More Lessons from The Interview Trail….

Warning: This post is extremely long but after spending so much time writing it I’m too lazy to break it up. Sorry. On the bright side, some of you may find it helpful. Or, you may just want to skim and check out the funny pictures. Proceed.

Lesson #2: Guess what, after Planning, it’s all about Preparation.

Prepping for the Big Day(s)

1. The clothes.

  •  Picture this. I walk into the lobby where we’re supposed to meet the Program Coordinator on my first interview day. I get off the elevator and get a first look at the other applicants. They are all, males and females alike, literally, wearing black pant suits with some variation of a white button-down underneath. I, am wearing a gray, knee-length dress, with black tights, black patent heels and a puce cardigan with ruffles. Oh. H*ll.

Lesson learned, Interview Day is not necessarily the time to show case your individuality with fashionable wardrobe choices.

Personally, I find this incredibly boring and frustrating, but it seems The Interview Suit still rules. I broke down and wore the old black pant suit with a button down to the next interview and blended right in. I just couldn’t do it for the next, so I compromised with a drapey pink top and over-sized pearl jewelry paired with the suit. I suppose the morale is, you have to wear something you are as comfortable as possible with, but don’t go crazy. You want to look professional and not outlandish in any way, so you can go with the total blend in approach, or you can attempt to tweak the look with subtle (subtle is the key word here) embellishments that save you from feeling like a complete applicant drone.

Time to suit up people!

NOTE: On one interview I heard a horror story from an applicant who lost their luggage, and interview duds, en route to their interview. If you are flying, pack your interview clothes in your carry-on.

  • You also need to plan on an outfit to wear to whatever meet ‘n greet activities are planned. Most programs are fine with jeans at such events, but some definitely are not. Make sure you have an idea of how formal the events are and how formally they expect you to be dressed.

2.The program.

  • You need to research the program you are interviewing at before you go. In the last Lessons, I talked about researching programs to find ones you’d like to interview at. Refer back to these sites, or the residency program’s web site before you hit The Trail. Personally, I think people come off looking a little silly (and lazy?) if they ask questions that are easily answered by a 30 second web search on Interview Day. Examples: How many spots are available each year? Are there any fellowships offered? What kind of benefits do they have? Where is the program? You get the picture. I hope.
  • It also can’t hurt to know a little about the faculty and current residents at the program if you feel up to researching them. Who are they? What are their areas of interest? What schools do the current residents hail from? Any from your school? I don’t think it’s really necessary to spend too much time on this before ID because most programs are good about handing out bio info on residents and faculty to quickly peruse (Note: you should definitely peruse this information if it is handed to you, it is painstakingly prepared and handed to you for a reason) before your interviews. This information is a veritable gold mine for Stuff To Talk About during interviews that can potentially help you establish rapport and stand out (in a good way) with interviewers if you have interests or experiences in common.

3. The questions.

  • Before you get to interviews you should also research, think about answers to, and probably practice common interview questions. HERE is a good resource with bonus residency prep info. Trust me. You do not want to get into an interview and struggle to come up with something, anything intelligible to say. Most interviewers are reasonable human beings and will give you a few seconds (not 15 minutes mind you) to squirm/ponder a response, but you are going to be nervous (okay, I am always nervous) and few seconds is not enough time to come up with something completely brilliant, articulate, and sparkling unless you’ve given the (or a similar) question more than a few seconds thought ahead of time. Unless you are a genius. In that case, please stop reading my blog, because there is nothing for you here.
  • Make sure you are also well acquainted with what you’ve put in your CV and personal statement. They will have your CV and PS in front of them, many may have actually looked at them before hand, and they will often use them to come up with questions. Be prepared to talk about what amazing things you have accomplished. Because you are amazing and you have the (hopefully non-fictionalized) CV and PS to prove it. Now, tell me more about these 14 publications you have…..
  • Additionally, you are going to be asked if you have any questions about the program A LOT, during interviews. It is important not to forget, that as much as you are being analyzed as a potential future resident, you should be analyzing the program as well for how much you like them. And apparently they really want to you to analyze them, in depth, because you will be asked for questions about the program all throughout your interview day and at any meet ‘n greet festivities.

