Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

Vectors and dipoles. and circuits, oh, my!

While taking physics during my post-baccalaureate training, it wasn’t uncommon to hear other premed students bemoan the physics requirement. “We won’t ever use this stuff!” they said.

How wrong they were. My notes for physio and neuro are covered with vectors pointing every which away, electrical circuits and dipoles.

Don’t think physics is useless, kids! It’s used to a whole new level in med school.

Happy New Year!

I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends during this holiday season. I’m currently on the tail end of a 2-week break, which I’ve enjoyed immensely. Next week starts another round of rigorous studying.

We spent some time in N.C. and Va. visiting with family and friends. It was so wonderful seeing so many loved ones! I was tempted to kidnap a few people and bring them back to Kentucky. We finished up the holidays with a family Christmas dinner this past Sunday. Sunday’s celebrations ended with a visit to Lights Under Louisville — a Christmas light display in Louisville Mega Cavern.

Lights Under Louisville 2

Lights Under Louisville 1

I wish you a blessed, prosperous and happy new year in 2015!

Oh, yeah. I’m on the team.

I recently did a preceptorship in a local ER. This is an opportunity when you shadow a physician or a team of physicians, such as an attending, residents or fourth year medical students, for the day. In some cases, you might help take patient histories and do other tasks, but for the most part you are observing and asking questions.

The attending took me on a tour of the department and explained the intake procedures, including the use of the trauma and stroke alarms. During the day, I stuck around with an intern and a couple of fourth year medical students.

It was an eye-opening experience. Not because I witnessed a trauma or saw a doctor stitch up a patient. I’d volunteered in a small, community hospital off and on for a few years, so it wasn’t new to see an ER in action.

What was different was my new role. As a volunteer, my job, as I saw it, was to help as much as I could, but, above all else, stay out of the way. It became apparent I still have this mindset.

Sometime during the day, one of the fourth year students mentioned that I needed to respond whenever I heard the trauma alarm.

“Oh, yeah,” I thought. “I’m now part of the care team.” It didn’t occur to me that I needed to respond.

It’s a very different world I’ve entered into! This new role is going to take some getting used to.


One course down

I’ve survived my first medical school course! It was really hard to push through the past few weeks, but I did it.

I am amazed at the amount of information I’ve gleaned in the first 3 months. It’s also humbling to see how little this knowledge makes a dent into the medical information needed to pass board exams in the coming years.

It’s impossible, of course, to know everything. That’ll always will be the case. It’s more important to know where to find information and know when and where to refer patients when we’re faced with an obstacle we can’t solve on our own.

The hardest part of this first course was knowing how to balance time. Time to study. Time for family. Time for cooking, cleaning, paying bills and all the other normal activities we need to do. Notice I didn’t even mention making time for myself. That’s something I’m working on. It seemed nearly impossible to do the things I needed to do without thinking of doing things I wanted to do.

I know there are classmates and colleagues that have found ways to fit in their Me Time. I’ve been reading and listening and trying to figure out ways to incorporate their ideas and others into my own routine. Except those a classmate who said she’s able to take one full day off from studying. I think she has a superwoman cape hidden in her closet.

The highlights from the first few months:

  • Finding heartbeats during ob visits. Very thrilling!
  • Taking patient histories, both simulated and real. Under guidance and supervision, of course.
  • Hearing my first heart murmur. Thanks, Dr. S.!

Next week starts a new course. This week was a much needed break for my classmates and I. I hope everyone got the rest they needed and are ready for Monday!

Falls of the Ohio, Clarksville, Ind.

On a recent Saturday we took a short trip across the Ohio River to Falls of the Ohio State Park. This small, state park features a fossil bed on the shoreline of the Ohio. The visitor and interpretive center sits on a cliff overlooking the Ohio and the fossil bed, which you can reach via a long set of steps and climbing down over some big rocks.

Falls of the Ohio

Some of the fossil beds aren’t visible year round due to water levels, though late summer and early fall are good opportunities to see them. There were pools of water in various spots along the fossil bed when we visited. Every once in awhile we found a minnow trapped in a small pool.

Pools of water are common along the fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio.

Pools of water are common along the fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio.

Chris and Sidney check out the pools of water at the Falls of the Ohio

Chris and Sidney check out the pools of water at the Falls of the Ohio

We spent half an hour looking for fossils embedded in the rock. An interpretive sign said the fossils include many different types of coral, trilobites and brachiopods. Here’s some photos:

Falls fossil 1

Falls fossil 2

Falls fossil 3

The visitor center had signs posted warning visitors that the temperature on the rocks could be as much as 20-25 degrees warmer. I can believe it. We were only on the rocks for about 10 mins. before I broke out in a sweat on what was a relatively cool, summer morning. Make sure you take water if you visit on a really hot day!

