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How to make the most of your summer(s)

Congratulations to all of the recent graduates! From High school, college, various health professional schools, etc. It’s not easy. If you’re done with school forever, I definitely envy you. This post is for college students, recent college grads who aren’t matriculating into med school, and those between their M1 and M2 year with a relatively free summer (your “last” summer). Summer is a time to relax and refresh your mind. But when your end goal is becoming a doctor, you have to make every summer count! At this point, you may already have a line up of what your summer will look like (summer program, working, interning, etc.), but I’m going to list some things you can add to it. All in all, you want to have a well rounded summer that will make you a more competitive applicant by the end.

Shadow

This is the time to explore or confirm career options with no strings attached. You can shadow multiple people as if you’re casually dating, or you can actually form a relationship with a physician that can serve as a mentor down the line. It’s easy to set up by simply making phone calls to your local offices (if you’re at home). You can ask them if the doctor would be open to having a student shadow them for however long. Or if you’re staying around your school, you can connect with faculty that you already know! I still keep in touch with a family medicine physician I shadowed during college, and that has proved to be a priceless relationship.

Research

For the college folks and especially for the medical school folks, research is so important. If you’re looking to get into a major academic medical school or residency program, or have a competitive specialty in mind, this is something they look for. Your application scores literal points for having it. And it can honestly be in any subject. My med school has a summer research program that pushes students to get involved in research early, but even without that, the opportunities abound. Even if you only do a poster or oral presentation and don’t get published, still take the opportunity. If you’re interested in family medicine like I am, you can probably get by without it. But these days you always want to set yourself up for success the best you can.

Scholarship search

I know it’s easy to just accept that student loans are inevitable and we’ll all become slaves to them, but we shouldn’t give up on scholarships! Many third parties offer students at different stages in their education scholarships for leadership, dedication to a cause, going into a certain field, being a minority, etc. You never know what you can find, and the money adds up! So if you land in some free time, keep it in the back of your mind.

Volunteer

Simple. Easy. Best advice here is to find something recurring so that you are able to have a more substantial impact. For example, volunteering every Saturday morning at the salvation army. If you only do something one time, it really shouldn’t even make it to your resume. Start with a simple google search. Or if you’re staying near school, you can likely find opportunities through their website.

Travel

Because life is hard and we all need breaks! Cross a destination off of your bucket list! And if you don’t have the funds for that, get your best friend of sibling and take a day/weekend trip somewhere that’s driving distance. You deserve to relax and treat yourself for all the work you’re about to put in this summer!


Hope this post applied to at least one person out there! Make the most out of this summer your future self will thank you.

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Code Stroke–lessons from the Neuro wards

I’m already halfway through my Neurology rotation! This one is definitely going by fast.. well it’s only 4 weeks to begin with. I’ve spent these past 2 weeks on the inpatient wards helping take care of some pretty sick patients. There have been some triumphant stories and also some very sad and heavy ones that pulled on my heart. Many of our patients suffered strokes; seizures are a close second. I’ve also seen exacerbations of myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis. One of our patients currently is suffering from Locked In Syndrome and another from cryptococcal meningitis. So, I’ve seen a decent variety of pathology and definitely know the stroke work-up pretty well. As much as I’ve learned in terms of management, my patients have also taught me a lot outside of medicine

Take care of yourself

Our health should never be taken for granted. All of the habits that we have now (diet, exercise, mental hygiene) will manifest in the next 30-40 years. It’s so easy now to ignore ourselves and put our focus on school, business, other people, etc. but it truly isn’t worth it. I’ve seen patients who neglect their health, don’t see a physician on a regular basis, or don’t take their medications end up in an ICU bed an hour after they were just living their normal life. It reminded me to not depend on my metabolism or athletic background (what I do when I’m feeling like letting myself go) forever. It also encouraged me to push forward in my pursuit of becoming a primary care physician. There’s so much to be done on the preventative side of medicine!

