blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: August 2018

August 28, 2018

Starting Medical School (and Beyond): 5 Pieces of Advice I Wish I Had

It’s that time of year again - my Instagram feed was recently full of photos of freshly minted medical students with their new white coats, sharing beautiful snaps of their ceremonies and pretty flat lays of their study set ups, giddy at the incredible achievement and honor that’s been bestowed upon them. And just last week the next anticipated wave of Instagram photos started popping up – the “wow this is harder than I thought” “how can I handle this firehose of information and still be a normal human” – the fear and feeling of overwhelm with the body of knowledge you have ahead. The first thing I’ll say is – you can totally do this. You got this. Really, truly. I don’t think there’s one physician who will tell you they didn’t feel overwhelmed at the beginning (and if they say they weren’t they’re probably lying)!!

So if you’re short on time and don’t want to read more, than just read this much: you can do this. Repeat that affirmation. If you’ve got a minute or two keep reading for some practical tips on starting medical school on the right foot.

1. Remember how you got here.
It’s easy to sit in anatomy class or physiology and feel like you need to reinvent your study habits to keep up with this new (mostly not new, but certainly new VOLUME of) information. But for the most part, you don’t. You likely got here because you figured out the whole studying thing – remember those study skills from college and use them. What’s more important than ever now is time management and consolidating vast quantities of information. For me personally I loved waking up early in the morning and reviewing what we were going over for lecture so it wasn’t foreign when it came up in lecture. After lecture I’d try consolidating to the important things and making sure I understood those concepts. For some people, consolidating means making flashcards (physical or virtual) that can easily be reviewed later, and for many others it meant finding the respective section in a Step 1 review source like First Aid and annotating there.

2. It’s ok to not know it all. 
Medical school has now collected the crème de la crème, and though it might not be that easy to swallow, you may not be the top student anymore. You might not even be top 10 or top 20. You might just be average. Or even below average. That doesn’t mean you don’t have value or don’t have anything to contribute. You’ve just gone to a bigger pond with bigger fish. The beauty is, there is room for everyone to succeed, and the happiest med students I knew/know are the ones who make a community in med school and share notes and help each other. Learn from these rockstars who are now your classmates and remember that you belong there too (imposter syndrome is all too real at the beginning of med school and beyond, read more on my post here). Also on a side note while we talk about community – try to stay away from the drama. Med school is a rare time when you’re basically in the same class all the time and things can get crazy with people dating etc etc. Obviously I have nothing against that (seeing as I married my med school classmate), but you have to make sure it doesn’t affect your studies or your career. While it may sometimes feel like you’re in middle school again, this is now your profession, and these people will be your professional colleagues for life. Don’t be stupid.

3. Let go of what you thought about medicine and embrace it all.
Most of us (except for maybe those of you with physician parents or close friends) had a preconceived notion of what we thought about medicine. It may have come from limited experiences shadowing or working in clinical research, or it may have come from Grey’s Anatomy. It was probably wrong. I rolled my eyes at dermatology initially thinking it wasn’t enough real medicine (all I saw was pimples and botox and that episode of Grey’s where they were getting hand massages) but MAN was I wrong. Every experience in med school is a chance to learn, so get out of your own way (even if you’re dead set on being a pediatric cardiologist) and embrace pathology. Embrace neurology. As one of my mentors said – become an anthropologist and really immerse yourself in the rotation you're on (this applies more for when you’re on clinical rotations, but the same can be said during the pre-clinical years when you’re learning different systems on different blocks).

4. Show commitment.
It’s hard at the beginning of medical school to also feel like you have to get involved in research and volunteering immediately. You don’t. Get your bearings, but by the middle of first year, you should certainly give it more thought and start testing the waters. It may feel like it’s hard to commit – but remember that showing commitment doesn’t mean your signing up for the specialty your research is in for life – it just means you’re passionate about and dedicated to that project. Find something that genuinely interests you and causes you generally care about, and stick with them. When residency applications come around you better believe we can smell extracurriculars done just for applications from a mile away. Real enthusiasm and dedication is palpable and it will take you far.

5. Keep a highlight reel. 
Medicine and medical training are HARD. Do not let anyone tell you differently. It can be fun if you let it be, but a lot of what we do is hard (residents like to forget that since things just keep getting harder and it’s easy to laugh off the stresses of a medical student, but I remember – it was hard). And because we are learning there are many times we might get the answer wrong, or say the wrong thing to a patient, or have to retake a test. And because most of us are type A and perfectionists, we hold on to those wrong things more dearly than we ever hold onto any of the good. And that sucks. But I’m going to challenge you to keep a highlight folder. The moments where you shined, the moments where a patient said thank you and truly meant it, the moments where you felt good about yourself, or just the moments you felt incredibly happy. Snap pictures if you can or just write as much as you can about that moment so that you’ll never forget it. I have a running note in Evernote with my highlights (aside but I have a similar thing for my husband and a similar one for my kids),  it’s critical that we remember these amazing moments since our minds so easily push them out of the way to remember the not-so-stellar times. It’s all too easy to forget about these little moments (especially when we’re really stressed), but these are in fact the little moments that make medicine worth it. These are in fact the big things.

And one extra for good luck:
Take a step back and remember to live.
It’s really easy to start drowning in the work of medical school and the never ending things to study for. One of the most important skills you can learn in medical school is how to deal with this constant pressure and still make time to live a life worth living. Because guess what? While now it may feel like you’ll have more time for (insert whatever thing you’re putting off here – your fitness, your spouse, your family, whatever) – the truth is you only get busier. In medicine (and particularly in training), there will always be something to study for or something to be stressed about. Realizing this is key to realizing you have to learn to live in spite of the chaos. This is your life now. Not after Step 1. Not after your medicine clerkship. Not after interviews. Not after intern year. NOW. If there’s one thing you should realize in the medical field it’s that nothing in this life (particularly our health) is ever promised. Live your life now. You are alive and breathing and well enough to feel stressed about your medical school classes. You got this.

On a more practical note, for me this meant writing out lots of my things to study and to-do, then fitting them all into a weekly calendar. On that to-do list I made sure to also include things like date-night or dinner with friends and fit them in with everything else. Write them in an hold yourself accountable for those things too. Make time for your life and you’ll be much happier – now and for the rest of your medical training!

August 27, 2018

Managing Screen Time for Kids (and adults too)!

There’s always a debate about screen time with littles, and I totally get it. Having been raised by a loving family and spending many a summer sitting on my abuela’s couch watching telenovelas (Spanish soap operas), I’ve never been too concerned with the effect a little television can have on kids as long as their getting plenty of play and stimulation elsewhere. But in the advent of iPads and smartphones and other devices, screen time now encompasses much more than just time spent in front of a television. 

We have iPads in the house and I think they are an INCREDIBLE learning tool – we have apps that help Liv learn to read, do math, Elli practices matching and pattern recognition and her alphabet and counting, and more! On top of that we love fun creative apps that let us do science experiments, dress up zoo animals, have tea parties, and even play doctor (I think I smell a post on favorite apps for the girls coming soon)! 

But with all of these awesome apps also come scarier ones – there have been a few times Liv will get onto YouTube and watch fun videos and then end up with a video that’s totally not child appropriate. Or she’ll somehow click an ad and then end up on a different website entirely. I needed something to help manage the way her iPad was being used, and thankfully I found that with Circle

Now we have Circle in our home and I finally have the screen time sidekick I’ve been hoping for! Circle is a small white box and a paired app that allow you to manage time online for every wifi-connected device in your home (so laptops, phones, and even smart TVs are included)! With Circle I can block certain websites (or what I actually do is just list a few “safe” websites that I want the girls to have access to like Disney and everything else is blocked), limit access to certain apps, monitor and/or limit the amount of time spent on devices and on apps, heck I can even pause the WiFi in our house! Amazing control all from my phone and a great way to keep screen time safe and establish healthy use for the girls. 

August 25, 2018

Romantic Staycation in South Beach

Just got home for a cozy movie night at home with the girls - Nathan and I were out for a super short "staycation" here in Miami! We had the most romantic time on South Beach! We stayed at the Shelborne South Beach - it's right on Collins and perfectly situated to get to all the fun! 

Outfit info: Dress - I snagged it for $20! (plus size available also)  //  Sandals  //  Bag  //  Necklace (my girls' initials)

Friday night we walked from our hotel on Collins to Espanola Way, one of the cutest little areas in South Beach! We had dinner at Mercato Della Pescheria and it was incredible! Took me straight back to my time in Italy! 

We walked back to our hotel along the beach and sat there talking under the moonlight - the best.

We had breakfast at the The Social Club which is my favorite little spot to grab breakfast - their doughnuts are addictive, their breakfast potatoes are the best, and their omelette is so good! I forgot to take pictures of everything else lol!

We walked out to Lincoln Road and spent the rest of the afternoon there - we love going in and out of shops and stopped for another bite at the Books & Books Cafe (there are so many yummy restaurants on Lincoln but this one is a hidden gem, literally feels like a tucked in oasis in the midst of all the business outside - bonus is the actual bookstore behind it)! Their red sangria is my hands down favorite! 

I hope you guys enjoyed this little rundown of our mini-getaway! Check out the map below for an idea of where everything is! Clockwise from the top is our hotel, The Social Club, Espanola Way, and Lincoln Road (I put the star at the Books & Books Cafe)!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! 

August 2, 2018

Empowered Voices

I’ve written before on how much I value mentoring and how much it’s contributed to my success. Now as a doctor, wife, mom of 3, and blogger, most days I don’t have time to sleep as much as I should, and meeting one on one with mentees has become nearly impossible! 

But through this small blog and social media I have been able to reach SO many of you and the messages I get from you are more motivation to keep posting and sharing snippets of my life - the good and the not-so-good! Sharing not just the rewards of the work but the HUSTLE it takes to get there! As a kid growing up that was what we never saw - we saw lots of immediate satisfaction and flashy diamonds and new sneakers glorified all the time, but I never saw any doctors who looked like me. I searched for mentors and just had to accept that they were out there, they had to be, and continued on my path convinced that I’d find them eventually (which thankfully I did)! 

Not everyone has the faith or the ability to search for those mentors, though, or to believe they’re there if they’re not easily visible. That’s why I love companies like Uber who are making it a very clear goal to highlight and promote diversity in their company. It’s there, it’s visible, and it’s attainable for our youth. With groups like Women of Uber, UberHUE, Los Ubers, UberPride, and more, they are highlighting the power of diversity in their company. Keep it up Uber and let’s keep positive and empowering messages going and continue working to increase diversity in all fields!

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