Saturday, September 12, 2009

Next - The Start

Hi all.

I debated once again, just as I did when I traveled to Ecuador, how best to stay in touch with those I care about. And once again I have come to the same conclusion. A blog will let me stay in touch with more of you, more easily, than any other way. I can't promise that I will post as often as my previous blog or that the same level of proofreading will be upheld but I do hope this helps us stay in better touch. So feel free to comment or send me an email! I promise to respond to any and all emails sent my way.

For those of you who I haven't communicated with in some time I have just started medical school at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The addition of the Public Health portion of the name reflects a push by the school to educate it's students to be able to care not just for individual patients but communities as well. It was one of the reason I came here and so far they have seemed very serious about this part of their mission.

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

How did I get to WI in the first place? By car, or rather my little truck. My brother Patrick accompanied me on the journey and many an adventure was had. Hiking Glacier National Park, running around in the Badlands of South Dakota, taking breaks to jump in random rivers, and sleeping in our tent at rest stops all come to mind. Some pictures from our travels follow.

(A view of Glacier National Park)

(Gunsight Lake)

(Patrick and I on a Glacier)

(Patrick and I inside a Glacier - we went down a small ways into a crevasse)

(Patrick looking out over the way we had come in Badlands National Park)

(Sunset over the Badlands)

Upon arrival in Madison we were welcomed by our Aunt Linda and her family. The company, food, and rest were just what we needed. I am very lucky to have a family away from home here in Madison. In addition to welcoming us my Aunt and family had helped me located a place to live. It is amazing how difficult it can be to find a decent but affordable place when you can't go look at them in person! So my aunt was a saviour.

My apartment is located just a little over a mile from the medical center/school and in-between two parks (Madison is full of parks) one for running and one for mountain biking - awesome! The place was more or less fully furnished but on "move in day" we were able to acquire a number of additional items: a desk, two dressers, two desk extensions, and a coffee table - all for free! This was possible because all the undergrads have to move out August 13th, August 14th places are cleaned, and the 15th they can move in. As such people don't have a place to put their stuff and it gets set on the side of the road for the taking. What isn't taken in by someone gets tossed the next week.

(My room view one)

(My room view two - where I sit writing this!)

After a week of exploring the city and moving in (which by the way is bike crazy! more people on bikes, bike trails, bike shops, radio bike product ads and more than you'd believe!) it was time to start medical school.

Orientation started off in a unique manner. Instead of hearing from the dean or some other important figure we were all ushered into one of the main halls. After we were settled (all 168 incoming students) a number of individuals came down the aisles, one at a time. They stepped forward to a microphone and proceeded to describe the illness from which they suffer without naming it, including symptoms, cost to society, and other impacts, closing with "my name is ______, I have ________ (diabetes for example), today you will hear my story." After over a dozen patients related their illnesses we broke into small groups and were able to converse and ask questions of two individuals. I found it an inspiring and thoughtful way to begin medical school. The day closed just as memorably as all students, in groups of four, were invited to dinner with a faculty member or community physician. Our group was paired with Dapesh, a radiation oncologist, who took us to his home, introduced us to his wife and two young children, and then grilled up some amazing burgers and brats! Orientation lasted 4 days and then it was time to get down to business

(One of our main lecture halls where I spend a good amount of time.)

I forgot to mention that I have a roommate! Anst-Bidry Gelin is a fellow first year medical student. He called me from Haiti (where he is from) with 12 hours of my posting an ad for a roommate on the medical student website and it has turned out to be a great fit. He is into biking, triathlons, all kinds of sports and cooks a lot too. Anst moved to the states for high school (his dad has been here some time working as a physical therapist) and completed both HS and college in New York. His mother is still in Haiti and he was spending time with her when he originally called me. I hope to learn some creole but it isn't much like Spanish so we shall see. In all my free time:)

(My roommate, Anst, at our kitchen table)

Over labor day weekend Anst and I accompied several second years on a one night backpacking trip in the Kettle Moraine state forest. There certainly weren't any mountains but the terrain was new to me and beautiful. The entire area had been shaped by glaciers and consisted of kettles (deep bowl-shaped craters often with water/marsh land in the bottom) and moraines (high hills of rock and left over glacial debris).

(In the woods of Wisconsin. Kettle and moraine)

You may think I've just been biking around, hiking, and collecting free furniture but this is not actually true. Our classes consist of medical genetics, cell physiology, biomolecular chemistry, population health (epidemiology), and PDS or Patient Doctor and society. This last class is an interesting one indeed and teaches us how to take a history, basic exam skills, discusses the ethical aspects of medicine and is honestly the one class above all I will probably remember the most from in 5 years time. So they've kept us busy.

If that weren't enough I have been getting involved in a number of extracurricular pursuits. They haven't formally started yet but volunteering in a free medical clinic, becoming a mentor for an at-risk 7th grader, and going to Michigan for a wilderness medicine/outdoor adventure race are all on the agenda in the months to come.

Oh! As part of PDS we get paired with a primary care doctor somewhere near Madison and my placement is with a family physician based in Access Community Health Center. I have gone to meet my preceptor (who seems like a great person and teacher) and found out the clinic I will be at is much like the clinic I just left in Seattle - underserved populations with a majority Spanish speaking only. I am excited to start and will do so this coming Thursday.

That's all for now but I'd love to hear from anyone and hope you are all well.