T-minus: 7 days

August 8, 2012 § 7 Comments

Things have sped up significantly. I’ve been thinking about this move almost all day every day for the past three months and here we are, only one week out. I can’t wrap my head around it. I go through the motions of the day, work as much as I can on packing and sorting our things….and then it’s bedtime followed by another day to do the same all over again. I’ve been spending a lot of time getting together with friends and visiting my grandparents – who knows when I will see them all again. I feel so relieved that we did so much ahead of time because I can’t imagine that we would have been able to do, much less remember, everything now. We’ve received our books, finalized all the details of the move, registered for health insurance, and registered with ANSA (Associated Norwegian Students abroad, more info in this post). I think that all that is left to do contact our banks about issuing us student cards (no usage charges) and registering our new address with the Norwegian government.

Since we started early with packing and organizing our things, we won’t really be taking anything with us that we are just going to turn around and throw away there. I keep thinking about the three suitcases I brought with me when I moved to Norway. I left some memorabilia – yearbooks, scrapbooks, and pictures – as well as important papers with my mom, but other than that, everything I owned fit in those three suitcases. And even then, I had things with me that I didn’t really need. It’s amazing how much worth we assign the things in our lives. When faced with the dilemma of throwing something away versus storing it somewhere, the choice is almost always to keep it. I have no doubt that there are anti-hoarders out there somewhere (my mom might very well be one of them – she is the best room cleaner I know ;)) but with the rest of us, it’s almost as though there is some quality of our genetic make-up that makes us want to hold on to things, that prevents us from throwing away something perfectly useable. I’ve caught myself in the midst of this type of dilemma many times during this move.

This single, perfectly white shoelace would fit perfectly in a shoe one day! When the other laces get worn down to grey nothingness…well, when one of them does, since there is only one shoelace. No! It could be a cute headband! Or a retro necklace! Seriously, Bianca, throw it away. You have never switched out your shoelaces and on the chance that you will, one day in the far future, you can go and buy two, so that you can replace the laces in BOTH shoes.

While speaking on Skype with Skjalg this past Saturday night (he was in our new apartment in Budapest), he said:

You know, the weirdest thing about all this is that… I don’t miss anything. I can’t think of one of my material possessions that I miss. This apartment is fully furnished, even to the point where there are cleaning supplies and fresh sheets. We could honestly just bring our clothes and move right in.

The main reason that we are moving down with a moving truck is because of our bed. It’s amazing and we love it, so we’re keeping it. Since we will be driving down to Budapest, we can bring more than we would be able to on the plane. This gives us a chance to bring some of our more personal items: paintings, pictures, decorative things, books, etc. However, we do not want to just bring everything we own. We need really sift through it all and be realistic about each item’s importance in our lives.

So this will be our project for these next few days. Skjalg will be flying back down to Budapest on Saturday to pick up the rental truck. His sister, Kaja, will be joining him for the trip. They will pick-up the truck on Monday and then start the 2-3 day drive up to Oslo. I want to get as much of this move done while Skjalg is here so that I can focus on cleaning the apartment while he is in Budapest. I can’t believe there is only a week left!

Pre-departure meeting at Bjørknes

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today Skjalg and I attended an information meeting at Bjørknes. The meeting included representatives from ANSA (Associated Norwegian Students Abroad), a priest from the Norwegian Seamens Church, and students from Semmelweis and Pécs. The meeting’s attendants were a mix of students headed to Semmelweis and Pécs and the veterinary school in Budapest, Szent Istvan. I was really surprised that there were no students that were headed to Szeged. There was a period of time where we had considered that our first choice school, but I’ve noticed that it isn’t as popular as the other two among Norwegian students. The reason that we decided against Szeged was because it is not an accredited medical school in California – and I’m not going to get a degree that isn’t recognized in my home state.


