Friday, March 24, 2017

~Menhir~Standing Stones~Masseba~

I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High...The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee...Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings...That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am, via google...
click the picture to go to article about Israel,
where I have never been and therefore could not take
this picture of standing stones in Israel.  
Over and over again the Bible talks about marking the things God has done for specific people, for specific families, for specific nations, speaking of them, remembering them, telling them that others might know more about Him.

I've already written up how I ended up in college...a gif-filled post on the strange awesomeness surrounding my admission to medical school...what I learned about following God without being carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease....quite a lot about the worst summer of my life and the miracle of Step 1...what God taught me while studying for Step 2...(i.e. you've all gotten to read quite a lot about my most stressful moments the last 7 years, and not nearly enough about the amazing times in between and how I fell in love with medicine and all the incredible people I've met and fascinating things I've learned) but I still find it incredibly weird to realize where exactly I am on the path God has put before me, how clearly He has directed me, and to see how He has led me step by step over the past 10 years since I first realized that I could be a doctor, and first thought about starting college with the goal of MD. 

The early admission program that allowed me to swap my final year of college with my first year of medical school was a huge blessing...the rural program I joined for my 3rd year of medical school definitely the most awesome part of med school...and the place and the people who have taught me all made med school actually work for me. I liked the faculty, I liked the school's focus on rural primary care, and things clicked. Except for that nagging question about what comes next? XD

Of course I started everything planning on Family Medicine -- it was one of the things my school is known for, and I had every intention of becoming their typical rural family doc. It was what I knew and what I liked.  And yet -- "What are you going to be? A pediatrician?" random people repeatedly asked me. "She doesn't care about this; she's going to be a pediatrician," one doctor said as she performed a urological procedure, having just met me seconds before. I always shook my head and laughed and wondered what was up with people. Family Med, guys! By the middle of second year, though, I was second guessing myself, frustrated with how little family med focused on pediatrics {which okay, I was thinking I wanted to know more about...}, and wondering how on earth I'd learn everything in 3 years of residency, and what would happen if I ever wanted to specialize, given I wasn't much of a fan of the available family medicine specialties.

And then there came one gorgeous blue day when I was staring out across one of the Great Lakes, praying for some idea of if God wanted me to switch course or stay family med...and in one of the larger DUH moments of my life, I realized I love kids, I've always loved kids, I want to work with children in the future, and what better way to take care of them than knowing how to be their doctor? I'm obviously going to be a pediatrician. Everybody else has seen it for years. 

But quick as the relief came, there came also the continued nagging feeling that it wasn't the final answer. I loved my elder patients, and I'd heard the "Oh, they're just a pediatrician" comments, as well as my parents and grandparents wanting medical advice that I would be pretty unqualified to give, should I become a pediatrician. I felt increasingly torn. I wanted to help children...but I didn't want to be limited to only children.

"I'm thinking med-peds...maybe..." It was a random comment from a classmate who changed his mind to emergency medicine shortly after, but it was the first time I'd heard of med-peds -- a specialty that started 50 years ago, and combines 3 years of Internal Medicine and 3 years of Pediatrics into an intense 4-year residency in both, leading to double board certification at the end and a future in full-spectrum primary care or further education with any fellowship desired.

The catch, of course, is that there are 86 programs in the country, compared to 500 Family Medicine programs, 438 Internal Medicine programs, and 198 Pediatric programs...and many of those 86 programs prefer high Step-scoring, research-heavy, genius applicants. (One reason I kept getting so stressed about those Step exams...XD) And, all those programs are pretty far away from my hometown. All but two. My school's program, and one that from here on out I'll be calling Mars. 

Meanwhile, not yet having discussed this with my school, I applied for my school's 9-month rural rotation. I went to the meeting, explained that yes, my homeschool background left me well prepared to do this sort of rotation, and named the top 3 places I wanted to do the rotation, with all my very good reasons behind my choices. My school said Cool...and stuck me in a totally random place

That random place happened to be the single rural place where I could have found a Med-Peds preceptor willing to spend most of those nine months teaching me and write me a smashing recommendation letter at the end of it. 

By that point, of course, I was sure I wanted to do Med-Peds, and finding myself intrigued that random people kept talking to me about Mars. It was a program that was the size I liked, in a place I liked, and basically on paper looked perfect. "It's gorgeous," patients told me. "I've been there and it was great. You'll love it." 

My preceptor gave me a weekend off to go to a conference there, and my mom and I went to a pediatric conference together and both found ourselves impressed with both the hospital and the city. 

I finished my rural rotation and went back to my school to see the person who would have to write me an Internal Medicine letter of recommendation. "Do you think I could possibly find a program to take me?" I asked, in the middle of somehow spilling a liter of fruit juice into my computer bag. ".......Yes," he said. "Of course."

I went down the hall to talk to my new advisor. "I want to apply Med-Peds," I said. He looked at my papers, and then at me. "You don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting into a Med-Peds program."


He looked back at my papers.  "No research, board scores that don't make up for it, are you going to interview? I just got an email from the last person you talked to, and he said you were flighty and needed confidence."

Well, I'd been minorly distracted by the fruit juice frying my computer, and I'd already been told by a few people that Med-Peds was hard to match. And this conversation with my advisor was really not helping my confidence levels.

"What else do you have?" he asked, and I handed over my personal statement. 

"Oh," he said. "Oh. You're a writer. This...okay, this might be your ace-in-the-hole. You might get somewhere with this."

Doing what God wants me to do is my actual plan, but...I waited.

"You better apply to every single program in the country, though, and then apply to 7-12 Family Medicine programs here for backup."

I left torn between relief that he didn't think it completely impossible and wondering what exactly God had planned for me. This would have been a whole lot easier if I'd just fallen in love with Family Medicine and stayed in love with it and been sure that was what I was supposed to do. "Good thing you're not depending on what everybody else is depending on," my mom said, and I headed to meet with the Med-Peds program director at my school. 

"You need to match yourself to the programs you want. The programs that want you are the ones where you'll be happy," he said. "Don't apply to the ones that seem obsessed with their research. Apply to ones focusing on what you want." Well, that narrowed my selection considerably...

"Do you have any particular programs where you think I should definitely apply?" I asked, and barely missing a beat he said, "Oh, Mars. It's a this-size program in this-area, and I think you'd be a good fit."

Starting to get the message, God...

You already know about the interviews...but I think it's worth mentioning that every single other program had at least one interview that I finished going what was I thinking and how did I say THAT? except at Mars. One of the people who interviewed me that day was a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the other...well, the other asked me for a story.

Those of you who are writers...what goes through your head when someone goes, "Oh, you tell stories...tell me one!"? XD But I grabbed the first one that came to my head {HIPAA compliant, of course}, one about a patient of my Med-Ped's preceptor who nearly died in the woods, and launched into the story. "Wow," he said when I was done. "Wow, I won't forget that anytime soon. Do you believe there are actually spirits on the land, those who have gone before?" 

{So, random side note, I find it a little weird that both my med school interview and this residency inteview veered into spiritual things, when none of the other residency interviews did, but also it was awesome.} 

After all that, I was told that I interviewed well and that Match Day should go well for me. Encouraging, to say the least.

Which doesn't mean by the end of interview season I wasn't worn to a frazzle and hadn't fallen in love with 4 programs, even though I kinda figured Mars had to be first on my rank list, given the number of things pointing to it. An established program, in an area I loved, close to family, with many fascinating people involved with great training, a program that's been ahead of the curve for years in all kinds of awesome things...

