Saturday, January 2, 2016

Soundtrack of 2015

Can you believe it's 2016 already?! I know, I know, that's what everyone says. But, seriously. I'm more than half-way done with medical school... when did that happen?!

I don't plan on starting this year off with anything quite as drastic as last year (although that pink hair may make another appearance at some point... you've been warned), but I did want to put at least a little "New Year" something in my tiny corner of the internet. 

So. I'm probably a little late with this, but I thought I would share some of my favorite 2015 albums. But I don't mean the albums that I thought were "the best" of the year. These are the new albums that held some kind of significance for me this year --  the songs that were played on repeat to keep me from losing my mind studying for boards, that drowned out disappointments, put words to unprocessed emotions, kept me company on runs, car rides, and travels, and simply helped weaved together all of the memories and stories I have from this past year. So, in a sense, these albums and songs were my 2015 soundtrack.

This post may seem a bit self-centered, but I figured that if these albums meant something to me this past year, maybe they will mean something to someone who may read this for this new year. 

Interestingly, some of my new finds at the beginning of last year, stuck with me all the way through. Certainly makes me excited for new discoveries this year! 

Okay, here we go, in no particular order:

The Balcony - Catfish and The Bottlemen

Oh man, I listed to this album so much this year. Whether studying, driving, or running, and in times of frustration, happiness, sadness... whatever and whenever. I think it will be on regular rotation for me for a long time. There seriously is not a bad song on it (although personal favorite is still Cocoon). 

Our Own House - Misterwives

This was another album that I listened to constantly, in all types of moods and circumstances. And a big highlight of the year was getting to see them play live back in November with a dear friend. For some reason, it serves as a reminder to me to just have fun and be myself, other people's opinions be damned.

If I Was - The Staves

This album is so incredibly beautiful, yet so simple. These songs kept me company through both late nights and early mornings. They have stuck with me so much that I even find myself humming the melodies while walking around the hospital. Plus, I think I've said before, but their cover of "I'm on Fire" is an absolute must-listen.

Chaos and the Calm - James Bay

I love that this album has a little bit of everything. It just feels incredibly soulful to me. So much singing in the car with this one.

Live at Carnegie Hall - Ryan Adams

Not much explanation necessary here. This had me cracking up in the library during boards time, which is also ironic since most of these songs are beautifully sombre. But if you have listened to all 3.5 hours of this, then you understand. Ryan Adams' version of 1989 also gets an honorable mention.

Speaking of honorable mentions:




Okay, that's a lot of music. I kind of wish now I had done this for 2014 too (Hozier, Little Chief, little hurricane now that I'm thinking about it)!!

Hopefully this has inspired you to think about the songs that made up your 2015 and all of the memories that go with them.

Here's to a new year with lots more music and adventures!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

She Was My Patient

She was my patient. A few months ago I was assigned to follow her case while on my General Surgery rotation. I was still only a mere 6 weeks into my transition from classroom med student bent over a book, to clinical rotation med student trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. As students, we are generally assigned only 1-2 patients at a time so that we can closely follow their hospital course. So she was my one patient.  

I saw her every morning and evening in the days leading up to her surgery. I scrubbed in on her surgery, which was completed successfully with no complications. I helped the nurses clean her up after surgery. I encouraged her to get up and out of bed even though it was hard because I knew it was good for her. She was my patient. 

But she was also a sad and lonely woman. So much so that when I was told to go home after a 14 hour day, I stayed and sat with her for a while, just to try to keep her company. We talked about her children, we (she) watched Fox News, and I chuckled as she explained to me that Donald Trump would make a great president (full disclosure: I asked her if she thought his hair was real).

Two days later, she was declared to be stable and ready to go to a rehab facility to gain more strength back before going home. I said goodbye to her, knowing that she probably only had a few more years at most left, but that she would at least get some more time with her family.

Three days later I came in to the hospital in the morning and learned that she had been brought to the Emergency Department in the middle of the night. She was currently unconscious in the ICU. By the end of the day, it became clear that despite all of the resources of the medical team, she probably wouldn't make it through the night.

I don't think we'll ever know what exactly caused her downward spiral. There may have been an accidental overdose of one of her medications, her body may have been too worn out to metabolize her medication, or she may have just plain started to shut down. No matter the problem, there was no way to fix it.

Despite the fact that nothing else could be done for her, she remained a "Full Code" as a result of some legal disputes within her family. This meant that we had to continue to pump her full of drugs, keep her on a ventilator, and when the time came, do CPR and any other required life-saving measures. 

