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Racking up Miles

Well, fall appears to have arrived for good at the moment. Although it is Michigan, which means that 80-degree temperatures in October are not out of the question. Either way, it means that classes are back in session, fall sports are duking it out (and in some cases, approaching the end of their seasons), and, for M4s out there, it’s the beginning of interview season!

We submitted our ERAS application to residency programs on September 15, and the race was on! Urban legend suggests that interview slots can fill up quickly – within an hour and some even cite it as within 10 minutes. Needless to say, we were all slightly concerned about this need for speed. Some began forwarding emails to their pager so that program invitations would blare loud signals for all. In my case, I started forwarding emails to my smart watch, so that I could (mostly) discreetly check emails as they came in without having to obviously check my phone.

One trick I heard from previous classes (and emphatically agree with) is to carry an ideal schedule with you starting September 15. It was a lot easier to cluster interviews together by location when you had already decided that the week of November X would be reserved for interviews near X place. That doesn’t mean it always worked out nicely (in my case, the week I had reserved for a location was not an option for interview dates for that location – oops), but it mostly does.

So, it looks like I’ll be bouncing around the country for the next few months, racking up my frequent flyer miles. I’m looking forward to exploring different locales and learning about each residency program. And, I have a plan for long layovers between flights – embroidering gingerbread houses to make a quilt for my grandmother for Christmas. So, really, I can be very productive while waiting at airports 🙂

(This design is one of nine blocks. Design is by Crabapple Hill Studios).

Back to Fall, Back to Class, Back to FOOTBALL!

The undergraduates have descended upon Ann Arbor – squirrels are being happily fed and newcomers are flummoxed by the Michigan left and one-way streets. But the students’ return has heralded the return of yet other Michigan traditions – cooler weather (and pumpkin-spice lattes) but, most importantly, football season. This past weekend marked the first home game and it’s always wonderful to see the Big House filled with its 110,000-plus inhabitants, cheering on the Maize and Blue.

But, this year in particular, I want to cheer on the Maize and Blue not just in the Big House or Crisler Arena (basketball arena), but also in the soccer stadium, the tennis courts, the field hockey arena, and more. It’s starting to hit me that this will be my last year as a Michigan student, and that’s definitely bittersweet.

Being a Michigan student has defined much of my identity for a long time. After some calculation earlier this week, I realized that a child starting first grade at the same time as I started UM coursework would now be a senior in high school. Oy; now I really feel old when I see the excited, nervous, and obviously freshmen as they navigate their way around campus.

One student program I have greatly enjoyed in recent years is the HAIL app (acronym stands for Honoring Attendance, Involvement & Loyalty). When students attend a sporting event, they “check in” with the app and earn points. These points can then be redeemed for prizes, such as Nike swag or other M-Den apparel. I’ve gotten some pretty cool things during the last few years, such as a Nike women’s football jersey (and my now-game day staple) last year. In order to ensure I fully enjoy the myriad sports experiences Michigan has to offer, I’ve been attending more events this year so far and having a blast. For example, earlier today, I attended a women’s field hockey event and was able to see goalkeeper Sam Swenson dancing to “Magic” before the meet began. I also picked up a clear plastic cup that, when filled with cold liquid, turns bright yellow. I swear, there’s only water in that cup!

I am thankful to have finished all of my exams for medical school at this point, so I can spend my evening hours cheering on Michigan instead of studying for the next shelf. And on that note, Go Blue!

Baby Math

Throughout medical school, you always hear about the M4 life where we are able to choose our electives and there are few hard-and-fast requirements. One of those few requirements, however, is a sub-internship (or sub-I) in an ICU setting. I chose to rotate in the Neonatal ICU here at Mott so that I could become more familiar with newborn issues, particularly in premature babies.

I’m now about halfway through the rotation and there’s definitely been a learning curve. For one thing, I had forgotten how much math is involved in pediatrics pre-rounding. The patient’s I/Os suddenly became much more complicated to determine – intake should be calculated in terms of mL/kg/day whereas output is in mL/kg/hr. And, of course, all feeding volumes are increased per protocol in terms of mL/kg/day but orders have to be calculated in mL q3h. Yep. This rotation has enabled me to discover the shortcut to my phone’s calculator, so at least now I know that for the future 🙂

A few days into the rotation, I switched to nights. Sub-Is and interns all do six nights whereas the senior residents alternate between taking 24-hour call. I enjoyed nights, especially because it allowed me to learn about each of the babies on the resident side of the NICU and see the big picture, instead of immediately getting bogged down in all the minutiae (see previous paragraph…)

In the middle of last week, I switched back to days, which was a rough transition. Mostly because I was exhausted during the day at the hospital, but then would wake up a bit more by the time I got home. Then, of course, even though I would go to bed at a decent time, my brain would automatically wake me up from midnight to 4 a.m. for several nights after I transitioned back.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time in the NICU. It’s definitely a different experience, and probably unique amongst the ICUs in that some of the patients are absolutely acutely sick, whereas others are here because they were born extremely premature and we’re just helping to control their environment until they’re old enough to go home. The important thing to remember about babies (and children, but especially babies) is that they can be looking great with a life-threatening illness, until all of a sudden they’re not. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking everything is humming along, but a healthy suspicion of any minute change from a baby’s baseline is paramount.