ANSA was started in 1956 and has grown to include over 13,000 members in over 90 countries. This organization essentially “takes care” of Norwegian students studying abroad. After the 2011 Japan tsunami, they were responsible for flying home all members studying there. They offer insurance, student bank accounts, scholarships and loans, and deals on flights through Kilroy. They are also available to answer pretty much any question a student should have, including: issues with the school, student aid, personal problems, and illnesses. The ANSA representative even joked at one point that some of the Norwegian embassies have admitted that ANSA has a better overview of students in foreign countries than they do.

ANSA Hungary has charity project called “Students help students” where members travel to Transylvania to help build student homes for orphans cared for by the Saint Francis Foundation. The majority of orphans complete high school and are accepted to universities, but are dependent on a place to live. By giving them a place to live, they are given a chance to complete their university education, and thus become a beneficial resource for Romania’s future. The first student home was built in August 2009. There are now two homes housing 50+ students. The Saint Francis Foundation cares for some 2,000 children and there are increasingly more that need somewhere to live. The plan is to build a large student home –  800-1,600 sq. meters (8,600-17,200 sq. feet) – with room for 50-100 students to live and for facilities such as a library and common area. This is something that I am VERY interested in participating in.

ANSA Calendar 2012-2013

  • September
    • 3rd-8th: Introduction week in Pécs
    • 8th: Treasure hunt and start of Introduction week in Budapest
    • 10th-14th: Introduction week in Budapest
    • 15th: Sports day and concert in Budapest
    • 21st: First pub quiz in Budapest (of which there will be one every other week for as long as possible)
    • 28th: First pub quiz in Pécs
  • October
    • 4th-7th: Romania Charity Trip
    • 28th: Pub quiz in Pécs
  • November
    • 30th: Christmas porridge in Pécs
  • December
    • 2nd: Christmas porridge and service with ANSA priest Tim Georg in Budapest
  • February
    • 3rd-9th: Ski trip in Austria
    • ?: Medicine Seminar
  • March
    • 2nd: Charity Ball
    • 14th-16th: Kick-off/organization course
  • April
    • 27th: Volleyball tournament
  • May
    • 17th: Norwegian Independence Day celebration

Checklist before leaving for Hungary:

  • Passport
  • Order health insurance card at helfo.no
  • Order insurance
  • Apply for student loan and aid through Lånekassen
  • Change of address
  • Pay tuition
  • Have back-ups of bankcards – it takes a long time to send new cards to Hungary in case you lose yours

Priest from Norwegian Seamens Church

His number one tip was to enjoy yourself. He said that many make the mistake of locking themselves up in their rooms with their books and cut themselves off from other people. This is something that is natural when facing such a challenging study load. The only problem is that, when you hit a wall – which you will – you won’t have the support you need to overcome it. The ANSA-Priest acts as a sort of commissioner. He comes running when help is needed and is in a position to drop everything at the last minute. He stays neutral and is available to anyone in need of someone to talk to. He told of an instance two years ago in which a Norwegian student was murdered by her Chinese ex-boyfriend. Together with ANSA, he offered invaluable support and counsel for friends and family of the girl.

Advice from current students

For this portion, we were split into Semmelweis and Pécs groups, so I cannot account for the advice given to students heading to Pécs – though some of it may still apply. There were two guys, one studying medicine at Semmelweis and the other studying architecture – both are heading into their 5th year. Their advice included:

  • General

    • DO NOT procrastinate. Exam topics are available from the beginning of the semester. Print them out now so that you know what to study.
    • Be prepared for the fact that you are not going to feel like a medical student for the first two years. You will when you start clinical training in year 3, but before that it is all theory.
    • You can get all the books you need at the bookstores in Hungary – and they are usually much cheaper than in Norway.
    • The teaching style is much more formal, more old-school and strict than in Norway. In Norway it is almost impossible to fail. In fact, it is actually easier to succeed than to fail – and this is not the case in Hungary.
    • Keep in mind that you may come from a country that is financially better off. The money you get as a student may not be far off from the wage of some of your professors. Show respect.
  • Exams

