Let’s Get Personal | What’s Your Story?

I attended a Primary Care Progress Leadership Summit at my school yesterday. The purpose was to advocate for the benefits of team-based care in the primary care field and cultivate this team culture through intentional story-telling and coaching. The story-telling exercise was the most powerful part because it got to the root of: what’s your purpose? why are you here?

In my single-parent household, education was a prevailing value growing up. My mother didn’t want my life to be like hers. However, as a first-generation college student, she was not able to provide very much guidance, especially past high school. I really had no idea what the “real world” looked like. I just knew how to pass all my classes and that I had a particular interest in science – until the summer after my junior year in high school when I was gratefully accepted to attend a four-week MD Camp at OSU College of Medicine. We were treated like first-year medical students: meeting professors of medicine, shadowing an infectious disease doctor, experiencing the cadaver lab, taking a comprehensive test, and receiving a white coat. This opened my eyes to a career in medicine and lit a spark in me that I can do this. So this became my goal all throughout college as I pursued a degree in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University. It was a smooth journey until the MCAT, which made me question whether I was cut for the career or not. During the summer after my junior year when I was studying for the standardized exam, I spontaneously reconnected with an old friend from elementary school who was also on the medical path. That summer, we made a routine out of running together most summer afternoons – this was my solace from studying. I had no idea that our rekindled friendship would change my outlook on life forever. My friend was a true free spirit – he always said what was on his mind without caring what other people thought. That was the complete opposite of me. I have always been a reserved person and it took me a while before I can completely open up to others. His energy was so contagious that I caught it. I slowly fostered this free-spirited nature and that was the first time in my life I truly felt alive. I started thinking about the impermanence of life and how we should strive to feel more alive. This then made me ponder the meaning of life, which is partly why I started my blog. Among many nuances, the meaning of life for me is building authentic relationships and connecting with others on a deeper level. When we are on our death bed, I doubt we’d think about whether we could have made $50,000 more or if we should have bought a Lamborghini. We are going to think about people – regrets, shared experiences, joyous times. When I’m lying on my death bed, I hope I remember more good times than regrets, which is why I am making a more conscious awareness in my daily life to be more authentic with others to build a deeper connection. You never know the magic that can arise when you open yourself up to another human being. Fast forward to medical school. I had to overcome some hurdles with the MCAT, but in the end successfully completed the leg of the race and am now in my first year. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons ranging from: family influences, money, prestige, wanting to help people, research, service. Some of these reasons provide more lasting inspiration than others. My reason that I want to continually cultivate is building that deeper relationship with patients so that I can explore how their meaning in life affects disease and vice versa. Patients are more than just their disease state. We should seek to understand their robust life outside of the 15-minute office visit. This sense of shared humanity motivates me.

Caveat to this idealistic approach of being more vulnerable, authentic, and honest (from feedback and personal experience): people might not reciprocate and value these same qualities. One of my friends expressed that he would rather not live life this way because you are handing people bits of information about yourself that they can use against you. You weaken your defenses if you show people how you think and who you are. From personal experience, I was taken advantage of because I was too honest. I knew this person for many years and we practically knew each other inside out (except for the things he hid from me this past year). Being honest and open is my way of showing that I deeply care for someone and their well-being. I’m still struggling with this concept because I don’t believe in playing games in life for it is impermanent – say how you feel and do what’s right. Don’t hurt others in the process. In conclusion, it’s wise to use your judicious decision on who you want to be vulnerable with and what parts of yourself you want to share. I’m not a big fan of superficial conversations and the proverbial “good” reply to “how are you?” and this is a way to overcome that.

