25 days out

October 30, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’ve told myself almost 100 times now that I can treat myself to writing a blog post when I reach my goals (for that day). Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet! So here I am, sneaking time away from studying even though I’m nowhere close to finishing today’s task list.

Studying for this exam is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m literally being tested on everything that I’ve learned, every single subject simultaneously, and there is absolutely no end to it all. I could probably study for this exam for years and years. Luckily, that isn’t what is required to pass this exam.

I am 25 days out from my exam and I am officially freaking out (while still being mildly functional). For at least the past month, I’ve lost my ability to communicate like a normal person. I can tell when I am having conversations with my friends that I’m just not making sense anymore. How do I know? Because even I don’t know what I am saying! I’ve also lost my ability to come up with metaphors that DON’T have something to do with medicine (e.g. “Haha, he’s just like a retinoic acid receptor!” or “You’re just like Class IB antiarrhythmics, both of you have a predilection for damaged tissue”). I wish I was kidding about that.  This sort of mania is something that I think only people who have studied for this exam before can understand. My friend Stephanie is the best example: she NEVER gets stressed or anxious for exams (or honestly about anything) and yet, even she had panic attacks while studying for this exam.

Luckily, teaching has been really helpful and I’ve enjoyed the break away from the books to spend time with my students. We are covering neuroanatomy this semester and preparing for the lessons has made me ace almost all my neuro questions. They’ve been amazing and are always so engaged. I share some of my Step 1 questions (the ones relevant to their material) in our facebook group and I love seeing how they process and discuss the possible answers. I’ve been so, so impressed with their knowledge and efforts!

So, what exactly is my life like right now? I wake up at 5:00 (sometimes 6:00 if I’ve had a rough night sleeping, which happens more often than not), throw random grains and nuts in the rice cooker (if I don’t have some leftover), do cardio while doing questions/watching Pathoma or Sketchy videos, shower, settle in for rounds of questions (UWORLD: I do a full block (40 questions), random (all subject and disciplines) and on timed mode every time. This is the best way to simulate the exam experience. The exam is as much about knowledge as it is about endurance.). Doing the rounds and their subsequent review can take the whole day (and it usually does). I study as late as I can and then I do flashcards in bed until I fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I’m asleep by 22:00. Obviously, there are various dips in energy and focus throughout the day. I haven’t been able to nap longer than 15 minutes for the past two months and now I’m even down to only 5-10 minutes before my brain starts going through uncontrollable UWORLD withdrawal. Now that I’m starting to get even more anxious, I’m going to start studying out of the apartment more. I need to dissociate my exam from my home if I am going to stay sane these next few weeks.

Everything in my life right now is 100%, absolutely full-force USMLE. I’ve tried to minimize all other obligations so that I can (a) have more time to study and (b) prevent spreading myself too thin and doing horribly in all areas of my life. I’ve pushed A LOT until after my exam. This includes my thesis and my gynecology final, as well as a huge chunk of my internal rotation (which I am doing now). My friends Marianne and Dushyant have offered to take some of my anatomy classes, which is extremely helpful. It is really important to me that my students have a good teacher and I’m so lucky to have strong, competent friends who are willing to step in when I can’t be that for them. Marianne is doing most of her rotations in Norway, but she is here for two months to do her pediatrics rotation and she’s been at my place studying almost every day.

Ok, the books are calling, so I’m going to leave you with some pictures that I’ve taken the past two months. Clearly, my life is little more than studying, cooking (I’ve been making literally all my meals in a rice cooker – those things are amazing!!), and going out for groceries or to walk Baloo. Luckily, I live in a really beautiful part of Budapest, so leaving my apartment is always a treat.

Music has been my saving grace through all of this. I listen to music from when I get up until I go to bed – and the selection is all over the place!

 

World, stop.

March 19, 2017 § 4 Comments

This weekend, I finally took some time to breathe. Since I last wrote, I’ve been busy studying for Step 1 of the USMLE (which I’ve been planning to take in June), studying for my classes and enjoying some time with friends and family. Step 1 requires many, many months of dedicated studying and trying to manage that in addition to my normal “life” load has been really difficult – and exhausting! I’ve been waking up every morning at 5:00 am to complete a block in UWorld (the quintessential question bank). After that I work out from 6:00-7:00, go to class and then come home to review my questions from that morning ands study. Each block is 40 questions and reviewing an entire block can take a really, really long time. Sometimes, I’ve even used up to 8 hours reviewing a single block! Each question comes with detailed theory pertaining to the correct answer, as well as information behind each wrong answer. In addition to doing my blocks each morning, I should be reviewing the various subjects. I had planned to cover at least one subject each week. Have I been able to do that? Nope!

