Tag Archive | "musings"

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This too shall pass:

Posted on 05 April 2015 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

So here we are, the last couple hours before the CaRMS match results are released. While there’s still the issue of the licensing exam and graduating at hand, this feels like the moment we’ve all been waiting for (or at least for me).

Now considering how this decision is kiiiiinnd of important, it has been a bit of a nervous period.   But since I don’t have a stache of Ativan hidden away at home, I needed to figure out how to deal with this in some other way. And of course, because this is the UWO blog, I have to put it in a list form.

So I guess this following list is more for future classes’ references than for this current group, but here are some strategies that I came up with to pass the time waiting for the result.

1) Netflix.

Go read another post, because we’re done now. But seriously, this one is pretty much all you need. I mean the 3rd season of House of Cards just came out, and Better Call Saul is on there (if you have access to the UK version). Okay nuff said.

2) Read a book.

Because when was the last time we had time to do some leisure reading (reading for the sake of having an answer to your CaRMS interview doesn’t count). Rummage a library or download an e-book. Who knows there might be a book out there on how to deal with CaRMS results stress.

3) Work out

Speaking about stress, a good way to get a handle of it is to let off some steam. A run, yoga, bike ride (maybe tough to do with the snow), or a trip to the gym can definitely help you feel more refreshed and revitalized. If you don’t mind the cold and the weather is amenable, checking out a local pond and playing some hockey is just a must for a good Canadian kid.

4) Travel

Because you want to beat the cold. Because Family Day weekend is happening. Because Mardi Gras and American spring break is happening. Because you aren’t sick of flights yet from interviews. Because you really want to make the most of your line of credit.

5) Go out and party.

My logic is that if you are going to be up all night sleepless anyway, you might as well be up all night having some fun.

6) Relax to some music.

Some suggestions I have are “Everything is Awesome”, or the classic “Final Countdown”.

Of course, there are also some really fun parody songs out there too. My current favorite is this one that spoofs T. Swift.

7) Study for exams

Because nothing is better at diverting panic and anxiety for one major life event than focusing it all on another major life event.

8) Write something for the UWOMJ blog

This is a great tip and I’m recommending it based off personal experience. The mere act of writing this little piece has killed the last couple hours before the results are released. Now time for me to go meet up with my roommates, drink some mimosas, and figure out the rest of my life.

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CaRMS Tourrrghhhhh

Posted on 31 January 2015 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

I finish my interview, quickly changed out of my clothes, and pack my things. As walk down the stairs my phone buzzes, a reminder that my flight later is on-time.
That’s weird, I think, my flight is supposed to be on Friday.
I then check the date at the top of the screen. Friday. January 30th.
Right, yes. We’re interviewing in London now, so obviously it’s January 30th, that’s when it was scheduled.
Oops.
With the end of today’s interview, I’ve hit the halfway point (cue some Bon Jovi) on this interview circuit, and boy arethedaysjustblurringtogether.
Seriously, where did the time go?
It all started off pretty easy enough, last week started with two interviews only: Memorial on Monday and Dalhousie on Tuesday. Since I didn’t have any interviews in Quebec I had a few days to rest and relax before reaching the first big obstacle. Ontario.
5 days, over 800 km of road travel, late night socials, and 4 interviews in 4 cities, I felt as if I was caught up in riptide that just dragged me through the days. I didn’t even have it that bad – I didn’t interview in either Toronto or NOSM, my admiration to my colleagues that were able to manage these cities as well. Even more intense were some of the Quebec applicants who virtually had no break as they spent the whole of last week going through Laval, Sherbrooke, and the 2 Montreal schools.
I can see that it’s affecting my fellow applicants as well. Ties hang a little looser. What were immaculately cleaned and pressed outfits are creased and salt stained by the road. Earlier this week I heard one person mistakenly say he was enjoying being in Ottawa while at the Queen’s social. Someone told me he no longer keeps track of time by day of the week but by whichever city he’s currently in.
One of the residents I met along the way likened the CaRMS interview circuit to being on a rock tour: every day in a new city, constantly meeting new people, up late in the bars only to wake up early the next day, to go perform the same gig to a different audience.
It feels like I’ve been on the road forever, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good time to just go with the flow. Next week will be a whirlwind through Western Canada, but it’ll be spent either interviewing or traveling. The actual day of the week, heck, the city I’m in, doesn’t even matter. It’s a weird and wonderful transient state to be in, and, pretty soon all over. Soon I’ll be grounded and back in a lecture seat, with just the worn out boarding passes and unused drink tickets to assure me that it all happened. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the fun.
Well, time to head out and catch my next flight. The tour must go on!

