Sunday, January 9, 2011


Since my last post, I have completed my first semester of medical school successfully.

I regret not thinking to write about the feeling of stress that led up to our first cumulative midterm exams, because I don't think I'd be able to do it justice now. Needless to say it was draining.

When the day came and went however, the usual relief wasn't quite there. I didn't get the sense that my success was due to my diligence. Rather, I felt that had I spent less time than I did, that I would have met with failure. I'm constantly told that this "desperation" is a good thing, and a sign that I'm making a sincere effort. I often question myself in that regard, but that's a thought for another day.

I went back home to Bellingham to spend the holidays with my family, but was met with bad news. My dog Yumi had been unable to eat for a couple of days, and the veterinarian hadn't been able to come up with a definite reason. She had always been a hyperactive bundle of energy who learned to run before she learned to walk, but she could do little more than slowly move toward me and crawl onto my lap when I came home that day.

To make a short story shorter, she underwent surgery and they found a piece of fabric or towel that she had eaten. This had apparently bunched up and tied up her small intestine, causing abrasions and internal bleeding. The vet was able to remove it, and a day later resected the gut in the hopes of recovery, but she passed away a few hours after.

We drove to the overnight pet clinic to get her body, and I saw her laying on the table. Her eyes were half open and she was still warm. It was almost as if she was just waking up in the morning, if not for how still she was.

I honestly can't recall ever feeling so sad and empty.

I had taken care of Yumi from when she was a puppy, and was there every step of the way as she grew up. When we first got her, one of the peculiar habits we found was that she would sometimes put one paw in the bowl of water she was drinking from as she lapped it up. She was always wary of eating food given by strangers, but had an insatiable appetite otherwise. She was gentle and sweet at times, and incredibly yappy and loud others.

Yumi the first day we got her, sleeping on the couch

Tossing and turning a bit, I guess

Her right ear was floppy for the first few months

Yumi as a puppy with my sister in our lawn in Bellingham

We had her tied up in the kitchen so she would always be around people (and food) back home. She always got excited when people came over to use the water dispenser on the fridge, thinking it would be an ice cube headed her way. She loved playing with our other dog (her dad) Snowy, and would play with him until he was exhausted.

Still the cutest puppy I have ever seen

Very lucky to get this yawn on camera :)

Looking up at me. She usually avoided looking straight at the camera, so this took a lot of tries.

Me and my Yumi in Bellingham

I took her to dog training classes, where she was by far the quickest learner. She was terrified of most other dogs, though.

Yumi always tucked herself on my legs during classes

Yumi picking out her prize for doing her trick correctly

Graduation day with proud dad

She came with me to medical school for the first few months. She slept in my room and would stand on her hind legs and shuffle back and forth along the side of my bed, trying to lick my arm or face to wake me up when my alarm went off every morning. I'd roll over to the other side of the bed, and she'd run around and try it again over there.. Haha. "Clevah girl."

On her hind legs as a puppy

We used to play hide-and-seek. I'd tell her to go out of my room, and then leave the door only slightly ajar. I'd pick a spot to hide in and she'd run back in. She always checked behind the door first before anything else.. For some reason she could never find me if I hid behind the bed, so I would peek from under and see that she would check different places and keep turning around. After a few minutes she would walk back outside to try to look for me elsewhere.. It was always the highlight of my night after a long day of studying.
Yumi sleeping next to my feet while I studied in Yakima

I wish I had been able to spend more time with her. She always brought me happiness and having her taught me a lot about caring for others.

First night we had Yumi

Yumi in snow taller than she was

Yumi in action

Friday, October 15, 2010


One of the things I've come to appreciate and fear is stress.

For most medical students, the school experience itself is a stressor of gargantuan proportions. It's in essence a 6 year commitment to training. It usually comes along with an obscene amount of debt (roughly $70,000 or so for the first year alone) and is by no means easy, as I've elaborated on in previous posts.

