Tag Archive | stony brook

First Performance

Wednesday, March 9, 2011: Stony Brook University, Evening of the Arts

It was a superb showcase of all the talents medical students here at Stony Brook had to offer: music, dance, and art. I was absolutely awed by the variety of talents. I almost felt like a dud that I did not pursue music as a leisurely passion beyond high school. I mean, the last time I played the violin, I still depended on tape, I had trouble counting, I hated sight reading, and I certainly could not play a song by memory and with emotion. But the performances by my fellow classmates were EPIC; they played and sang songs with power and passion. The notes and melodies were crisp, mellifluous, and beautiful. Like I said many times before, if I had a voice like Mariah Carey’s or the charm and diverse instrumental skills of Wang Lee Hom, then yes I would jam in a band and jump in an acappella group like Lymph Notes.

That’s not happening. My larynx is flimsy and I prefer to karaoke to Youtube songs in my room with me, myself and I. So what did I choose to pursue in medical school… DANCE. Yes, dance. With no previous experience ever in ballet, hip hop, tap, modern, belly, or anything, I decided to try DANCE. One of the first activities I took on was Step dancing, and I am part of SB Med’s Stepedius (a play off the stapedius muscle of the inner ear, used to dampen sound waves entering the auditory system).

Preparation for the performance was intense, but worth the time spent away from pulmonary primers. For most of the group (13 of us total), we never did step dancing before. Gee I never even heard of it until I got here. We were set to perform at the end of Act I, and by then, it was almost 9pm. Outside the lecture hall, we congregated. “Relax, take it easy… we can do this!” We all wanted to make this a perfect performance for all the students and faculty members in the audience. We ran through bits of the routine again, making sure our movements were exaggerated and sharp. Even more important, our transitions needed to be solid and clean, because with step dancing, we can easily fall out of sync and sound like a mess. After spinning around and calming the mind, it was show time. Boy, my sympathetics were on fire. Being on stage is intimidating, especially when the lights are blinding you and a whole crowd is watching you!

We got in ready positions, split between both ends of the stage. There were some shoutouts, some waves, smiles, and then we were off. We were off like the choo-choo train. Luckily, our choreography was synchronized for the most part, powerful and just plain awesome. We all put in that extra oomph, solid and unified. At different parts of the routine, we got loud applauses, whistles, and awes. I saw several video camera recordings on, the red light like the devil’s eye staring right through us. The transitions were smooth, the tempo was perfect, and the group effort was evident. For half the routine, I was up front, and when you are that close, you really have the extra pressure to perform optimally. In my head, I was like “Get the slide straight, slide in the right direction… Body roll with attitude… Transformers with sharp angles and that look… Bunny hop with bounce and make sure to slap thighs BEFORE the chest… Remember, AA BBBB A and right into Old School with head bobs and hair swishing… hands clap under for two, then they clap OVER. Connie do not mess this up! Wave those arms wide and clap as hard as you can! Slap those thighs like you’ve never slapped!” Boy did I slap like I never, because my friends later would tell us, “Yeah, we saw how red your hands were.” The bruises on my thighs have just been exacerbated and my hand muscles are tensed like sausages; this is what I call dedication.

Even if there were minor slip-ups, we just took it like champs. Smile and wave! But then again, the audience was hypnotized by the beat of our stomps and slaps and the whole ghetto vibe we were radiating. I mean, come on, we were in solid carpenter boots (I was in glittery black boots that made more noise than any other shoes I had; I was probably reflecting some significant light at the lucky fronties), green scrub bottoms, and black shirts. How amazingly ghetto was that for costumes?!

It honestly felt good to be a performer. It takes courage, commitment, and charm to be under a supernova. After our final pose and exit, people were loving us. We ended Act I with a BANG, the audience all hyped for Act II.  We worked hard for this performance, and it paid off. If we made mistakes, they were negligible compared to the whole dance and the togetherness factor we showed off. Our dear friends and classmates high-fived us, hugged us, and showered us with compliments “Wow, that was amazing… You guys looked great… That sounded incredible… Your hands look so freaking RED … Wow, good job… I love your scrubs!” I was very happy for myself, for my team, for our team leaders, and our supportive school. Stony Brook has changed me so much since I started: I am stronger, more extroverted, more daring to try new things, and more of a leader. I was in awe of how far I have come with finding my comfort zone and expanding from there.

