White Dress, White Coat

September 11, 2012

**First off, I just want to say that I felt reflective today and decided to write. I realized a few minutes in that it was September 11th, a day that always seems to inspire a bit of pause for me. Eleven years ago I was almost a month into my 8th grade year, watching the news in my 2nd hour gifted class. That day became a part of our collective memory and shapes us all. It was later that year, in that same classroom, that I first began thinking about medicine as a possible future. I cannot believe it has been so long when I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I hope we all can continue to remember the sense of unity we felt as a country then and that we can work together to make this country as great as it has the potential to become. GO AMERICA!**

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White Dress, White Coat

…And so with a sheepish shrug, she simply resumes blogging with her first M1 post without lengthy apology for her rather lengthy absence…

But here’s a short apology anyway: med school is crazy busy, getting married is crazy busy, and my life, in general, is just crazy busy right now! I’ve started realizing that I’m definitely missing out some much needed self-reflection, however, and since I’m also starting to find my groove in which I can actually breathe and contemplate doing anything other than study, I decided now was as good a time as any as to put down some thoughts about the last three or four months. So, sorry for being MIA! I’m still here, I promise!

When I wrote last, I was newlywed but didn’t really talk much about it. Talking about your wedding is one of those things that you end up doing ad nauseum for like the rest of your life, so I really won’t say much about it here (let the pictures speak for themselves!).

Getting ready in the morning (note the pink hair)

It was June 9th and it was a perfect day, sunny with a breeze, but not too hot, out by the old stone gazebo at the Lake. I wore my African dress, a homemade wreath veil, went barefoot, and wore rainbow hoop earrings and henna. The boys wore dark brown slacks and vests with casually rolled up linen shirts and red gerbera daisy boutonnières. The flowers were sunflowers and red daisies and bright ribbons decorated the trees.

The boys

Everyone looked fantastic and it was amazing to really open up unabashed about our love to everyone we care about most. C and I are not particularly sappy and I think a few people were sort of surprised and moved by how sweet our ceremony was. I was a bit surprised myself, actually!

so pretty!

Our best bud, Zach, officiated the ceremony for us wonderfully. Our best friends stood up with us and four of my five brothers each had a short reading (an excerpt from Louis Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a quote from the 2003 Massachusett’s Supreme Court ruling, an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit, and a quote from the movie, Serenity). Two of my brothers also strummed it up on the guitar, along with one of the groomsmen and a lovely a capella by a family friend (the songs were: I Summon You by Spoon, Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiole, At Last by Etta James, and an acoustic Hey Ya by Outkast as seen on Scrubs).

Best first kiss photo ever.

Colt and I both cried during our self-written vows (and mine definitely included a note about the zombie apocalypse) and the party afterward was full of fun, cheap champagne, a Boulevard Wheat keg, nachos, dancing, and espresso and lemon cupcakes.

Lemon cupcakes and chocolate espresso cupcakes with buttercream meringue icing. Homemade naturally.

Our first dance was to Regina Spektor’s Samson and I cried into my new husband’s shoulder for all 3 minutes and 10 seconds of it; I’d been dreaming about that dance for a long time.

awwww

The evening culminated with several members of the wedding party (including me, sans wedding dress) diving into the lake and splashing around until Lake Security arrived and kicked us out. It was a perfect wedding and the honeymoon (in Wellesley, Massachusetts, my college town) was perfect and relaxing, too. We had a very hedonistic dinner at the restaurant where he proposed and managed to sit in the very same seats as that night, which was two years and three months previous.

The trip was amazing and simple and I loved being back on campus after two years. Time passes so quickly these days; sometimes I’m surprised at how fast college and the Peace Corps went by. Didn’t I just graduate from high school like yesterday?!

Yes, I’m the huge dork on the left. Yes, my HS BFF was also my maid of honor at the wedding 🙂

So then we moved! We’d both been temporarily camping out at our parents’ houses and finally we packed up and shipped out to the big city…getting an apartment that is two blocks away from the Medical School (side note: parking is so terrible at said school/hospital that my apartment parking lot is actually closer than the general employee/student lot for the med center). C and spent about a week unpacking at our new place before we headed off to Colorado for part two of our honeymoon. We stayed with my very chill aunt and uncle at their place in Colorado Springs and just hung out and enjoyed the weather (about two days after massive wild fires caused evacuations in the city) and the mountains. We went up to Pike’s Peak and went hiking/jogging in the Garden of the Gods. We really recharged after all the tension of moving and writing thank you notes and getting settled.