    • Everyone will fail at least 1 exam – so be prepared for it. Failing one exam does not mean that you will never pass the class. You can fail the exam one week and then ace it the next.
    • The exams vary in their style. Some are verbal, where you pick a card and answer all questions regarding that topic. Some are multiple choice. Others, like physics, include essays.
  • Apartments

    • Avoid Tower Rentals agency like the plague. Some have had luck with them, but the majority of students have either neutral or horrible experiences with this agency.
    • Make sure you see the apartment for yourself first. Take time to experience the area.
    • Public transportation is amazing in Budapest, so you don’t have to look for places right next to the school. A student card costs only 100,- (about $17) a month for unlimited use.
  • Taxis

    • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS pre-order a taxi over picking one on the street. This is the number one way to get tricked out of your money. There are many unregistered taxis that will charge 3 times as much. I head read numerous horror stories on various blogs.

To close out this post, I want to share a funny story told by one of the students in regards to one of his verbal exams. It was an anatomy exam and he chose a card concerning the back of the calf. The teacher point to a nerve and asked the student to name this nerve. The student mistakenly thought it was a tendon and proceeded to identify it as such, to which the professor replied:

“Jan Erik, Jan Erik. I think I know streets of Oslo better than you know anatomy. Please leave and return when you have studied.”

What made you want to become a doctor?

July 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’d like to think that anyone heading to medical school – whether thinking about it, applying, or already starting their studies – is often asked THE question. It comes in several variations but most are along the lines of: “what made you want to become…” or “why do you want to be…” or “how did you know that you wanted to be…” a doctor.

Ever since I was little girl, I’ve had pretty grandiose ideas about what my future career would be. I once came across a 1st or 2nd grade class assignment, from when I was about 6/7 years old, where I had illustrated and written – in my barely legible, learning-to-write handwriting – that I wanted to be an astronaut. After that my mom started law school and I wanted to be a lawyer – just like my mama! Not long after – and I don’t know exactly when – this changed to doctor. People I met in my daily life would ask me the quintessential question for children: what do you want to be when you grew up? To which I would answer, “A doctor. The kind that does everything.” If my mom was there she would fill in the title that I never managed to say, as it was too rich for my pre-adolescent vocabulary: general practitioner.

Once I decided that I was going to be a doctor, I knew that I had to test myself as much as possible – just to make sure that this was what I really wanted. I began studying everything that happened during my doctor visits, which wasn’t very exciting in the beginning. The most I did was stare intently at the entrance of the needle into the veins of my antecubital fossa (the crook of your elbow…. or elbow pit as I like to call it). I knew then that there would be much worse things to “handle” in the future if I was to become a doctor.

My biggest can-you-handle-being-a-doctor test came when I was a freshman in high school and it requires a bit of a back story. I have hyper mobility syndrome, which, put simply, means that my joints stretch farther than normal. The best instance of this is my left knee, which I dislocated for the first time while playing kickball in 3rd grade. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and had to use crutches for a couple of weeks (which is maybe where I got my first taste for medicine?). After this initial dislocation, my knee cap became no stranger to slipping out of its joint. If I got up the wrong way, skipped, hop or ran the wrong way, it would dislocate and I would sit in whichever spot I fell until I regained the strength to get up and walk again. These numerous dislocations took their toll over the years and when I was 15 it dislocated for a last time while I was log wrestling with my best friend Amy. There may be a more technical term for it than “log wrestling” but it is essentially where you and an opponent stand on top of two huge, parallel logs and see who can stay on their log the longest. Well, I slipped off my log and my left leg got jammed between two smaller logs, dislocating my knee. My orthopedic surgeon later explained that, with this dislocation, I had torn a weakened muscle off of my knee cap and needed surgery to repair it.