Extra note on love and life: While thinking about the meaning of life, obviously love comes to my mind. I am a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I get teary-eyed at least once in movies and books because the relationships between the characters always pull at my heart strings. I just dangerously subscribed to a YouTube channel that’s focused on creating professional wedding videos and sharing love stories – you can already guess I cry during every single video. Upon reflection, I should have had more independent time instead of stringing the other person along and being strung along. I encourage every early to mid 2o-year-old to spend at least a few months completely single – free of any kind of emotional or physical intimate relations. Society makes us believe that being alone should be one of our biggest fears, that being half-loved by someone is better than not having them at all. With the world at our fingertips now, dating apps make it that much easier to replace person after person without ever being lonely. I don’t think this is healthy. One of my friends argue that we all need to feel validated by someone and that you often can’t overcome heartbreak without seeking intimacy with another person. Yes, it’s a nice feeling to be cared for and it might be the easiest way to mask your hurt, but why can’t you validate yourself? Being truly single for a month now, I have learned to respect myself and give myself the time and space to self-improve. You shouldn’t invest yourself in someone who can only give you 99% or less of their heart. I’ve had a skewed image of what a loving relationship should feel and look like, but now I am awakened. It can be very painful to be patient, but I have faith that the wait is worth it and that there is someone out there who is ready to give you what you need and vice versa. Love is complicated. Relationships take lots of time and work. It’s a conscious effort – not just something that happens between two people who like each other. Don’t jump in if you’re not ready. That’s not fair for either of you. Being single means you have all the time in the world to use as you see fit – freedom at its purity. It’s important to have introspective time to realize who you are and what you want before trying to share with another complex being. People may have many definitions of what kind of relationships they want to have: casual, open, exclusive, inclusive, polyamorous. Don’t settle if that is not what you truly want. Establish your guidelines for love first and stick to it. If your potential lover has a completely different agenda that you don’t see for yourself, let them go. I’m taking this time to establish mental guidelines for accepting and giving love, to workout and improve physical fitness, to accomplish independent goals, to open myself to deeper friendships, to learn from missteps, to know my self-worth, to deepen knowledge, to live in my values, and embrace confidence in who I am and realize I don’t need to change for anybody. The person you’re meant to be with will want you just as you are and find your faults endearing. Only then will you be able to paint a collaborative art piece called love whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Story-telling always has a conflict. The good news: some sort of resolution always occurs. One of the most important take-aways from hardship is being able to relate to others through experiences and sharing what you learned. Key elements of intentional story-telling: story of self, conflict, choice, values, and the story of us (how it relates to your audience). Try it out: what’s your purpose for why you are where you are right now or where you hope to be?

~lntan

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Ghrelin with Ellen – Stay Hungry for Life

Hi beautiful souls 🙂 [cue Jesse McCartney]

It’s been awhile, but I have not abandoned the blog! As I delve deeper into my gap year, I hope to utilize this as a space to reflect and share the experiences and lessons I am learning about life and the journey to medicine.

I have been trying to think of a creative name for my blog that ties in the search for meaning in life and my love of science. Naturally, I google “rhymes with Ellen” and immediately smile when I see ghrelin. I had learned about this term in my hormones and behavior course during the last semester of senior year. Ghrelin is a peptide “hunger hormone” produced in the gastrointestinal tract and also functions in the central nervous system to regulate energy homeostasis. I wanted to apply this concept to avoid complacency in one’s journey and to stay hungry for life. Always check in with yourself and ask the question “what makes me feel alive?” Apply the answer to this question to decide how best you can contribute to the world. Just as homeostasis strives to keep our biological systems stable by continually making adjustments, we too should continually use what makes us feel alive to better our community. So that is the meaning behind “Ghrelin with Ellen – Stay Hungry for Life”. Truthfully, I really miss thinking scientifically from studying for the MCAT everyday this summer (which I took last weekend!), so this is my attempt to bring science into everyday life. I am currently working on secondaries and hope to be in a position to meaningfully contribute to society very soon!

Join my journey 🙂
~ lntan

Day 28 (Friday, May 30): Presentation Day

Woke up around 8am. Slept really late last night, like past 3am. I didn’t run-through the presentation last night, instead I jotted down bullet points on homemade note cards. I skipped breakfast and had a Clif chocolate chip bar, so that I could finish preparing. I left around 9am and saw some of the guys going through the gate to the library.

