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Is it winter break yet?

Hello everyone!

I’m writing you post-Neuro, Thanksgiving, post-Musculoskeletal/Rheumatology and now on the final home stretch of Dermatology! Its amazing how this year has flow by!

Neuro took up most of November, ending just in time for Thanksgiving. The entire month is a hazy memory to me! It seemed like every minute of the sequence was consumed by endless study marathons, and as a result, little sleep (ironically, not healthy behavior). The countless hours spent studying certainly wore me down emotionally and physically, but it also was my first glimpse into the intense pressures that most people associate with being in medical school. Neuro was hands down the hardest sequence of M1 and M2 year, and since passing it, I feel like I overcame the first big hurdle of medical school.  I guess next up is Step 1!  4 months left!

Even with the challenge that was Neuro, I still managed to escape during one of the non-quiz Neuro weekends to New York City where I celebrated the 30th birthday of a close friend. I flew out Friday afternoon, celebrated Friday and Saturday, and then flew back to AA Sunday morning. Not that the craziness of the Big Apple was particularly relaxing, but the trip was exactly what I needed to refocus and get motivated for the last week before the big Neuro final!  

The view as we landed in NYC!

I love food.. and NYC has LOTS of it!

After surviving Neuro, I flew home early Wednesday morning to Panama, just in time for Thanksgiving celebrations with my family (and my adorable dog – Patchi). Once I got home, I had the great post-Neuro reward of having my childhood best friend, Alana, fly in from Spain to experience her first Thanksgiving ever! I don’t think Alana was disappointed in any way with my mom’s AMAZING dinner – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and the delicious Zingerman’s corn bread I brought from AA! If you’ve never tried Zingerman’s, I highly recommend it!

Patchi and I have one thing in common - we LOVE food! His favorites include arepas, muffins, and turkey.

After all that Thanksgiving fun, coming back to school for MSK/Rheum was difficult. I tried really hard to focus but it became increasingly clear that it was going to be a Sunday night final for me. Apart from trying to studying in those two weeks, I attended one of the Latin American Native American Medical Association (LANAMA) Friday afternoon coffee outings with interviewees for the UMMS class of 2016! I LOVE meeting applicants and talking about Michigan and LANAMA, so it was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon between classes! I had great conversations with all of the applicants and was incredibly impressed with their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and career ambitions. One of the applicants told me she reads my blog too! I always get super excited to know someone is reading and interested in the craziness that is my life! If any current or future applicants out there have questions or need advice, feel free to email me at

In the end, the MSK/Rheum final did become another Sunday final exam (a new Hema M2 pattern perhaps?) – mostly because I decided to take off some time the weekend before the exam and then the night before the exam. The weekend before the final, I went for some late night ice skating with Elias (my boyfriend and fellow M2). He knows I love to skate and don’t get too many opportunities to practice, so the skating excursion was just what I needed! 

Ice skating! Did I mention I have my own skates?

Later that week, on Saturday night I attended the lovely Christmas party hosted by my friend Andrew (fellow M2). He had a group of friends over  for his annual Christmas Extravaganza for which he jokingly referred to as – the real Family Centered Experience. He prepared an amazing assortment of cookies, chocolate braided bread, hot chocolate, and cupcakes! To end the night, we were all given scratch off lotto tickets as part of his family’s holiday tradition! Unfortunately, I did not win the big bucks with my lotto ticket, but I did leave with a prize – a cookie “to-go” box to share with Elias back at school!

Andrew’s party certainly got me in the holiday spirit and made me eager to return home to spend time with my family (and Patchi, of course)! I’ll be home in less than 1 week!!!! Yay! I’ll be sure to blog about my exciting winter break, so stay tune!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

Delicious cupcakes... I had two!

Christmas cookie heaven!

Enjoying a few "to-go" cookies in the Learning Resource Center study room! Thanks Andrew!

‘Twas the Night before Neuro

Clinical Foundations of Medicine (CFM) and our psychiatry sequence both seem like distant, beautiful memories! I miss them already! A few things that have happened over our last two sequences and since my last post:

1. I suffered from severe food poisoning and missed fall ball (aka med school prom)! I woke up that day feeling really sick yet pushed myself to attend our CFM evidence-based medicine small group. In retrospect, I should have just stayed in bed because I ended up being sick in the bathroom the entire time and finally asked my instructor if I could be excused. I went home and spent the rest of the night in my pajamas catching up with my DVR and enjoying plenty of red gatorade and crackers. Oh well, there is always next year!

2. After CFM week ended and before psych began, I flew to Puerto Rico for the weekend! I had been there once before, but never had a chance to visit some of the sights, so I finally did this time. I walked around Old San Juan, laid out on the beach, and went to Plaza de las Americas (the mall) for some retail therapy. I was very impressed with the island and their cultural richness! Here are a few pictures from my trip:

Old San Juan

In front of the Fort San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan

Walking around Old San Juan. It remind me so much of the Casco Viejo area of Panama!