For those interested in reading about my surgery, I will include a more detailed description at the end of this post. Here I will share what my orthopedic surgeon told me, and what I subsequently repeated to every doctor I’ve seen since then. He explained the following:

You have shallow joints and have dislocated your left knee so many times, and over such a long period of time, that there is a good amount of damage in the area surrounding the knee-joint. You have a muscle that runs down from your hip to your knee. You have torn this muscle and I need to remove the section of it that is too stretched out to offer your joint any support. I will cut off about 4 inches and then reattach it. I will also need to perform arthroscopic surgery on either side of your knee. I will make a two small incisions and go in with a small camera. You have two tendons that run down the sides of your legs and stabilize your patella (knee cap). The one on the outside of your knee has become too tight and is actually pulling your patella out of the knee-joint. I need to trim this one so that it loosens up. The one on the inside of your knee is too weak and isn’t really doing what it is supposed to. This one needs to be cut and retied so that it is tighter.

Now, as I wrote earlier, I was about 15 when he explained this to me so the details may not be 100% accurate. I’ve looked up my surgery and at diagrams of the knee several times since and find that I can’t quite connect my understanding of the surgery with what I’ve found online. However, I have repeated the details of my surgery to about five doctors since and have yet to be corrected (though that could be because they don’t want to waste time explaining it to me). The most feedback I’ve received after explaining my surgery is that the surgery is no longer performed due to its high failure rate. I expect that I will understand my knee surgery much differently after medical school.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Watching myself get basic shots and vaccines wasn’t cutting it in terms of challenging my ability to handle being a doctor. I needed something bigger… something more disgusting! So I asked my orthopedic surgeon if I could watch my knee surgery. It was definitely unlike any request he’d had before, but he agreed. One thing you have to remember is that this was back when managing to upload a single, grainy picture onto your computer was an amazing feat. This was three years before YouTube and Facebook were created. A quick internet search today will bring up any surgery video, including the exact surgery I had, within seconds.

On the day of my surgery, I was only partially anesthetized so that I would be able to follow along with the procedure. I was only able to watch the arthroscopic surgery on a TV screen above me, as it is quite hard to study your knee while laying on your back and temporarily paralyzed. But it was amazing. Simply…amazing. The human body seems so sacred at times. We are beings of life, of emotion and passion. There is a mental connection and response to every part of our body. We are aware. And to see the inside of my body, to see someone scraping and prodding and poking, and have no mental connection or response to it was unlike anything I have every experienced. Something changed in me then, something that I wouldn’t really appreciate, much less fully understand, until now. It’s the ability to look at the body as a biological machine, as a combination of it’s billion, if not trillion, functioning parts. To look at HOW we work. To assimilate our bodies with cars and moving toys. To look at the human body just as it is, outside of the presence of the soul. I’m getting excited just writing about it now. It’s fascinating. Truly and utterly fascinating.

One thing I’ve learned about myself as I’ve grown older, mostly through people pointing it out, is that I have a pretty extreme sense of empathy for not only living creatures but even material things – and this isn’t always a good thing.  When I picked flowers as a little girl, I would tear out a single hair from my head and lay it where the flower had been, as some sort of exchange. When Skjalg and I go for walks in the woods, I will move snails out of the way. Once, on a walk in the rain, we came across a writhing worm in the dirt path. He told me that it was probably being tortured by the intense vibrations of the rain drops. I felt so bad for the worm that I picked it up and placed it in a mushy mud section on the side so that it could escape more easily. Expressing sorrow or sadness about anything in my own life isn’t nearly as easy for me as for expressing it for something is someone else’s, whether in real life or movies (even cartoons!). Christian walked in on me crying once while I was watching Disney’s Tarzan – one of the parts in the beginning where Phil Collins is singing… maybe I never matured past 8-years old?

This is how I know I am going to be a doctor – my passion for the body, my ability to handle “grossness” and my empathy for people, not just for their conscious self, but for their biological beings. While studying the immune response for the entrance exam, I could not stop raving about the individual cells involved. I got so excited reading about them, learning what they do and the role they play in the human body. “Skjalg! Skjalg! Did you know that cells that are damaged or infected will actually present this information on receptors on their surface??? They are informing macrophages (the cells that digest damaged cells) that they are infected and need to die! They’re essentially committing suicide by informing the body that they are potentially harmful!” I have a genuine physical response to the excitement I feel when I learn about how the body works.