She was my patient, and I felt completely powerless as I watched her body slowly shut down, and her suffering was prolonged. After three days, her body was in a condition that I hope to never see another person in again. When her blood pressure and pulse no longer became detectable, a code blue was called.

She was my patient; someone I tried to help heal, and so I made sure that I was there when the time finally came to end her care.

Despite being trained in cardiac life support, I had never been a part of an actual code before. I watched as the nurses and doctors set to work doing compressions, administering medicine, and searching for a pulse on a person who was already gone and couldn't come back. A pulse returned twice during the course of the code and both times everyone in the room let out a sigh, as if to say: "Why can't this poor woman just go in peace?"

As a medical student, the only thing I could do to help were chest compressions. When the time came, I stepped up on a stool, legs shaking, and put all of my energy into pressing on her chest. The nurses kindly told me I wasn't pressing hard enough, so I tried harder. 

I was disgusted with myself. I was making this poor woman, someone I knew, someone who just a week ago told me that "of course Trump's hair is real", suffer even more, solely for legal reasons.

I felt like I was doing harm.

When her death was finally pronounced, everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief. The nurses asked me if I was okay, that I looked so sad. "She was my patient."

I have had a lot of difficulty processing that day. I've been told that everyone remembers their first code, that everyone remembers the first time they lose a patient, that we all go through it, it's just how things go, and that I knew this was going to happen when I went to medical school. All of this is true, but it doesn't necessarily make it any easier. I didn't think my first code would be my first patient death, and I didn't think it would be for someone who had zero hope of surviving. I wanted to go in to medicine to help people. I made a pledge to Do No Harm, and I felt as if I had gone against that.

Since that time, I have partaken in two other codes, both within the past few days. One had a good outcome, the other did not. But in both cases, we were fighting as hard as we could to get a heartbeat back because we could get it back. Because these people were still there, people with families and friends and lives to keep living.

And so when the time came for me to do chest compressions, they went from seeming barbaric and cruel, to the most humane and human thing someone can do. I was putting every ounce of energy, everything I had, into keeping their hearts beating for them. 

Even though I did not know either of these patients prior to the code, it is still never an easy thing to see another human being in that condition. It will never be easy to watch someone's life come to an end. 

I have often worried how I will keep a healthy balance of emotions as I go on in my medical career. How do I keep my empathy and compassion without letting them consume and cloud my medical ability and my life outside of medicine? How do I not get weighed down by the unhappy outcomes without becoming numb to them?

I got the chance to ask my attending this question after one of our recent codes. He explained to me that unfortunately many people tend to take life for granted until it is too late. People may have regrets about the way they lived: goals left unachieved, dreams remaining just dreams, truths never told. He said that as physicians and caretakers we have the extreme privilege of witnessing moments of mortality on a daily basis. We see lives ended too soon and unexpectedly. We know to not take life for granted. 

She was my patient. I will have many many other patients. I will lose many other patients. As a physician, I will see moments of pure despair and pure hope. But I know now that I can take all of the sadness I see and rather than let it weigh me down, let it be my reminder to keep going: to keep enjoying life, working hard, and not take anything for granted.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New Music for the Summer


I have come out on the other side of step 1 of my board exams.. also known as medical student hell, and started actual rotations. Um, whoa. I'm still in the midst of processing boards, moving out of Philadelphia for the next year and starting working in the hospital (in Psych!), but hopefully I will share some random, funny stories and maybe even a little insight in the next few months.

In the meantime, it's summer, and I figure everyone can always use some new summer jams so I wanted to share my favorite recent discoveries that have been clogging up my spotify playlists, focusing mainly on some kick-ass women (does anyone else find it easier to curse in writing than speaking?).

I'll start off  with the album that I would pick if I could only listen to one for the whole summer:

"California Nights" - Best Coast

Best Coast has made a few albums reminiscent of surfer 1960's meets girl rock, but their new album, California Nights, also has a 90's alternative feel.

The songs progress how I imagine a day in the California sun would; from the steady, upbeat, let's-get-this-day-started "Feeling Ok", through the mellow, sunset-vibes of "California Nights", all the way to the restless end of the night with "Sleep Won't Ever Come".

"My Love is Cool" - Wolf Alice

If you are more of a London grunge-rock kind of person, then look no further than Wolf Alice. This is a band that has been getting a lot of love lately, I'm just sad I didn't jump on the bandwagon sooner!

