24 March 2014

Med School Update: Third Didactic Week

Three amigos at Dean's Town Hall
Dean's Town Hall on Friday Morning, picture taken by Scott
It is sad to say that there is only one "didactic week" left. Sadder still to think that it probably wont be a full week with the students, and as families will be moving for Year 4, I likely won't get to see all my friends.

During this didactic week, Scott had a graded, internal medicine "patient encounter," and he attended plenary sessions for surgery and advanced internal medicine rotations. He also created a March Madness bracket, went to BWW with friends to watch games, and fit in two rounds of golf and a flag football game. I guess we are both anticipating that we wont get as much friend time after this didactic week.

Scott would want me to mention that he was also productive in his endeavors to schedule fourth year audition rotations. As I mentioned in a previous post, the process for scheduling audition rotations at potential residency locations is similar to applying to medical school. Scott has been writing essays, ordering transcripts and test scores, and getting letters of recommendation. He met with Western University's rotations office during didactic week to make sure he was getting all the official paperwork he needed. I think he still feels like he doesn't have enough direction in this process, but we'll find out soon enough once auditions are scheduled.

19 March 2014

Med School Update: Internal Medicine 2

Yes, I'm re-using the picture I took of the hospital in Newport this summer for this blog post about Scott's second Internal Medicine rotation. I wasn't about to travel out to Newport in this weather and with two classes per term trying to finish up my MBA.

So imagine Scott, at this hospital, but colder and more wet. Maybe a big puddle and rain clouds.

Scott mentioned that he is so glad that he completed his internal medicine rotations during the middle of third year, as internal medicine can be intense with difficult cases and preceptor questions. This last internal medicine rotation was probably Scott's favorite. He worked with a few doctors who prepared Scott for what residency will be like. He was asked to make orders, write up discharge notes and letters for patients for the doctors to review and use. I know I said it before, but Scott's Psych rotation has had a major positive impact on how he interviews patients. He loves having the opportunity to use the motivational interviewing skills he learned with patients who were admitted during this last rotation.

Scott really enjoyed internal medicine, in general. During this rotation he saw a lot of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, assisted with a couple procedures, pulled one 36 hour shift, and was fed all three meals daily at the hospital. He learned a lot from the preceptors in this particular rotation. Scott is hoping that this type of experience will transfer well to the physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty, which is on of the specialties he's considering.

17 March 2014

Med School Update: How to Schedule 4th Year Electives

Scott and I having a "kitty" calendaring video chat on his last rotation

We are more than half way through the third year of medical school and it is already time to plan our life. Scott has completed nine rotations, but already he is faced with the decision of what residency, and ultimately future specialty, he would like to do. Ideally, you should know what specialty you would like to pursue going into medical school. That way you can plan research activities, community service, and third-year electives tailored to that specialty. Sounds like medical school applications all over again, right?!

Scott has known from the beginning that he would like to consider sports medicine as his future profession, and luckily he has already had rotations that have confirmed his love of all things musculoskeletal. He hasn't done any research yet. We must have been under the impression that research was only needed for highly competitive specialties. However, having research during medical school on your resume will make any student more competitive for scholarships and preferred residencies. There may still be a chance for him to work with a faculty member on a case (hopefully my writing this out doesn't diminish his opportunities or ego).

To start the process of scheduling electives for fourth year, you need to know where you might want to do your residency. There are MD residencies and DO residencies to consider. You can search for MD residencies on FREIDA Online and search by US state and specialty (login required to search, but even I have a user name). There is a separate site for osteopathic residencies: http://www.opportunities.osteopathic.org/. In our search, we considered specialty, location, residency curriculum, affiliated school, and length of residency. I'm not saying those are the perfect set of characteristics... I'm especially not saying that because at this point we haven't applied for or been accepted to a residency. It's just the criteria we thought were important.

The majority of your electives in year four will be visiting the residencies you're considering for applications, in order for the residency and you to evaluate best fit. Once you know what residencies you're considering, you want to get their residency coordinator information from either FREIDA or Opportunities and contact them about doing rotations during your fourth year. This conversation will likely include them telling you how competitive their residency is and asking any questions you need before submitting documents to do a rotation.

