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TONS of things have happened since last I wrote, and I figure the easiest way to address them all (or at least the major stuff) is to do so in chronological order.

March: Neurosurgery. Neurosurgery was AWESOME. One of my primary goals in doing a neurosurgery elective was to determine whether or not I felt confident that was the field I wanted to pursue. Consider that goal thoroughly met. I was able to see a far wider variety of neurosurgical procedures than I’d previously been exposed to, and I enjoyed every single one of them. I was particularly worried that I wouldn’t like spine (especially since being able to even see anything as the med student involves both contorting oneself into extremely uncomfortable positions and a fair amount of luck). Turns out spinal surgery uses some of the coolest and most ingenious toys ever. Who came up with this stuff?! I often say that assembling furniture is like Legos for big kids; placing spine hardware is like those technical Lego kits (the ones with motors, lights, what have you) for big kids. I had a number of memorable conversations with several of the residents. They were wonderful about providing candid responses to questions, important things to consider about the field that aren’t necessarily obvious, and advice about how to set yourself up for success. The month also provided an opportunity for me to prove to myself that I could function on minimal sleep (though there’s, shall we say, room for improvement) and manage to keep myself together after witnessing some really tough situations. It was an all-around amazing experience.

April: Pathology. The fact that I was able to line up my neurosurgery and pathology electives back-to-back ended up working out perfectly. Pathology is what I initially envisioned myself most likely doing when I was first starting medical school. It’s, um… slightly different than neurosurgery. Just a smidge. Being able to transition directly from one to the other served to emphasize this difference and further bolstered my certainty that neurosurgery and I are in luuuuurve. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy pathology: quite the contrary! I got to see some really cool stuff and was pleasantly surprised at how often important foundational concepts came up in the midst of specialized pathology-specific knowledge. I was able to try my hand at following surgical specimens through the process of initial receipt from the OR, “grossing” (basically looking at and describing the tissue with the naked eye), and then examining slides of the tissue under the microscope. I also got to participate in autopsies, which was wild after having only seen the majority of the anatomy in preserved specimens in the anatomy lab. Spoiler: it looks different. Despite the fact that I’m now convinced that pathology is not where I’ll end up, I had a fabulous time and don’t doubt that my experience will serve me well in the future.

May: Step 2 Study Stupor. Not much excitement here. I dedicated the month to preparing to take both parts of Step 2: CK, or Clinical Knowledge, and CS, or Clinical Skills. CK is the standard multiple-choice, computer-based test. It’s essentially the same as Step 1, but with a more clinical focus. Lots of “what’s the next best step in management” questions. Still lots of anguish. CS is a series of encounters with standardized patients (actors who pretend to be patients) and a patient note following each encounter. It’s only offered in five places in the country and thus often necessitates a road trip. We’re fortunate enough to have a test center in Chicago, which is only about a 4-hour drive. I’m currently in the gut-wrenching waiting period that inevitably follows any of these exams until you find out how you did. I’m trying to pretend that it doesn’t matter. It’s not working.

June: RESEARCH YEAR!!! I officially started working in the lab this week after driving back from Chicago. Thus far, my time has mostly been spent getting situated: reading up on techniques I’ll be using, finishing up with required training to be a fully-fledged lab member, and becoming familiar with the work that everyone is doing. I won’t say any more on this now as this entry is already quite long, but I’ll leave you with the following proof of how hardcore my lab is:

We’re kind of a big deal.