3. Last night I finally celebrated Halloween at the annual Phi Rho party! Last year the cardio final kept me away from the festivities, but this year I refused to let an exam keep me away. I finished my psych final at 8:00 p.m., rushed to American Apparel for ideas and something to wear at 8:15 p.m., prepared my awesome kindergartner costume at 10:00 p.m., and walked out the door on my way to the party by 10:30 p.m. I was excited to show off my costume and see what all my friends were wearing as well! Some of my favorite costumes worn by some of my favorite people include: 80s workout queen, Gray’s Anatomy (anatomically drawn onto a dress and worn by Grace.. get it? Oh med school humor), Mexican cowboy, naked chef (ok, so he was only shirtless, but it was crowded in there so I couldn’t see his full costume!), and 1920s flapper. I’ve already started brainstorming costume ideas for next year!

Oh, how I wish I could relive those relaxing 3 weeks of travel and parties (minus the food poisoning), but the time has come to begin neuro! The real fun starts tomorrow! Our neuroscience sequence is rumored to be the most challenging sequence of the pre-clinical years, so I’m anxious to see if it lives up to its fame. Today I picked up my 1,066 page neuro sequence packet – a full 242 pages more than our massive cardiovascular sequence packet – no big deal. Normally when I prepare for an exam, I just study directly from the slides, but with thousands of slides, I may just have to re-vamp my study technique!

The blogging world will probably not hear from me until Thanksgiving when the stress of neuro is finally over and I’m back in my lovely Panama!

Here it goes.. Wish me luck, world!

Sequences fly when you’re having fun!

I’m alive. I swear. It’s been a while since my last post and the snowball of exams, activities, and traveling have taken a toll on my blogging. All I can say is that M2 year is certainly more busy than M1 year!

Since last year I’ve been serving as the President of the Latin American and Native American Medical Student Association (LANAMA), and this year my time commitment has certainly increased. The year started with recruiting incoming medical students to LANAMA, as well as ensuring all our events and activities go smoothly — it has been time consuming. Balancing student activities and school is a talent that I’m working hard to perfect! Although LANAMA takes up a lot of my time, I feel blessed to have an amazing, hardworking executive board that works to make all our events a success. They make my job so much easier! Below are a few pictures from a few LANAMA activities from this year.

The Latin American and Native American Medical Association (LANAMA) and Black Medical Association (BMA)'s Welcome to Michigan BBQ!

LANAMA at our Cancer Education Health Fair last month

LANAMA at our Cancer Education Health Fair last month! We taught Latino community members in Spanish about breast, cervical, prostate, and colon cancer.

LANAMA training on cholesterol and blood pressure screening for our community service event last weekend!

As for school, since my last post I’ve successfully completed the cardio, respiratory, and renal sequences; celebrated my BIRTHDAY (more than once!) with my family and friends; and I’ve now moved on to a relaxing two weeks of Clinical Foundations of Medicine!

Although I’m excited to be in CFM, the sleep deprivation from finishing my Renal final late Sunday night finally caught up with me yesterday when I completed a full history and physical exam on a standardized patient at 8 a.m. I was so tired I could barely remember the steps of the physical exam! Even though I watched the physical exam videos and brought in some notes, I would read my notes, walk over to the patient, and immediately blank out on what I had just read two second earlier. FAIL. Not surprisingly, my CFM instructor later commented on how I over relied on my notes. DOUBLE FAIL. Well, not actually a “fail,” but certainly embarrassing and evidence that I need to try harder. I have another opportunity to do the full history and physical exam next week, so I have to practice, practice, practice… and sleep!

On another note, my 25th birthday was just two weeks ago! I remember thinking “wow, 25 is OLD” and here I am now, finally 25! My mom and brother flew up to Ann Arbor from Panama just for the weekend to celebrate my big day with me. I showed them the usual AA sights like central campus, main street, and the famous Zingerman’s Deli. My mom absolutely loved Zingerman’s. She bought seven loafs of bread, four coffee cakes, and a pound of cheese to take back home! She forgot one loaf and the cheese, so I certainly benefited from this food shopping spree! My mom also helped me organize a small wine themed birthday dinner at Vinology (FYI: I’ve always dreamt of becoming a wine sommelier). A few days later, I was surprised with a second birthday celebration at a LANAMA pot-luck! Here are some pictures from my dinner and pot-luck.

As the world knows, traveling is my passion so next week I’ll be flying to San Juan, Puerto Rico to meet up with my family and see some friends, so expect another update with photos soon! Hopefully by then I will be caught up on sleep and I’ll competently complete a full physical in less than half an hour! Wish me luck!

Celebrated my 25th Birthday with some friends!

Another lovely birthday shot with friends!