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Strokes change lives in an instant. One of our patients was perfectly fine at 8:30 pm when his wife called, but when she came home from work an hour later, she found him on the ground. He had a massive stroke and by misfortune arrived to our hospital outside of the window to receive any brain-sparing treatment. Now she has to make big decisions on his behalf. Another patient had a beach vacation planned with her husband and is now bedridden unable to speak. Devastating is an understatement. The only way our patients keep hope alive is through their families and loved ones. Spouses, children, siblings, and parents drop everything and travel far and wide to be there for the patient. It was a lesson to me to always have the financial means to be there for any of my loved ones at the drop of a dime. It’s also reaffirmed how important human connection is. Life wasn’t meant to be lived alone. Our high and low moments were meant to be shared.

Tomorrow isn’t promised

We have to cherish the days we have now with our level of health. Not everyone can even simply get out of bed in the morning. Not everyone can take a breath for themselves. We have so much to be grateful for in this life and when you count your blessings, there isn’t much room left for complaining. The same goes for our loved ones. As much as you can, take time to love on them–call, text, visit. Because at any moment, things can change forever


I’m off to outpatient clinic for the next two weeks. Looking forward to seeing more bread and butter neurology, and seeing healthier patients in general. Hope everyone has a great week! 🙂

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How I used my voice to make a difference at my school

I believe that as much as we are taught about path/pharm/micro and disease processes and how to work up different patient complaints, our medical education should also include discussions about unconscious bias and how it plays a role in our medical decision making. We all have biases that cause us to automatically think a certain way about a patient the second we walk through the door, and if we don’t recognize them, they can limit or alter the options we offer to our patients. We may also slip and say the wrong things to our patients (microagressions). Our biases can further perpetuate the inequities that are already present in healthcare. I realized that as a first and second year medical student, I didn’t get much exposure to this topic outside of a 3-day cultural competency intersession we had in the first year. It was actually our SNMA (Student National Medical Association) that was holding these discussions as opposed to them being a part of the curriculum despite the AAMC making such a big push for it in medical education.

So, last year I set up a meeting and made a pitch to the VP of our medical school about this and he agreed 100% with everything I was talking about and gave me his full support. But then he asked me to chair the ad hoc committee that was going to be making these changes. Basically he asked a 3rd year medical student to lead a committee of MDs, PhDs, and other campus faculty. I mean I had a lot of leadership experience under my belt, but never anything like this! But he had a lot of faith in me and gave me a lot of encouragement, so I said yes. Now, before the committee could be formed, it had to be approved by the big scary curriculum oversight committee at our medical school. So I had to present to them next. There was some hesitation and questioning at that meeting but in the end it was voted to form the committee and for me to be chair.

Since then, between all my working and studying on rotations, I’ve been balancing this committee. We had to do data reviews and literature reviews and there was a lot of back and forth about what we really wanted to accomplish. In the end, we managed to come up with a plan to actually integrate more discussions and teachings about unconscious bias into the curriculum, as opposed to the brief intervention we currently have. These recommendations were actually presented to the main oversight committee this past week (literally like a year after). They were very well received and I was pleasantly surprised to not get grilled as much as I did last time. So now I’ll be working with our Dean of curriculum to get them implemented, hopefully for next years incoming students!

I’m very proud of myself for stepping up to the plate and actually finding a way to make a difference in something I feel strongly about. My role in this arena led to me being selected as a 2017 NAMME (National Association of Minority Medical Educators) national scholarship recipient. I was also selected as winner of Augusta University’s Diversity and Inclusion Award last year. These are important to me because I’m being rewarded for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and making waves in an area I once felt I couldn’t even step into. So I write this post to encourage anyone who feels like maybe their voice as a student isn’t going to be heard over the crowd. Or maybe that opportunity is there and you feel like you don’t have the time to commit. That’s not true. If there is something you feel strongly about, there’s a reason why that is and you need to give consideration to how you can make a difference!

“The biggest rewards in life are found outside your comfort zone. Live with it. Fear and risk are prerequisites if you want to enjoy a life of success and adventure.”

