First Semester of Grad School


My first semester of graduate courses is in full force. I’m trying to figure out the best way to keep up with the demanding material in both physiology & biochemistry. There was a deceptive “slow pace” in the beginning when we reviewed content from undergrad. Soon I realized that one physiology lecture could take several days to digest in enough detail to write a thoughtful essay reply on a test. Our first exam consisted of two packets that felt so heavy in my hands I wanted to panic. I took a deep breath before starting, and began with questions on the last page. I like to do this when it is an option. Otherwise I feel like I’m “on pace” with the people next to me, and seeing them flip through their pages more quickly than me gives me anxiety. Skipping around allows me to answer the questions in the order I feel like answering them and disconnect from the people around me. This program will definitely help me develop stamina for future exams. My first exam was three hours of writing, and my hand needed recovery time afterward. We covered basic transport properties of cells, action potentials, muscle contraction, the endocrine system, blood, and immunology. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to spend time on the HPA axis (it wasn’t mentioned) or more time on mechanisms of cytokine signaling. Hoping to spend more time exploring them in other classes.

I’m still working as an emergency department scribe. Each shift, I work closely with a physician to document the discourse of their evaluation with patients. It helps me frame what I’m learning in my courses with a clinical setting. Even after a year, I still learn something new every shift. We had a patient that was symptomatic for high glucose the night before I learned about the receptor that regulates insulation secretion, a K(ATP) sensitive channel. The whole lecture was fascinating to me, because I knew the grave consequences of dysfunction in the patient I had met the night before. It helps me stay motivated & interested in our content.

Kevin Seventh Grade |
Fall in Ohio |

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m really glad that I spent the summer taking both organic chemistry and biochemistry. It was painful, but it is helping me keep up with biochemistry in a way that I didn’t think would be possible. I also think of a podcast episode I listened to recently about Dr. Richard Carmona, (session 299 of the Premed Years). He served as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States. He was a non-traditional medical student, and noted that his military experience helped him develop consistency with studying. I am not prior service, but my schedule revolves around Kevin’s school schedule. I am tethered to the pattern of dropping him off and picking him up each day. This means that sometimes I am limited in my availability, but often have extra hours to devote to studying persistently before and after lectures. Not having recitation or chemistry lab is also helping me have time to focus on lecture content. This is the first semester, in a long time, where I’ve been “allowed” to wear sandals almost any day (since I’m rarely in a lab). I feel delightfully rebellious.

Donuts with Dad |

Damian is getting adjusted to his new school in third grade and doing really well. He announced he was “top banana” this week (sort of like student of the month- but a cooler name?). Even though I knew he’d be adaptable, it’s a relief to see it playing out with my eyes. He recently told me about their Donuts with Dad breakfast, and asked me to come (since his dad lives too far away). The two of us were an anomaly in a sea of hundreds of dads. We saw two other moms, and one of them said she was glad she wasn’t the only one. Damian was excited as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have me there.

Because it is.

I try to keep thinking that this graduate program is a chance to pursue topics I love + need to work on before medical school. In the mean time, I also get to slip out to attend breakfasts, orchestra concerts, and enjoy a daily close connection with my sons. We can have quiet evenings playing DINO-opoly or riding bikes. People have asked me why I didn’t apply last cycle and try to get in medical school sooner, but part of my plan was to have this time with my sons before I commit to a more rigorous schedule. This is their only childhood and it’s important for me to be present for it. My gratitude for this privilege gets me through the pressure of playing dual parenting roles for my sons while working to become a physician.

Kevin has been messing with me for a long time for “only watching the Harry Potter movies and not finishing the books.” I’m on book four and slowly slowly making my way through them. I have to leave it at my desk at school when I know I need to focus on studying. Today is special because it’s a rare evening to bring The Goblet of Fire home & indulge in reading without guilt since we were just tested in all my classes. Crossing my fingers it will rain.

It is likely I will spend more time sleeping than reading.