So I suggest before your interviews, you form and refine as you go through, a stable of reasonably intelligent sounding and potentially helpful questions to ask faculty and residents about different programs. When I say ‘reasonably intelligent sounding’ I am referring back to my own Don’t Ask Obvious Questions That Could Be (and probably should have been) Answered By A 30 Second Web Search Policy. For example, a couple questions I have come to regularly ask are:

 – “What do you see as the strengths of this/your program?” – I usually ask this question of several different people during an interview to get a good feel for the program’s focuses, like a big emphasis on general OB/GYN vs. exposure to subspecialties, or lots of protected didactic time vs. go-look-it up learning.

 – ”What kind of support do you have in place for resident research?” – I ask this one because I’m a research virgin, every program requires research, and I’m going to need help, lots and lots of help.

– And if I’m feeling bold, “So, would you say this program is ‘family friendly’ (i.e. do you make life miserable for residents who dare to procreate during residency years)?”.

– I also often ask residents about life in the residency program and in whatever city the program is in. Figure out what is important to you that you can’t easily discern on your own from a web site and get ready to fire back.

  • Lastly, in this section I’d like to bring up Behavioral Interview Questions. Because I recently encountered BIQ at my last interview. Now, one of my classmates mentioned something about BIQ several months ago, how they were nervous about them, how they worked, blah, blah, blah, scoff, scoff, look at me with my list of the most frequently asked residency interview questions, I’m so cooooooollll….. Yeah. I was COMPLETELY UNPREPARED for BIQ, and, as result, probably (most likely) looked behaviorally like a big jack*ss during the interview. It, was not pretty. Especially because that was a program I am (was) really excited about. Excuse me while I go over here and kick myself. Again. Not being a fan of self-flagellation in general, let me save you the self-hatred and flames of regret by giving you a link that explains BIQ. Why they do it, how it works, what they are looking for, and how not to end up looking behaviorally like a big jack*ss.

Even the bear would have taken the time to look up BIQ.....

4. How interviews work.

  • All interviews are going to be set up and conducted at least slightly differently. So far I have experienced everything from relaxed, one-on-one chats to formal, full-on BIQ panel parties. I believe that is the general range. I have also interviewed with anywhere from eleven to just three different interviewers in an interview day. Unless you know someone at a program or someone who has interviewed at a program, and you can ask for sure how it’s going to go down, be prepared for any plausible interview scenario.
  • In general, you will get to your interview site the afternoon/evening before interview day and have some sort of meet ‘n greet event, usually a dinner with current residents. These are mostly “informal” events; however, do NOT be seduced by the word “informal.” The minute you step into the event, your interview starts. Be on your best behavior. Act as you will on Interview Day. Be polite, engaged, unfailingly pleasant, and most of all (unlike one med student I heard about last year which is why I still feel compelled to state this completely obvious rule) DO NOT be drunk and then hung over at your “formal” interview the next day. Make an effort speak to the residents and (it starts here) ask questions about the program. Also, use this chance to prove your sociability, abilities as a team member, all-around great human beingness by talking to other applicants.

An unanticipated but happy bonus of chatting up fellow applicants is that I’ve actually made friends with several of them that I keep running into at interviews. When you think about it, getting to know the other applicants is a great idea, as these may well be your/my eventual intern comrades. Not to mention it’s a great chance to share stories, tips, and tricks from The Interview Trail. Just keep any negative comments about programs/experiences on the down low, as, in front/earshot of the residents and faculty we are, let’s say it together now, unfailingly pleasant. Excellent.

  • Its Interview Day. First and foremost, you have to be on time. Plan accordingly. The night before ID it’s not a bad idea to at least drive by the place you have to meet (probably, very, very early) the next morning. If, like me, you cannot function and certainly cannot maintain any, much less unfailing, pleasantness without coffee, it’s also a good idea to figure out where you will get your fix on the way to Interview Day the next morning. Do not underestimate the importance of this move. Like I did on Interview Day #1. Combined with the Outfit Disaster, I spent most of the day quivering like a junkie underneath my unfailingly pleasant façade. Le shudder. Next, as I said before, be sure to quickly peruse whatever packet materials they give you, and with your confidently prepared list of questions in mind, have at. There are usually three or four sets of 30-ish minute long interviews, with any number of faculty and/or residents, with breaks in between. You are also usually free to take notes during presentations and interviews, or furiously scribble them at break times if you so desire. There is usually lunch provided, and the day usually lasts until about 3 o’clock. At which point you are usually free to run willy-nilly to your car (once out of faculty/resident sight/earshot) to make it to your next destination.