It becomes imperative that you perform well because of the nature of your career (lives after all, are at stake). Furthermore, changing your mind is often not an option, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it financially. Beyond that, medical school also robs you of the better part of a decade, which just happens to be the prime years of your life.

As we all know, there are always external factors that complicate things further.

The commitment to medical school seems to be a large hurdle in relationships. I've had several of my friends go through breakups for different reasons amidst the academic battle we go through. It's honestly very disheartening and difficult to deal with, even as an observer.

Seeing people I've grown to care about a lot go through the kind of pain I'm seeing is depressing.

It's always been easy for me to look at relationships and see them as a "given."

"Well yeah, those two are meant for each other"

I always thought that it was a testament to the strength of a relationship to give off that perception, but now I wonder if it's all merely a facade.

It is medical school. It is a commitment requiring time and effort in the pursuit of a noble profession. Are people truly so easily dissuaded when this gets in the way? Are relationships merely what they are because they were fortunate enough to avoid this level of distraction? What constitutes selflessness and dedication?

Even in my own (very single) life, I feel myself drifting from the people I love. Friends who just months ago were intimately familiar with every detail of my life now know nothing beyond the superficial status of "studying." Similarly I know little about them. I have no doubt that the strongest of my friendships and relationships will survive, but it is unlikely that they will be as strong as they were before (or perhaps more appropriately, as strong as they would have been without medical school)

This underlying "tuition," to weaken or lose bonds with people we deemed irreplaceable at some point in our lives, is a debilitating cost for what amounts to a glorified technical college.

Is it all even worth it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 4-6

The week leading up to the exams was what you'd expect I guess; there was a lot of cramming and not much sleep. I ended up not having enough time to study all of the anatomy material, which unfortunately showed up in my exam grades as well.

That said, I passed all of my tests fairly comfortably.

Anatomy, OPP, and Clinical Skills all ended up being around the class average, and everything else was above it.

I went back to Bellingham the weekend after exams to meet with Kristin, Michelle, Lisa, Tanya, Sean, Rachel, and Sarah. Had a pretty great time and was reminded that people will still be there for me even if I can't keep in touch much anymore. It was surprisngly comforting.

I also met up with Naho, who I'd originally met while traveling in the Gold Coast, Australia. We walked around Robson St and I took her to one of my favorite chinese places in BC.

It's funny how the mind works. I spent that week of the exam scolding myself for not being more diligent and keeping up. Week 5 ended up being a short one with little new material being presented, and Week 6 was a 3 day week due to the Labor Day holiday. I have made an effort to keep up with reading, but the envisioned daily cram sessions have not happened at all.

We had our white coat ceremony at the end of Week 5, which was pretty fun. Watching my colleagues walk up on stage, I realized just how many people I've come to know and like. I can definitely see how these people could be lifelong friends. It's really pretty surprising how well most of us get along, considering we're all supposedly Type-A hypercompetitive personalities :)

Coming up on friday is the agricultural field trip, which no one is looking forward to due to it taking up 14 hours of the last weekend before the next exam block. ARGH.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week 3

So I ended my second week of medical school by completely slacking off over the weekend.

What ended up happening was a long week of late nights and sleep deprivation, as I tried to catch up with the material I should have covered when I was busy playing StarCraft or generally having fun.

I ended up having a lot of trouble keeping up with the lectures since I was tired, and that just meant having to go over that material later that night. That of course led to even less sleep, and so on and so forth. FML. Lesson learned, medical school, lesson freakin learned.

So here I am on Sunday night, and I smartened up a bit and hit the books hard this past weekend. I mailed in Thursday night since I was exhausted, but followed it up with a good 10 hours of studying on Friday, and probably around 6 on Saturday. Today I worked for around 8.

In other words, I spent a full day of my three day weekend on just studying.

A few encouraging things have come up, though. While I am pretty anxious about the coming exam block on Friday, I am not having too much difficulty sticking to studying for long stretches as long as I get a good meal in me beforehand. I've also started jumping rope after every section I finish to keep my blood flowing (something I picked up from Di). The material is getting to be more complex, but between my own studies and bouncing ideas off my fellow students, it is manageable so far.

I worry quite a bit about my friends from back home. When I first left, I couldn't imagine not keeping in touch constantly. That hasn't really worked out very well so far, and I'm not sure if it will. I guess I have to hope (or trust) that those relationships will still be there for me when I do have the time to visit.

I'm definitely getting to know my classmates a lot more, and have made some definite friends. Di, Josh, Samantha, Brandon, Nate, Nicole and Ashley are probably the ones I've talked to the most at this point, and they are all awesome.

Yumi is bored out of her mind, and I feel bad because I imagined a lot of exercise and socializing for her when I brought her here with me. She spent most of this past week holed up in her pet carrier while I was at school studying. I let her wander the house when I get home, but usually I'm only here to wash up and sleep. She always sleeps near me, and usually tries to find some sort of padding (e.g. my scrubs) to lie on.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week 1 and 2

After getting settled into my new home (and picking up a nasty cold in the process), I got through my first week of Medical School here at PNWU.

So far, we've had one OMM quiz, which was on material given to us over the summer. I got a 76%, which was surprising because I felt like I didn't miss anything.. Hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come. Either way, it's just a quiz and I'm still happy because I passed.

The only other "graded" material we've had are a trio of post-tests for Community Doctoring. These are designed to be fairly easy, I think, because we are given the tests in an ungraded form prior to lecture. Retaking them in-class wasn't so bad, and I managed high marks (100%, 90%, 100%).

So all in all, I'm passing and I'm happy.

That said, I am beginning to understand what people say about medical school being tough. It's not that the material is terribly complex or confusing (though epidemiology boggles me right now), but rather that there is just a LOT of material. I was never a spectacular student in undergrad due to my lack of discipline for studying, but at the same time I've never run out of time trying to read. It's a little scary to think that I've been overwhelmed in week one, and hopefully I'll be able to adjust my study strategy accordingly.

The basic sciences are what intimidate me the most, as I had terrible grades in both microbiology and cell biology in undergrad. To exacerbate matters, my base knowledge has been buried in the past three years of working/partying/playing, so I'm more or less starting from scratch.

Anatomy lab was an interesting experience. I had the priviledge of dissecting my first cadaver, and while it was not nearly as straightforward as I imagined, I found it pretty enjoyable. I'm hoping that things will become more clear as we get further into the class.

OMM was a little confusing for me. I had difficulty figuring out whether or not I was feeling the right things, and feel that I'll need quite a bit of additional time in the OMM lab to get a better handle on it. The second-years I've talked to have said that it took them a while to figure it out too.

I've gotten to speak to most of the members of our class of 75 students at least once, and I haven't met one that I haven't liked. I'm sure I'll get to know them pretty well as the weeks go by, but if the first week (and orientation) is any indication, we're a pretty good group. I haven't seen the cut-throat competitiveness that I was worried about. Everyone seems willing to help each other out, which will only make all of our lives easier.

Next week the difficulty and volume for all the classes is going to be ramped up a little bit, so we'll see how that goes.

In non-school related news, I'm finally getting over the last bits of my cold and am going to start exercising again. The forum has a 90-day challenge that I'm probably going to participate in, and I'm going to try to replace StarCraft with exercise in my daily regimen, haha. There is a heavy bag at the local YMCA, and that's probably going to be my spot for free weights and whatnot.

Yumi seems to be adapting pretty well. Her noise hasn't been a problem, and she's been remarkably well behaved, being able to run around the house. Hoping to get her some more outside time to get socialized.

(The stuff I describe in this post actually relates to the second week of school. The first week was just orientation so I didn't go over it much)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Skydiving video

From Skydive Snohomish, 9/27/09