The video footages are floating about my class. Once I find it, I’ll be posting it for posterity’s sake =) Stay tuned for more Stepedius action. Next stop: Asian Extravaganza (plus Bollywood dancing too!) We are doctors who can step it and make noise =)


Donor Remembrance Ceremony

Yesterday was a special day. I was part of the committee organizing a memorial service for families of body donors for our Gross Anatomy class. For months, we put together the program, the logistics, the theme, RSVP, food, decorations, and etc… I was head of the RSVP committee, the main contact for the families and friends of the donors. My partner worked with the Deans and faculty members of our school. All together, so much work went into the management and organization of the whole ceremony. I was glad I played a significant role in the service, specifically acting as the liaison between the class and the families. I had the closest connection with the donors’ families, since everything is kept mostly anonymous for privacy and we will never know who our cadavers were.

The night was a big success. The event took place at the Wang Center, a beautiful center on West Campus. In the back, so much food littered the tables, everything from fruits to muffins and munchkins to Sole Mio garlic knots to amazing bit-sized sandwiches. Yes, it was quite a random assortment of refreshments. The bulk of the ceremony featured speeches, musical performances, and student reflections. And boy do we have a multi-talented class, whether it was acapella singing, the string ensemble, serenades, or guitar jamming. I almost felt, untalented and inadequate. The last time I played my fiddle was over 4 years ago, when I tried out for the orchestras at NYU and got trampled on by better, more sophisticated players. I’ve played in the orchestra since I was a wee child in the 3rd grade and well into high school. Then came college, and I was not that talented anymore. So I gave up and pursued other things, like being pre-med and a crazy runner. However, I was very happy to see the spectrum of talents in our class. People are able to pursue their passions while in medical school, maintaining their sanity and favorite pastimes amidst hours of classes and coffee runs.

I was very happy to see our Dean of the School of Medicine, Dean Kaushansky, make an introductory speech on behalf of our class. Well, I was also happy that I stayed in contact with him throughout the preparation months and got him to speak at our event. He’s a very cheery man, and he really anticipated this event because in his years as a medical student and physician at multiple institutions (UCLA, University of Washington, and recently UCSD) he never experienced a memorial service for donors. I was very glad he was so enthusiastic to make an appearance and share this experience with us. Together, we will be beginning our medical career here at Stony Brook.

The front table displayed beautiful vases decorated with a navy blue ribbon. We decided to make the theme a flower ceremony. Each member of the class walked up with a white carnation and placed the fragile flower into each vase, while Canon In D was playing in the background. It was a memorable and beautiful procession. I was the first to go, since I was up front with the families, so I had to set the example and not be the usual klutz I am.

I was most touched with the families. We made a record since the commencement of this ceremony 6 years ago, with 8-9 families, totaling over 40 members – children, young adults, mothers, fathers, in-laws, husbands, wives, and many loved ones. I introduced myself to everyone of them, sharing my love and appreciation. Looking around the audience, they were truly touched by the performances, the speeches, and our deep gratitude. The ceremony was emotional particularly for them, and I feel for them. At the end, when we presented the vases with overstuffed white carnations as gifts, they expressed their hearts to us. I was moved myself, for their tears were of sadness, longing, and hope. The anatomical gift meant a great deal for us medical and dental students, and we put our soul into this service for the families. I was glad I met them personally, shook their hands, and gave them my biggest smile yet.

Med School Parodies-Love ’em

Wow, giddy med students jamming to 1st year horrors. It’s all true too.

Here’s one:  99 Problems ’til First Year’s Done

And I liked this rendition of Nickelback’s “Rockstar,” except it’s “I Wanna Be an MD.” Don’t we all just want to get the extra 2 letters after our names already… This is a funny one, by far my favorite med school parody.

Looming debt for the next 15 years. Jobless for the next 4 years, with residency turning new doctors into cheap slave labor.

Midterm doomsday countdown. Unshakable post-exam anxiety.

Coffee overdoses.

Netters attached to the abdomen.

Late night library camp-outs and cram sessions.

Awkward patient encounters.

Anastomoses everything.

Silly pneumonics, I mean, mneumonics.

Bizarre diseases. Nitty gritty pathways.

EEeesh~ Don’t get me started on ANATOMY. I do admit, I’ve learned so much, like this…

Pikachu to the bones

Biochem… You Went Down… (Sort of)

My first midterm in med school… DONE, A FINI! I feel almost liberated.
I’ve been ferociously studying for the past week, memorizing endless pathways, inventing silly mneumonics, and drawing out disease-cartoons. I did not think I’d ever see the finish line, because studying is its own endless wheel of misery, like the citric acid cycle- ongoing, perpetual, and complicated. It’s certainly not energy producing, more energy depleting. I’ve had too many cups of milk tea, french vanilla cappucino, and aspartame packets to keep me on overdrive… not healthy. Don’t get me started on the late night snacking, because biologically, you want to be in a fasting state hours before you go to sleep, so your liver breaks down glycogen stores and starts gluconeogenesis, all to maintain blood glucose levels at homeostasis. This way, you’re body is mobilizing fats and carbohydrates stored in the body, breaking them down, and keeping you alive. Let’s say you eat late at night and go to sleep soon after; you’ll end up digesting and storing up the excess carbs and fats into glycogen or fats, thus leading you to gain weight. Plus, it’s also best to top off your overnight fasting state in the morning with a good workout, because you want that extra energy boost to rev up the metabolism and top off the body’s overnight catabolic state.