5. What to do (or what not to do) during your interviews.

  • I’m pretty sure this implicit in what I’ve said above. Just remember: ask and answer questions intelligently (because you are prepared), be polite, engaged, attentive, positive, and (here it is again, because it’s important, okay****) unfailingly pleasant. And once again, in case you skimmed this part and in any way think it might be acceptable at any point during your interview experience, DO NOT be drunk. Or hung over. I’m just saying. You can’t blame me now if you are. Dumb*ss.

More Pollyanna, less Snookie. Trust me.

6. Giving Thanks.

  • But wait! Your interview experience does not end with the post-ID free-for-all 100 meter car dash. Soon after interview season started one of my classmates called to ask me if I thought we had to write thank you’s for all of our interviews. The short answer is, Yes. If you are even the slightest bit interested in a program, you absolutely have to say thank you. It is an opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the program and another, invaluable, chance to make a good impression. Plus, even if you didn’t really like the program, it’s just polite. I mean, they took the time to see and speak with you, probably fed you (several times), and may have even given you an assortment of commemorative gewgaws. Reach down deep and find the manners.
  • What format should you use to say thank you? Well, that’s up to you.You can write and send thank you’s via snail mail, or I have chosen (after the interview where I spoke with eleven different people) to send emails. This seems to be a fairly acceptable format for thank you’s nowadays and most programs will make interviewer email addresses available. Or you can email or call the program’s coordinator to get the appropriate contact info.
  • So who do you send thank you’s to? That again, is up to your judgment. Speaking of residency program coordinators though, I think it is always a good idea to send them a note of thanks. After all, they are the ones you have been in contact with, who set the whole party up, and keep it running smoothly. Maybe it’s the nurse in me, but I think they are also sometimes underappreciated and deserve all the props they can get.  After that, I would say you should send thank you’s to anyone you interviewed with one-on-one or two-to-one. For my big panel interview experience I just sent a thank you to the program director because I didn’t really have personal interactions with any panel members.
  • And what should you say? Well, whatever you want that expresses your thanks and sincere appreciation, aspects you like about the program, why you think you/it would be a good fit, and personal details that might help them remember/like you come rank day. There are examples of residency thank you letters online. The ones I saw were really long and formal and after skimming like two, I completely disregarded them. You might want to fire up Google and have a look. My general thank you goes something like this:

Dr. SoAndSo,

It was a pleasure to meet and speak with you at my interview. I am impressed with my interview experience, and with the program at SuchAndSuch. The curriculum seems to be a great balance of general [your specialty here] training, exposure to sub-specialties, and research experience. I am also very impressed with the positive outlooks, kindness, and great relationships between faculty, residents, and support staff. [Some personalized/special aspect of the interview/program/chat with interviewer.] I would feel very fortunate to join the ranks of the residents at SuchAndSuch next year. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you, or anyone, would like any further information from me please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Nurse, MD
My Med School Here
My email
My digits

  • It doesn’t hurt to have someone read and proof your letters before you send them out. And I’m not going to say anything about spelling and grammar because you all know that had better be correct. Or you’re going to look like a ding-dong. But you all know that. So I’ll stop.

Except, one last thing…..

****Lest I forget. THE #1 THING I’VE LEARNED AT RESIDENCY INTERVIEWS. They don’t really care about your GPA, board scores, or amazing feats of amazingness. You made it to the interview, so that stuff is pretty much one big Check. THEY WANT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOING TO PLAY NICE, GET ALONG WITH EVERYONE AT THE PROGRAM, AND BE A DECENT PERSON TO WORK WITH IN RESIDENCY. PERIOD.****

Lessons from The Interview Trail…….

The main reason I’ve been a bad blogger lately is because I’ve been spending a lot of time on The Interview Trail. In the last month I’ve gone to five interviews (you do the maths, I been busy), and per usual, I had pretty much no idea what I was walking into. Thus, I have learned some important (I think) lessons in the process. Occasionally The Hard Way, per usual. In the continued spirit of cooperation and good Karma, I’d like to share a few of my hind sights, and hopefully save some other poor, unsuspecting med fools a modicum of angst. Feel free to partake or leave them as you will. Per usual.