– Jack Canfield


Have a wonderful week! 🙂

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Internal Medicine, a different beast

Finally internal medicine has come to an end

I have finally crossed the finish line of my internal medicine rotation. This was definitely the longest and most gruesome rotation I’ve been on. It was 8 weeks long which felt like 8 months. Usually you would do 4 weeks of general medicine (admitting patients from ED or ICU and handling all of their inpatient needs) and 4 weeks of a specialty–like cardiology, infectious disease, nephrology, etc.–that is more of a consult service (see patients for a specific reason and don’t manage any other part of their illness). On a specialty team, things are a little more chill than on a general team. I unfortunately ended up with 2 general medicine blocks. Each 4 week block I was allowed 3 days off–that was all. So I was just exhausted pretty much all the time, and I felt like I couldn’t make time to rest because I has so much to study (very unlike me). It was just terrible. I’m so scared to be a resident now after watching what they do.

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I will say that I have a lot more confidence in handling various patient presentations. I can manage a COPD or heart failure exacerbation with my eyes closed. And I’ve gotten more efficient in writing progress notes each day for patients and in writing hospital courses for patients I’m discharging. So my countless hours in the hospital were not in vain. I’m thankful to have had good residents who were patient with me and took the time to teach me as much as possible. Now my hours spent studying on the other hand…those quite possibly were in vain because the way I felt while I was taking that shelf exam………

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It was so hard! And I studied and prayed so hard and really pushed myself for 2 months so that I could feel prepared going into it, which I actually did! I was ready. But y’all, the makers of they test had something else in store for me that morning. I left my soul behind in the exam room as I walked out haha. Despite that, I still have faith that my God will reward my steadfastness with an acceptable score and I will rejoice in His goodness and mercy. I did my best and at this point, there’s nothing left for me to do.

This weekend was amazing because I was able to celebrate with both my friends and family. One of my good friends in my medical school class recently turned 25! Happy birthday again Jasmine! So on Friday, a group of us were in Atlanta for dinner and a fun night out at Josephine’s Lounge. Then on Saturday, my big sister graduated from pharmacy school! It was so awesome to bear witness to such an accomplishment. My parents came as well as a very close aunt; I enjoyed the family time. Today (Sunday) was a day for me. I slept in until after 10am, washed my hair, went to church, went grocery shopping and cooked for the week, and I watched some TV while I styled my hair. All and all, this weekend was a great balance and much needed to somewhat recover from internal medicine.

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Next up is my Neurology rotation! I don’t have much interest in neurology, but honestly I’m just happy to have my weekends back and hopefully be working more reasonable hours. I’m going in with an open mind, we’ll see what the next 4 weeks will bring!


Have a wonderful week!
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Feature article on Doximity

I’m kind of cheating this week because I just don’t have time to form thoughts about anything outside of internal medicine. I’m 2 weeks away from my shelf exam and digging deep to give everything I have to keep working hard and studying while pulling 12 hour shifts every 3 days. Working through weekends for 8 weeks is taking a toll on me and it’s getting harder to be all-in for my patients when this exam is looming over me. So with that being said, I’m featuring some parts of a Doximity feature I wrote a while back that will let you get to know more about me. There’s 14 questions total, but I’ll drop my answers to the first 8 here and you can follow the link at the end to learn more!

1. How did you get into starting The Balancing Act and how has it helped you as a med student?

I wanted to have more purposeful social media and felt like I could have an impact through a blog. I represent one of the unfortunately low number of (in comparison) African American females in medicine. So, while I write for a broad audience, I recognize how important minority representation is in my field. My blog allows me to be a role model on a larger scale.

2. What technology is essential to your study routine?

My laptop. I pretty much do everything on it. In third year, most of your studying is doing practice questions and reading one or two books particular to the rotation you’re on. I take notes on google docs on my laptop and review them on my phone when I get spurts of free time. My planner is also essential because that’s where I list everything that I want to accomplish for the day.

3. What is your #1 study tip?

Learn your study style as soon as possible. At my school, first year was pass/fail, which made it the ideal time to do that. Are you digital or paper-pencil? Do you like flashcards? Do videos help you understand things? Partner vs. group vs. self-study? When you discover what works for you, you take control of the information. So much comes at you and you can’t control the volume, but you can control how you will tackle it. Close second is to set goals each time you sit down to study — always have a plan and make sure it’s realistic.

4. How do you keep yourself motivated or get out of study ruts?

I usually reach out to a friend so they can give me a pep talk. In med school, everyone knows what you’re going through, so I’ve found that my med school friends know the right thing to say to motivate me. Sometimes taking a quick 20 min break to watch something mindless will help reset my brain.