It was our last day in the classroom, so I vlogged for memories. Everyone was receptive, but wish I could have been steadier with the camera. I’m still getting used to vlogging. The presentations were interesting due to the diversity. This is probably my favorite part of the entire course. Nikki presented about drug resistance and highlighted three diseases, one of which was Leishmaniasis. Adam looked my way, along with either Kelsey or Lauren, and we shared a smile. Dr. Raj gave us a 10-minute break in the middle. Lauren’s was probably my favorite presentation. Her topic was menstruation, and she made it incredibly fascinating and funny. Xhonela was before me, and I was getting nervous and shaky during her presentation, but I prayed that I’ll get through it with no nervousness. I started out feeling happy and jumped out of my seat when it was my turn. Dr. Raj walked to the front with me because Xhonela exited out of the presentation files. After thanking him, I started with an energetic “hello!” People laughed, which made me feel better. I vividly remember learning in BLF that a little bit of humor is a must in all presentations. “I will be uncovering the neglected tropical disease, Leishmaniasis.” “First, I will give a brief statistical background, so that we can better understand the global burden of the disease.” Taniqua was like, “I don’t know what all these things mean.” Leishmaniasis is a long and admittedly fun word to say, but the different sub-types add to the complexity, but hopefully the stats introduced everyone to the numerical burden. I talked about: types, signs and symptoms, co-infection, sandflies as vectors, risk factors (gave Sahanna a shoutout for her topic of malnutrition increasing susceptibility), diagnosis. I almost took too long to find the right words to talk about microscopy, PCR, and western blot as techniques that were not feasible in developing countries due to the lack of resources, but I maintained a smooth speech pattern despite going off script. That is something I am working on in public speaking – finding the right words and sounding fluent when impromptu speaking. Dr. Raj gave me the 2-minute warning. More topics: ASHAs, public health prevention, medications (gave Nikki a shoutout for her topic of drug resistance). I got really happy when I was pronouncing the difficult-to-say drug names and introduced Dr. Kishor Wasan, who’s working on an oral amphotericin B pill. I mentioned his collaborations because I wanted to emphasize that the animal studies were done at OSU. I followed up with “Go Bucks!” at the same time that Dr. Raj gave me a timeout “T” motion with his hands. I said, “I’m out of time, but I’ll make this quick.” People laughed. “I’m happy to announce that the drug received a US patent last November… and a vaccine is in the works.” Conclusion: “With all these advances, we might see a day where Leishmaniasis is dramatically diminished and the mortality and morbidity rates lowered in tropical regions.” I recommended three documentaries (Nepal, Ethiopia, Peru) from the WHO site called “Trilogy of Injustice” in case people are interested in learning more.

After class, I was talking to Adam and realized he was wearing gray and I was wearing red, so inspiration struck. “We need a scarlet and gray picture” and it took him a couple seconds too long to get it, but eventually said “oooh. Yeah!”

IMG_5704Then, we took an O-H-I-O picture with Sahanna and Drew, who were also wearing scarlet and gray. So cute!

OHIO Manipal LibraryThen, I took a picture of Drew and Adam twinning because they had on the same tie and a gray-colored dress shirt. I should caption it “the faces of Manipal University :P”

IMG_5708At lunch, Adam said he wants to give some of his toiletries to Fahad and invited me to go with. Drew, Adam, and I walked a couple blocks down the road and crossed the street to the MIT campus. Stopped by the Manipal sweater store, but they sold out. Fahad wasn’t there yet, so we decided to take a loop around the campus. Talked about the MCAT with Drew. I almost walked into a dog lying on the ground. Adam laughed. We arrived back to the entrance and still didn’t see Fahad, so we sat under the large yellow MIT sign.

IMG_1549After several minutes, we spotted Fahad. Adam gave him a dollar bill along with the toiletries. Fahad walked with us back to Manipal’s main campus.

Half of the group is leaving for home today. I hugged and said goodbye to everyone in front of the girl’s hostel. Bittersweet feeling.

IMG_1558I had my backpack with me and some people thought I was leaving. Sahanna joked that I wore my backpack because I wanted free hugs. Haha. Dr. Raj showed us that we have an article written about our study abroad program in the newspaper, The Hindu!

IMG_1561Tea time: bean cookies with ketchup. Those of us still here decided to take a trip to Udupi. I rode with Taniqua and Lauren in the rickshaw.

IMG_5713First, we went to the gold store where Lauren purchased her nose ring. Sesen bought a nose ring for her friend. A man showed me the way to the silver part of the store. Our mini group stayed together, which was nice. I bought a leaf-shaped earring and pearls for 440 rupees. Alvian bought earrings also. Next, we went to the temple circle and I bought more bangles and three elephants. Hopefully, I have enough to gift. On the way back to campus, the rickshaw driver tried to rip Taniqua and I off and charged 130 rupees instead of the typical 90 (we know from the many trips we have taken to Udupi). Taniqua and I were steadfast and bargained for 100. After mumbling words that we didn’t understand, he finally complied. Granted, those 40 rupees would not have been a big deal to lose (equivalent of 60 cents or so), but the thought of being tricked for our assumed naiveté is irksome.