Lesson #1: Planning. It’s all about Planning.

Planning for your fourth year rotations, residency application, Steps, and interviews takes a lot of time, foresight, and organizational skillz in order to have maximal experiences with minimal stresses. Which I know now. Oops. Seriously though, if you’re at all like me, i.e. not much of a secretary, you need to get cracking on this stuff for realsies halfway through third year.

 

1. Scheduling, Schmeduling….

* Make sure you schedule your testing periods for the Steps so you can take the tests in time for scores to reach residency programs. I would advise scheduling them as soon as you feel reasonably prepared, and getting them over with. The good news is they are not nearly as difficult as Step 1, and you will not need (nearly) as much prep time. Bite the bullet and get them out of the way because you are going to have a lot of other stuff to do later in fourth year.

* I think it’s also a good idea to schedule a rotation with a lot of downtime, or a week off at the beginning of fourth year to get your residency app done. Completing the app, filling out your CV, writing your Personal Statement(s), and gathering Letters of Recommendation can be time consuming. You are going to need four or five LORs, at least two from attendings in your specialty of choice, and one from your school’s Chair of the Department of your specialty of choice, as many programs will require it. From the Duh Department, try to get letters from people you have actually worked with, who will write glowing reviews of your performance in medical school and as a human being in general, or just, you know, nice stuff. And give them plenty of lead time to get letters done. Some Docs are champion procrastinators, be prepared to bribe and/or (nicely) nag if necessary. I’m just saying. Point being, sit down and hammer it out ASAP so you can get on with the good(er) stuff.

* You also need to schedule enough time off or flexible rotations in November, December, and January of your fourth year so you have enough time to make it to all the interviews you want. You are going to need a lot of time to  prep for interviews and travel, in addition to time for the actual interviews, which are usually two day affairs. These three months (especially November and December) are not the time to be stuck in rotations with strict attendance policies.

 

2. The Rest of Your Life. No pressure.

* Get busy figuring out what specialty you want to go into, how competitive you are, and what programs you like. Information about how competitive you are and the current residency programs in your specialty should be available online. Try Googling “How many programs should I rank in [enter specialty of choice here]” or “[Specialty of choice] residency programs.” Using this high-tech approach for OB/GYN, I found these very helpful sites:

General OB/GYN residency application guidelines

APGO OB/GYN residency directory

* Depending on how competitive you are, in order to give yourself the best chance of matching, you need to apply to an appropriate number of programs, plan on scheduling an adequate number of interviews, and if necessary, start setting up away rotations for fourth year at programs you are interested in. For example, I am applying in OB/GYN and with my board scores I needed to apply to about 20 programs, plan on about 8 interviews, and rank 7-8 programs. (Note: On the away rotations, I say if necessary, because they give you an edge if you are less competitive, you want a really competitive program, or you are set on a certain program.)

* After you start receiving interview offers you have to act quickly. Spots fill up fast (I’m talking 24 hours) and in my experience  many programs offer interviews on the same five or so days, so be prepared to prioritize and take interviews at the programs where you are most likely to actually want to do your residency.

 

3. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.

* Lastly, the Step 2 tests, and interviews are freaking expensive. I am currently spending about $300 – 500 per interview. Your loans are probably (most likely) not going to cover all these expenses. Especially if you plan to continue eating, having a roof over your head, gas in your car and, you know, other piddly stuff like that. So plan accordingly. Start sucking up to the parents, taking out a(nother) credit card or a personal loan, donating plasma, getting a job (ha ha), etc. Do what you gotta do. Preferably, before the middle of interview season when you are faced with the prospect of living in your car and eating ramen noodles prepared ala radiator.

 

4. Last, and most important, Don’t Freak Out.

See this guy? You do not want to be this guy. I suggest you plan accordingly.

Take time to process peeps. More Lessons from The Interview Trail coming soon!

Excerpts from the Third World, Part III…..

