Jeffrey’s Blog


March 1, 2013

Middle East on My Mind

Images from the Middle East Click on the image to view at a larger size.

When you think about the Middle East and Persian Gulf, war, political conflict, violence, and the brave work of the men and women of the U.S. military enter the imagination. However, there are also thousands of years of rich cultural heritage and areas of wealth, stability, extraordinary generosity, and innovation that get drowned out by the noise. During the summer of 2012, three of my classmates and I traveled to Oman—southeast of Saudi Arabia—through a formalized exchange at Boonshoft. We did observational rotations at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital near Muscat, and had our perspectives on the region opened and enlightened in ways we could never have imagined. For three weeks, I was learning from physicians in hematology and general surgery; and every afternoon and on weekends (which are Thursday and Friday there), we were exposed to the region and culture through student ambassadors from Sultan Qaboos University with truly hyperbolic generosity. I did this as part of a requirement for the international health track that the school has set up for us; I would venture that one third or more of my class traveled last summer--from Nepal and Vietnam, to Jamaica and Native American reservations.

While in the Middle East, I had the opportunity to visit Dubai, the glass city growing in the desert like the land of Oz; and Jordan, where the Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee, Red Sea, Roman ruins, Petra, and Wadi Rum were a collision of ancient and modern, and evidence of some of the regional turmoil was seeping just barely into its borders (especially north toward Syria). One of the Ph.D. students at Wright State University is from Irbid, Jordan and I visited his family there—in fact, his brother has come to Dayton for an elective that started this week at Kettering and I am looking forward to seeing him and hearing his impressions of the U.S.!

The other piece that had summer 2012 on my mind was a Middle Eastern meal that I had over the weekend. Last Sunday in Dayton was the Day of Caring, a fundraiser to help combat homelessness and hunger that happens annually at schools, churches, and community organizations. Ralla, one of my classmates, helped to set up sites at both Boonshoft School of Medicine and the Miami Valley School; the former serving a pancake breakfast, the latter serving food from the Middle East. It was a great moment to look back at that phenomenal opportunity to travel, and to remember through the tactile, sensory experience of eating; that trip seems so far away from studying for our renal course, it is like reflecting on a dream.


February 20, 2013

Note to Self

When I was in elementary school and got worried about something, my mom would try to give me perspective. She told me to think of how much it will matter in five years, or ten years, and essentially that such minor day to day concerns were often smoothed over with time. Though sometimes I make sport out of poking holes in adages like that, I still take that message to heart. One of the manifestations of that was writing letters…with the recipient being me. I used to write notes to open on my birthdays, especially when contemplating major life changes. Maybe it sounds a little cheesy, because it is, but I love reading those messages. Again, it’s about perspective.

So for this post, I would like to write a message to myself to read on graduation day in 2015.

Dear Jeffrey Graduating from Boonshoft School of Medicine,

You made it?! What an adventure! All of those long hours and hard work and the days and nights of turning time into knowledge and practice have paved the way for this day. But this day isn’t a switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’ in doctor-land, it’s an accumulation of maturity and skill that will carry on to wherever you are headed next. When I imagine what that will be like, my lens is now. Today, pre-clinical; I am a dreamer looking into the crystal ball trying to divine what ‘could’ into what ‘will’ be, and knowing that the error bars on my estimations are so great that the statistical significance of the prediction is abysmal…like trying to predict the weather for the day of graduation. Of course there are always clues…for instance, I have a feeling that the temperature is likely warmish, but will it rain?...I’m always up for a hearty guess. So I’m going to go with, not raining.

Here I am, celebrating the end of the respiratory class and having a relaxed intro to renal, and there you are, receiving a diploma and celebrating with friends and family. I saw on the National Resident Matching Program’s twitter feed that today is the day that the rank order list is due for the fourth year students. I can only imagine going through that process in the most abstract way, and have such a tremendous amount to learn before I could possibly feel ready for that step toward residency! But there you are, Jeffrey-about-to-get-your-degree, all ready to head out into some field or another. What did you end up choosing? How much more training will you have? Will you be moving far away?

I wish you could send a letter back to allay all of my fears and to feed my excitement. Does STEP 1 go okay? What order should I do my clerkships? Did you do an international away rotation fourth year? The answers to those questions and ones like them will be what grow me into who I have become…I wish I could have a peek, just for the energy of anticipation!

Monday after the exam, someone came to look at the old car and decided to buy it and fix it for his daughter. She is a high school senior, and is considering going to Case Western, so maybe the car will find its way back up to Cleveland this fall. Later in the afternoon, took a hike from Clifton Gorge toward John Bryan State park to enjoy the momentary 50-degree weather in the midst of the winter chill. Sat on a panel to answer questions for high school students about what it is like to be in medical school. Listened in on an AAMC student representative call for community and diversity in the evening, as I had cereal for dinner. After class today Brent arranged a session from the Ohio State Medical Association talking about their legislative and advocacy efforts, followed by a group meeting with Dr. Cauley for a review of the trip to Oman last summer with Kelsey, TJ, and Mai. Today is mom’s birthday, so I called and sang. These are the little details of my life this week. I imagine the week leading up to graduation has been filled with so much excitement and love and last moments with people before parting. Good luck to you, and tell them good luck from me too!