Birthday Cake Time!

Second birthday celebration.. with LANAMA friends!

Lovely brownie cake prepared by Lety and Karen! Thanks girls!

Cardiovascular Chaos

Hello world!

I touched down in Ann Arbor more than a week ago! In my first few days back, I spent time running errands, celebrating happy hours with close friends, exchanging stories and souvenirs from our travels, and NOT unpacking my bags! Yes, one week back in Ann Arbor and I still have not unpacked my bags, oh my. They are taking up more than half the floor space in my room creating a concentrated center of chaos, but if I don’t unpack then it means my summer adventures have not yet ended, right?

Wrong. School started last Monday and we began with our M2 cardiovascular sequence and it’s 7.5 hours of lecture daily. On the first day of school I immediately had trouble figuring out the new lecture capture system, but I managed to reset my password and start streaming my introduction to M2 year lecture. The lecture system has vastly improved since last year. Previously the image quality was very pixelated and this made reading the slides difficult to impossible. Now you can watch a crisp image of the lecturer on one side of the screen (finally a face and not just a mysterious lecturer voice) and the slides on the other. The slides are also quickly posted after every lecture on a simplified website instead of the previous challenge of us hunting through many computer files in search for the newest lecture. It’s amazing how these changes can really improve the quality of the streaming experience for those of us that rely heavily on this learning method.

My first quiz of M2 year is now done! 7.5 hours of lecture per day and 300 pages of material was very tiresome, but I managed to survive as always (love pass-fail). Now we have a quiz free weekend coming up and the new challenge is staying focused and on top of studying without the pressure of an upcoming quiz. I hope I make it! At least the material is incredibly interesting compared to last year. I feel like I am actually learning how to become a doctor and it is exciting! Today we had a lecture on hypertension, which was the main topic of my summer research in Mexico. When people in Real del Monte would ask me why does salt increase blood pressure, I had no foundation of knowledge with which to respond. With this latest lecture, I now know the kidneys sense the salt increase and transiently increase blood pressure to get rid of the salt from the body! I also use to think that the blood pressure readings your doctor takes in his office were very accurate, but I now know continuous at-home blood pressure monitoring is more accurate and predictive of cardiovascular complications. So much knowledge! Amazing!

M2 year will certainly not be easy, but I’m excited to overcome the cognitive and psychological challenges that lie ahead… A new adventure perhaps?

Studying for cardio means lots of highlighting, charts, and a Step 1 book. Med School just got more intense!

Ice cream study break! I won't let atherosclerosis stop me!

Moving forward and climbing upward

Summer will be officially ending in less than two weeks! How did this last summer of freedom fly by so quickly? I kept myself so entertained with my scuba diving, Mexican food explorations, and traveling that I didn’t realize my last summer was quickly slipping away. My rude awakening to the upcoming academic year was a friendly C-Tools announcement informing all returning students that an M2 orientation would begin bright and early at 7 a.m. on Monday, August, 15, before jumping right into our first lecture. My blissful summer was interrupted by C-Tools and now the countdown to August 15th has begun… 10 days left.

A week before receiving that unfortunate reminder, I picked up a new hobby! A few kilometers outside my small town of Real del Monte, I visited the Parque Nacional El Chico, the oldest national park in Mexico. With 2,800 hectares of pine trees, waterfalls, and rock formations, the park is an ideal location for my newest love – outdoor rock climbing!

Getting ready for my first outdoor climb!

I first tried rock climbing last year at the University of Michigan’s indoor rock climbing wall, M Rock. I went with a group of fellow M1s and had an awesome time with the sport, but unfortunately I was not able to continue regularly climbing because of academic demands and my desire to get involved with student organizations. Yes, indoor rock climbing was fun, but I soon discovered that outdoor rock climbing is even more amazing!

Sofia and I began our adventure bright and early Sunday when we took a taxi to the park’s visitor center to meet our instructor, Zenon Rosas. We began the day easy by first climbing a 15 meter rock. I reached the very top and rappelled down twice – success! We then moved on to a real challenge, el Fistol del Diablo, an intimidating 45 meter rock formation. Sadly, ten meters short of the top, my fear of heights became overpowering. Instead of pushing on and continuing to climb, I wedged myself into one of the rock’s crevices and refused to continue. In that moment, I felt weak for giving in to my fear and stopping short of my goal, but at the same time I was able to realize my limits and was not afraid to pull back. A few bumps and bruises later, I rappelled down from the rock, looked up, and was amazed I even attempted the “devil” with only two real climbs under my belt. I now have another good reason to return to Mexico… to move forward, climb upward, and finally reach the top!

Trying to capture the monstrosity of the rock in this photo, but failing! "Where's Waldo" moment: Try and spot my instructor on the rock!

Crammed into one of the rock's crevices on the climb up

The view from 35 meters