In the NICU, we see babies on their birthday a lot. Luckily, I was able to leave the hospital in the early afternoon this past Sunday in order to celebrate a different kind of birthday – the 150th birthday celebration of my hometown Brighton. There was even a cake and everything! And, by everything, we even mean a collection of farm equipment, both modern and historical, all helpfully labeled.


Well, July certainly started off with a bang – from fireworks, that is. I’m on Emergency Medicine this month at nearby hospital St. Joe’s. Thankfully, I didn’t actually have to work the Fourth of July and instead spent the sunny day with my family before returning to Ann Arbor to continue orientation. Now that Ann Arbor allows fireworks within the city, I was able to see a lot more fireworks out my window than ever before.

Emergency Medicine is essentially a third-year clerkship that takes place during our fourth year, replete with observation cards and shelf exams. However, for many of us, this will be our last exam of medical school. And I think we’re all happy about that. During the next few weeks, we will be doing day shifts, evening shifts, and night shifts in both adult and pediatric settings. I started off my rotation on night shifts, working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. As an avowed sleep fanatic, overnight shifts are not my favorite (I usually go to bed before 10 p.m.), but I enjoyed them nevertheless. I was even able to repair some lacerations, including a tricky one on a patient’s hand. I greatly appreciate the variety inherent in the practice of emergency medicine, but it would drive me nuts to not know what happened to any given patient after they left my care.

This past weekend, I was incredibly lucky to be able to participate in my fifth and final Dean’s cup golf tournament. The ending was definitely bittersweet, as this is a tournament that I have helped to organize for the past four years with Dean Raj and Denise Brennan. Despite predictions of rain, the weather was gorgeous and sunny and I had a blast with my teammates, even when we almost got hit by an errant golf ball. Each pairing consists of a faculty member and three students, who play together in a scramble format.

From left to right: Dr. Jim Peggs, Jasmine Harris, me, Jake Nelson

I played with Dr. Peggs, a former UMMS dean and the person who asked me if I wanted to organize the tournament within five minutes of my entering the clubhouse as an incoming M1. We also played with two students participating in the LEAD pre-matriculation program, one of whom I asked to carry on my position (however I waited until we finished the round J). It was clear that everyone had a fantastic time, as we talked outside the new clubhouse waiting for later groups to finish. The camaraderie was immediately evident and we (maybe) fooled the participating new M1s that medical school is like this all the time… I could not have asked for a more perfect day.

And now, it’s time to sleep. My body is still adjusting back from nights and tomorrow’s shift will come earlier than my brain would like. J

The Long and Winding Road

Each time I participate in the UMMS interview day, my own interview day seems farther and farther away (and I’m usually quite thankful not to be wearing a suit). Well, the time for dusting off the suit is coming soon. In medical schools across the country, preparation for the upcoming residency application season is beginning. Students are attempting to craft personal statements (which, like when applying for medical school, is a task that sounds much easier in theory than it is in practice), updating their CVs, and asking for letters of recommendation.

In terms of letters, the residency application has an additional kind: the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) or, more colloquially, the Dean’s Letter. Written by one of the medical school deans, the MSPE gives a summative evaluation of your performance in medical school, including comments from third-year clerkship evaluations, as well as notable characteristics that are evidenced by extracurricular and co-curricular involvement.

In order to create these letters for each graduating student, the deans meet with students individually to discuss their content and for us to give input. For example, at my MSPE meeting last week, we decided to include my love of learning languages as a notable characteristic (I’m fluent in French, but am working to improve both my general/medical Spanish and Mandarin Chinese).

The other aspect of the application process that bears mention at this point would be narrowing down the residency programs to which I will be applying. I will be pursuing a residency in family medicine, which means there are over 500 programs to which I could apply. That number is slightly overwhelming to say the least.

I spent several weeks (at least) freaking out over how I could possibly narrow down to 20-ish programs and soliciting advice from everyone I knew who has already been through the process. The principal answer: start by defining your geographic preferences then decide what program characteristics are important to you (for family medicine, common factors are the strength of OB training and desired population characteristics, such as focus on the underserved). Several people steered me to the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) website, which has a search engine of available residency programs that easily delineates these characteristics.

Prepping my application has a long way to go, but baby steps. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed being an M4, including my vacation time last month. I was able to go to London with my family and we had an amazing time.

This sign made me laugh. I was on the upper deck of a tour bus and was going to try to get a clear shot but the bus went up on a curb and I had to abort that mission or I would have dropped my phone on the pavement (not sidewalk, our tour guide said that was too descriptive for the Brits). “Changing priorities, 50 yds ahead” indeed.