In the beginning of March, we visited Krakow with a group of friends. I kept my studying up during that time, but it was not easy! Waking up at 5:00 while everyone was still asleep for a least a couple more hours was…lonely and frustrating.

Outside of that, the trip was amazing! The city has so much history and it was such a unique experience to visit Auschwitz. It’s really something I will never forget.

After we arrived back in Budapest on Sunday evening, I only had a couple of days before my mom and brother arrived (from the US and Oslo, respectively). We haven’t been together – the three of us – in 4 years, so this was an extremely special trip for me. In the beginning of their visit, I tried to balance studying with family time. By that Friday, I gave in. This past month has shown me that I’m not going to be ready for the exam in June. I’m not planning on going back to the states in the immediate future and you can only take the exam one time, so I would rather push the date and take it when I am more prepared. It felt good to check out of my study world for a little bit and fully enjoy time with my family. They mean the world to me.

Their visit was perfection. We tried out new restaurants in Budapest, including an AMAZING new one called Makery where you make your own dinner. You are supplied with prepared ingredients and a fully stocked workstation. Each person chooses their dishes (just like in a normal restaurant) and then follows step-by-step video instructions to make it. Such a cool concept! We also did some escape rooms, had a cocktail night with all of our friends and took a day and a half trip to Vienna.

We even got to celebrate Christian’s 27th birthday on the day! Our friend Amir brought over a bunch of fresh goods from his favorite bakery, which we served alongside a collection of cakes we’d brought back with us from Aida in Vienna. Then we watched Chef (one of my favorite movies, which Christian had never seen before). After that it was shopping on Vaci utca, two escape rooms, drinks at a roof top bar close to the basilica and dinner at Iguana with Dushyant and Amir (including the dogs! My mom’s dog Romeo and our dog Baloo).

My mom and Christian left on Thursday and I spent the rest of the day reviewing for Friday’s anatomy exams. Since I have my own group, I’m a main examiner during midterms. This means that I may be in charge of examining an entire group (other than my own). I like to vary my questions as much as possible, so I try to do a thorough review of all the topics before the exams.

In addition to exam day, Friday was the day of Baloo’s surgeries – yes, surgeries! Technically, there was only one surgery with three parts, but when your dog weighs less than 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) you worry a bit more! On top of being neutered, he had two baby teeth taken out (some of them have been a bit stubborn) and a suspicious lump on his head removed. Luckily, the lump turned out to be nothing more than a hair follicle that had grown inward! If any of you follow Dr. Pimple Popper, then you’ve seen these before. If you’re curious, check out this compilation video.

I was so thankful for the distraction of examining students for the anatomy midterm during Baloo’s surgery. I was so nervous that something would go wrong! When Skjalg picked him up at 14:00, the vet told him him that everything went smoothy and there were no complications at all! Afterwards, he was a bit loopy, but by Saturday he was almost back to normal and even playing fetch!

​The only problem now is dealing with his cone. Because he is so small, the cone they had that fits him is really hard and narrow. He absolutely hates it. While it’s on he will stand in place for 10 minutes then get tired and try to lay down somewhere (but never really get comfortable). I slept on the floor with him the first night, since he can’t navigate the stairs leading up to the bed in the dark. Last night, we tried putting his jacket/harness thing on instead. He was able to sleep through the night, so hopefully that is enough of a “blocker” for any licking or scratching he might try.

Otherwise, week 8 (already!!) of the semester starts tomorrow. I’m starting with new material for my students, which I will prepare tomorrow morning before my class at 12:00. We are in the middle of our forensics block, so I might start with preparing my notes for our final at the end of the semester. I’m considering October for Step 1, so I will start studying more for my current course load (I’ve ONLY been studying USMLE so far this semester). I’m going to have to sit down tomorrow and make a study plan for the rest of the semester.

 

 

My First Scientific Conference

February 11, 2017 § 8 Comments

It’s almost 3 in the afternoon and I’ve only been awake for 2.5 hours. Even still, as I lay here in bed writing this, I’m considering taking a nap (Edit: it’s now 19:00 as I continue writing this… I fell asleep for another 3 hours).

This week was scary, amazing and all-consuming. Almost everything I did was outside my comfort zone. There were some really high high’s and some very low low’s. Everything is changing now. We are nearing the end of this giant, life-altering chapter of our lives and that fact sinks in deeper and deeper with each passing day. I feel like I’m standing in a giant room with every door and window open; time is running out and I need to escape this room, but I don’t know which door or window to go through.