5. What does your daily study schedule look like?

First and second year things were all over the place as I worked around school and extracurriculars. Now in third year, it’s pretty standard. I’m home by 5 on average. I do anywhere from 20–40 questions, review them and take notes, then do readings. I watch 3–4 online med-ed videos a night depending on where I am in the rotation (I watch them at the beginning to set a baseline). I take advantage of early mornings whenever I can.

6. What would your classmates be most surprised to learn about you?

It is very hard for me to memorize things. My brain just doesn’t do rote memorization. I suck at flashcards. Sometimes I can make it happen but for the most part I have to just understand things and make connections for information to stay in my head. In the long run it helps, but in the short term it’s pretty frustrating.

7. What would you be doing if you weren’t in medical school?

I’d be an event planner — probably for big parties and weddings. I just love seeing spreadsheets, budgets, sketches, written ideas, etc. come to life. I’m also very organized and detail-oriented, so planning things satisfies that for me.

8. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in medical school?

Everyone has their own journey. I can’t compare what happens to me with what’s happening with someone else. I can only stay in my lane and do the best that I can. I’m in competition with myself, no one else.

Read more here!!


Hope everyone has a wonderful week! I have a hot date with these UWorld questions for the rest of the night (or as long as I can stay awake).

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SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference 2018

This year was my third year going to the Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC). SNMA is a national organization with many local chapters that exists to support minority medical students, providing mentorship from premed to physician as well as leadership opportunities/training to potentially open doors that would otherwise be closed. I always leave this conference feeling so inspired by all of the amazing people I meet–physicians and physicians-to-be. Everyone is looking out for your best interest, trying to plug you in to the right people you need to advance your career. The sessions are so enriching and cover a wide variety of topics from increasing diversity in medical school to birthing simulations to getting into medical school and navigating the MATCH. It’s impossible for you to go and not find something for you.

For me as a third year medical student starting to create my list of potential residency programs, I spent most of my conference time at the residency exhibition. Each year over 100 residency programs are represented. Programs specifically recruit from this conference because they are looking to increase or maintain the diversity of their programs. It’s extremely important to me that I attend a residency program that doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to diversity (I define diversity as African American and Hispanic populations). I need to see it in the previous residency classes and, although rarer, in the faculty. I need to know that I will be welcomed and supported by whatever program I end up at, and not feel like an outsider. So when a program makes the effort to show up at AMEC, I give them much more consideration.

The best part of this conference that blows my mind every time is how down to earth everyone is! I’ll be sitting at a table with dermatology residents and future neurosurgeons, and we’ll be cracking jokes and rapping the lyrics of trap music. It never ceases to amaze me every time! It reminds me to never lose that side of me even when I start making real money and get more status. I’m also reminded to never stop pouring into those coming after me. People who just matched at their dream programs were offering me a place to stay for future interviews. The family is just so real. Anyone could easily get caught up in all of the hype of being a doctor, but that just doesn’t seem to happen in SNMA. Everyone is approachable and has a hand extended to you.

This years conference was in San Fransisco, CA. This was my first time on the west coast! I had so much fun being a tourist during my down time. I saw the Golden Gate Bridge, had some delicious Ramen noodles (which SF is apparently known for), and went to the pier where there was a huge farmers market. I was also able to meet up with one of my cousins I haven’t seen since I was in Nigeria at the end of 2015. The whole vibe of the city is super chill and I got a more genuine vibe from people than I expected being in California. So overall it was an absolute blast! I made a lot of new contacts and expanded my network. I’m excited to watch the success of everyone & reunite again at next years conference in Philly!

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A weekend full of self care

Since starting internal medicine I’ve been working 6 days a week. It’s thrown me off of all my self care routines especially when I have to work on Sundays. I lose track of all the days and the only thing I have to look forward to is the next off day. I still manage to get average 5-6 hours a night, but for someone who really needs 7, I’ve become chronically sleep deprived. It has become very easy to let myself go and keep putting things off day after day. Even when I’m motivated to do something for myself like go workout or relax and catch up on a show, I instead just try and get through my studying so I can go to sleep. It’s a viscous cycle until my off day when I do all of my errands and cook for the week and wash my hair and clothes and end up equally tired just to get ready for the next 6 days.

