Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remember This.

Its Wednesday. There’s a final looming. Maybe I’ve had too much wine.

Whatever the reason, I am feeling particularly nostalgic.

I’ve been so stressed lately. Saying yes to a million people’s insane requests (remind me never to dog sit ever again), trying to make my parents proud, trying to prove to myself I really do deserve to be in med school. Frankly its exhausting and I can give no more of my heart and soul over to the endeavor of becoming a doctor than I already am.

Tonight, against my better judgment I put down the books. I spent the evening eating candy and singing and dancing around my kitchen to One Direction songs with friends. We played the music so loud, I swear Paul and Quinn and their eccentric landlord Milton must have heard us.

Part of me feels guilty. But there’s also a part that wishes the night would never end. Let’s be real--I’m not going to remember what was on the renal final. And chances are neither are you.

But I’ll remember my friends hanging out with me when I was feeling lonely.

Friends don’t mind if your room, hair and/or life is kind of a mess. They just want to lift you up in the most beautiful and vulnerable way. It’s a love that I need reminding of often.

Friendship is a fierce love, a brave love, a freely given love. Having no siblings of my own, my friends have become my family. And truly I would be lost without them. I mean--who else would make me a Tinder account?

When I accepted my admission to medical school, I did so whole-heartedly. I committed to medical school—mind, body and bank account. I also offered up the last years of my 20’s to the medical school gods. But with our sacrifice comes reward.

Its not the tropical vacation you see your friends with real jobs taking. Its not owning your dream home or buying a flashy sports car. The fruits of our labor are more subtle. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

I know we have a test. Don’t F-ing remind me. But I will not deny myself the shining and rare moments that medical school offers us. Remember that time that everyone passed the anatomy practical? I think we did that twice, no? I’ve never slept better than that night.

We’re on this crazy ride together. 

Having just spent 2 hours listening to 3rd years talk about 3rd year has filled me with both panic and dread. But has also reminded me that medical school goes by pretty fast. Which got me thinking—life goes by pretty fast.

When I’m an old woman, I will look back and remember the time I spent with you—not what the quiz questions were.

So while you’re studying this weekend—remember—the work never ends, but medical school does.  

Sweet dreams friend. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mr. Nice Girl

I try to be nice. I think its important. After all, aren’t our actions one of the only things we truly have control over?

I pride myself on not honking at idiots who cut me off, or who don’t instantly accelerate when the light changes green. I say excuse me when someone bumps into me and perhaps my greatest triumph has been waiting patiently in line at TAPS to pay a parking ticket (ugh…parking Jesus).

I try to test myself with long lines at the store or traffic jams or being overly accommodating with people who change plans multiple times. I want to practice patience. I don’t know…I heard it was a virtue.

I think patience goes hand in hand with being kind. When I feel my frustration boiling over, its important to respond with love and understanding, even if people don’t deserve it. After all, maybe the rude barista was just having a bad day. Surely everyone else around me also tries their best to show kindness and love—right?

And besides, no one likes an angry woman. Society scorns angry women more than women who do not conform to beauty standards—and that’s really saying something. You might not be able to control your looks, but you can control your demeanor. If you’re ugly, you sure as hell better be nice.

We as a society are less understanding and accepting of women who speak up for themselves than we are of almost any other group.  We expect women to be nurturers, motherly, warm, gracious and kind. These are really good qualities, but we sacrifice strength, power, being heard and standing up for ourselves, lest someone think us rude.

My usual is sending emails with lines like, “I’m so sorry to bother you,” or “I know this is probably a really dumb question,” or “please let me know if there is anything else you need from me (i.e. I’ll do more of the work you should be doing for you).” Sending emails like that gets exhausting and I am exhausted saying yes to people’s demands—(Can you dog sit? Can you write this essay? Can you tutor my son in chemistry?)

I want to use my time and my energy and my skills to help my friends—the people who also wait in long TAPS lines, people who switch doctoring sessions with me, people who share the same hatred of burned coffee and traffic jams and yet understand that being nice in spite of these things goes a long way.

Today was a turning point. I’ve been helping  doing a research project for over a year now. I’ve done everything from the IRB, to the survey, to the data analysis, to the write up. I spent all day today making a poster for a research conference and someone else gets to put their name as first author. I don’t think my kindness and willingness to help has ever been so blatantly taken advantage of.

I’m about to lose my shit. Maybe it also has to do with Donald Trump being on TV right now. Not all situations demand us to respond with kindness. Sometimes situations demand that we stand up for ourselves. And sometimes its crucial that we respond with anger and disgust and protest, even when its hard to do so, even when we feel afraid. We must stand up to the injustice we witness in the world. Small things-- like who's first author on a paper might not seem like a big deal, but its a great opportunity to practice standing up for what is important to us. Sometimes being nice isn't as important as being heard. So at the risk of seeming like an angry woman. I'm not going to put up with being pushed around. And that will help me to be able to stand up against the anti-Muslim, racist, sexist-- really important to speak up about stuff.

Standing up for yourself helps to prepare you for standing up for others. A lot of nice people doing nothing allows hate and injustice to prosper. Let’s challenge ourselves to show love and kindness when it is difficult to do so, just as much as we get angry, protest and fight for what we believe in.