Its another rather uneventful day here at Mayberry hospital. I’ve emailed everyone I can think to email and scheduled one more interview at Big Fancy Prestigious Hospital. Still waiting to hear back from the other programs I really want to interview at. The wait, and the interview scheduling process, are interminable. I’ve already been forced to schedule two inteviews during an elective rotation with (desperate) hopes that the attending will be understanding (please, PLEASE be understanding). Apparently quite a few programs wait to gather applications and get MSPE letters before offering interviews, plus, if programs really aren’t interested they usually send a letter of rejection (or so I’ve heard). So, I’m stuck waiting. Frankly, I just can’t wait to hear back from whoever I’m going to hear back from, get stuff scheduled, plane tickets and hotels paid for, and relevent attendings begged for time off. I need to get stuff nailed down. I’m like that.
 
So, while I’m waiting, more excerpts. I left off just getting into the swing of things in Haiti, time to get to the good stuff…..
 
 
Today was our first day in the OR. Two cases scheduled and added a csection in the morning. The section went off without a hitch. The second case was an abdominal mass which we suspected was a large fibroid uterus. Lesson #1 today – abdominal masses in Haiti, diagnosed with decades old ultrasound and no CT, can be anything. The mass turned out to be a gigantic ovarian tumor, luckily, benign in appearance. We removed it easily, leaving the uterus and remaining ovary intact and most likely highly functional. Major victory.
 
We scrubbed in on the second case immediately after lunch. It was another abdominal mass, unfortunately not such a victory. It was immediately apparent that something was terribly wrong when we opened. We had a very difficult time opening the peritoneum and when we did finally get in, cancer, EVERYWHERE. I have never seen anything even close to that bad of an abdomen. We ended up debulking as best we could and closing. I felt like crying at work for the first time in a long time afterwords. I’d been immediately drawn to the patient, their quiet dignity and kind demeanor, and I had so been looking forward to a curative procedure for them. It was heart breaking, a brutal reminder that OB/GYN is NOT all about beautiful babies, joy and happiness.

One of the two OR's. From the hospital's blog.

We went back to the clinic after the surgery. I excused myself to check on L&D quickly, and then detoured to the pediatric ward to drop off some candy with one of the nurses, and blow up a few balloons for kids sitting in the hall. It was enough happiness to shake off the shock of the terrible surgery, put on my business socks, and head back to clinic.

We saw about 20 patients before the day was over. I got to tell one mother the sex of her baby and got a big hug for it. We scheduled a couple more surgeries and I got to practice my growing list of useful French and creole phrases “quelle age ou?” or how old are you and “eske tu fem mal” or where does it hurt? Much to my own delight and that of the patients.

Tonight I needed to get out so I went with my roomie and some of the other volunteers to the local cantina and then to a house party at one of the other dorms. I drank a few liters of the cane sugar coca-cola (on call here people) and mostly watched the others party it up, dirty dancing (Compe? is the style I believe, whatever, looked like dirty dancing to me) to the Haitian music, laughing, yelling, and talking about the latest dramas (which, of course, I had been completely oblivious to in my usual work/nerd bubble)…..

 

 We did our first emergency csection yesterday for a case of prolonged labor and cephalopelvic disproportion. I got to do the actual delivering the baby part, and a lot of sewing and it was AWESOME. We saw almost 40 patients in clinic again and I finally had to ask our interpreter if this was a typical number of patient visits in a day. He was pretty equivocal, and I suppose he wouldn’t know because the staff physicians don’t use interpreters so he isn’t usually there. We ran into the chief of medicine at the end of the day today so I asked them too. They were pretty vague as well, and told us that they do try to keep the numbers managable by delegating routine care to outpatient clinics in the out-lying villages. The OB/Gyn clinic at the hospital is only supposed to see more complicated cases. Even with the delegation, I suppose it would make sense that there are so many patients because there is only one OB/Gyn physician here at any given time for a population of hundreds of thousands (?), even more since the people migrated out the Port-Au-Prince area after the earthquake. I really hope no one thought I was complaining. I am just…awed I guess at the sheer number of patients and the pace of clinic the regular staffers keep up with on a long term basis. I suppose being able to work without an interpreter would expedite things, but still, Wow.

Today was another surgery day. We did two cases in the morning, with a straightforward and relatively easy TAH to start, followed by probably the second worse abdomen I’ve ever seen, after the case on Wednesday. Thankfully, not cancer this time, but adhesions EVERYWHERE. The patient had obviously had some previous surgery but I have no idea what kind of operation would cause a mess like that. We did the best we could and closed. Technically I don’t think we have to do clinic on surgery days, but so far there is no way we can’t. We saw 20+ patients in the afternoon after surgery, my attending had to leave to do several D&C’s, so I stayed and saw the easier patients on my own. (Yes, on my own. Trust me, I know, Yikes. BUT at this point I have a really good idea of when I’m in over my head and I leave those situations to the expert, and how else are we going to see everyone?)