Why do I want to be a doctor? Yes, I want to help people and yes, I love science. But honestly, the main reason for me is that I want to know everything I can about how the body works, I want to understand it, appreciate it and figure it out. I’m passionate about the human body and I feel empathy for its individual parts, even down to its little mast, t- and b-cells.

Check out Khanacademy.com’s fun video on Cytotoxic T Cells

Go cytotoxic t cells!

About my surgery

I’ve always thought that the main surgery I had was called patellic realignment. Google informed me that I am mistaken and the surgery is in fact called patella (or patellar) realignment.

Here are before and after X-rays of the knee:

Before surgery: misaligned patella

After surgery: realigned patella

After looking more at the anatomy of the knee, I suspect that it wasn’t a muscle that I tore, but possibly the quadriceps tendon – meaning that I misunderstood what the surgeon had explained to me. This tendon attaches the quadricep muscles to the knee.

The Shelbourne Knee Center says that there are two types of patella realignment surgery: proximal repair and trillat procedure. My arthroscopic procedure seemed most similar to the proximal repair. This procedure requires that the surgeon make a small incision on each side of the knee cap. The patella is stabilized by soft tissue (the retinaculum) and after a dislocation, the tissue on the inner side of the knee is torn or stretched and the tissue on the outer side is shortened. The proximal repair procedure tightens the stretched retinaculum on the inner side and loosens the shortened retinaculum on the outer side.

I have yet to find a source that explains the surgery that involved reattachment of a muscle (or tendon) but will definitely post about it when I do.


Source: http://www.fixknee.com/Trillat/patella%20tendon%20realignment.htm

Everything is about to change

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

I noticed that I am growing more and more anxious with each passing day. We still have 4-5 weeks before we move to Budapest and I am already having trouble sleeping. There is so much to process and prepare for – and on top of that there is the fact that we are moving away from everything we know. Not only do we have to plan for the move, but we have to enjoy our last weeks here. Our lives are never again going to be the way that we are now. Summers will be spent doing clinical rotations and trying to make as much money as possible to support us through the next school year, Christmas break will be spent studying for finals, and then, when school is over, we will be doctors. We are on the eve of a chapter that will redefine everything we know and everything we are.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just have to escape my mind; this usually happens through some seriously unproductive means, like playing Skyrim or watching My Big Fat Royal American Gypsy Wedding. I really enjoyed studying for my entrance exam – I know that sounds crazy. The Khan Academy videos are so fun to watch that you forget that you are learning. Perhaps I could “escape my mind” by watching those instead? Then I would at least be doing something productive.

When we aren’t too overwhelmed to do anything, we spend our time researching details about the move. We have several of the details locked down but there are others that are harder to organize, like renting a moving van. Skjalg has called at least 10 different companies and sent about a dozen emails already. In addition to that, we need to start reducing our material possessions; to evaluate what we really need for the next 6 years and what we should part with. Better to have as little baggage as possible when heading into the unknown… 🙂

It doesn’t matter how you get from A to B, just that you get there.

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

My journey to get to where I am today is anything but a straight line. Instead, it is long and curly with twisted turns, overlaps and mathematically improbable dead ends. But all that matters is that I’m here. However, there were times that I really, really doubted that this would happen. Many moments were spent  looking ahead of me and watching the road grow longer and longer. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make a page about this process, how I’ve gotten where I am today. One of the beauties of modern technology is that you don’t always have to remember everything. I’m pretty fuzzy about my year after high school, but a search in my black hole of an email account unearthed detailed emails I sent to family and friends during that time. I’ve created a page entitled My Story, which can be found on the header bar. Here I have taken the time to summarize (though it ended up being quite long…) my journey over the past 7-8 years. It is definitely a personal share, and I have tried to keep the most personal details out of it, but I decided that it was worth posting for those that take the time to read it. It will give the reader insight into me and my development over the years. I hope that insight provides for a better reading experience for the chapter to come.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.P.S. I Love You

The Lancet Student’s Top 10 Tips for Medical Students

July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

The Lancet Student is a blog site run by students and for students that aims to give medical students from around the world a place to talk about their experiences with medical school life and their thoughts on top health issues.

