like my daughter can look up to. My daughter gave me the side-eye at first for giving her a children's book, but by the end of it she was both happy and inspired. I highly recommend for the little future physicians in your life.

If you're looking for other great reads, CLICK HERE for a full list of books on amazon that I highly recommend for pre-medical students, medical students, and physicians alike (I love to read!) 

I recently had the pleasure of joining the Medelita family as a H.I.P. (Honoring Inspiring Professionals) Ambassador, and I am happy to include them in my holiday gift guide. They have a great selection of lab coats and scrubs, and I will be reviewing one of their great products in an upcoming blog post. They even have stethoscopes if you're looking for a gift to give the newly accepted medical student in your life, and right now, you can receive 25% off their entire website by using the code HOLIDAY25.  


That's all for now. If you're interested in other products that I personally love and use, feel free to check out my Amazon page (https://www.amazon.com/shop/minoritydoctor) where you'll find idea lists for pre-medical students, medical students, and interns, along with other miscellaneous items. I may come back and add more products to this post, but since Christmas is literally a little over a week away, I figured I would make sure you could be a little prepared :) Are there any great holiday gift ideas that I missed? Feel free to comment with your holiday faves below!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Life as an Urgent Care Physician

Managing more than just colds and coughs!

Since I've started practicing, a lot of you have reached out to me wondering what it's like working as an urgent care physician, and what a typical day entails. This post will hopefully give you a glimpse into my current role and answer a lot of your commonly asked questions.

How would you describe urgent care?

The best way to describe urgent care would be something along the lines of "Emergency Medicine meets Family Medicine (with a sprinkle of Surgery)." I manage patients from 3 months old to 100+ years old, and I get to do a little bit of everything. Whether I'm treating an asthma exacerbation, performing vaginal exams, managing fractures, suturing lacerations, doing incision and drainage procedures, or treating something as simple as a UTI (just to name a few), urgent care pretty much does it all. We don't treat super complex things like heart attacks or other life-threatening issues, but oftentimes these patients will come to the urgent care instead of going to the emergency room, and it is my job to stabilize them until EMS transport arrives to take them to the emergency room. We perform x-rays, EKGs, place splints and boots, and can even provide IV hydration if needed. We then refer to specialists for ongoing management if a patient requires continued care. Urgent care offers a great deal of variety and I think it's a really great way to keep clinical skills current while avoiding burn out.

What are the hours like?

Urgent care offers a very flexible lifestyle and the hours are pretty nice. The practice where I currently work has two locations, one that is open 9am - 1030pm seven days a week and the other that is typically open 9am - 8pm (with slightly earlier closing times on Fridays and on the weekend). At the location with longer hours, shifts are 9am - 4pm and 4pm - close. The other location usually just has one shift that lasts the entire day until closing time. I usually work until about an hour or so after closing time since we have a rule that as long as a patient walks in the door before the official closing time, they will be seen. Usually someone will walk in around 10:28pm with something more complex to deal with, which means I'm working until at least midnight or whenever that patient is fully managed. Despite this, the hours are still insanely better than any day in residency since I never worked less than a 12 hour shift on any given day during my training. 

What is the patient load?

I typically see an average of 20 patients per shift, but this number can vary by more or less depending on the day. It is a job that requires quick thinking and efficient management, but I have never felt super overwhelmed. Sometimes a ton of patients will all come into the waiting room at once, and other times it is a more steady flow of about 3 patients per hour.

Is there help?

When I work, I am the only physician on staff, so I am responsible for seeing and managing all the patients. There is a front desk person that checks everyone in, a medical assistant who does triage and any procedures I may need done (such as x-rays, injections, strep tests, giving IVs, etc.), and at the busier location, I also have a scribe who follows me into the room and types up the majority of my notes so that I can focus on patient care. During my training, I often split my work with at least one other individual and I usually had more senior residents and attending physicians to step in if I needed help. Urgent care differs in that I do not have anyone to split the load with, but I never truly feel alone as I can always call up one of the other physicians in the group for advice, to provide a second set of eyes on an x-ray image, or to even come in if I feel swamped and need help (thankfully I have not had to do this yet *knocks on wood*). Our medical malpractice insurance company also provides helpful resources such as UptoDate for free, so I always have access to the most current medical information and treatment guidelines for my patients.

How is your work-life balance?

My work-life balance now is spectacular compared to how it was during my training. Before I worked no less than twelve hour shifts per day at least six days a week with every third day consisting of a full 24 (which almost always turned into a twenty-eight) hour shift. Right now, I work an average of three days a week with shifts that range from seven hours to eleven hours. The most hours I have worked in one day since starting urgent care was 14.5 and that is only because I picked up another physician's shift and worked a double. I work less than half of what I did during my training, am more than fairly and doubly compensated, and I have time to explore my passions and do some of the things I love outside of medicine. Even better, we are asked for our desired work schedules in advance of each month's schedule being made, so I am able to plan trips and spend more time with my daughter. The work-life balance is without a doubt one of the best things I've got going for me right now, and it will surely be missed if I end up going back to residency.