Even though we try to see and treat people as quickly and efficiently as possible, patients wait for hours, sometimes days to be seen. At any given time during the day the benches or stretchers outside the clinic door are packed with ladies, obviously waiting for us. I asked on the first day if someone was, hopefully, triaging them. I still really wonder because we just see whoever our interpreter or the nurse brings in next, and often its hospital employees for things like pap smears. Hmmmmm.

Patients camped out in the hall. From the hospital's blog.

I also noticed early on that the patients we see are very well groomed and dressed. Always in what seems to be their Sunday best, dresses, hats and heels. I wondered too if this was something unique to our clinic, like do people always dress up to see the gynecologist here? Is that a thing? I mentioned it to another volunteer who said he didn’t think so, Haitians take a lot of care and pride in their appearance and upon further observation I see he is right. They dress colorfully and joyfully as they can (I have not seen one pair of sweat pants here) and are pretty much uniformly a very, very handsome people. Despite knowing that now, I still feel honored that our patients seem to dress up to visit us.

Not only do they seem to dress up, but even after the long wait, every single patient is extremely polite and happy to be seen. It breaks my heart a little. To be rushing through the day and see the next sweaty, tired, potentially very ill, or very pregnant patient (who I’ve probably seen sitting in the hall all day) ushered in, and as soon as I smile and say bon soir, I get a big, grateful smile in return. The last patient today for instance, I’m sure I’ve seen waiting a couple days this week, she comes in hugely pregnant, her chart completely screwed up and so happy that we stay for her. I got to tell her she’s having, by all appearances, a healthy boy. Big smile, happy exclamations, many thanks, and not a word or any sign of frustration or impatience of what she’s probably gone through to hear it. I told my attending yesterday that if this was how the clinic at home functioned we would have a riot on our hands in no time.

Smiling patients, make me smile. From the hospital's blog.

 My attending and I actually managed to round on our own without our interpreter tonight. I was pretty stoked though I’m sure it was not the most thourough rounds ever. Between the two of us we managed. I took the lead asking if patients were eating, drinking, peeing or having pain and he filled in with the more complex ‘are you passing gas ‘and ‘do you want to go home tommorrow.’ Good enough any way……

 

Right. So we had the day off today, and after breakfast, rounds to inform the on call about our patients, a short walk and a nap, I was totally bored. I ate lunch and had to resort to studying to pass the time….And that’s been my day. I found out after the fact there are actually quite a few exciting activities going on like a massive soccer match (I did hear the uproar from the hammock, but assumed it was some sort of riot and did not feel the need to immediately head for the ruckus to personally investigate) a few of the volunteers attended, and trip to the beach tommorrow but the car is past full (I guess even the roof seating is already spoken for. Dangit!!). I really need to make some friends here…..

The hammock on our house's front porch. A favorite spot to hang out (literally) and pass the time.

Today was so much better!! I can’t believe the weekend is over now that I’ve finally figured out how to enjoy days off here! I started on my friend-making mission immediately after getting up this morning, sitting down and conversing with our fellow volunteers instead of retreating to my room like the socially-handicapped individual I tend to be outside of the hospital. I managed to arrange a hike with my attending and another volunteer and we set off in the heat and the sun at about 0730 (there is a reason people head up there before sunrise usually – A) You get to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain and B) It’s friggin’ HOT – not that I really mind after 13 years in the upper Middle States). We met a couple Haitian girls along the way, resting in the shade with their loads, and they joined us the rest of the way up. I’m pretty sure it was because they were worried the crazy blancs were going die if they left us to our own devices, nevertheless they were very sweet and it was nice to have more company as we struggled up to the top. The view was AMAZING, you could see pretty much the entire valley and river and the the tiny little campus of the hospital.  

The view from the top.

