Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Operation Smile

I walked out of my final short case exam on Friday with a cryptic text from an unknown number simply stating "please call S____". Still buzzing with adrenaline and excitement at being done I dialed the number, worried that something was wrong, perhaps with someone I knew.

"Hello, this is ABB, I received a message to call."

"Yes, hello ABB, are you finished your exams?"

The slight worry ratcheted up one degree.


"Oh good. Well I can congratulate you on that and something else as well...you've been selected as the recipient of the Operation Smile medical student fellowship!"

[Cue exhilaration and dress wearing suppression of cartwheels on sidewalk].

I think I then said the words delighted and thank you about 17 times. She added that the competition was stiff but they thought that I'd had some amazing life experiences and that the organization wanted to add to that list for me. Which I thought was such a lovely thing to say.

Of course I am honored (and surprised nearly beyond belief) that I was chosen. Being unable to take on international electives or sign up for volunteer work since starting medical school has been difficult, especially after getting a taste for it on my Himalayan expedition in 2008. I've been having to bide my time and just look forward to future opportunities much further down the line. But now, I won't be waiting long at all!

This is such a gift for me, and I am fully aware of the fact that it is the chance of a lifetime. According to their website they receive thousands of inquiries a year from medical students, for only about 20 available positions. I. Can't. Wait.

Still don't know when or where, but will be keeping the blog updated as things unfold. I still can't believe that third year ended on such a high note, especially after the last few months. And so, back to packing boxes. Smiling.

Image from http://www.operationsmile.org/

[Incidentally, you can donate to Operation Smile any time!]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Heaven and Hell

Survived third year!! A brief montage and summary of the past week. 

Monday was the long answer written exam (3h, 10 questions) and the extended matching exam (150 questions). I know some people run marathons without food, and most people write exams without food. I could not imagine either. When my blood sugar gets low (i.e. below 6) I get hangry and my brain function ceases. I was certainly not taking chances with finals. Photo below was taken with my sweaty pre-exam hands before we were strip searched for electronics.

After the incredulous feelings of did they really have an immunization schedule long answer question? along with seriously? gynecology emergencies? dissipated, Margaret and I noted that the sun was shining outside and we had two days of studying still ahead of us. 

So we took something beautiful (her parent's backyard)...and made it ugly.

We spent Tuesday and Thursday hammering for the clinical exams. 

 It has been so long since I've had to use sunscreen I thought I ought to take a photo. 

One of the really stressful things about the clinical exams is that they were a different format than the previous 2 years, where we had OSCE's. This year our long case was a patient with real pathology who we had 30 mins to examine and take a history from (the cases ranged from things like a post-op orthopedics case to diabetes). Then the examiners questioned us for 20 mins. 

My patient was a good historian and had a very straightforward presentation which I had prepared well for. I am usually rubbish at presenting (you have to be detail oriented and well-organized) but somehow the planets aligned and I actually did my best case presentation ever! What are the odds? 
There were no questions that stumped me and the absolute best part was after the examiners walked out I turned to the patient and she said to me I hope I am never in the hospital again, but if I am I really hope you are my doctor! I was completely bowled over and honored. 

The short cases went quite well too. They were all very barn-door spot diagnoses and exams. Though I did manage to stutter out some random statements and completely forget basic things (which I would never forget in an actual hospital, i.e taking a blood pressure from a patient in atrial fibrillation). Yeesh. The highlight was one of my surgical case patients yelling to the examiners as they left the room GIVE HER AN A.  
Awesome and awkward. 

So there you have it. Third year, done and dusted. I also just received some rather big news. But that deserves its own post. Heh. A little suspense to keep all of you coming back. In the meantime, it is sleep time. Sweet, sweet sleep.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Cottage Love
I have been commanded by my friend Ryan to update the blog (so he can get Guns and Roses out of his head). I figure I need to make the few people that still check in on me happy, so here's a quick post!

I am in the final stretch of 3rd year. I spent the last 4 days holed up in a classmate's cottage, attempting to cut myself off from the world and bury myself in the books. Amazing how much more productive I am when the only internet I have access to is an intermittent flickering of 3G on my burner when the planets align.

I had planned to go just for the night but the fireplace and views were too lovely to tear myself away from. So I burned home, picked up the rest of my books (oh, Toronto Notes, you monkey on my back...you) some tinned mackerel, instant coffee, and returned.

A week from today final exams will all be behind me. And two weeks from today I'll be on a plane back to Canada. I am mentally composing my ode to the Irish countryside already. Some questions that will remain...Year three, where did you go?? Did I squeeze every last drop out of my year on the wild west coast?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Welcome To the Jungle - 2012

Things are starting to pick up momentum here on the wild west coast of Ireland. Exams are exactly two short weeks away (eep, why I am I still typing this blog post instead of memorizing differentials for fatigue??)

A brief look at life for the next few months:

-pack up house
-move things / car into storage
-fly home

-start pediatric emergency elective in Alberta (4 weeks)

-have a week 'off' (see below for what will actually be happening during 'off' days)
-start gastroenterology elective in Nova Scotia
-start CaRMS application process (Canadian post-graduate application)
-have 10 days holiday to study for MCCEE (Canadian board exam)
-fly back to Ireland, find place to live / move in / start psyche rotation

-study for boards while doing psyche rotation while working on CaRMS

**Canadian Board Exam**

-CaRMS and obs/gyne rotation

-Submit CaRMS
-collapse from exhaustion

-hit 'refresh' on email inbox until residency programs start emailing
-possibly decide that I'll stay across the Atlantic for post-graduate training

Just typing all of that gave me a facial tic. I may have to start playing this song everyday when I get out of bed.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Permission to Take Blood

A sprightly 72 year old came into the office for a prescription refill and blood pressure check. His tie was tightly knotted, thick hair combed into place, and shoes well polished.

We asked him once more if we could take blood to screen him for the routine things; high cholesterol, diabetes, prostate antigen. Once more he said, no doctor, I don't want to know if something is a brewin'. Not interested. 

Joe pressed him a little, sure come on now, are you sure you wont let us?

To which his eyes shone a little brighter and he answered, listen Joe...if I walk out into the street and collapse in front of the surgery, tell ya what, I give you permission to take as much blood as you want.

Fair enough!