Now, let’s take you through the past week:

MONDAY

  • 8:00-12:00Hematology practice on the Buda side
    • Leave an hour early to make it to anatomy on time
  • 12:00-13:30 – Teach anatomy
    • Colleague is sick, so take on his class as well. Come up with a plan for making the practice useful for your now 25 students.
    • Teach cardiac embryology and hope that they at least understood half of what you were saying.
  • 13:30-14:00 – Try to help your students with a scheduling problem they have with PE and anatomy.
  • 14:00-15:00 – Last minute preparation for public health (PH) research presentation
  • 15:30-17:30 PH research presentation
    • Mock presentation of your research for the entire department
    • Note down critiques and tips and answer any questions
    • Sit in on the presentations and critiques of two other Hungarian students – all in Hungarian
  • 17:30-18:30 – Get home and eat dinner – you’ve only had two protein shakes so far today
  • 18:30-22:30 – Work on changes to your PH presentation

TUESDAY

  • 8:00-13:00 –  Hematology practice
    • Try to pay attention and learn something, but you are 18 people crammed into a small room and you can’t think about anything other than your research projects.
    • Leave early with Amir to work on surgery research project. Note to self: make-up missed session later (just another thing to deal with).
  • 11:00 – Find out you’ve been rejected from the 6th year program in Stavanger, then immediately after, get a call from your boyfriend that he was accepted. Feel extreme happiness and sadness simultaneously.
    • Ignore your emotions so that you can focus on your research project
    • Best friend pushes you to talk about it. Feelings and fears about your future as a doctor rush forward. Freak out about the future for 30 or so minutes.
  • 12:00-22:30 – Surgery research project
    • Literally 10.5 hours of constant work on your presentation. Remember all that statistical analysis you did in December when you wrote your abstract? That doesn’t make sense anymore. Re-learn it and do it again.
  • 22:30-02:00 – Home to finish up project while talking about Stavanger with boyfriend
  • 02:00 – Submit presentation to advisor
    • This still counts as Tuesday night, right??

WEDNESDAY

  • 8:00-13:00 – Work on presentations
    • Make final changes
    • Look up any articles/data needed for any potential questions about your research
  • 13:00: Find out that you need to attend the laparoscopy competition on Friday and need to find someone to cover your classes 
    • Luckily, one of your TAs is a close friend and amazing human being! (Thank you, Marianne!)
  • 14:00-15:00Surgery research presentation for your advisors (one of which is the head of the department)
  • 15:00-16:00 – Watch 4 sessions of the Hungarian student conference while waiting for your public health advisor
    • Get smacked in the face with the reality of what is going to happen to you tomorrow.
  • 16:00-16:30Meet with public health advisor to go over finishing touches on presentation
  • 16:30-17:00 – Rush into a store to find a suit jacket for tomorrow
  • 17:00-18:45 – Amir’s place to work on changes to surgery presentation
  • 19:30-02:00 – Work!
    • Finalize both presentations
    • Practice presenting
    • Make quizzes for anatomy class – and start grading quizzes from Monday!

THURSDAY

  • 07:00 – Get ready and practice presentations
    • Realise you’ve made a mistake in your presentation and go through the data again. Make the change in your presentation.
  • 10:00-11:00 – Attend presentation by Thieme at the anatomy department.
  • 11:00-12:45 – Practice presentations at conference location
  • 13:00 – Session starts!!

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  • 13:35 – Surgery research presentation
    • Maximum 10 minutes
    • 5 minute question section, where jurors can ask any questions regarding your work. Some of your questions:
      • How did you account for the potential bias of those that volunteered for the experimental group (i.e. that they were already interested in surgery as a profession and therefore likely more skilled)?
      • Do you plan to redo the study and if so, what measures will you take to increase the statistical significance of your results?
      • What role do you think gaming systems play in the development of laparoscopic skill and technique?

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  • 13:45 – Rush out of room with Marcus (a fellow 5th year student presenting with you in the next block)
    • The block for your other presentation is already halfway done and you have to sneak in and upload your presentation during the break
  • 13:50-14:50 – Observe presentations of all other students of your block.
    • Marcus does an amazing job and gets more questions than you’ve seen anyone get (he worked on a study comparing different EKG readers).
  • 14:55Public Health research presentation
    • Maximum 10 minutes
      • Get a little thrown off when one of your animations messes up and shows Dresden and Munich as being in the middle of the North Sea. Marcus tells you later that you made a nice save.
    • 5 minute question section, where jurors can ask any questions regarding your work. Some of your questions:
      • What explains the age difference between the analysed subgroups?
      • How did students specify their desired specialty?
      • Do you have similar statistics showing predictive factors of other specialities?