Many rotations will require you to submit a formal request to do elective rotations. Rotation requests are submitted through the Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS). Most institutions will publish their available rotations between January - April of your third year and accept applications until later in the summer. Be aware that there are fees to submit requests and institutions may have their own processing fees. Applications include a photograph, CV, transcript (provided by your school), immunization report, and maybe an essay. Again, sounds like medical school applications!

Scott has spoken with rotations offices in Oregon, California, Washington, and Texas to arrange rotations. I plan on him being on elective rotations all over the country from July to December of next year. Best to have the expectation that I won't see him very much, and then be pleasantly surprised and grateful for the times when I will get to see him. We've had great conversations whenever he was on an away rotation this year. I know he loves this hands-on work and I support him in finding a place where he will love what he does.

UPDATE 10/2014: At this point Scott has done several audition rotations and is starting to receive invitations for residency interviews. Residency interviews start around November, involving a lot of traveling on the student's part.

If we had a second chance to schedule fourth year rotations, I would recommend scheduling one audition to begin early on (July or August) so your student gets a better idea for what curriculum or residency characters tics he/she prefers (good to know when applying to residencies in August and September). You will need to be flexible with your calendar, fluctuating based on what rotations your desired residencies have available.

To fill up your student's fall schedule, I would recommend submitting "tickets" (requests for rotations through the school's system) early, even before fourth year begins, in order to cover required rotations.  Required rotations can be scheduled at any time, and can be rescheduled if auditions are offered during the same time. At COMP-NW required rotations include sub-internships in Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Surgery. Scheduling these rotations in the fall can act as a back-up if your student doesn't get auditions scheduled, and then graduation requirements out of the way.

November and December will involve traveling for residency interviews. It may be possible to interview with the residency while your student is completing an audition there. Otherwise, your student will want to schedule rotations in November and December that will be flexible for travel. It may be necessary to use what limited vacation time your student has during those months for interview travel.

10 March 2014

Sitka, Alaska Feels Like Home

You know that feeling where you feel like you're home? Something so comforting and warm that a smile creeps up the corners of your mouth and your muscles relax. I feel that when I watch this movie.

There's something about Sitka, Alaska that will always feel like home to me. It was my home for over a decade, but I haven't had the chance to travel back since 2008. I'm sure if I were to fly there today, I would get that same "home" feeling just by watching out the windows as the plane landed and seeing the O'Connell bridge or Mt. Edgecombe in the distance.

You should go there sometime. See what you feel.

03 March 2014

Alaskans Are Natural Curlers

My office was a buzz with talk of the Winter Olympics last month. People were asking me if I had seen the skeleton or asking my opinion on the Canadian hockey team. To be honest, I watched a few events, but was otherwise completely oblivious that the Winter Olympics were broadcast. Have I mentioned my schedule?

So when I coworker informed me that because of the Winter Olympics this year the Evergreen Curling Club of Portland, Oregon was hosting an open house to teach visitors how to curl, I felt that it was my duty to do a bit more for in honor of the Olympics.

We met Morgan, Chase, and Colt in Portland for the open house. With a $10 fee per person, we all enjoyed a group curling lesson on Evergreen's ice rink (set up in a warehouse in Beaverton). Our coach was a man who had grown up in Eastern Washington and learned to curl at curling camp as a kid (Yes, curling camp! And yes, I looked to see if there was an adult camp.) He taught us about the stones, the brooms, the hog line, and the house.

I had never curled in my life before Valentine's Day weekend this year. I had barely even seen curling on TV, but I was fascinated by the sport. And guess what?! I'm a natural. It must be the Alaskan in me that could get the rock to go where I wanted it to on the ice. Sweeping was not so much my thing, but I could get better.

We were one of the last groups to take the ice that weekend, so after our training we put together  a little game (one end) with one of the other groups. We were all newbies to the sport and our practice had been limited to half a rink up until game time. You like how I'm making excuses after I just said I'm a natural?

We lost to the other team, but we barely noticed. All four of us had so much fun and left the rink determined that we would join a curling club. Scott likes to imagine us having our own curling supplies like other couples have bowling equipment. If we lived in the Portland area, I think we just might. And you better believe I will be searching out curling clubs wherever we end up for residency. I see date nights ahead!

I thoroughly enjoyed learning to curl. It's a sport where I actually like the cold! I felt like the hour lesson went by so fast, and I could have spent hours there experimenting with how much weight to put on the rock in order to get it on the button.