After the hike and lunch I took a nap, woke in pool of sweat, and hastily bucket showered before joining some other volunteers for a trip to craft shops in the market. First we went to a small shop filled with local crafts – paintings, jewelry, purses make with some kind of wrappers, metal work, sculptures, and paper made with banana peels and sugar cane. Then we walked a little further to a shop that looks like a jail (because it had been at one time turns out) which was full of locally crafted, beautiful ceramics and rugs.

Afterwards I went back to the pool for (my 3rd? daily) swim and ended up talking to a very nice general surgeon who has been around the world and back (probably a few times) on medical missions. A very jovial, down to earth guy with an endless supply of fascinating tales. There were two Haitian girls aslo at the pool and I was very frustrated to find I’d spent hours studying and practicing creole and couldn’t talk to them at all. I could have asked them if they had pain, dysuria, diarrhea or vaginal bleeding but I had no idea how to ask where they were from. Way to go Nurse, MD.

The pool. Ohhh how I miss the pool....

Our new roommates arrived later in the evening. Mine is a GP from the West coast, and I like her already because she comes with loads of mosquito combating sprays and gadgets…and I just made another friend (yay!!!!) a Haitian surgical intern I’ve seen around but never really talked to. He promised to help me with my creole if I help him with English. Score!…And off to bed now, I can still hear the drums from a nearby Buddist (I think he said Buddist, at first I thought Voodoo which would make more sense, huh) ceremony for the god of love I was invited to check out, but I think I’ve made enough progress today in my personal Campaign For the Socially Impaired. Mission accomplished. Back to work in the morning!!!!

Deep Thoughts: Monday edition.

Mondays. Blow. In true, Garfield-hiding-in-the-bed-bloodshot-eyes-bunnyslipper-wearing-coffee-clutching fashion, I hate Mondays. Yes, maybe (probably) its an irrational, superstitious, self-fulfilling feeling. But d*mn if it isn’t reaffirmed with still, somehow, startling regularity. Today was a prime example.

Exhibit A: Went to bed with two bars of battery on my cell-y, which I always use for an alarm. Bolt awake at 7:17 am (one hour and 17 minutes after my alarm was to alert me, to start snoozing). Run out of The Writers house in t-shirt, boxers and unlaced shoes to scream home, lightening shower, and scream to the hospital while texting apologies to my attending on the barely revived cell-y. Miss rounds (pretty much the ONLY thing I am responsible for, all day, in this rotation) by 8 minutes. Am worst medical student ever. Visit (super nice, deserving of non-late/crappy student) attending after lunch to explain (yes, I told the truth) and get “Well, best to do it now and not when you’re in residency.” Hang head in shame, Worst Medical Student Status: Confirmed.

This, is serious people. No more screwing around. It is time for the Two-Four Alarm Plan.

Exhibit B: Go to Best Shamefully Expensive Coffee Place (BSECP) for consoling Macciato. Get another one as desperate bid for clemency from (super nice) attending. Get to the hospital and realize clemency coffee has spilled all over the floor of my car.

Exhibit C: Go to lunch with new (super nice) OB/GYN attending to talk residency. Am so nervous I stumble over conversation, at one (horrifying, slow-mo) point have Giant Drool String linking mouth and bagel, and realize I have completely pitted out by the end of lunch. WTF????? Seriously, lets just hope this one is a Monday Thing and NOT a preview of interview season. (Mental Note: NO INTERVIEWS ON MONDAYS.)

Exhibit D: Phone keeps dying. Run home to retrieve charger only to find AC adapter has fallen off (God only knows where) en route back to the hospital. Am on call so have to keep taking phone out to plug it into car charger and leave car running and unlocked so I can get back into it. Am only able to get away with this without immediately having car stolen because I live in Mayberry. And, possibly, because no car thief would believe anyone is really stupid enough to leave their car running and unlocked, with big, fat, juicy electronics in it, without lurking in the immediate vicinity.

 

I hear ya buddy. I hear ya....

 

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PMS, also blows. I spent what was supposed to be a fun, relaxing weekend with my sweetie who I had hardly seen all week, in a hormonal haze, a helpless, hapless slave to my failing ovaries and sloughing endometrium. Alternately crying, engaging in stupid fights over Stupid Things with The Writer (your friends hate me! if I cook for you/give you a back rub/be overtly giving to you in any way I have immediately, single-handedly sent all women back to the stone age and taken a huge crap on Gloria Steinham’s face! you don’t tell me that you love me/shower me with champagne, caviar, and roses/respect me/devote your entire existence to me enough! HOO HOO HOO!!!!) and being crampy, constipated, reaching soaring new heights (lows?) of irrational thought (for anyone who knows me this is a REALLY scary picture I’m painting here), and generally acting as irritable as a starving, rabid wart hog (and, honestly, probably often resembling one).