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  • 15:15-19:00 – Pictures, celebrate and nap before the closing ceremony.

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  • You didn’t finish grading the quizzes from Monday, so you have to do it while celebrating with your friends at Spiler.
  • Luckily, your friends are awesome and split the grading with you. Cocktails and grading for the win!

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  • 19:30Closing ceremony
    • On the way here, Skjalg brings up how he thinks you could win. You tell him to stop bringing it up because you don’t expect it and don’t want to start thinking about it. You’re just happy with having presented.
    • The ceremony starts and people keep asking you what section you were in. You honestly don’t know. Getting through the day was literally the only thing on your mind.
    • You recognize a name in 3rd place of one of the sections. Skjalg, Amir and András (your advisor) get antsy. Second place is announced and you see your name flash across the screen as it is read out loud by the conference director.

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    • You walk up, get your prize – in complete shock – and then return to your friends.
    • The next section results are read. You’re busy looking at your prize and diploma – still in complete shock. Suddenly, your and Amir’s names are read out loud for 1st place.

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  • Back to the front you go – is it possible to be more in shock than to be in complete shock? You and Amir are both so surprised that it makes for one of the most endearing and genuine moments.

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  • 22:00 – Bed
    • Have you ever been this tired before? Probably, but it doesn’t feel like it.

FRIDAY

  • 06:00 – Suturing practice
    • Laparoscopic competition is at 8:00 and you haven’t practiced suturing in a long time
    • No chicken breasts or bananas present….this kitchen glove will have to do!

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  • 8:00Laparoscopy Competition
    • 1st round – Peg transfer: you do great during warm-up, but when the comp starts, you drop your rubber tube twice! This adds 40 sec onto your best time and puts you in 12th place.

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    • 2nd round – string 5 pieces of straw onto suturing thread: you drop one of your straw pieces (again!)

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    • You (somehow) manage to snag 4th place. Your amazing boyfriend rocks it with 3rd place!

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  • 13:00-17:00 – Last day of haematology practice on the Buda side
  • 17:00-18:00 – Psycho-cleaning of the apartment
  • 18:00-midnightIndian night with your friends!! And a perfect way to close a hectic week.

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Click here for all of the abstracts by presenters at the conference.

In summary:

  • I was rejected, and Skjalg accepted, from Stavanger. This means that I will be here in Budapest for 6th year and have to find a new place to live (for myself). Skjalg will be in Stavanger for the entire year and will come back to Budapest every few weeks for exams.
  • I won 1st place together with Amir for our surgery research project and 2nd place for my public health research project.
  • Skjalg won 3rd place in the laparoscopy competition.
  • I have amazing friends from all over the world.

I’ve slept for about 16 of the last 24 hours, which is a pretty good indication of how I am feeling right now. This week was a heavy one. A really, really heavy one. But in the end, I am so happy for it. It felt so good (afterwards) to have pushed myself through something I never thought I could do. I’m happy that I have the strength to throw myself in new directions and the support system to care for me when I don’t quite make it.

 

What a difference a day makes

January 11, 2017 § 2 Comments

This morning I woke up to find a message from one of my friends asking me if a certain picture she’d seen on Instagram was mine. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal so far, but it ended up being a picture of my notes posted by an amazing board review source I use and love (and have mentioned many times before): SketchyMedical. The kicker? They’d re-posted the picture from someone else who was taking credit for it. To be honest, it’s not a huge deal – especially because the picture and notes are mainly from SketchyMedical (and therefore not entirely my material). But, the fact that someone found the image on google and then took credit for it (in comments that have since been deleted) made me a mix of angry and sad. This person even thanked SketchyMedical for admiring/acknowledging his/her work!

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Fast forward 10 or so hours. The sun has risen on the west coast, awaking SketchyMedical employees. Suddenly, my picture is shared on their Facebook page and I’m credited in their instagram post. At this point, I’m just honored. It’s really cool that my notes have found their way from the dark corner of the internet where this blog lives to the social media pages of the source I used! Then, while finishing up an application for a residency position, I get a notification that I’ve received an email from “Dorothy from SketchyMedical”. To be honest, I thought it was spam. At least that is what I prepared myself for. Keep your expectations low and you’ll always be happy, right?

In the email she complemented my notes and asked if I would be interested in being a SketchyMedical brand ambassador. As one, I will write for their blog as a guest blogger, share on social media, get a free subscription and get a discount code for my followers! I was so, so happy when I read this! Especially because USMLE cramming has begun and I was just considering renewing my SketchyMedical subscription. So, a sort of bad start to the day but an amazing, surprising end! You really never know what the day will bring.