Dinner: cauliflower dish (one of my favorites). I bought Lauren and I ice cream cones for a nice last dinner dessert. Walked back to hostel and washed clothes, uploaded pictures from Dr. Raj’s flash drive, brushed teeth, and showered. Sahanna hosted a henna party in her room with Rachel, Anna, Lauren, Sesen, Lindsey, and I. I sat with Sesen on the little bed and gave her the flash drive. The others were watching Friends. I vlogged Sahanna and her artwork and everyone in the room. Then, I did a selfie cameo and everyone laughed and said they saw that. My henna turned out faint, but Sahanna is so talented with the design.

IMG_1569I packed a little and slept around 1am.

Intermission

Hello all!

I apologize for falling off the face of the blogging world. The last two weeks of India were spectacular and busy. We were all working very diligently on our final paper and presentation about a global public health topic of our choosing. This was one of many highlights for me.

Not to fret! I have not abandoned my plan to continue the 29 Days of India series. I have all the memories saved on a word doc, so the posts will not be any less detailed. However, I have some bad news. I plan on finishing the series in late June and early July. Sorry to the people I told I would finish in the week after our return to the US :/

At first, I was mad at myself for not working on anything med school related in India because the stress immediately hit me when I stepped onto US soils. The jet lag and sickness I contracted from the airplane did not help this matter. But as my mind cleared after a few days of recovery, I wanted to believe there are no regrets.

I remember my professor telling me that I should just enjoy the study abroad trip and not worry about the MCAT (you’ll have enough time when you get home – he said). And I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better trip. The lesson I learned here is that balance is essential. You may have a lot of unchecked boxes on your to-do list (and if you’re like me, you let this run your life), but you also have to remember to just live life. Enjoy the outdoors, enjoy company, enjoy life.

This is my goal for the next year as I travel further on the journey to medical school.

Wow I still cannot believe the time has come for my peers and I to apply to graduate and professional schools. I remember having this epiphany a few days ago as I was staring at the AMCAS front page. This is probably an extremely stressful and arduous time for all. To stay motivated, I remind myself how grateful I am to have these opportunities in life: to have access to education and pursue one’s dreams, whatever that might be. Someone else in the world wishes they could have the same choices that you do. So make the most out of your opportunities. Use the phrase “I get to..” rather than “I have to..”

ImageFond memories of MD Camp in high school. Something that keeps me going.

Life is Too Short to Be Anything but Happy and Grateful

https://evbdn.eventbrite.com/s3-s3/eventlogos/92304/gratitudeandhappinesszigziglarquote.jpg

“Please use Cameron’s story as an inspiration to set goals, overcome obstacles and fight the good fight. She did that every day.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/virginia-teen-16-dies-moments-finishing-marathon-article-1.1725562#ixzz2wdp5u0ac

This story touched my heart as I could relate to her enthusiasm in completing a half marathon. I couldn’t help but to place myself in her shoes and imagine collapsing moments after finishing surrounded by my parents and best friend. Truly a sad story, but I am glad her parents have a positive outlook and chose to let others know about their daughter’s determination and motivation in life. Made me think about how life is never guaranteed… and that we should always remember to stay positive and build meaningful relationships with others.

In contrast, I hate that I had to distance myself from life these past two weeks to prepare to take the MCAT tomorrow, but I hope it is all worth it in the end. Eeek. I am excited and worried at the same time. I am such a nerd, but I actually enjoy taking the test… especially the verbal section. You learn something new every single time (learner is one of my top 5 on StrengthsQuest if you could guess)! The problem I have is recalling everything I have learned in General Chemistry and Physics, which I should be looking over right now. For any aspiring med students/doctors reading this: make sure you pay closer attention in your freshman and sophomore science classes. Don’t take them for granted no matter how much you dread it. Your hard work will pay off.

This is a good tip that I need to remember also.

“If you’re really committed to doing well on the MCAT, you may cut out things like exercise, proper meals and full nights of sleep so that you can spend as much time as possible studying. But test-taking authorities warn that if you follow that approach, you’re setting yourself up for failure on the big day.”

http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/college-planning/admissions/5-tips-mcat.htm#page=5