Perfect blend of rock, alternative, edge, and cheekiness.

"Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit" - Courtney Barnett

Speaking of cheek, Australian rocker Courtney Barnett has tons. I can't help giggling as I listen to her fun and intelligent lyrics.

 (Apologies for the clown)

"If I Was" - The Staves

I first came across this trio of sisters a few years ago with their debut EP, "Mexico", but then they kind of fell off my radar unfortunately.  But they once again have my full attention with this new album, produced by Justin Vernon. The harmonies and melodies are stripped down and insanely gorgeous.

Live Cover of "I'm on Fire" - not on the album but had to share

After a long day of playing out in the sun, listen to this under the stars, next to a fire, maybe with some s'mores. Definitely with s'mores.

I know I said I was all about this ladies this post but I would feel incredibly selfish if I didn't share these other two new favorites...

"Coming Home" - Leon Bridges

You may listen to this album and think it was recorded in the 50's or 60's with the likes of Sam Cooke but I assure you it was only released a month ago.

Leon Bridges nails the 60's soul, blues vibe while still keeping his own modern twist. This album makes me so happy.

Moon Taxi

This  Brooklyn-based indie alternative band was a lucky discovery when I was at Governor's Ball last month (speaking of, Florence + The Machine: holy cow that woman is not human). None of us had heard of them before but we happened to catch them while waiting for the next set that we were planning on seeing- instantly hooked!

Their 2013 album "Mountains Beaches Cities" is addicting so I'm really looking forward to their upcoming release!

Okay, back to reading about personality disorders! Feel free to let me know what music you've been loving this summer!

Also this:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New New Music, Yay!

It's been so long since I wrote a music post. Too long. But that is about to change because lately I have been so excited by some new bands that I have come across and really really really want to share.

First, let me preface this post by saying that I've noticed a subtle shift in some of my music choices as of late. I am still a full on folk, blues, rock, alternative, indie-folk, etc. kinda girl but the past few months I've been listening to a lot more indie-electronic-ish type music. A girl has to stay awake while studying the brain, ya feel me?


Well, check out some of these bands and maybe you'll understand.

First up: Misterwives

I first heard the single, Reflections, about a year ago, and ever since the EP has been on heavy rotation for me. So infectiously fun and awesome. I may or may not have danced down the sidewalk while listening and walking home from school (shhhhh!). Next week, their first full-length LP will be released, and I can't wait!

Listen. Listen now I say.

 And, then, you know, just because, Valentine's Day:

Catfish & The Bottlemen

Going back to some good ol' British rock music. Or I guess, technically Welsh rock music? Doesn't sound as cool I think. But these guys are so darn cool. They are starting to gain quite a following and are playing a sold out show in Philly this week (damn you med school). Their debut album has also been on constant rotation for me. In particularly, the song below helped me survive studying for my latest Neuro exam, so I thought the music video was pretty ironic when I came across it...


Speaking of music that has been helping me survive studying lately: Pvris. Sometimes, you just need some angry girl rock music. Pvris is certainly a fresh new take on that: equal parts rock, electronic, pop, and bad-ass.

The Districts

Some more repeat-worthy rock music (with a bit of a folk-y touch if you listen close). But this time a little bit more local. Lititiz, PA? Anyone? Bueller?
Anyway, their first full-length LP dropped this week and I was beyond thrilled. I will definitely be catching these guys at the Governor's Ball in a few months.

Oh, yeah, I'm going to the Governor's Ball. To celebrate being done with board exams. Boom.

St. Paul and The Broken Bones

Moving from rock to some good old (new) blues and soul music. These guys will take you back to a different time. A time you won't want to leave as long as the music is this soulful.

Caught a Ghost

I first came across these guys because of their cover songs (Sam Cooke, Madonna, AND Rilo Kiley?! Coolest covers ever), but when I listened to their original songs, I was even more hooked. Think Fitz & the Tantrums but, dare I say, better? More soulful goodness. But with an extra spin.


More electro-pop-ness. This duo will have you bouncing up and down in your chair. Not that I've done that. No sir.


Violents is a series of EPs featuring different female vocalists (Annie Williams, Olga of Kye Kye, and Stacy DuPree of Eisley) and music and lyrics by Jeremy Larsen of Sucre. These lyrics are some of the most beautiful I've heard in recent memory and these ladies have gorgeous voices that take them to a whole other level.


Here is another electro-pop duo but these guys are brother and sister and make music that is moody and a little dark but soothing all at the same time. If you are a fan of Banks (which if you are not, there is something wrong with you), you will probably like these songs as well.