Surely both are acts of love.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The terrible, awful, no good very bad day Martini

Kidneys got you down? 8am quizzes working your last nerve? Then grab a glass and shake up a terrible, awful, no good very bad day martini. Guaranteed to brighten up this day or any day.

1.     Cover your kitchen counter with lecture notes, douse in vodka and light on fire (that’s not actually part of the drink, that was just me).
2.     While that’s burning, take a martini glass and coat edges with chocolate syrup. Pour some chocolate syrup in your mouth and then swig some milk, shake your head back and forth and swallow.
3.     Take a cup of ice and mix with whatever half empty bottle of adult beverage you have on hand, add a shot of cherry Nyquil.
4.     Shake martini in shaker while dancing to and singing Shake it Off.
5.     Add 5ml grenadine, 135-145mmol of salt from your tears.
6.     Squeeze in a lime of regret and 6 calcium oxalate crystals.
7.     Say, “Shaken not stirred” in your best James Bond voice and then spend 2 hours watching youtube videos about how to tie a bowtie.
8.     Pour mixture into chocolate coated martini glass, garnish with a Benadryl
9.     Drag yourself to bed, beverage in hand, cause this day needs to be over.

Friday, January 8, 2016

American Pie

I’m looking at toaster ovens on Amazon. Reading the reviews people post about the various brands of toaster oven would lead one to believe that there is no more divisive issue in our nation today than cook times, convection settings and crumb trays. American’s sure do have a lot of opinions and aren’t afraid to post them willy-nilly all over the Internet.

Fortunately (I hate conflict) there are a few things we can agree on as a nation and not surprisingly dessert is amongst them. Apple pie has an approval rating of 81%, I mean what’s more American than pie? Ice cream topped the list with an approval rating of 93%-- what the heck—where are my lactose intolerant friends?

Recent media (or shopping for toaster ovens) might make it seem like we as a nation have more differences than similarities, but in fact, its not only dessert we’re crazy about—its gun control. 90% of Americans support universal background checks for all firearms sold. More people approve of background checks, than like apple pie. I knew it—cooked apples are disgusting.

While 90% isn’t too shabby, I know that 100% of all Americans agree that the epidemic of mass shootings we have in this country is unacceptable. Even the most right wing NRA member feels a heavy heart when we hear of a shooting on the news. Republican or Democrat, East Coaster or Southerner—our hearts broke the same when we saw 6 years old running for their lives at Sandy Hook, or movie goers murdered in Aurora.  Not even the biggest Charlton Heston supporter approves of tragedies like these.

But herein lies our convection oven conundrum…what do we do about it?

We are really good at mourning the victims of gun violence. After Sandy Hook the celebrity judges of The Voice sang Halleluiah while holding up the names of the dead children. It was a saccharine tribute, and it makes me sick how use to these shootings and honoring their victims we have become.

We are good at collectively mourning tragedy, and really crappy at preventing it. And the most outrageous thing, is that we know it. We expect to see mass shootings on the news—they have become ingrained in the fabric of our country. We see headlines like, “Nation Shocked,” or “Stunned Community Mourns,” but if we’re honest, we’re not shocked—at least not nearly shocked enough. I’ll tell you right now—there will be more mass shootings in 2016. Raise your hand if you’re surprised? Anyone? Yup. That’s what I thought. Can’t shock us. This is America. Land of 600 pound people, the cronut and guns.

Following Sandy Hook, gun control legislation including 23 executive orders and 12 proposed congressional actions were signed by President Obama. Proposals included universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

By all accounts, these were some very reasonable conditions and in fact 92% of Americans approved of them. The proposed legislation was defeated by Congress on April 17th, 2013. Remember that 20 children and 6 adults were killed at Sandy Hook—the second most deadly school shooting committed by one person next to Virginia Tech.


I was having coffee with a friend on the main campus several years ago. We sat outside the Silo and sipped our lattes when we started talking about what we would do if ever we were out in public and someone started shooting. I said I would try to hide somewhere, or at least try to run. My friend said he thought about fighting the gunman, but neither of us could be sure what we would do.

When you hear the door to the lecture hall slam—do you ever wonder if its someone bursting in with a gun? Do you think about where the exits are in a room, or where you would hide?

I do.

A lesser known shooting, that has likely faded from your memory (since no one was killed except the gunman) happened in 2014 at Florida State University. A man opened fire in the packed library during finals week. I read a text that a student sent to her father during the crisis.

“There’s a man with a gun in the library. I love you.”

Those words have become etched on my heart. She was saying goodbye. She, like most of us, had likely seen these kind of events unfold on the news before. She knew how it worked. Luckily, this student and all of her classmates survived. But her words still ring in my ears. And I think about what text I would send my parents, if ever I was in a similar situation.

I have some friends who own guns, some of them are even members of the NRA. And like the good friends they are, they read what I write without fail. So now I speak directly to you, my precious gun owning friends. We do not disagree. Our hearts are the same. And although I don’t think that you should be able to have a gun that does not mean we can’t agree on gun control. Some of the biggest proponents of gun control measures are people with guns. You know the importance and responsibility of being a gun owner. And indeed we would be much better off by restricting access to guns, and keeping them out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.