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Insights off the run:

Posted on 22 November 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Ah yes, 4th year. The time when suddenly it becomes real: I’m going to be a doctor. That MD is so close I can pretty much touch the serifs. But before we can bust out singing to Vitamin C (yes, you know the song), there’s still a long trial before us. The long 16 weeks of electives.

Now electives are the shot for us to show off what we have to the various programs and locations across Canada (or even the world if you are so ambitious) that we have the stuff that it takes to be chosen for their program.

Through all the bedlam and rush of these electives, we get the added bonus party time fun of having to write personal statements, update the CV, scrounge together letters of reference, and fill out all the extra redundant paperwork that is required for a CaRMS application. 

Yes Natasha, I agree.

However, if we let ourselves take a step back from the daily double grind of working while being on show, move past the exhaustion from the long days, and separate ourselves from the stress of the applications, these elective times are great opportunities. They’re a time to really show off to yourself how far you’ve come. They’re an amazing opportunity to adventure through and live in (albiet VERY temporarily) different places. And you’re likely going to meet a bunch of new people who may become future co-residents, colleagues, or friends.

As the three quarter mark is approaching for the current elective tour, I thought it would be a great time to sit back and reflect on some of the subtler lessons I learned from the long haul.

1) Pack light, travel quickly (alternate title, scrubs are the best)

In one of my favorite movies, Up in the Air, George Clooney poses this question at the beginning of his seminars “What’s in your backpack?“. While his speech is focused on the metaphorical baggage that bogs a person down in everyday life, it’s a good prompt to examine the actual physical baggage that can encumber your peripatetic lifestyle during this year.

From one standpoint, it’s more economical: the airlines have recently implemented more fees for check-in luggage and driving around with heavier loads will also hike up your vehicle’s fuel costs. From another, it’s also easier to move around, you need less time to pack, and it frees up some of the clutter.

Which is why scrubs are awesome because I’ve pretty much cut down two-thirds of my clothing needs as a result. Plus you can look like a ninja at work, which is awesome.

For those without the luxury of having the scrubs option at work, there are still other ways to lighten the load. Simplifying outfits, or finding multifunctional pieces are one way. Eliminating excessive electronics, books, or other accessories are all options as well. Personally I thought that I was traveling pretty efficiently already but after my first couple electives I realized I still did not use a good chunk of what I packed. With my next stopover at home, I hope to be able to make like a bro in summer and cut down the excess bulk.

2) When in a new city, make friends with a local and do what they do

So you’re in a new city and like any good medical student you’ve done your research. You’ve never been to Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, or Vancouver (etc etc) before and want to see all the attractions (and more importantly eat all the food) before you fly out 2 weeks later (come to think about it, visiting medical students are kind of like a pack of cicada – we swarm in, drum up a bunch of cacophony, eat a whole bunch, and in a couple weeks of annoyance to the locals we’re gone).

Yeah, that’s a lot of fun and be sure to take part in it, there’s a reason why those places become the hotspot.

But at the risk of sounding a bit too hipster, it’s better to make friends with some locals or inquire a classmate who is a local and get tips from them.

Why? Well, A) they may have better knowledge on which places are worth the hype and which aren’t. This leads to much better use of your limited time. Secondly, they probably know some other up and coming trendy places that may not be listed on Fodor’s. Finally, locals can probably offer tips that make your day-to-day life on elective easier. You know, stuff like helping figure out transit routes, good places for groceries, and what you might need to bring before heading to the city.

In essence, utilize those interviewing skills you picked up in clinical sessions and strike up a conversation with a local.

 3) There are a million “absolute right way” to do a simple procedure

From suturing, approaches to presenting a case, to even taping people’s eyes, you’re never doing it right. On day one you might get a nice lesson on how to approach intubating a patient. Great, you think, I’ll just do it like this with the next few docs here and I’m set. Day two, your doc looks thoroughly unimpressed with your “technique”, even though you did the exact same thing as the other attending.

Great, don’t tell me this is your first time intubating. You’re doing it all wrong! and you get another lesson, which will only be corrected by the next guy.

Repeat ad nauseum to every elective and every physician you encounter along the way. It’s like facing Tyson for the first time on Punch-Out: you cannot win. I feel like you simply got to go with it, and take solace in the fact that you’ll likely do it yourself once you got medical students of your own to “teach”.

4) Find a good coffee shop

Quick quiz, what’s some of the signs that you’re a #BasicMedStudent?

a) You need caffeine to operate.

b) You need wifi to either work on applications or go on social media (or blogs) to procrastinate from working on applications.

c) You consume a large amount of sugar/carb dense snacks to compensate for the lack of sleep you get.

d) All of the above.

The coffee shop provides all of these amenities, making it the natural stronghold of the traveling medical student. The trick is finding a good one to bunker down in when you’re in a new city. A good coffee shop will cover the basic necessities of survival: protection from the elements whether it’s rain, snow, or the cold; a means of communicating with others via a strong wifi connection, hydration in terms of coffee/tea/beverages; and food in terms of an assortment of baked goods.These are the basics, and everyone has their own personal preference on what they value more. For me, it’s the wifi. Sometimes I can’t count on the connection at the accommodations I’m staying at and I need to get online to work on CaRMS. But that’s just me. 

And, when in doubt, find a Starbucks: they’re everywhere (especially in Vancouver)

5) Wade, don’t jump, in.

Every hospital will run slightly differently. There’s a lot of desire, especially at first to try to jump right in and look like a star off the bat. I would recommend against that. Seriously.

There’s no rush and it’s better to be a fly on the wall and watch what happens, ask the right question, and ease into it. People like to welcome the rookie and it’s pretty favorable to appear as the person who fits in well seemlessly and remembers all the veterans’ advice.

Don’t worry if you don’t try to jump in. It’s just too confusing and stressful trying to figure out a hospital’s way of doing things before you really even have been there. Each are it’s own beast. And it doesn’t matter if you might look bad in front of someone stumbling around lost the first few days. Sorry to burst that bubble but you’re pretty forgettable.

6) When it comes to accommodations – location, location, location!

Electives can be pretty expensive, from application fees, gas fees, air fare, and costs of living. And even though you’re expected to be in the hospital and clinic for most of the day, you actually won’t be allowed to live in one while you’re visiting.

Bottom line: you need to find a place to live.

Now generally the options are: rent/sublet from someone (usually another medical student or resident), find a friend, or stay with family. A lot of people go with the options of staying with friends and family to save cost or to have a good time. But I feel the most important aspect of choosing your lodging is location.

The key number is 15 – that is minutes or less from your main hospital/clinic/centre. The main reason for that is it’s close enough you can escape the clutches of the hospital quickly, but that also means you can get to the hospital quickly when you need to. This is beneficial when you want to come in early in the morning, if you want to get a few more minutes of rest or have a long morning routine, or (if you’re close enough) even having a place to retreat to on a night of call that isn’t a stuffy room with a molded plast mattress.

Having paid for a place right next to the hospital and having saved money by staying at home and commuting, I still say the location is worth missing out on the free meals and cheaper save. Over time, the earlier mornings due to the commute and having to still spend up to an hour getting home after work is done just adds up and cuts into your productivity.

7) Never turn down offers from physicians

While they may be strangers to you, you shouldn’t turn down offers from any of the physicians you meet while on electives, especially if it’s candy.  Often these offers come up innocuously, and have a very short time period to respond.  So are you in? And while that answer yes might not always be crazy, memorable, the hospital turning into a bumping club, adventures, there is often some benefit awaiting, even if there might seem to be some work involved in it.

Help out with a report? Sure that’s a bit of work, but you can get published and it makes a good impression with the residents.

Why not stay later for a case, who knows what you might learn.

Volunteer a weekend to go on an organ retrieval? Always answer yes. It’s a magical, humbling experience.

In the end the electives are not only a chance for you to demonstrate that you’re a great potential resident to each program, but it’s an amazing opportunity for you do tailor your education independently. While it can be a lot of fun to play tourist, go out and eat fun meals, and travel, it ultimately comes back to have the freedom of 16 weeks for you to pick up additional skills for your future as a ______this spot left intentionally blank________ physician.

Happy trails.

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Better than you think

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Exhaustion from call; PTSD from getting barked at; loss of a social life. For many medical students, the surgical rotation during clerkship is supposedly the “doom and gloom” block. While it is a challenging block with a lot to learn, that is not a phenomenom unique from the other specialty rotations either. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions on how “brutal” the rotation will be. As someone who is just finishing their 12 weeks in it, my personal testimony* (note: am interested in doing a surgical residency) is that it is not as frightful as many make it. There are in fact quite a few hidden gems about the surgical block that I am really going to miss.

1) Wearing Greens to work. – Sure you might miss out on being able to choose your outfit for the day, but think of all the time that saves as well! Over the past 3 months, I’ve greatly cut down the cost of my laundry (both time and money for supplies) and also get to the enjoy what is essentially pajamas to work. There aren’t many fields of work that let you do that, aside from maybe mattress testers and these guys.

2) Premium Parking – Okay, okay, okay. I can’t really personally attest to this because I’m still cycling my commute to the hospitals, but word on the street from other clerks and my roommate who just finished a few months on general surgery as part of his residency electives is that when you come in at 6am or earlier, you get the best parking in the house. Guaranteed. This makes getting out when you do get to leave all the easier. Also in the winter days this shortens the walk from your car to being inside with the warmth. That definitely makes a big difference.

3) Less road rage, aka less traffic – I don’t think I’ve been in a city with more infuriating traffic lights and less efficient roads than London. Even in some cities in China which have populations the size of Ontario on the road at least there is movement and is programmed to accommodate the flow of traffic. London’s traffic doesn’t make any sense, which is baffling considering how short distances one has to cover to span the city. Particularly in the normal peak “rush hours” the pace crawls by – I am definitely able to move quicker on my bike during these jams. Yet if you arrive early and leave late, you never have to deal with the extra strength Advil requiring headache that is London traffic. Picture it: leisurely arriving to work, air is still clean because you aren’t breathing in idling exhaust fumes, able to actually hear the birds sing in the morning as you go about your way, and smoothly getting to the hospital from home. No fuss, no muss. It’s almost kind of nice, right?

4) Getting to enjoy the sunrise each morning – Lost in the frenzy of the hospital and the pace of clerkship are those moments to just step back and be in the moment. Yes, we’re up at an hour the night owls are just going to bed at. Yes, we have to round on patients so quickly sometimes I get my cardio for the day just through that. But even if it’s just for a few seconds through a window in a patient’s room each morning, getting to see those first rays of a new day break over the horizon is just so moving. Getting to see the sunrise helps charge up my batteries in preparation for the long day ahead.

5) A lot of complimentary coffee – And this has nothing to do with the fact that I was on surgery during Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim contest. But the residents/attendings seemed always willing to buy the clerks a coffee when there was a moment’s of downtime between cases. As a person who enjoys a good cup of the black stuff, this was a very nice touch. Stick taps to that. Yes, some would say that if we had longer hours to sleep we wouldn’t need the coffee during the day, but I just like to drink coffee.  Even if it’s Timmies. 

6) No trouble sleeping at night – My brain is a troll at night. Previously, if I’d try to sleep my mind would keep me up overthinking about things that happened during the previous day, trying to figure out stuff I should be prepared for the next, or just generally screwing around with random streams of consciousness. While on surgery, when I want to sleep I just do the flop. I might have gone to bed earlier before, but I’m actually getting more sleep now.

Detractors might argue that this is simply Stockholme Syndrome reasoning but I feel that there are many overlooked moments to enjoy in the surgery rotation. There’s great teaching, a lot to do, and the feeling of being included in the team while on the rotation, but those are the obvious ones. The above list tries to address some of the hidden, little things that generally go by everyday without appreciation. But really, it’s often these little things that add up and make a difference in the end.

 

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The Other Side

Posted on 07 April 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Last weekend I got a chance to be an interviewer for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry admission’s weekend. I didn’t originally expect to be a part of the panel, it was going to on a post-call day while on a busy General Surgery service and earlier in the month received an email stating that all the spots were filled and I would not be needed.

Fortunately, someone could not make it last minute and I was given the opportunity. Post-call or not, I was going to take it.

While this was not my first experience interviewing others for important roles nor was this the first time I was helping out with the Schulich Medicine Admissions weekend. This was, however, this was the first time my role would be part of the interviewing panel. The weight of having my opinion, experience, and judgement be made into part of the consideration of what gets a medical school hopeful accepted or not does not escape. It’s a tremendous honour and I was initially a little nervous about being suitable to fill such a role.

Then I did a gut check and realized whatever anxieties I may be having are dwarfed by what a good chunk of the interviewees must be feeling. #Firstworldproblems? More like #MedStudentProblems.

So what can I say about the experience of being on the other side? Well, first of all, not much in terms of details. That contract of confidentiality we all sign at the beginning of the day was fairly clear on that. So, sorry hopeful premeds (who I doubt are reading this anyway), no hints here.

The experience did let me to think back and try to remember what it was like to be one of the interviewees again. That whole memory was only 3 years ago, but it seems so distant in the past. Yet, that time seemed to past so quickly as well. Very strange how alien the memories of pre-med school Jimmy feel to current med school Jimmy.

There was a deja vu sensation in how tired I was that morning, coming off post call following a whole night in the OR (10:30pm – 7am of operating, I’m not joking) will do that to you. I didn’t sleep the night before my Schulich interview either, as I was spending it on a turbulent red-eye flight from Vancouver to London. It was also a little fitting that I was still stuffing my “dress-up” clothes – a suit and tie back in 2011, business casual slacks and a button-down in 2014 – in beat up trekking backpacks. Wrinkles be damned.

However, prior to my medical school interview, I had never been to either Western or London and I remember being incredibly confused on figuring out how to get from York street to the Western Campus. The sense of being lost and almost late to an interview doesn’t help one’s nerves, and I could imagine that for a lot of last weekend interviewees that they, too, would be leaving their home schools, home towns, home provinces for this one day. In 2014, I have a much better sense of London, and even a tiny bit of the surrounding region. At least I could easily find the stupid purple balloons at the entrance this time.

Surprisingly, thinking back, I was a lot more self-assured prior to entering medical school. I knew the undergrad system that I was in at UBC, I knew how to excel in that setting. These days, not much at all. I’m constantly feeling lost in medical school. Information I thought I had studied just the night before, suddenly can’t recall it when I’m being pimped. There’s always something new to learn and yesterday’s achievement is today’s square one. Looking and listening to these fresh, well rested, faces, I know a bunch of them deep down think they are the shit. Without a doubt they are incredibly decorated and accomplished people. I wonder if they really realize what’s lying ahead for them (Somedays the only solace I can take is that hundreds of other students have gone through the same experiences as I have, faced the same challenges, and emerged out of it MDs). As an old rugby coach used to say, “Trust the system.”

One last stark difference is this time I’m in the know. As an interviewee, it was hard not to try to read in between the lines and try to figure out what exactly the question used was getting out. Turns out there definitely is a method to the madness. As an interviewer, it’s quite clear how we were supposed to be directed in our panels. That’s the most I can divulge I believe, due to the aforementioned confidentiality clause.

One final thing I should mention is that as both an interviewer and interviewee I had a great time. Being new to Western in 2011 I was blown away by the hospitality, enthusiasm, friendliness, and community spirit shown by the admissions volunteers. That impression definitely was a driving force in my decision to choose London in the end. On the other side of the panel, I had a great time connecting with the other panelists on my team. There were also breaks to get to catch up with some classmates and other volunteers. There are definitely a fair share of good feelings behind the scenes as well.

With the past weekend over, that wraps up the 2014 Admissions Weekend for Schulich. It’ll be a nervous and exciting time for the interviewees I’m sure. I am curious to see if the people who went through my panel got accepted and end up choosing Schulich for next year. If one of the them do end up coming to school here, I do hope that at some point within their 4 years they get to have a chance to side on the other side too.

So the cycle continues.

 

 

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48 hours in Halifax

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Much like this article, my weekend away had a hard time taking form at the start. The Family Day Weekend was looming and I was informed I’d have Monday off. Perfect, I thought, I could go on a quick trip and have some fun. But where?

I won’t bore you with the details of how I settled on Halifax, except a big factor was that I had never been to the Atlantic time zone before. With that determined, a last minute (but not last second) round trip ticket was purchased and I was off to Nova Scotia. Thanks to a long layover , it wasn’t until 5pm on the Saturday night that I touched the tarmac in YHZ. Noting that my return flight was 8pm on the Monday night, I realized that I had about 48 hours before I needed to be back in the airport to enjoy Halifax.

This is the log of those 48 hours.

Hour 1) Pick up rental car. Stupidly agree to prepurchase gas refill to whatever level the car currently is at. Realize too late that the car is filled up. Grab a quick coffee, and drive into the city. At the MacDonald Bridge discovered that I had no change to pay the toll. Fortunately the bridgekeeper let me through (didn’t even ask me these questions three), remarking that I “must not be from around here.”

Hour 2) Uneventfully got to the hotel, parked the car, and settled in. Got a few tips about what to do in the city. Discovered that I didn’t pack socks or underwear for the weekend (d’oh!) and rushed over to a Walmart and get a few pairs. Decided to grab a few energy drinks as well, because I wanted to have gratuitous amounts of energy.

Hour 3) Went to explore Barrington, one of the main streets of the city. A storm was moving in so I ducked into the Freak Lunchbox, which fortunately was also one of the spots I was advised to check out. This place was like a compact version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with a nerdy twist! It was a little bit retro, a little bit psychedelic, and a little bit geeky, all in the right amounts. There’s no way I can fully describe how awesome the place is (and, disappointingly, neither does its website), so you’ll just have to check it out.

Hour 4) Popped into the Economy Shoe Shop, a pub recommended by my preceptor who did medical school back in Dalhousie (so who was I to argue). Fortunately, it was a good tip (unlike cool guy tips, which are just awful), as the food was great, the atmosphere was friendly, there were Calvin & Hobbes comics in the washroom, and there were ample beers on tap (Harrison, the bartender, is a particularly good guy).

Hours 5 – 10) Embarked on some good ol’fashionded Haligonian pub hopping (and yes it did involve an Old Fashioned). Checked out some classics like the Durty Nelly’s as well as some of the new places, like the Stubborn Goat. The reputation of Maritime hospitality was on full display as people were always up for striking up a conversation, splitting some pizza, or including a visiting stranger into their celebration.

At some point in the night, I had been invited to join a fellow on his birthday evening out (No I didn’t come out of the cake).

By the end of it, a new acquaintance offered to drive me back to hotel as a hail storm decided to pop up in the middle of the night.

Hours 11-14) Sleep.

Hour 15) Worked to update the OMSA website quickly (go check it out, a ton of services, opportunities, and discounts offered there). Afterwards, went to have breakfast with an old friend from UBC. She decided Cora’s which I have never been to before. For years I’ve had Cora’s hyped up from brunch loving friends everywhere. It was okay (no Marionberry pancakes). Essentially an overpriced and over-esteemed Denny’s. Actually a Grand Slam would have been amazing.

But I digress, it was a nice meet up, a couple West Coasters catching up on the other side of the continent. She’s finishing up her MHA and in the application cycle for medical school this year. Hopefully it goes well for her.

Hour 16-17) Lots of wandering around the city, taking pics from view points around the citadel and from the harbour. Very icy, very windy, and oh so very, very, very cold. Surprised I didn’t end up with some form of frost bite as a result.

Hour 18) Wandered into the Halifax Seaport Market, kind of a larger and more open version of the Covent Garden Market. A mix of local produce, craft vendors, food stalls, and artists, it was pretty lively considering it was a Sunday morning.

What caught my eye the most, was a small shop class in the very back, it was a weekly group that met every Sunday to learn a specific type of carpentry: bow and arrow making. The students were bent over decrepitly old work benches whittling down staves of maple. Their instructor, an old man sporting thick white whiskers and a weather worn face and belonged in a Hemingway, would rotate through and inspect the students work, offering guidance and tips as well.

Hour 19) Went back to the hotel. Read a couple cases. Took a quick power nap.

Hour 20 – 23) Went to watch the Canada – Finland Olympic Mens Hockey game. After asking everyone last night about the best sports bar in town, I ended up trekking to HFX Sports, which is supposedly modeled off Real Sports in Toronto. After snagging the LAST seat in the whole bar (score!) and getting a round bought from my neighbours for being in Halifax the first time (double score!), I partook in one of the time honoured and sacred rites in this country: celebrating a big hockey win with a crowd a strangers.

Hour 24-26) A few random snippets of things” toured the Maritime Museum right before closing, working out at the hotel, reading more cases, sitting down to write an article for In-Training Magazine (THE agora for the medical student community).

Hours 27-31) Met with another former UBC-er for some delicious seafood and a few apres dinner drinks.

If Saturday was all about meeting new people in the city, Sunday was about re-establishing some old relationships. I hadn’t seen Jenn for about 5 years, as she left Vancouver to go work on her Masters’ and now a PhD out at St. Mary’s University. It’s nice to re-connect after a while, and reminded me that these relationships do need to be tended or risk falling apart.

Hours 32 – 40) Sleep, working out, packing up the hotel room and signing out. Nothing to see here.

Hours 41) Hiked around Point Pleasant Park. It was pretty bare, like Old Mother Hubbards pantry. The recent hailstorm and subsequent warmer weather and rain led to a thick layer of ice cover the whole trail as well. This created an interesting walking sensation, almost as if I was walking over a frozen lake.

Hours 42-43) Drove out of the city, south and east, towards a “classic touristy” spot, as Harrison the bartender described it.

“It” being Peggy’s Cove, which had one of those classic “let’s have it on a postcard or feature it in a romantic sitcom scenelighthouses. The road out to Peggy’s Cove was gorgeous, with immaculately iced over bays, serpentine roads wedged between rolling shoreline, and tiny colourful towns dotting the way.When I arrived at the cove, I left like suddenly I was part of a #WeAreWinter commercial or on set in a real-life re-enactment of Frozen (I’m assuming, I haven’t seen the movie).

The lighthouse did look like it belonged in post card, but no post card picture ever correctly depicts the cold wind that whips around the outcropping rocks. As the sea spray had frozen over the path as well as many of the rocks that led to the lighthouse, I was a bit leery about wandering too close to the furious Atlantic rim. I did wander into the nearby restaurant and had a delicious lunch of various seafood delights.

Passed on the pickled herring, however.

Hours 44-46) Decided to take the scenic route back and drive along the coast some more. While it did take a bit longer to end up back in the city, and the route had some harrowing moments (like nearly running into a herd of deer after coming up a hilly segment), it was well worth it to appreciate the Nova Scotian country side. The clouds had blown past, the sky was clear, the vistas were exceptional.

Hours 46-47) Got back in the city. Went to the Paper Chase, a great little newsstand and café. You see, I had a few paragraphs left for my In-Training article (again, the agora for the medical student community), and I was determined to finish it before I left. One invigorating cup of tea, and one astounding piece of carrot cake later, I got that checked off my “To-Do” list.

Hour 48) I rode that feeling of accomplishment out of Halifax, down the 118 (because I didn’t want any more awkward encounters on toll bridges), and back to YHZ. A little while later, as I drifted off for a nap while the plane was taking off the runway, I had half a thought that I’d wake up and it’d still be Friday and the last 48 hours were all just a dream (just a dream). Awoken by the Thundersnow landing at Pearson, it was reassuring to know it wasn’t.

Halifax truly is a city that belongs to the elements. Water, that one’s easy, as it lies on the edge of the Atlantic. Earth, the jutting rocks and hills that shape its roads and stones that form its buildings reminds us of its history. Wind, takes the form of the storms that batter its citizens on a whim. Fire, from roaring ovens and grills come hearty epicurean delights. And, of course, who can forget about Heart (because no quasi-Captain Planet allusion is complete without Heart), especially in the company of Haligonians.

Yes, Halifax was definitely displaying it elements this past weekend. Fortunately, I, too, was in my elements then – my elements being eating food, sampling local craft beverages, and having a new experience. And that’s what happened in my 48 hours in Halifax.

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At the brink

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

In a few short hours, clerkship will have started for me. I realize that this past week was the official start of 3rd year, but as it was largely an instructional week about some of the “how-tos” regarding clerk duties (“how to access powerchart”, “how to do a sign off”, “how to dictate”…) – a clerkship bootcamp – it really did not register with me.