That said, I’m back – I promise! I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been with myself for not posting more. I have so many drafts containing a few or so paragraphs that I’ve started and left to be forgotten. I was even planning on getting back into the groove with a “blogmas” – where I post one blog every day in December until Christmas. Leave aside the fact that I had two abstracts to turn in for February’s research conference and 3 exams BEFORE exam period even started. Then there was exam period. And now? USMLE. Oh and applying for rotations for 6th year and residency positions for after graduation. And I can’t forget about that thesis! Oh and actually preparing my presentations for the research conference. And helping at the anatomy exams every Tuesday and Thursday. And preparing my curriculum for anatomy next semester. And sleeping. And working out. And reminding my family and friends that I still exist and love them, even if I don’t talk to them for 3 months.

I wish I could remember all the big things that have happened since I last wrote and make a sort of summary…but I know I am going to forget something. I will probably bring random things up in future posts as they come along. I do know how I will close out this post though – cause I’m saving the best for last!

Our exams this semester were the following:

  • Pediatrics – we were lucky enough to be in the department that lets you take this exam at the end of your block (all the other exams have to be taken in exam period). As such, we were done with this one in October!
  • Neurology – we got to do this one in the week before exam period. That Friday was INSANE! I had my gyno semi-final at 8:00, neuro semi-final at 10:00, then I had to run to my last anatomy class and teach for 1.5 hours, then at 12:00 I had my forensics semi-final.
  • ObGyn
  • Forensics – our year was split into two large groups for this exam. I took it in the first round, which, for some reason, was extremely difficult! I ended up getting a 2, which I was really bummed about. When I retook it a week later (to improve my grade), the examiner apologised for the exam and said that somehow, all of the difficult questions had ended up on our version and the easier ones on the second, rather than an equal mix between the two. I’m so, so happy with my decision to retake it!
  • Surgery – For this one, I also ended up retaking it to improve my grade. Crazy girl! Unfortunately, I missed a 5 by 1 point… #stillbitter
  • Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy – this one almost drove me crazy! It’s written and they do whatever they can to trick you. Like changing a small detail in a possible answer. Somehow, I got away with this one.
  • Psychiatry – such a fun subject to study for!
  • Urology – my last exam before Christmas. I was so exhausted by this exam that I was beginning to lose it. Luckily, it went well. Do I remember anything? Hematuria?
  • Internal Medicine: Gastroenterology – this was my last exam and it was amazing! It was my only exam after Christmas and I had 10 days – so I got to take some time off to celebrate Christmas and sleep! Studying for it was really, really nice. I genuinely enjoyed myself. At the exam, I was nervous – as always. It ended up being perfect. My friend Dushyant and I were the last two examined and the vibe in the room was amazing. We were told we got 5+ when we were handed our grades ;).

Other than exams, I submitted two abstracts for the International Student Research Conference in February. The first one I did alone with help from my advisor and the second is one I am doing together with Amir.

  • Department of Public Health: Personal Health Practices of International Medical Students in Germany and Hungary: A Cross-Sectional Study
  • Department of Surgical Research and Techniques: Can Serious Games like The Kheiron Training System Enhance Skill Acquisition from Traditional Box Trainers?

To be able to do these, I had to learn how to use a statistical database program called SPSS. I spent so many hours feeling so incomprehensibly stupid during this. I once spent 3 days doing nothing but reading articles and trying to figure out how to analyse our data – and I felt like I got nowhere. But, somehow, I was able to submit the abstracts before the deadline!

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It’s time for bed, so I’ll touch on other things (like my students!) in future posts. To close out this one, I’ll introduce you to: Baloo and Joseph!

I’ll start with Baloo: we’ve wanted a dog for years but it never felt like the right time. Then, when we were visiting my mom in October we suddenly realised how possible it was (she has a teacup yorkie). So, we made the extremely impulsive and exciting decision to get one. We’ve had him for 3 months now and honestly could not be happier. There hasn’t been one negative consequence of our rash decision – thankfully! He comes with us almost everywhere and sits with us when we study – even when I get up for 3 a.m. cramming – and he’s so calm and quiet! Plus, he makes us laugh everyday. Because dogs are amazing.


And last, but definitely not least! Meet my nephew, Joseph!! It’s times like these that I hate living so far away from family. Still, I’m thankful that we are able to stay in touch with all these media forms today. I’m really hoping I can make a trip to the west coast soon.

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