Anyway, back to life. I woke up at around 8:30 am, ate a hearty breakfast of rice and vegetables, and went to the library. It was around 9:15 am, when the first batch of med students went in to take the exam, and a friend saw me stroll in. She was like, “You’re late!” (I have the problem of either showing up right on time, or actually getting in late, like the other week for the clinical skills simulation =( I plopped down, found a cubicle, and started cramming in cholesterol metabolism, more diseases, and insulin/glucagon regulation. I fell asleep last night on my bed studying (as usual), so I felt overwhelmed with so much to catch up on… By the end of that cram session, I had 3 sheets of cholesterol degredation pathways, flying index cards, and floating rainbow of pathways.

When I went in for the exam, I felt like walking death row. Actually, as my friend said, that’ll be the USMLE Step 1 next year… The computerized midterm mirrors the NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners) for next year, and very similar to the MCATs, minus the fingerprinting. But the proctors are still strict with your ID tag and going to the bathroom. So I finished the 100 question exam, drew so much pathways and arrows on my dry erase board, and went ‘Hallelujah! I’m free (for now).” It was not that bad-pretty straightforward and fair.

As a reward, I hung out with a friend at the mall, somewhere outside the library. I went to the gym since forever and did a 40-minute workout on the elliptical. Then I had dinner with another good friend at my place and watched a World Series game. I’m just glad it was a relaxing day, AFTER the midterm, because tomorrow, the cycle begins again. This time, ANATOMY… a real catastrophe ready to erupt.

August Orientation Week

Finally, the time has come to become a medical student!!! Most of my future doctor friends have started school as early as August. Thanks to Stony Brook, I get a full summer off, post-graduation (though most of the days were spent at summer camp). Well, here’s a run-through of a fun-packed orientation week, where I (hopefully) met friends for life and had an incredible end to a long summer.

Day 1, 8/23 Monday: NUTS AND BOLTS

Dark and early, rainy and blustery, 1st year medical students congregate in a large lecture hall at Stony brook and chow down on breakfast bagels. It’s the one day where we’re all fresh and foreign to each other. No cliques, no enemies, no best friends, and no juicy gossip. It’s the first real chance to swagger up to a complete stranger, smile, and establish rapport without awkwardness. Introductions like these kick-start friendships, and there’s no reason to be shy and sit alone in a corner; we’re all in the same, fresh boat.

There’s a new Dean of Admissions, Dr. Ken Kaushansky, a renowned hematologist. Unfortunately, he could not welcome us in person, so we all had to watch him on an overhead 2-D video. Technology these days, you do not even need to be present anymore. Other introductory presentation took up the bulk of the day: Welcome from Student Affairs, Registration, Public Safety, Student Health Services, Sexual Harassment Prevention (in the workplace), and Financial Planning. My favorite quote from today:

“You really need to try not to be here [at Stony Brook Med]”– Dr. Jordan (Now I really feel like med school’s an adventure).

So I learned a few things about today: 1) Sexual harassment entails intent vs. impact, quid pro quo, and hostile environment, and 2) I’ll be in a financial black hole until I’m retiring! Seriously, with $150,000 medical school debt (even after in-state tuition), $30,000+ in NYU debt, and morbidly meager residency pay, how will I survive? After 4 years of hard-core pre-medicine preparation, a Biochemistry degree, monstrous MCATs, and more years of books, memorization, and sleepless hours, residency has to be a hellish job? Instead of enjoying my “MD” sticker after my name, will I be a medical slave for at least 3 years?? Where’s the paradise in my dream job? Well, the first lesson of the future started that early Monday: I must learn to manage my finances NOW and start saving. Yes, I’m very glad to be in medical student, sporting surgical scrubs/white coat and dissecting my first body, but I’m not too hot on limiting my girly instincts, and that’s shopping!

Day 2, 8/24 Tuesday: More Rain & Lectures

What a sleepy day! Talks on the curriculum, competencies, etc… I’m really looking forward to the grand Clinical Skills Center, where most of my trainings will be before we whip out our skills on live patients. There are simulations (like living, breathing rubber dummies) and standardized patients (actors who get paid to make our jobs living hell). I’ll be excited to sport my fluorescent white coat and new stethoscope.

Day 3, 8/25 Wednesday: Thank You Wireless!