Over the past few months I've been looking forward to each new song from this indie rock group, slowly leading up to their first LP release, which is next week! Each song is a little different, but together they work so well and just make me plain happy.

Last, but certainly not least: The New Basement Tapes

I'm just going to quote Wikipedia on this one:

"Produced by T Bone Burnett, The New Basement Tapes is a collective of musicians—Elvis CostelloRhiannon Giddens,Taylor GoldsmithJim James and Marcus Mumford. Lost on the River consists of a series of tracks based on recently uncovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967"

It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Going Pink, or, Why I Decided to No Longer Give a Damn

I went pink.

I think it's safe to say I shocked some people with this decision, including myself.

Anytime I have seen other girls with "pink ombre" hair or a similar colored hair style, I always thought it was pretty, but even more so, I found it playful, whimsical, and light-hearted...happy even. And if you know me pretty well, hopefully you can agree that my personality may also fit that description, or at least I try to remember to keep as light-hearted a perspective as a 20-something girl in medical school can have (spoiler: it's kind of difficult at times).

But I was always too nervous to stray from my normal blonde hair for fear of being viewed as unprofessional, wild, or rebellious, because that seems to be the general stereotype for any color of hair that isn't brunette, blonde, black, or red... and I don't mean cherry red. And as someone who wanted to get into medical school, be taken seriously, and viewed as being responsible, then having pink hair was out of the question.

This blog post is actually not about stereotypes or breaking stereotypes, etc. That is a much more complicated topic for a different time. Especially in the medical world. In fact, I have to admit that part of my decision was made on the basis that come July when I start hospital rotations, pink hair will be viewed as a big no-no.

This post is actually about being true to yourself, other people's opinions be damned.

After spending way too much time and effort worrying about what other people thought about how I acted, how I looked, and what I said, I decided to just not care so much any more and do what makes me happy. So I dyed (part of) my hair pink.

It may not fit with the quiet, non-cursing (other than my use of the word "damn" above), med student that many people see, but it's just another way for me to show my inner self on the outside. It may be a self that not everyone knows and even one that I'm still learning about, but it's still just me, and I make no apologies or excuses for that.

So the next time you second guess doing something that will make you happy because you are afraid of what other people may think: don't. Be a little bold and dye your hair pink.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Not Succeeding Does Not Equal Failing

We've all been there.

You set a goal for yourself: something as simple as completing a daily task, or something on a larger, more important scale, like getting in to medical school.

And when we achieve those goals, there is always that flying-high, sense of accomplishment. Obviously, things like getting accepted to school or a job promotion have a much bigger sense of fulfillment than doing your laundry, but no matter how big or small, when we are able to complete a challenge that we set ourselves there is a feeling of victory and success.

Take that world: I passed my exam/got my dream job/washed the dishes.

Unfortunately, this means that when things don't go how we planned or hoped they would, those nagging feelings of self-doubt tend to pop up. You start listening to those voices in the back of your head that say you're a failure, you're not good enough. And it can be very difficult to make those thoughts shut-up and go away.

I'm hoping that this is not necessarily how everyone feels, but it's a pattern I've increasingly noticed in my medical school bubble and our over-achieving generation, thanks in part to constantly comparing ourselves to others via social media. It's also something that I've struggled with a lot myself, more so than ever when I was applying to a medical school

The first time I applied to school, I was put on the wait list and ultimately was not accepted. To me, that meant that I was a complete and utter failure, that I was not as good or as smart as my peers, and it's still hard to rid myself of that sense of shame I felt. Even admitting it here is still incredibly difficult.

When I did finally accept that maybe not getting in to medical school did not mean that I was a failure, I got my acceptance letter.  But in an environment of exams, boards, and residency applications with other like-minded goal-oriented people, it's sometimes difficult to remember to be objective and positive about goals.

Ironically, my most recent struggle with this concept was not at all related to school or medicine. Last year I set myself the goal of running my first half-marathon, which I did, and went on to run two more. So, of course, this year I decided to challenge myself to run a full marathon.

If you've ever run a marathon or a half-marathon then you know it takes time to build up your mileage in order to help prevent injury. I was a little busy this summer and so was not able to put in the time training that I  would have liked. Then, of course, I jumped right back in to school, complete with a brand new grueling schedule. Despite all of this, I was still determined to run a full marathon come November. But trying to find the necessary amount of time to run became stressful, which kind of defeats the purpose. My body and muscles were also not being cooperative and I began to realize that if I pushed myself as quickly I needed to in order to catch up with training, there was a good chance I would injure myself. Despite all of this, it still took me two months to finally admit to myself that I would not be running a marathon this year.