The park has events throughout the year. You can also pack at picnicking, fish or hike. I just discovered the park has one trail. I wish we’d found it while we were there. We did walk a little ways on the Ohio River Greenway.

The park is open year round, except for a few holidays, and is located near I-65 in Indiana.

The past few weeks

The past few weeks have been rough, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. I, along with 24 other students, participated in a premarticulation program. I consider it a mini-medical school boot camp. We were exposed to and tested on topics in gross anatomy, genetics and molecular medicine, physiology, histology and embryology.

The pace of the information was fast, which was expected. This helped me tweak my study techniques as much as possible before I start the real deal in another week. It is very true what I’ve heard many people say — you won’t be able to study like you did for an undergraduate degree and you won’t know what will work for you until you’re actually trying techniques out.

Here’s a quick summary of my thoughts and what I learned:

  • The goal is to find the most efficient and effective techniques that will help you learn the material quickly. These techniques will be different for each class and for each individual.
    • If you haven’t already, take a learning style quiz to see what techniques may help you. I am a kinesthetic and visual learner so I try to focus on answering questions, drawing diagrams and pictures and reading in an interactive way.
    • Ask fellow classmates or upperclassmen what they do or did to learn the material for a particular subject or class. Someone may have found a technique that works for them, which may help you.
  • Don’t expect to learn everything. Aim for the most important information.
    • I struggle with this one. A classmate offered to help me sift through the material to pick out the most important information, aka the high-yield facts and concepts we need to know. I may have to take her up on that!
    • The descriptor I’ve heard the most often is that the information is like a water hose. You can only take in so much. I think working in groups and asking myself, “What is the most important info?” will keep me on task.
  • Time management will be your friend!
    • It sucks, but it works. I have done this in the past and it’s helpful in squeezing in all the things you need to do.
    • I’m not very good at allowing myself to schedule personal things in there, like hobbies or relaxation. I am working on that.
    • Don’t get behind! When your time is up for a subject, put it aside. It will be too hard to catch up if you get behind. So, do a preview for each class and review after lecture in the allotted time you have.
    • “Weekends are for catching up.” That’s what the academic support director told us. If you didn’t finish reviewing some information during the week, set it aside and note that you’ll review it over the weekend.
  • Build your survival team, and don’t take them for granted. You will rely on your classmates, faculty, staff and family/friends.
    • A second year medical student shared similar advice during a student panel discussion. Take the idea seriously.
    • Studying in groups will help you keep up, will allow you to teach and quiz each other and will allow for some human contact. (Ha!) They know what you are going through and can relate to issues you may have.
    • Don’t take family or non-medical friends for granted. They will be there to give you a break from all things medical and will be there to lend emotional support.
  • Eat, sleep and exercise. You can’t live a healthy life or be productive without these 3 things.
  • It will be difficult, but you can and will do it.
    • Some good analogies the academic support director shared with me are a mother with a colicky baby or a newly-divorced mother with young kids. You may not like what you’re going through, but eventually you wake up one day and you realize, “I don’t like this, but I’m making it and I’m doing a darn good job of it.”
    • Don’t keep your struggles to yourself. Talk it out with fellow students, a mentor, an advisor or the school’s counselor. They know it’s tough and they’re there to help. Be honest with yourself and seek help when you need it.

Good luck and congratulations to all the incoming MS1s! It will be tough, but find time to enjoy yourself.

Juggling schedules

Classes start next week, so Chris and I have been discussing how we’re going to manage the pup’s care. Specifically, making sure someone will be available to take her outside for a bathroom break and administer her meds during the day.

On some days, Chris could leave mid-morning, especially when he has evening meetings. He’ll be able to take her outside one more time and make sure she receives her midday pill before heading to the office. Within 5 or so hours, I should be back home and will be able to take care of any other needs.

But there are going to be days when Chris can’t arrange to leave later in the morning, and my schedule will not allow me to get home any earlier. So we’re looking for other alternatives. Back-up plans, if you will.

The in-laws have offered to swing by during the lunch hour or to watch Sidney during the day. For them to watch her, Chris will need to drop off and pick up Sidney from the in-laws’ house. It’s a little out of the way and will add to Chris’ hour, one-way commute. People do this daily for child care, so it can’t be that much of an issue, right?

The in-laws can’t, understandably, be available every day. When they can’t help, we may hire a pet sitter. Does anyone have any experience with those? We’re thinking, at most, we might need assistance 2-3 times a week.

I’m hoping in a few weeks my schedule will allow me to be home by early or mid-afternoon, which won’t be too long for Sidney to wait. Until then, we’re gonna have to make it through the next four weeks.