Jeffrey the MS2, February 20, 2013

So there… simple details, pieces of substance and fear, excitement and promise. Like I said, a little cheesy, but I hope I remember to check back years from now and reflect.


February 13, 2013

Snapshot, Boonshoft

As everything goes blazing by, class after class, it’s easy to lose sight of what is actually happening. Maybe that sounds obvious, but writing about it seems like a great time to pause and look over what’s all going on.

Next Monday, our respiratory course will be over. So let me remember this short time, and these people that I am here with, right now, because it’s so transient and we’ll all be tossed to the wind in a few years — careers and the “real world” beyond the protective walls of White Hall and Dayton and Boonshoft.

I know one day I will think back to things like this: I arrived at school for what I assumed would be an 8 a.m. start-time this past week. We were having a question session about respiratory tract neoplasia, but I misread the schedule and found an empty lecture hall until a 10:30 start-time. I know my classmate Brian arrives at school early — he always has the closest parking spot and his small car is hard to miss — so I sent a text and eventually found my way to the ICM room he was in (the ICM rooms are basically study rooms, but they’re used for our Friday Introduction to Clinical Medicine course, so that’s why we call them that). Brian was looking over material for later, so we sat for a while studying. At some point Nikki came and joined us. There was idle chatter and occasional distraction, but that’s the best sometimes, especially for me since I almost always just study at home.

Brian and Nikki are two of the four other people that were in my Team-Based Learning (TBL) group during the MS1 year. In TBL, we had a flag next to our team number so we have always called it “Team France.” The five of us really got along well and we continue to get things for each other’s birthdays and bug each other when a group might be useful to cross-check something instead of going straight to the professor or the online class message board. The year has been busy, and I haven’t felt as reliant on the group for anything compared to last year, but it’s really comforting to have that backup.

Last weekend my dad was in town from Maryland; it’s always refreshing to have a visitor — though I’m always conflicted by feeling like I’ll fall behind if I don’t put in my time on the books, at the risk of not being a good host. I’m sure I’ll write about him again later, he and my mom are both among my heroes. Uncommonly good food, hiking in John Bryan State Park, and a short visit in Columbus with my brother were perfect to enjoy some decent weather and break the winter doldrums.

Hopefully this respiratory exam goes well. I have so much physiology to look back over! I’m sure I’ll have a chance to deconstruct it all next time.


February 7, 2013

Into the Fire!

So has anyone ever read The Hobbit? I remember reading the chapter title, “Out of the Frying-pan, Into the Fire” — the first time I had heard that phrase, which so aptly describes how I feel each new stage of my medical education. Apparently the idiom pre-dates The Hobbit by hundreds of years, but sometimes I feel like Bilbo Baggins: so small, with all this vast world of information on the horizon, and all I can do is soak it in with a mix of trepidation and excitement. So yes, medical school at Boonshoft School of Medicine is, without a doubt, an epic adventure — only instead of traipsing along with a roustabout company of dwarves, I have the luck and privilege to be accompanied on my journey by some of the most phenomenal classmates and faculty I could have imagined.

Lately, I’ve been sizing up the sort of incredible stamina required to make it through the last term of my first two years and ultimately the run-up to taking STEP 1. June 6, 2013 in Beavercreek, Ohio is the day of reckoning. And by “day of reckoning” I mean… it’s just a test, and it’s just another day (that…happens to include seven hours of exam with an hour break); but to make it out to be anything less than one of the most significant culminating experiences of my life-so-far would be to sell it short. It matters enormously. But at the risk of that description sounding hyperbolic, June 6th has been kept in check from becoming too big of a bogeyman by looking at it as just another way-point on the road to reaching for that MD and a fulfilling career.

I came to medical school from undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering, and graduate studies in bioethics and social work. I’m so thankful for that diversity of experiences, and I never cease to be amazed by the variability in pathways of my classmates, significantly enriching how we learn from each other. Roughly 60% of my class of 2015 had at least a one year gap between their undergraduate studies and starting medical school, based on a survey we took during the fall of our first year. I am currently buried deep in Robbins pathology and Costanzo physiology, but thankfully we get frequent glimpses of putting it all together in clinical practice. For example, this week our respiratory system course had us doing applied physiology for ventilators at the Cox Heart Center in Kettering in the simulation lab. It seems impossibly far away and uncomfortably close: the last week of June will be the beginning of the MS3 year and clerkships, when the rubber meets the road and the clinical learning goes into high gear. Despite extracurricular volunteering and introductory clinical experiences, I have expectations for the true chorus of, “this is why it’s worth it!” to come out once the clerkships get rolling.