So this weekend, I got both Saturday and Sunday off. I just finished 4 weeks at the VA hospital and will be doing the next 4 weeks at our main school hospital. In between the two, they give us the whole weekend off. I have never valued a weekend so much. This weekend was full of self care and it couldn’t have been better. I got a pedicure at this super fancy nail salon. I got my eyebrows threaded for the first time in months. And I got  sugar waxed in my tanner staging areas haha. I feel like a whole new woman! I also had girl time with a few of my medical school girlfriends. And I had a couple of my college best friends come and visit me and we got lunch together. So, I got both much needed girl time and me time. I feel so rejuvenated.

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I just think it’s crazy that as soon as I start getting busy, my self care is the first to go out the window. Like I’m so quick to tell myself no because I have to study. But I’ll still do things for other people though! Why is that? I’m still trying to answer the question. I go through this in cycles where I’ll have a weekend like this and swear to myself to never go as long as I have without self care, and then I get overwhelmed with stuff again and lose it. It’s a constant balance and it truly takes EFFORT and INTENTION. But man when you get it right, it feels so good.

So here goes another shot at consistency with self care. I’ve got 4 more weeks of internal medicine and I want to look good and feel good all the way through it. I am making a commitment to myself to maintain my place at the top of my priorities list. If you struggle with balancing school/work with your self care, you need to do the same. We can’t be suffocating all the time; there has to be times to push school away and do something good for ourselves. And self care doesn’t have to be financial! You can do your own nails, light candles and stream a movie, curl your hair, read for leisure, listen to a new music album, call a friend that makes you laugh, etc. Convince yourself that it’s not time wasted. In fact, it’s time very well spent because when you take care of yourself, you’re able to take care of your patients 10x better.

Look good, feel good, do good.


PS: Spring Break is next week! I’m going to the SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference in San Francisco then going to Las Vegas with some of my favorite girls! So excited for this week of laughs, new memories, and REAL relaxation!

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Me all spring break! 

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

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The Importance of Family

What the wards have taught me about family

This past Thursday, a man was dying in the hospital from respiratory distress with CO2 84 for my medical folks (basically he couldn’t breathe well). A woman was there by his side and told us “I’m his sister, I’m all he has.” She told us his wishes, that he did not want to be intubated (didn’t want a tube down his throat to help him breathe). He had a spinal cord injury and she had been by his side as his caretaker through his whole course.


I’ve spent more time in the hospital these past 3 weeks than ever. And outside all of the medicine I’m learning, I’ve picked up on other valuable things. No one ever expects to be hospitalized. Even people who don’t treat their bodies with respect don’t plan on it. [Of course you have your frequent flyers who seem to actually enjoy being in the ER, but I’m not talking about those people.] So when you end up in the hospital, it’s usually pretty scary and you yearn for the support of those who know and love you.

I’ve heard many reasons for families breaking apart. Divorce is a big part of it. Or siblings that never really got along and never saw/spoke to each other again after parents pass away. Sometimes children move very far away from their parents for their careers, and after starting their own families, they lose touch and aren’t there for them when they’re sick. A lot of manipulation from step-mothers and fathers convincing their children that their parents are no-good. Arrogance from advanced careers. There are so many things that I’ve seen break families apart, leaving people alone in the hospital to suffer their conditions, and relying on social work to get them the transportation/home support they need. It really takes a toll on their outcomes. On the other hand, I also talk to older patients who actually move closer to their children whether in retirement or due to looming illness.

My patients that have the support of their spouses or children do so much better! They understand more about their conditions because their loved ones are able to convey information to them. And they are able to communicate the patient’s needs to us. They have a shorter length-of-stay because they go home with their loved one, or that person plays an active role in getting the patient to the appropriate facility. Thus reducing the complications that come from being in the hospital.  And they just have better personalities all around. My patients that don’t have people visiting are super grumpy.