Even though I knew that not running the race would actually be better for me both mentally and physically, I couldn't admit it because, to me, it would have meant that I failed. But I know now that I didn't. I am doing what is best for me right now and simply putting a bit of a hold on running a marathon. Just because I didn't achieve my goal, does not mean that I failed.

This long, personal story is my way of saying that even if you don't succeed at every goal you have set yourself, if you are not exactly where you wanted to be at this point in your life, you have not failed. Plans change, adjustments must be made, the unexpected happens... nothing ever goes exactly as we would like it. Every triumph (and, yes, laundry counts in my book) is a success, and every setback is a lesson learned.

So the next time you feel like you "failed" at something, remember that just because you did not succeed, that does not mean you failed. As long as you don't let it hold you back, or you learn something from it, well, then that's a win in my book.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Broken Hearts in India

This is Sam.

Sam is a little under the age of 3 and lives in Kodaikanal, in the mountains of southern India. Like many of the other local families, Sam's parents probably make less than $1.50 a day... which has to go a long way towards housing, food, clothing, water, and other necessities for the whole family.

Sam spends his days at one of the creches along with many of the other 3-5 year olds in the community.  Here, he is provided with high-calorie meals, multivitamins, and regular health checks in addition to the lessons taught by the teachers and the opportunity to play with other kids.

Unfortunately, Sam doesn't get much of a chance to play with the other children at the creche or participate in some of the activities. 

That's because Sam was born with multiple ventricular septal defects, meaning he has several holes in his heart. 

 Sam stole my heart my very first day at the creche before I even knew about his condition.

He was an adorable, quiet, very small boy in an inside-out red sweater who seemed a little sad and was keeping mainly to himself. I couldn't figure out why he wasn't participating in the activities with the other kids. Then, when the doctor came for the weekly health checks I learned about Sam's congenital heart defect.

I listened to his heart and heard the loudest, most obvious murmur I have yet to hear, distinctly hearing the whooshing of the blood being shunted from one side of the heart to the other through the holes. The oxygen-rich blood in the left side of the heart goes through the holes back to the right side of the heart and mixes with the deoxygenated blood. This puts an enormous strain on the heart and lungs. In order to try to compensate, his heart has become enlarged and pumps at a much faster rate than normal. He also has pulmonary hypertension, which means that breathing is not easy for him, and he must take a host of daily medications in order to combat his heart failure (including digoxin and furosemide for the medical people who are reading this).

Despite how young he is, Sam is by no means oblivious to his condition and is an extremely smart little boy. He doesn't play with the other kids because he knows that just a little bit of activity is too much for his heart to handle. We could tell that there were some days when he felt worse or was more sad. One week he would sit and play, shyly smiling and laughing as I showed him pictures of my dog, the next week we couldn't get him to smile despite all of our best efforts.

All of the volunteers felt invested in Sam's case and we wanted to know what was going to happen to him.VSDs are actually one of the more common congenital heart defects but can often close on their own with time or conservative treatment based on how large they are. In cases such as Sam's where the VSD results in pulmonary hypertension and heart failure and is too large to close on it's own, surgical intervention is required to close the holes.

While open-heart surgery on a young child is a big deal in any part of the world, finding the means to have the surgery done is not much of a hardship in the US and other developed countries. This is not the case in Kodaikanal. The doctor informed us that for now they were waiting to see if his condition improved and if he became stronger for surgery, but even if that was the case, the resources and funds that he would need were just not available. He told us that Sam would most likely not live to be a teenager.

I struggled in that moment, feeling overwhelmed by so many emotions: frustration, sadness, anger, gratitude, determination...

Here was this sweet little boy, who should have his whole life in front of him, but because he was born in a part of the world that has less opportunities than where I was born, he isn't going to get the chance to live a full life.

Saying goodbye to him my last day at the creche was a very difficult moment, and my heart still breaks every time I think about Sam, but he is my reminder for all of the reasons I want to be a doctor.

In those moments when it doesn't seem worth it, and I lose sight of why I am doing this, I'm going to remember Sam and keep working towards a world where all children, no matter where they live, have access to the care that they need.

If you would like to also help make steps towards my goal, please consider donating to the organization that I volunteered with so they can continue offering medical care and nutrition to underserved kids all over the world: