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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2017 | Get Out There & Be Children Again

Happy Old Year and Happy New Year beautiful souls,

With friends going back to school/work, family getting on my case about my love life, acquaintances saying “thankful for 2016 because I found him/her”, and free time away from classes, I started this new year feeling a bit lonely. I am not proud of this, but I think it’s important to acknowledge all emotions, for we are complex beings.

What I do know is that I have a lot be grateful for, both in the past year and in the future.

Thank you 2016 for: the opportunity to interview at two more medical schools, consecutive snow days at my work at the school, meaningful hygiene/puberty presentation with 4th graders, beautiful cherry blossoms in Athens, group photos with all the 2nd graders I taught in AmeriCorps, first music festival, first osteopathic medicine conference, acceptance into another medical school, finishing my AmeriCorps service term with wonderful supervisors and coworkers, making a real impact in the Athens community in regards to health and wellness, prematriculation, scenic running/biking trails in Athens, getting to know a beautiful soul at my elementary school with whom I had authentic and vulnerable mentoring conversations, road trip to Cincinnati with my best friend, a sweet roommate, moving back to my hometown, first day of medical school, white coat ceremony, love, knowledge, wisdom, learning, good health, PR’s in 5k and half marathon, keeping up with fitness while in school, spontaneity, the most authentic talks with my childhood girlfriends during our night out, and reconnecting with people from the past.

Goals for 2017:

  1. Act out of love and kindness. One of my all-time favorite quotes is: “kill em with kindness.” I recently read an article about how to deal with negative emotions and that is to pray and wish happiness and well-being for that person that has caused the emotions. Remaining angry and resentful only hurts your inner peace.
  2. Embrace spontaneity.
  3. Just do it. This was the same goal I had last year, but I decided to bring it back because it’s a work in progress. I realize I might be one of those people that likes to work under pressure, but procrastinating and thinking too much causes unnecessary stress.
  4. Step outside your comfort zone in terms of putting yourself out there in leadership roles.
  5. Run the Columbus (full) Marathon.
  6. Travel this summer.
  7. Gain new medical knowledge, skills, and experiences this summer.
  8. Be an initiator. Some things don’t happen unless you make them happen. Watch this excellent TEDTalk – What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection. I’m inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZXgApsPCQ
  9. Do more of what makes me feel alive – at least one thing every day.
  10. Live in vulnerability and authenticity, always. I found that it’s freeing for the human spirit to be as open and honest as we can with people close to us. Just discovered this TEDTalk and she speaks words from my soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcm-mAwPkxg
    • “Uncover your soul and look for that soul-spark in everyone else”
    • “Step off your hamster wheel into deep time”
    • “Getting emotionally naked with another human being, putting aside pride and defensiveness, lifting the layers, and sharing with each other our vulnerable souls”
    • “You don’t have to wait for a life-or-death situation to clean up the relationships that matter to you, to offer the marrow of your soul and to seek it in another”

Do this exercise with me:

  • Grab a plain white sheet of paper.
  • Write in big letters:

    “What makes you feel alive?”

  • Write in smaller print around the question, what activities or feelings make you feel most alive in life. Don’t filter it and write everything that comes to mind.
  • Hang it up somewhere you look at everyday. Resolve to do more of these things that makes you feel alive.
  • It’s a working document, so feel free to add to it when inspiration strikes.

I updated mine recently and I’ll share it:

fullsizerender

This exercise helped wave away the feeling of loneliness I had. I feel more connected to myself and to the world around me. Amidst our crazy, busy, and hectic lives often working for other people, I think it’s imperative to do something everyday that genuinely makes us happy. The feeling I get when I do something that makes me come alive is analogous to a child playing and exploring the outdoors with friends in the summertime – excited, care-free, youthful, and rejuvenated. So get out there and be children again 🙂

Update 1/15/17: Happy early Chinese New Year. This year, it’s celebrated on January 28, 2017 – year of the rooster. An ancient Chinese superstition that I was surprised to learn about in last year’s post was that one is supposed to have bad luck during your birth year sign. I guess the bad luck caught up to me in the remaining month of the monkey year… misspoken words, confused feelings, and disgraceful pride. However, I believe this is how things are supposed to be because everything happens for a reason – it’s up to you what you take from it.

A recent epiphany I had regarding the practice of medicine is that the role of doctors is not only to diagnose and treat diseases or even pay attention to social determinants of health, it is to help our patients find meaning in their lives. This struck me while listening to Paul Kalanithi (http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2015spring/before-i-go.html) and re-inspired my purpose for choosing a career in medicine. Along with our medical knowledge, lab tests, and prescribed medications, we should seek to explore how the diagnosis of a disease affects the meaning of life for a patient.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

Here’s to the journey of life and meaning ❤

~lntan

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

I have no regrets, but I would do it over again

You may be thinking “Ellen, that doesn’t make sense. You have regrets if you would do it over again”, but let me explain.

I’m now a proud graduate of The Ohio State University with a BS in Neuroscience. As a first-generation student, I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams all of the unique experiences I’ve had these past four years. For that, I am forever grateful for all the people I have met and all the opportunities that were afforded to me.

DSCN5087But I’ve hit a serious roadblock to my vocational dream that developed the summer after my junior year of high school – to use medicine, science, leadership, and education to positively impact the future of healthcare and better the well-being of humankind.

At this point, I do not have sufficient credentials to attend medical school and I wish I could tell my freshman self what I know now. But I realize this is life. You live and you learn. It’s all a part of the journey.

If granted a wish, I would re-do my college experience over again to make sure I adequately show medical schools that I would make a great physician and achieve success the first time around. The medical school process is an arduous one, but I know this is my purpose if I still have the drive to find out what went wrong from professionals involved in admissions and to improve myself to re-apply again. Even if I say I would re-do my experience, I have no regrets. A lot of failures are blessings in disguise. I’m learning a lot about myself in this time of despair, feeling lost, but also of introspection. This failure has forced me to re-evaluate the question “why medicine?” and I feel that once I am at the moment where I can confidently say “I made it”, I will be more grateful for this unique life opportunity than if I had effortlessly gained admission the first time.

I’m currently applying for jobs to gain more experience working in a clinical setting and planning to re-take the MCAT. I am excited to continue on the journey, embracing the roadblocks and detours.

Stay tuned for some blog topics I would like to share in the coming months! 🙂

Sneak Peek
– What I learned about life while in college
– Medical School application tips I wish I knew
– Love & Vulnerability
– Book reviews
– Revisit of a blog post I previously wrote concerning social media

If you feel some of my post-grad sentiments, I’ll leave you with inspiration from Nicki Minaj’s new song (who knew Nicki could write some lyrics that would become my life anthem and also match the theme of my blog so well??)

“So make sure the stars is what you aim for.
Make mistakes though.

I never worry, life is a journey.
I just wanna enjoy the ride.
What is the hurry? It’s pretty early.
It’s okay, we’ll take our time.

The night is still young.
How dare we sit quietly.
And watch the world pass us by.”

And this quote:
CC_o_pWVEAAVotO.jpg large

#nevergiveup

Day 19 (Wednesday, May 21): Subway Eat Fresh

Woke up feeling the same as yesterday. Hit snooze twice in the morning. Went to breakfast around 8:45am: omelet and onion curried mashed potatoes. I bought pulpy Minute Maid orange juice for 30 rupees and started a trend. Ashley and Nikki got it too. Anna said she really liked the taste. Taniqua asked how much it was.

The bus arrived at 9:30am to take us to the maternal and child health center.

IMG_1136Upon entering, we saw the family of patients sleeping on the floor in the waiting area. Our guide noted that the building had poor ventilation.

IMG_1143Neonatal intensive care unit. Blue light for jaundice.

  • 200 deliveries per month

IMG_1150Pediatrician

  • Respiratory (due to indoor air pollution) and gastrointestinal infections are most common ailments he sees.
  • Population burden.
  • Limited resources.
  • Logistic problems.
  • So much pressure from parents about antibiotics because they think it’s a quick cure. Pressure from government to give out antibiotics. Don’t see much antibiotic resistance. 75% are viral infections. Give antibiotics first.
  • 140 kids per day – depends on season.
  • Starting a screening process for all children free of charge.
  • Those not covered are migrant workers (labor workers). They don’t have identity – no proof of residency.
  • “In last 20 years, so much has changed in medicine.”

Pharmacy- similar to US, but their practices are moving towards being more stringent because sometimes medications don’t need prescription. Different depending on region (ex. North India). Common for medications to be in miscellaneous packaging.

Back to hostel. Lunch at 1:20pm with Taniqua: barley rice, chickpea curry, veggie curry, roti. Walked to class with Paul at 2pm.

Dr. Raj’s advice of the day: Communicating well is important for future career.

Fun fact: Indian democracy is modeled after the British parliament. Leader of party becomes prime minister. President position is just ceremonial.

After class, some people went to Udupi. I stayed back. Read some case studies, but started falling asleep, so I napped for half an hour at the foot of my bed again. Originally wanted to go to tea time at 4:30pm, but woke up too late so went around 5:20pm instead. Good thing I decided to go because they had the French toast bread that is sooo good. I also had tea and coffee.

IMG_5585Seen in the cafeteria bathroom.

Ran into Sesen on the way back to the hostel. She was talking to a German girl named Ellie, who is here to teach German. I asked when she’s leaving and she said around June. Her boyfriend is meeting her and they’re gonna travel around India. That sounds so nice. Back to room and dealt with miscellaneous things like uploading pictures. Only when a housekeeper knocked that I tried reading more case studies. I was grateful that the housekeeper came spontaneously because it gives me a sense of security and comfort when the room is cleaned.

Went down to Lauren’s room to ask if she wants to go to dinner. One minute later, Kelsey R came by! Ran into Kelsey F. too. We took a look at the cafeteria food, and decided not to eat there because they had the spicy corn dish. We ended up at Subway upstairs.

IMG_5586Great choice. From looking at the menu last week, I knew the sub of the day for Wednesday was the chicken breast, so I was all for it. I got the chicken breast on multigrain honey oat bread with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, onion, and chipotle sauce for 105 rupees. The chicken breast looked different than the US’s, but ended up tasting so much better. It had more flavor and wasn’t so chunky. I think I’m gonna eat at Subway every other day or so!

We were getting ready to go to the library when it started raining even harder. Kelsey R and Lauren did not bring umbrellas and were concerned about their laptops, so we waited awhile for the rain to subside to no avail. When the rain decreased slightly eight minutes later, we made a run for it. Literally. The closest entrance to the library was closed off, so we had to run to the further entrance. The sidewalks and roads were filled with puddles of water. We walked into Café Coffee Day to work on our field experience essay.

IMG_5591I didn’t completely finish because I was having a hard time getting started. I typed out all my notes to get a better grasp of what the whole paper will be about. I’ll probably finish tonight. I ordered something at the coffee shop for the first time. I tried their cappuccino for 80 rupees. Kelsey and Lauren got cookies and Aasam tea. Lauren let me try a sip of hers and it tasted like the tea I had on the plane. I am such a tea enthusiast. The cappuccino was very foamy and overall good. I am not a huge fan of coffee, so it wasn’t anything too mind-blowing. Indians seem to really enjoy their dance/remixed music. I really enjoy it. In the coffee shop, I have heard Priyanka Chopra’s “Exotic”, JLo, and Gangnam Style.

Back at the hostel, I washed my clothes, showered, skyped mom, updated blog with group photos, read more case studies, and took notes on buruli ulcers.