When we returned, mellow from the West, it was time to begin…Medical School Orientation…the simultaneously helpful and frustrating 6 days before classes began on July 30th.

Before I start in on this whole med school thing (which does and will consume almost all of my attention from here on out), I just want to briefly mention my job for the last four months before school. Rather luckily, I ended up working as a legal assistant for the state department of health and environment. Every day I got to go to work in the legal division in the Office of the Secretary. I learned so much about state laws and regulations and very much enjoyed it and many of the attorneys and support staff (I even contemplated law school for about five minutes). I also experienced the…joy…of acting as a personal assistant to very important people, a job both challenging and rewarding in its responsibility (but definitely not something I could enjoy for any serious length of time…I’d get way too grumpy and/or casual with People Who Must Be Respected haha). I totally loved my boss and actually had many opportunities to speak with and get to know Secretary Moser, a Family Medicine physician from the western part of the state with ties to the Med School. In a random turn of events, Dr. Moser was actually invited to be the Key Note speaker at our Class of 2016 White Coat Ceremony.

After finally leaving my job with the state after the wedding and double honeymoons, I officially began medical school at my state school…which I’m sure everyone has already determined (all three of you loyal followers, haha)…and if you haven’t, you could just Google “Dr. Moser” and figure it out pretty quickly. Or just keep reading because I’m probably going to just spill the beans since the application process is over and I know my online identity matches my true IRL identity (squeaky, shiny clean!).

Orientation was an informative 6 days (too long) where we received our much awaited HP Elite Tablet Notebook computers, had practice lectures and labs, learned about the testing system and grading system, were informed about the clinical years and Step One test, heard many speeches from a long line of middle aged white guys, learned about balancing med school with the rest of our lives (HAHAHA), determined our learning personality styles, had the opportunity to visit the other satellite campus where we can choose to do our clinical years (we have three campuses total, I’m in the largest and longest established), met with learning specialists and psychologists, talked about managing serious relationships in med school (actually a really great panel discussion), and met all of our well accomplished and talented peers, all while making friends and forging the bonds of a lifetime! If it sounds like a lot, it was. But it was fun because it was new and exciting! And weirdly enough, I did actually make a couple of pretty cool friends (TIP #1: Because the time after orientation is so whirlwind busy, those friends you make in orientation really are the closest friends you’ll have for a while, so use that time wisely to network, people!).

The last day of Orientation culminated in the White Coat Ceremony. All 170 or so of us (and our max of 8 guests each…don’t tell, but I had 9 ½) crammed into the county Memorial Hall to listen to many speeches by many middle aged white guys (and one from a middle aged white woman!)…speeches that were actually pretty decent. The message really brought home the magnitude of the path upon which we were just beginning, all fresh and new. I have to admit that while I was sitting there with my nicely dressed and anxious looking peers, gazing up in awe at the long, distinguished line of White Coat cloaked lifelong professionals, teachers, physicians, and would-be mentors, I was a little bit overcome…with a terrifying urge that I should run—get out while I still can!—take my HP Elite and disappear into the bright afternoon, forgetting all about this madness! It was a disconcerting feeling at a time when I expected to feel only pride and excited anticipation, but c’est la vie…ou bien?

We recited a professionalism vow to seal the deal (cue Hippocratic Oath as future bookend comparison)

Needless to say, I did not run away screaming (although there may come a time in my life when I wish that I would have). I stood with my alphabetized line and walked across the stage when my name was called and The White Coat was slipped over my arms. I signed the Honor Code book and was flattered when Dr. Moser stepped up to shake my hand before my photo was snapped. In a bit of a daze, I took my seat and waited for the ceremony to finish. Once outside, we all took our giant class photo (I was reminded of Wellesley class photos and really wanted to dash around the photographer to the other side of the class so that I’d be in the photo twice…but restrained myself).

looking a bit shell shocked I think 🙂

We chatted with parents and classmates for a bit, had more photos taken, and then I headed back to my apartment with my family (and just so you know, our tiny apartment is WAY too small for 9 ½ extra people plus me and Colt!). I got to play with my baby sister, Millie (Amelia, who was born on February 4th and is a freaking cute little ray of freaking sunshine) and see all my favorite people in what became my last real afternoon of relaxation! It was awesome 🙂

Millie and Me! (although now she’s way bigger!)

In the six weeks since then, I’ve sort of become a bit of a hermit, although I am definitely beginning to emerge from my dark little crabby shell (good analogy? Probably). I’ll talk more in future posts about specifics (don’t worry, I promise I’m not leaving again for four months; things happen too quickly these days to wait that long), but in general, I am having a blast. I love medical school. There have been a lot of really stressful moments, especially before our first test and anytime we must don The White Coat, but overall, I am happy.

I am learning an incredible amount of material, and I get to have that thrill of understanding something new every single day. It’s intense and exhausting and constantly exhilarating. I am both immensely grateful and absolutely terrified of the magnitude of this path upon which I have just begun. I really do need to plan how I spend every single hour. That doesn’t mean I have to study every hour (although I sort of just realized that at about week 5), but it does mean that relaxation time is absolutely precious. It means that I may not be able to join all the clubs and groups that interest me right now because I’m still trying to figure out how to make all of this work. I’m still a newlywed with a husband (still a little strange sounding haha) who works full time and I really try to make sure that I’m spending some of that precious time keeping that connection as strong as it was on our wedding day. I’m doing my best to stay active and fit, but my training schedule is a bit behind for the half marathon I wanted to run next month. I’m trying to figure out study methods (making flashcards online, making flashcards on cardstock, taking my own handwritten notes vs. taking notes on the tablet, going to lectures vs. watching the podcast, studying at home vs. studying at the library, using a white board…etc).

For every hour of lecture, I need to study on my own for about two additional hours. When you include prep for and attendance of required histology labs, clinical skills labs, and PBL and/or small group sessions, I am doing medical school for probably 60 to 65 hours per week. That is absolutely more than a full time job…not all my peers require that much time and some should be spending more (and the week before a test is probably closer to 70 for me), but that’s a lot of time and definitely does not match Colt’s 40 hours/week. It takes compromises and planning for every hour. I’m figuring it out day by day and it’s definitely getting easier. The lifestyle changes and management are a big part of it, not just the difficulty of the material itself…although it’s a pretty massive amount of material! Everyone warned me but I didn’t really get it—med school is kinda hard. But man, is it fun!

I have a stethoscope that I actually know how to use (and have used it on simulated and real patients…yes, REAL ones…yes, already…yes, I’m terrified 100% of the time) and my White Coat to mark me as one of the elite club of future physicians. The Coat is short, waist length, to differentiate the students from the long Coats of the True Physicians. My short White Coat is still very white indeed and quite a bit stiff in the collar and arms, starched from not being worn all that often yet.  I’ve taken to rolling the sleeves a bit for a less intimidating and cooler look. The pockets are slowing beginning to fill up with stuff—a small flip chart reference, a couple pens, my school pin is through one lapel and an LGBT club pin is pushed through the other—but the Coat is still just about as shiny and new as I am to this whole thing. I did put a cute little kitten magnet around the tube of my stethoscope and yes, I leave it in even if I’m working with an adult patient.  I think I’m starting to get it, this new life I’m suddenly navigating. Having a pretty new iPhone also helps (seriously, email always available? I never even check it on my computer anymore!) and having a new adorable kitten named Calliope (Callie) is also a bit of a lifesaver (and a husband who is fun and understanding is always appreciated).

kitten cuddles next to me while I study 🙂

I’ve met most of my goals for this 2012 year, too, by the way, although I haven’t been working on my martial arts as much as I’d like. I hear there’s a pretty cool krav maga place just down the street, though, so who knows? My love of baking has also somewhat ended up on the back burner (haha, pun definitely intended), although I still try to make the occasional treat. Colt says that I always want dessert at 9pm so maybe I should try to keep a few more things on hand. We have a massive amount of very nice new kitchen stuff from the wedding and I’m slowly working on using them (anyone have any good vegetarian crockpot recipes? What the heck do you put in crockpots anyway??).

So, life is good and I am self-reflective once again. Yay!

And now I really do need to go study. Our final test for our Foundations in Medicine module is next week and I need to catch up on my embryology flashcard making (I know, exciting stuff!).

University of Kansas School of Medicine Class of 2016! (Can you find me in there??)

Keep it classy wherever you are and I’ll keep fighting the good fight here in Kansas City at the KU School of Medicine. Rock chalk Jayhawk!

~Elaina

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2 thoughts on “White Dress, White Coat

  1. Congrats sweetie! I’m so happy for you! I just started as well, and I loved reading your blog post about your experiences so far. Your wedding was so beautiful, and I’m so happy for you and Colt! Hope to keep in touch throughout med school 🙂

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