What new insights have you gained from working at an urgent care?

Believe it or not, I have learned a lot working in urgent care and not all of it is medical. The main thing I have learned is the power of collaborative relationships. I don't think I truly appreciated the power of collaboration during my training (probably due to fatigue and the type of environment I was in), but now it is more evident than ever and a daily necessity. Whether I'm speaking to a radiologist about a patient I sent for an outpatient CT scan, getting advice from a specialist, or working with my staff to make sure a patient is fully taken care of, I am so appreciative of the collaboration that urgent care involves. It has also enhanced my teaching skills as I am frequently educating patients on things like why I will not prescribe antibiotics for their colds or the importance of seeing their primary care physicians for follow up care. Medicine truly is a team sport, and it sometimes takes many individuals working together to ensure a patient gets the most appropriate care. Additionally, working at an urgent care has strengthened my critical thinking and self-directed learning skills, and the beauty of having work-life balance has taught me a lot about self-worth and recognizing the signs of burn out. Lastly, I've gained more insight into my self as an individual. Whether it's been learning to trust my own inner knowledge base or recognizing my limits as a physician, I continue to work on myself daily and being in the urgent care setting has truly allowed me to continue to learn and grow as a physician.

I hope this sums it up and answers most of your questions, but if not, feel free to ask away in the comments below!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thankful Vibes

I originally planned to type this post on Thanksgiving Day, but decided to truly bask in the day and relax. Then I had the bright idea that since I was working a double shift on Black Friday, and it would likely be quiet due to everyone being out shopping (wishful thinking), I would just type this up while I was at work. But after a crazy busy day filled with managing things like what a patient thought was a hemorrhoid that actually turned out to be a huge abscess (and the most satisfying incision & drainage procedure I've ever performed!), a hand versus chainsaw accident (put my suturing skills to work!), and even a feather stuck in the ear (who knew down feather pillows could be so dangerous?!?!), I learned my lesson about planning for any leisurely activities while at work during a time when most people are not working. Moving onto yesterday, I found some time to start the typing process, but ended up putting it on hold to attend an event, and then I decided to go to the movies afterwards (I saw Queen & Slim and thought it was really good). With that being said, I finally found a moment to write about a few things I've been thankful for this year :)

I guess the most obvious thing I am thankful for this year is having a job! I can't tell you how many nights (and days) I spent worrying last year about what this year would bring. Would I have a job? Would I be homeless? Would I be working somewhere completely unrelated to my medical degree? Would I be living in another new state, away from all family and friends, and working yet again another 24 hour call shift during the holiday? There was so much anxiety! But here I am a year later, a working physician, with an incredible job, living in an area that makes me happy, and able to spend time with those people who mean the most to me whenever I want. It's honestly really hard to put into words all the feelings that surround my current state of mind, but one thing I can say for sure is that God's plan is the best plan, and everything always works out perfectly and at the right time.

Another thing I am thankful for is my family and the friends who have become like family (or I guess "Framily" as they call it). My family always comes through for me, provides me with so much help with my daughter, and they're always super supportive even if they don't completely understand my path. I'm even more thankful to have a child who doesn't mind being away from me and who tells me on a daily basis how proud she is of me. And even though I am absolutely horrible at keeping in touch with people, I am thankful for those who still check on me and don't trip when I don't reach out often, and for those who can deal with me and all of my craziness. Over the past year, I have been amazed by the amount of friends who text me to make sure I'm okay, take time out of their busy schedules to travel to hang out with me, and even those who are quick to send me the latest postings on open surgery residency positions so that I can continue to pursue my goals. I might not be the best at expressing it, but I am thankful for each and every individual I interact with, and your love and friendship mean a lot to me. 

Lastly, I am thankful for YOU. Next month will make six years of blogging, and some of you have been around from the very beginning. You've followed my journey from newly accepted medical student to navigating life as Dr. Ward, encouraged me through various struggles, and continued to cheer for me when things are going right. I am beyond grateful for the support you give just by reading my posts, and there have been numerous times where I wanted to give up or quit, but then I receive an email sharing your success story or inspiration that you gained from reading one of my posts. This has really kept me going.

So in my attempt to keep this post relatively short, I'll just end by saying every year I grow more and more thankful for life and all it's ups and downs. I'm thankful for the dark times that allow me to enjoy the happy times, the people who make life worth living, and for being able to live my dream as a physician. I honestly couldn't feel more blessed at the moment, and for that I am truly thankful. I hope everyone reading this had a very happy Thanksgiving, and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season ahead.

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