Meanwhile I was flying to other states and eating alligator at resident dinners and finding out the murder statistics of different cities and being properly awed by innovative on-call schedules and residents who booked night trains to the mountains in between hospital days so they could go skiing and cities where "normal" blood sugar measurements were practically off the charts and the patient population was different from where I'd been or exactly the same and being amazed by people in general and all the possibilities. There was that one program with the crazy director that I mentioned (I love her), and then there was one at a Catholic Hospital, where everything was missions-oriented and the residents were a joy to hang out with the entire time. And of course, a program where it became quickly clear that it would be the hardest of the {obviously already very hard 4 years of residency}, yet I'd be surrounded by passionate people giving their all...not as unnatractive as it might seem, despite little pay and a lot of work. "If you match there, you're going to get shot," my mom said. "If I match there," I told her, "That part of my autobiography is going to be titled Kevlar and Keflex: The Residency Years." 

Monday we found out if we matched or not...I was in the middle of an orthopedic surgery clinic day, and if I got an email that said Sorry, you did not match I was...I don't even know. There was definitely peace that people were praying for me, and I got the email and carried on with my day, knowing that I'd matched somewhere, and didn't have to jump into the panicked Scramble, searching for an empty spot throughout the week. It was a good day and such a better week than it could have been. 

The night before Match Day I was among the 35,969 US and international applicants waiting for one of 31,757 residency positions (of which only a fraction were Med-Peds, of course)...and my mom said "I feel like if you open that envelope tomorrow and it says anything other than Mars, you're going to feel like it's not God's will. But that won't be true. Whatever that envelope says will be God's will." 

And I said, "I don't know...maybe Mars was repeatedly underlined for me only so I would have something to focus on and hope for throughout this past I wouldn't start this whole thing feeling lost...maybe its purpose was only to give me a goal. If it's any of my top 4 spots...I'll be thrilled. If it's one of my top 6, I'll be happy. If it's the others...I'm gonna get good training and it'll be better than I think it will be." 

Then I had to go to sleep and wait one more night before finding out where my life was headed. Southwest, southeast, midwest, moderate climate, hot, cold...guys, there are so many questions in your head when you've pre-signed a contract with a long list of places and you don't know which one or where you're going to live and work and learn for 4 years. 

Med Schools being big on drama {who knew}, the ceremony dragged on forevvvvver...{with everyone going "Oh, everybody seems nervous and's because it's St. Patrick's Day today, right?" -___-} But I was delighted that one of my med school advisors, who had encouraged me hugely a few times in medical school when I really needed it, had returned from his new job in another state to hand over the envelopes to his advisees. We all had to march across a stage and get our envelopes from our advisor, and then sit down and wait for the exact time when students all across the entire country open their envelopes simultaneously. {Seriously. The Drama.} Organization being a bit lacking, by the time my entire class managed to get across stage, we'd been waiting several minutes past that time and a friend was texting me from Taiwan asking me to let her know the next day and I was like I'LL FIND OUT IN A FEW MINUTES. And she was like I am staying up then

And finally we could open our envelopes. 

Which is when I became one of the 291 people who matched into Med-Peds this year who found out where they were going to go.

{You can tell the drama rubbed off on me, right? XD Okay, this blog post has gone on wayyyy long enough and I can't even listen to myself anymore.}

I'm going to Mars.

It's going to be harder and crazier than anything I've ever done, but come July and God's continued grace, I'll be starting as a post-graduate year 1 med-peds resident physician in a lovely town God has pointed out to me repeatedly since I first heard about med-peds being a thing. I don't know how hard and I don't know how crazy, but I know He's made this happen and when I start to wonder, I will only have to look back to see these moments in my life where He has made things crystal clear. He has a plan, and He's showing it to me one step at a time. I have no idea where it leads, but so long as I am closer to Him at the end of it, I know it is going to be incredible.

2 thoughts shared:

Christine Smith said...

AAAAHHHH, GIRL! I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. This was SUCH a fascinating read, and just beautiful seeing God's hand on everything. Thank you for sharing with us! I love seeing what God does in everyone's lives. He is so amazing. ^_^

Katherine Sophia said...

It just kept getting longer and I was like awkkk...but I wanted to have it all written out, and I am so glad you enjoyed reading it! Amen and amen - it is so incredible to watch Him work!!


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