This was the opposite of how I saw the weekend unfolding.

If I had a time machine I would go back and give myself the Cher treatment a few times (i.e. a healthy slap and a “Snap out of it!!!”). (If I had a time machine, I suspect this is mostly what I would use it for.)

Luckily, where I am completely high-strung and over-emotional (on my best days), The Writer is unfailingly even-keeled and completely (sometimes infuriatingly) mellow. Really, I don’t know what it is about this guy, but he has a special gamma bomb way of driving me insane like no other. Under normal circumstances, I’m quite good at tamping it down and talking myself out of the frequent irrationalities (he’s going to cheat on me – he’s never cheated on anyone, I’m not good/smart/nice enough – um, yeah, except you’ve sacrificed pretty much everything to devote yourself to the care and healing of other human beings, I’m too crazy – well, you got me there) he seems to inspire. But, he just texted that he loves me and offered to cook me burgers tonight. I’m going to take that as I, and my hormones, are forgiven. (Thank you sweetie, love you too).

 

 

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I didn’t hear back from any more residencies for interviews today. (What the H*ll Midwest????) I did hear from some guy named Abul Mugolozzi from the Arab Emirates who would like to talk to me about giving him some money, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count. So, as of right now, I have three interviews scheduled, none at places I super want to go to.

Now, I’m going to do you third years a favor and actually tell you (because no one told me, b*stards) how this interview stuff really goes down. See, there’s an initial, massive feeling of relief when you finally get your application submitted, then, spurts of pure joy (They like me!! They really like me!!) when the first few interview offers roll in. Then, you realize you actually have to figure out how to schedule the d*mn things (which are all offered on the same four days), while still, occasionally, showing up to scheduled rotations, and, o yeah, you are a horrible secretary and generally, completely SUCK at stuff like this.

P.S. You barely managed to get three interviews scheduled, which you still haven’t bought plane tickets for, and still haven’t heard back from the, like, seven other places you actually want to go to. Which, probably also schedule interviews on those same four days. Good luck with that.

 

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After my busy morning of missing rounds and coating my front seat in (what is probably now curdling) latte, I retreated to the library for another full day of trying desperately to entertain myself because I have no (actual, required) work (of any kind) on this rotation (fine, I guess I could ‘study,’ or whatever, I did crack OB/GYN Recall last week so back off). I set about to reading my favorite med blogs which I have sorely neglected (I missed almost an entire pregnancy for chr*ssake, where have I been???) for the last year or so (okay, down deep, I blame The Writer).

I have noticed an interesting theme in all of the med blogs I frequently read (lurk on). Namely, anonymity and mean people who write nasty comments and ruin it for everyone. Interesting. Because these are the main issues that made give up my last blog, lay low for almost a year, and finally, because I couldn’t take it anymore (I….must….write…arrrrgggghhhhhahofaihgao9hg;hga…..) set up shop in this shiny, new little piece of blogging heaven. Basically, I was getting a lot more readers, which meant a lot more people who felt the need to say really mean, hurtful, scary, threatening things to me on a regular basis. Plus, I think a lot of my classmates were reading, you know, because during colloquium one of them snidely quoted something I’d written. Right to mah face. Yikes. Not that I was making concerted attempts to write bad, harmful, mean things about my classmates or anyone else for that matter.

But, it seems no matter how benign your intentions are, how warm and fuzzily you write, or however vaguely you identify yourself, if you blog and enough people read it, you will get trolls and your anonymity will be compromised. (Of course if you do purposefully write mean, deliberately inflammatory things, well, then, you probably deserve every troll and ugly epitaph flung in your general direction. Now don’t you.)

Last week I was starting to bemoan the fact that no one was visiting my shiny, new piece of blog heaven. Granted, it ain’t that good (yet). Now, however, I think its time to enjoy the peaceful silence, for as long (yes, I am vain enough to hope that its not forever) it lasts. But, when it is, maybe, finally broken, at least I now know I’ll be in good company.

 

Just in case.