One of their bloggers, Stephanie, posted a great blog listing her tips for incoming students.

1) “You are not going to understand anything about anything for the first three months. That’s okay.” I still think that’s the best advice anyone could have given me. Entering medical school is confusing. It’s a whole new world. I could have panicked, but I had the knowledge that this was normal, that other people felt it too. I would get the hang of it in the end. And I did. So will you!

This knowledge coupled with the expected “you should know this” and “why are you wasting my time and yours?” comments from professors will surely provide a thick skin 😉

2) This is going to be tough. It needs to be said. You will not be prepared for the years ahead, no matter what you do. This will test you further than you’ve probably been tested before. But that’s okay too. Take up challenges one by one, work hard, and things will be fine. Nobody starts out ready to be a doctor. Doctors are made (pretty much like swords – in fire!). Prepare to be forged!

3) Forget personal boundaries and prejudices. If you are uncomfortable touching people intimately, or discussing sex, death and various body functions, or dealing with a particluar group of people…the bad news is; you have to do it. There is no way around it. The good news is; it gets easier. Once you steel yourself and do it once, twice, thrice – it will all become as natural as breathing. Hence the awkward dinner conversations regarding faeces and pestilence which will result in your mother banning you from speaking while she’s eating. Good times.

I’m a little uncomfortable touching people outside of my relationships intimately but I’ve never had a problem discussing things openly. Coming to Norway from the states was a big change because, in my experience, Americans are much more open than Norwegians. I remember writing an english blurb about one of the restaurants I work for that was to be published in a local tourist magazine. My boss came to me after reading it and asked me to “tone it down a little bit”. My boss is a great guy, with a serious appreciation for American culture, and he explained that Norwegians refrain from using strong adjectives or phrasing. I think I use words like love, hate, amazing and perfect on a daily basis, and this is definitely not common in Norwegian culture. When I would tell people that I love apples, for example, they would react oddly. Skjalg explained once that this is because I am pretty much saying, “Oh my god! I LOVE APPLES! THEY ARE AMAZING!!!” I had to get used to toning it down: I enjoy apples instead of I love apples, nice weather instead of amazing weather, a dish to remember instead of the best dish you’ve ever tasted in your life.

4) Do things your own way. Your friends may use those books, or may study in that place, or that way…but that doesn’t have to mean squat to you. Do not compare your methods with others. Find out what works for you. If a library suffocates you, go off to study on the grass somewhere. You can highlight your book a million different colours, or stick post-it notes till it can barely close, or make short notes or flow-charts or tables or diagrams. You can study alone or in a group. Whatever works for you. And if your friend comes up and mentions that he’s read the Paediatrics book twice already and you’re still halfway through your first reading…do not panic. His way of studying is probably different from yours – and as far as you know, maybe not as effective. Remembering this tip will save you many blinding moments of panic, and help you focus on what you need to do.

5) Medicine is awesome. I’m sure you think that, or you wouldn’t be starting the course right now. But believe me, there will be times when you doubt your decision. There will be times when you question your motivation, your strength, and even your sanity. These moments will usually come before major exams, when you feel that nothing in the world could possibly be worth the all-nighters, the stress, the feeling that your brain can’t possibly fit it all in (it can, because the brain is amazing). Those moments will pass. Not only that, but they will be overshadowed by other moments; when you will realize just how wonderful, interesting, and purely awesome this career is.

I think this is one of the most valuable of the tips. I almost feel like printing it out and hanging it on the way somewhere to remind us when the times get tough.