The media would have us believe that gun owners and pacifists are on opposite sides on this issue. But I don’t think we are. Of course, we could debate the finer points of what the Second Amendment says vs its original intention. Or the purpose of the NRA (which was incorporated in 1871- the same year the KKK became an illegal terrorist organization-do with that what you wish). But let’s not. Let’s not get the better of ourselves. It doesn’t serve. And it doesn’t honor the victims of gun violence.

Now I fancy myself a realist. And I know that no matter how many words I devote to the advocacy of gun control, it won’t budge the actual policies implemented in this nation. For it is a problem of much larger proportion than we can reason round the dinner table, or yell at each other about or change with celebrity prowess. But we can do smaller things—like supporting the surgeon general in his bid to lift the ban on federally funded gun research. We can continue to push for sensible restrictions on ammo, (sorry but you don’t need 100 round cartridge to hunt).

Our voices as medical students speak louder than most. And it is our responsibility to advocate for our patients, our communities and our country. If you are a doctor or a medical student or thinking about becoming either of those things and you don’t think gun violence is a problem, then you have no business in medicine or claiming you care about the health of human beings. There is no point in managing someone’s diabetes if you don’t also manage their risk of death by firearm. We have a duty to act and to speak out against the complacency of our lawmakers and our Donald Trump types (as if you need more of a reason, he supports open carry laws).

This isn’t toaster ovens here people. And I can’t possibly bear to watch another mass shooting unfold on the news. As I write this, Obama is introducing some of the same executive orders to congress that were first presented after Sandy Hook. We can do this. We want this. Gun control is not controversial, but rather wanted by more Americans than apple pie.

And what could be more American than that. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Girl on Girl

I hope that title got your attention. Now that I have it, allow me to share with you one of the biggest and most deeply rooted challenges of succeeding as a woman--- other women.

Its terrible really. Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey—heck even Hilary Clinton have all spoken about how most times our biggest critics are not men—but other women. There is a pervasive belief that if you see another woman being smart, gorgeous capable, sure of herself, etc…then that means you won’t be. When you give a woman permission to succeed and break the glass ceiling, it must mean we can’t go with her.

Women have been so marginalized, and continue to be subjected to scrutiny and shame not known to men. Why then, must we perpetrate such crimes against each other? It’s a damn shame and I am guilty of it.

You see Gentle Reader….there happens to be this other blogger- a doe-eyed blonde, who basically has 5 written blogs all going at the same time plus a video blog, eats vegetables, works out, is married and oh…did I mention she is a resident at Mayo Clinic? I know right? I hate her. You can check out her really amazing blog here.

I am so insanely jealous. From her website, to her wardrobe, to her page where you can pay to Skype with her (why didn’t I think of that?), she seems too good to be true. So I decided to find out for myself—I paid the $30 to have a Skype date with this doe-eye nymph of medical perfection. My hope was that our 30 minute session will be akin to receiving feminine enlightenment and after being blessed by this goddess of perfection- I too will have my shit together (or at least look like I do).

Thanks to the miracle that is an internet connection and Paypal, she Skyped me over the weekend from her spotless and perfectly decorated home in Rochester. She is just as doe-eyed as ever. She also had a super cute poster that said, “I love you, coffee and blogs.” Oh dear Jesus, why is she so amazing?!

I told her how perfect I thought she was and how she’s making everyone else look bad.

“What! Are you kidding? I’m a disaster most of the time,” she said.

We talked a while more about the challenges of medical school—how many rectal exams she had to do, the fact that its hard to stay motivated and how scary it is to think about being responsible for someone else’s life. She recounted to me that she accidentally gave potassium to a patient on dialysis (which is apparently really bad and never do it).

Those 30 minutes were enough to melt my cynical, twisted heart. She really seemed to care about me—a jealous stranger from the internet.
At the end of our conversation told me that she liked my blog (major fangirl moment ensued). And she asked me how I thought she could improve hers (I recommended she add some poop jokes and swear words).  And then since her blog has a bazillion followers she offered to promote my blog on hers! And here I was, resenting her for being so perfect only to find out that its really true what they say—if someone is perfect you’re not looking close enough.

Think what we both would have lost by not working together and helping each other. At the least her blog would have remained stoically unfunny and mine wouldn’t have gotten all of those additional readers. When we work together- we win.

Its simply not the case that if you see a woman kicking ass then that means you can’t too. There is enough here for everyone. By helping each other through encouragement, sharing knowledge and consciously choosing to show love instead of hate, we help ourselves and we chip away at the notion that smart, successful women with leadership skills are bitchy, mean and bossy.

If you see another woman doing something awesome—tell her! And encourage her to keep doing it. And if you want what she has, ask her to help you.

And guys-- we need your help too. Remind us that our class is more than 60% female. Remind us that women now earn the majority of Bachelors and Masters degrees in this country. And remind us that dumbing ourselves down is not attractive. And when we feel the ache of the fact that women still earn 70 cents for every dollar a man makes-- bring us chocolate before we hurt you.