Now, I cannot stop pondering over what tomorrow, the next week, and the upcoming year is going to bring. What will call be like? How different is this going to be from the past two years? How long will I be able to keep biking to my shifts? How difficult are the end of rotation exams going to be?

Ultimately my mind circles back to one question: “am I ready?”

Honestly, I want to tell myself yes. Reason it out – that hundreds, if not thousands, of students have been on this path before me and have been just fine. Normalize the process in order to soothe it over, get a hold on the anxiety, and move forward.

Yet the question returns, like a demented boomerang. It ceases to just go away. Each time it reappears it brings a friend: another question, a hypothetical situation, a hidden doubt.

Somtimes, I welcome these thoughts, as in the past, I’ve relied on the fear and worry to motivate me onward. But the stakes seem higher now, and especially with the fact that I’ll be working with real people who are sick, I don’t want to be the one needing to make mistakes in order to do it right.

If getting through medical school is a journey, I liken it to one across a mountain path. The first two years are along hilly trails: winding around, rising steady, rough at times, but generally you can see the route and it’s something you’ve been on before. Clerkship then rises out of that like a sudden and steep peak, and I now stand at its brink. Personally I haven’t experienced this yet, but I’m assured that my skills and knowledge should be adequate for the ascent. With it looming over me, I cannot be sure.

It doesn’t help that I’ve always had a fear of heights as well.

I guess in the end, I’ve made it this far, there’s nothing else to do but climb.

See you all at the next plateau.

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Wellness on the mind

Posted on 18 March 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

I guess it’s just that time of the year. The latter half of our 2nd term is rising over the horizon, March Break (aka vacation time) ending, finished with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter just around the corner, the tax season deadline approaching, and the slow but inevitable lurch forward (like some sort of not giving up…school guyof clerkship, all these things have got me thinking about the whole “work life balance” and wellness.

Again.

Yes, I realize this topic enjoys as much attention in medical school as pictures of cats do on the InterWebs, but with the 1st OMSA Wellness Retreat geared up this Friday, it’s hard not to think on the subject and muse.

The concept of Wellness has developed it’s own curriculum. Through stand-alone lectures, lunch time seminars and workshops, regular emails (while writing this piece, I actually received an email regarding Wellness), and sharing of published literature on the subject, Wellbeing and learner health has become as integral to the medical school experience as anatomy. This has obviously been a great improvement upon the attitudes and culture in the past.

As a side note, an interesting piece of history can be found when examining how one of the longest standing traditional notions in medicine, the superhumanly long overnight on call shifts, was largely influenced by the work habits of a prominent physician who himself was using and addicted to cocaine throughout his whole career (it was not yet illegal at the time). While better regulation for sleep and shift scheduling have finally been implemented, through the goggles of hindsight it is fairly obvious that such a practice was inevitably unbalanced.

But with the acknowledgement that there is more focus on Wellness and Health these days, more than ever, in medical school, there should still be a caution on how the pendulum has the tendency to over swing.

The caveat  that should be mentioned is that Wellness is not simply an ends to reach, or another goal to accomplish, or another role (like the other CanMeds ones) for students to adopt and check off their mental CVs. Nor should Wellness remain focused solely on Physical and Social wellbeing. While these are necessary components to wellness, there are other equally important components that are under-appreciated.

Current Wellness Counseling theory contents that a person’s wellbeing and individual health can be conceptualized to include aspects of physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, financial, and occupational (or environmental) wellness. Each of these components can be in or out of balance, and it’s important to appreciate what could be missing in one’s lifestyle. That said, I will reiterate that it shouldn’t be about determining that components A, B, or C are depleted and by doing activities X, Y, Z, they will be more in line with the other ones, but rather realizing a lifestyle that can fulfill these aspects to your satisfaction.

I realize that this doesn’t require a total and sudden makeover (are you thinking what I’m thinking?), but is more of a mindset that one adopts over time. And, as one of the more infamous Night Owls in my class, definitely a topic I could use some more appreciation about.

Well, I got a few more days to think about this as I head to the Wellness Retreat this weekend. As overemphasized as this subject is, I still believe in it’s importance and am very excited for a weekend designated especially for learning more about it.

 

 

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