6) Travel. Travelling to international conferences and summer schools, or going for exchanges or electives is a unique experience. They are great ways to learn new things, experience other cultures and – very importantly – meeting up with medical students from all around the world. There are various opportunities for doing this, and it is worth exploring the ones available to you. Some are expensive, but others may be sponsored and accessible even to those with lower budgets, so do not let the financial aspect deter you from checking out your options! An elective is also a great opportunity to gain experience in something not easily available in your country. And it will definitely broaden your mind and give you new perspectives, especially if you come from a small country like I do!

7) Make friends. You will need them. You will moan with them, exchange advice with them, work with them. Some of them may be future colleagues. All of them will be the person who understands you the most for the next few years. Do not be that selfish person who only thinks about themselves, and does things purely for their own gain (and you will, alas, meet such people). Watch somebody’s back, because your own needs to be watched as well. You are not infallible, and you do not need to do this alone.

8) Take it seriously. This is not high school. You can’t slack off all year in the hope that you will learn everything from books later. If you could become a doctor just by buying the right books, you could do it at home. Medicine isn’t a correspondence course, because you need to watch, observe, learn by doing and discussing. This applies to the pre-clinical years, but even more so once you have the privilege (for a privilege it is) to shadow doctors and go around hospital. Of course, there will be those who disappear during that first week, and only show up for exams. Those people are doing it wrong.

9) Be humble. Everybody can teach you something. Not just your lecturers, but your classmates, other healthcare professionals, and even students from other disciplines (who usually have more practical-based learning and know their way around a hospital by the end of their first year). And your patients, of course, are experts in the very subject you want to be most knowledgeable about…themselves.

10) It’s not all about medicine. It may sound cliche, but you will fall into this trap sooner or later. You may think you do not have the time for hobbies, or friends, or a social life. You do. It may not be as easy as it was before, and you may have to sacrifice here and there, but you do not need to become a one-dimensional human being. Explore other interests, keep contact with people outside your daily sphere (even if it is to meet up for drinks once in a blue moon). You will need that other point of view. Don’t lose it!

Advice from Grandpa

July 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

My Grandpa left a a valuable piece of advice on one of my earlier blog posts. For those that missed it, I have reposted it here. (Hope you don’t mind, Grandpa 🙂 .)

Don’t worry – be happy! Do not invent future problems – handle the ones that are there. Your conscious mind is not the only one working for you. A greater chunk of your intelligence works for you silently – and more efficiently when you do not stress too much or try to handle too much at the awareness level.

Grandpa Antonio

I read his comment several times, letting it marinate and really sink in. In the past several weeks, I have really come to appreciate the decisive degree to which our conscious mental state affects our unconscious selves, something which can eventually manifest itself physically. It’s only natural that our minds conjure up the alarming amount of thoughts that they do. It’s like that arcade game we used to play as children: the one where rats, moles, or some other kind of rodent would pop up out of the machine and you would have to bop it on the head with a cushioned hammer. Thoughts pop up from our pre-conscious and we bop the heads of the ones that we don’t want there, whether they are silly, negative, violent, hurtful, etc. A problem occurs when we allow some of these more negative thoughts to exist there, to set up camp and develop into something greater and more damaging. These are the “I’m not going to make it” or “I’m not good enough” type of thoughts. It’s dangerous to allow these thoughts a long stay because you could end up believing them to be true.

My Grandpa pointed out something I hadn’t considered. Not only do these negative thoughts or stresses weigh on your conscious, and possibly your physical being, but they cloud your mind and prevent it from processing other, more important things. If I’m stressing about my exams, summer internship, or anything else in the far future, I am doing myself an immense disservice. It fits a little with advice my mom gave me: that I should focus on the issues at hand because there will be new ones an hour from now, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. It cuts down my efficacy and ability to reflect on the present when I entertain the stresses of the future.

I’m sure all pre-first year medical students are battling with the same fears. It definitely can’t be said that we are going at this alone or that I am experiencing anything different. I think the key at this point it to prepare, mentally, for the challenges heading our way. To learn whatever techniques we can and to spend this time before school starts learning how to better control our conscious.

Thank you again for your advice, Grandpa 🙂 It came at the perfect time.

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