Seeing and learning all of this really makes me think about my future, and the importance of being near my family–or having an available means to get to them in any case of emergency. When I was younger (talking as if I’m 50 lol), all I wanted was to be away from my parents and be an “adult.” Now that I’m here, and time keeps passing, my mindset is shifting. If you’re blessed enough to still have grandparents, or your parents are starting to get older, it’s something to think about. And if you have rifts with your siblings, try to mend them. Because in my opinion, family is the most important relationship there is. Yeah you love your friends, your bf/gf, your dog…but your family is your blood. God chose them for you, and chose you for them.

Reflect on it…


Have a blessed week 🙂

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Update: Life on internal medicine

My internal medicine rotation is off to a pretty good start! I’m 2 weeks in now. I’m working at our VA hospital taking care of patients with complicated past medical histories. All of the patients that our team has taken on since I’ve been here are older men–many with poor lifestyle choices that have led them to where they are now. I’m slowly learning some of the many algorithms for treating COPD, heart failure, and kidney injuries. Since I’ve started, I have definitely grown more confident in my management plans for my patients, and become more comfortable being wrong. No medical student likes to be wrong, but I think it’s way better to still offer something and to learn why it’s incorrect, than to not offer anything at all–especially when it’s concerning your patient. I want to make sure I’m seen as an active participant in their care.

The residents and attending physicians I’ve worked with for the past two weeks have been instrumental in helping me along the learning curve. Every teaching opportunity is taken advantage of, and my questions are answered fully. At the same time, they push me to read and learn more on my own so they aren’t just handing me everything. During my evaluation with my attending, he was saying that my curiosity was one of my better assets. But he said it like three times, so in the back of my mind I wonder if he thinks I ask too many questions haha. I’m sure he meant well. But I definitely don’t hesitate to ask for quick explanations. I like to give a possible answer as I ask the question, so at least it seems like I put thought into it before just asking. Ex. “Is the reason why the creatinine levels spiked today because the patient is dehydrated? (even though that might be a complete guess)” vs. “Why is the patient’s creatinine up today?”

For our schedule, everyday starts at 7 and we’re on call from 7a-7p every 4 days which is when we get all of our admissions (new patients), whether from the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department. On the other days we’re there until 4 latest, but I’m usually let out earlier. No one likes being in the hospital all day long, but call days are the best for me as a student. I get to go to the ED and see the patient first, work them up, and come up with my problem list and plan for the patient. After the resident sees them I’m able to report to them and we solidify the plan together. They teach me how to prioritize the different problems, the right wording for what I’m trying to say, and the right work up for the patient. I learn SO MUCH from just one patient (because they usually have a million things going on).

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In other news, yesterday, I was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society! They induct 15% of the medical school class based on nominations from our classmates and review of our CVs. I was so humbled that enough of my classmates felt so highly of me! And it’s amazing that there’s such a high honor given to students for simply being good people, no matter what your GPA is.

 

 
SN: Today was my first day off in a while. So refreshing, even if most of it was spent studying. I look at the residents and just wonder how I’m going to be able to handle the workload they have. Hats off to all the residents out there!
– Today was also the first time one of my patients died, ironic and sad that I wasn’t in the hospital to be with the family 😦

SSN: Congratulations in advance to all the 4th years matching this week!!! May God’s plan for your lives manifest in entirety.

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10 funny/relatable med school memes

I hope someone shares the same sentiments as me on some of these!

For your enjoyment pleasure!

Med school professor claimed that the exam will look just like what was covered in lecture. The lie detector determined that was a lie.
All first and second year!!
And Then I Said: The tests will look just like what we've covered in lecture!
Reality: what our professors do after class is out lol
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Who else became a hypochondriac?? I have a problem list of ~5 right now!
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Constantly feeling like there’s no days off! Or you’ll get….behind smh
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Aw man this was so me during pharmacology during second year
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My worst nightmare when I’ve planned a whole study day.
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Once I’m in the the night that’s IT! Not going anywhere. I’m such a home body now!
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BRUH. This is the truth.
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You’ll be so awake all day, then when it’s time to study you just pass out in 5 minutes!
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Trying to save face while you’ve been in a patient room for 20 mins and they’re telling you about their kids accomplishments…

 

Hope y’all can relate to some of these as much as I can! And hopefully this was a good study break for my fellow students on the grind out there. Enjoy your week!

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