Thank you for your patience with my blog posts, I am starting to finally get in a groove in Atlanta and I am making a schedule that I can actually stick to each week. There will be more YouTube videos for the people emailing and asking and more blog posts on a regular basis! What I have realized is that when I get ready to write a post, I am emotionally invested with everything I write down. There have been so many times where I had my blog up and ready to type, but I just wasn't feeling it, but I have to learn to write when my emotions are authentic, whether I am frustrated, sad, stressed, and of course when I am happy. I'm working on it ;)
So here I am, on a Saturday night, just getting back from the Sports Medicine conference in San Diego, California. Excited, exhausted, motivated, and extremely happy that I attended. But let's rewind for a second, let me update you on my Step 1, IMF, the move to ATL, and where I am now in my studies. Grab a glass of wine [I may have had two already...woops], or a tea, a coffee if you are board studying, and just sit back and relax, as I have some stories for y'all. <--I gotta start sometime people, I am in the South ya know ;)
So that USMLE Step 1 exam, let me tell you....it was beastly. It was probably the hardest exam that I had to write in the history of my test taking. The good news is: I PASSED. I passed and now I am able to move on to my third year of medical school, which are core clinical clerkships at a corresponding hospital. For the people that have been following me for awhile, you all know how terrible I am at standardized exams, and this exam was no different. It was the mother of all standardized exams; a really, really grumpy mother. It was hard. But it was doable if your study schedule was followed exactly as you had planned. I was confident in my studying that I felt comfortable going into that exam with the knowledge base that I had created while studying at home in Canada. It was so critical thinking heavy, minute details, tertiary questions, and some that felt like quaternary, that you just left the exam center feeling defeated. Overall, the biggest tip of advice that I can give people studying for the boards right now, take it sooner than later. I was feeling a bit burnt out at the end, and my score definitely reflects that. I am glad I pushed it back to enjoy Christmas and get to get married, but I was about three weeks overdue. I still did fine, but for me being my own worst critic, I should have done better. My effort and my studying habits, I should have scored higher, but that is the beauty of two more board exams, there is always room for improvement. The fact that I passed on the first attempt is huge, and now I need to study my buns off for the next Step exam, which is next July for me.
Next is IMF, what exactly is it? Good question, as I still haven't figured out an exact definition for it. It was a six week course in Miramar, Florida where we got introduced to the clinical aspect of medicine. We had daily readings from the textbook IM essentials and had one written midterm and final exam. We also had an OSCE exam, which is set up in the same format as the Step 2 CS exam, where we would do a 15 minute encounter with a standardized patient, do a full interview, physical, and type up a note in the exam room. We also had a clinic site that we had to go to 2-3 times/week, in which 20% of our grade comes from the attending physician. Thankfully, we had an amazing clinical site. We were with a neurologist that owned his private practice in Florida, and I fell in love the physical therapy/pain management side of neurology. Another student and I also got the opportunity to do some research, which we are in the process of finalizing our second draft by the end of the month. Super exciting! IMF was great in the fact that it allowed us to experience being with patients on a more complex level, and allowed us to be prepared for core rotations.
Now being in Atlanta and two weeks into my Internal medicine clerkship, I can say that I do not like internal medicine haha I like the patients, I love the people I work with, from my amazing attending, a soon-to-be fourth year student (she is just finishing up her last core), and all the nurses and respiratory techs. Everyone is super friendly in Atlanta, the southern hospitality is actually a real thing, guys. But overall, I do not like being in the hospital for 12-13 hours straight. My end goal is to own a primary care sports medicine outpatient center, with a gym/rehab facility attached. I am learning a TON and trying to soak it all up, and at the same time I am trying to keep my options open as much as I can. Being in the hospital and dealing with real patients is so rewarding, and every day, even the days are long, I know this is what I am meant to do.
The blog post is getting quite long, but I will end it with a sentiment from the Sports Medicine conference that I attended these past couple days. NO ONE CARED WHERE I ATTENDED MEDICAL SCHOOL. The first thing they said to me at the fellowship fair was: "Wow! Good for you for coming so early in your medical education and asking all the right questions now, to help your process later". The first thing I asked them was, does your program accept IMGs? Since being Canadian AND from Ross, I wanted to make sure they honored the international visa for me to work as a resident being from another country, but I also wanted to make sure that they had no bias towards Caribbean grads. They honestly did not care. A fellowship is the highest form of medical education that you can receive in your training after residency, and they range from one year up to how many sub-specialites you want to complete. After residency, you have the option of doing a fellowship and that is where my primary care sports medicine fellowship comes into place. It was so refreshing to see big name schools accept Caribbean grads and not even bat an eye. There were numerous AUC, SGU, AUA, Saba, and Ross fellows in attendance, and the community is absolutely amazing. One Medical Director had the best response to my question:
Me: "Hello, my name is Emma, I am a third year medical student interested in the sports medicine fellowship program at your facility, I was just wondering if you accept IMGs?"
Director: "Well, are you a good candidate?"
Me: "Well, I think I am. I have gotten Dean's List for all four semesters on the island, won the Devry Scholarship award for two consecutive years, I started a brand new Sports Medicine Club on campus while simultaneously studying the basic sciences, I have passed Step 1 on my first attempt, and I am here proving to you that this is what I want to do."
Director: "Oh wow, wait...you are only in third year you said?"
Me: "Yes, sir" <--- working on that southern accent ;)
Director: "I do not care where your medical education comes from, you standing here today proves to me that this is important to you. We actually just matched a Ross grad into our fellowship program and he starts with us in July, and you coming here today just shows how hard working Ross students are, and we do not discriminate based solely on the location of your school, we look at YOU, the candidate as a whole."
Me: *Trying to hold back the tears* "Thank you. I needed to hear this today"
Director: "I'll be looking for your name in the next couple years, don't forget about us, okay?"
Me: *Dumbfounded and wanting to give him a hug but didn't* "Thank you so much."
Connections work. Point blank. Me showing up to this conference proved to them that I was serious about pursuing this route. No matter what school I attended. This is FELLOWSHIP, people. This is a big deal. The fellowship program directors care more about you as a person with a passion, your commitment, and your tenacity to get there. I have gotten so many high-fives the last two days from residents, program directors, fellows, and some AMSSM staff, as I was the youngest student there. I know this is what I want to do, so why not start making the connections now? Next annual meeting, I will be there showing my face to the same people, giving a strong hand shake, and telling them my name once again. When interviews come up next year for residency, a lot of the same fellowship directors actually oversee the residency program as well, and they will hopefully see my name and picture, and know my perseverance to climb to the top of their list.
All in all, Ross University will get you where you need to be. It is the road less traveled, it is a scary jump, but it will give you that M.D, it will allow you obtain residency, and it will give you the opportunity to pursue medicine as your career. Third year has just started for me, the hours are long, the studying never stops, board exams linger over my head every day, but I would not change a thing. I am extremely happy I listened to my gut and applied, I am happy I shut that inner voice in my head down that was telling me that maybe I made the wrong decision, I am happy that I didn't listen to any of the online forums bashing the Caribbean route, and I am sure as hell happy that I made it this far. I made it. I made it halfway to becoming a physician, and no one can take that feeling away from me. It is so worth it. Every tear, every frustration, every sticking point, as time moves forward- so do you.
Happy Saturday night friends! Get after your dream, no matter what anyone says! You CAN do it. You WILL do it. You will be AMAZING at it.
Bye for now,