Today, I used my spanking new Macbook Pro, FOB (Fresh Out of the Box) for the ITS session. I spent the bulk of my time surfing Facebook, Gmail, and the usual. When the guy for the “Wireless Networks” session was looking to show us how to log on the HSC net, only to find the whole class glazed over their laptops (a favorable mix of Macs); he said, “With all the laptops out, I guess you guys figured THAT out already.”

I hate how Stony Brook has five different websites-Cbase for curriculum, Pronto for email, SOLAR for university stuff, Noteservice for video lectures and transcripts, The Body Online, etc… too many passwords and user names to keep tabs!!!

Well, for the first day this week, Stony Brook was not being cheap. Lunch was greasy cheese pizza, while we were lured with free goodies to join American Medical Association. I was convinced, but I’m not liking the pizza lunches in the future, speaking it’s medical institution where future doctors are supposed to be fighting against unhealthy foods and rising obesity. Three thumbs up for SBU Medical Center contributing to heart disease in your future physicians. I felt better when I ran around the intramural fields playing frisbee with fellow medical students =)

Jesus and Frisbee

Day 4, 8/26 Thursday: Cedar Beach

What more can I ask for? Sun, waters, breezes, and sand in picturesque Mt. Sinai! Well, really hard rocks on the North Shore. Though I’ve lived on Long Island all my life, I have not had enough beach excursions to be a proud Long-Islander.

Though painfully rocky, I still liked the beach social. Most of the hot day was spent lounging on my pseudo-beach blanket (large, un-green plastic bags work rather well), meeting and chatting with new classmates. When my butt got sore and the sun was coming back down, I played some catch-football (does that even exist?) with a few guys. Oh, people are so nice and fun here =)

Day 5, 8/27 Friday: The End, No Wait… It’s Only the Beginning!

Another casual day: International Opportunities Session, Student Q&A Panel, and Club Organizations. I’m most looking forward to global health opportunities, especially clinical exchange programs in Asia, like Korea. I plan to do some traveling next summer, the only summer off for a long time, since it’s been 8 very long years since I’ve been out the country. I need an overseas excursion, so I’m just itching to travel before getting tied down with slavish residency hours.

I do not think I ever enjoyed shopping like that Friday. That’s because I shopped for my first pair of scrubs, for anatomy though. After orientation, the bookstore was packed with student shoppers in the scrubs section. A group of us just dived right in, matching and mismatching tops and bottoms. It was rather entertaining, but I felt bad for the saleslady fixing up the racks like it was Forever 21 mayhem. But, she was nice with helpful advice and all, speaking she’ll be making off us.

My First Scrubs

I was in a self-induced conundrum, not sure what colors to buy. I did not like dark colors, though it hides stains well. I vowed to get pink scrubs or even sky blue, but I’m only dissecting cadavers and flying flesh is bound to stink up my new outfit. I was also gravitating towards the Hello Kitty scrub top, but it was $21, way too expensive for only anatomy lab. Not exactly suitable for the morbid atmosphere of anatomy lab… In the end, I matched light blue bottoms with a green top. Call me Dr. Jekyll & Hyde. I think our anatomy group will be quite the character with all the clashing colors, perfect for the next Skittles commercial (or not). Man, scrubs feel so comfortable and warm! I wore it around the house like PJs, before they get dirty =D

Last Remarks:  Funny how I’m not one-of-a-kind anymore. I started to introduce myself using my awkwardly funny last name instead of simply “Connie.” There’s another girl with my first name, and another guy with my last name. People who I’ve met, shake my hand and say, “Haven’t I met you already?” I respond, “Uh, no… I’m the other Connie.” So now I just solve the problem and simply say, “I’m Connie Why-You. Nice to meet you.” (Puns intended, I’ve gotten so many jokes about my name since elementary school that I’ve become immune.)

There’s also a bunch of doubles in the class, whether it’s first names, last names, undergraduate schools, etc… it’s almost bizarre and coincidental. And there’s an influx of California students, mostly (of course) Asian kids… There’s roughly 124 students in our class, and I’ve nearly given up meeting EVERYONE. There’s just too many faces and names to remember; worse, there’s doubles. I don’t have enough memory capacity to track the class, even when Stony Brook is a relatively small medical school. Either way, I’m super-excited to be with everyone here, because we’re in this together for the next 4 years. No more competition, it’s all about team-work and lasting friendships now.

My Last Acceptance: Bye Bye Buffalo

Cute Buffalo cartoon =)

The cycle has come to a final close.  I received my last acceptance via snail mail from the first school I interviewed at, University at Buffalo School of Medicine.  I was waitlisted here since way back in October.  I remembered that interview trip as the closest thing to a living vacation, as I road-tripped upstate with my dad for 8 long hours and spent 2 days up there around Niagara Falls.

I remembered being bummed over that initial waitlist, but that was before I had other interviews on the way.  Now, I was faced with a choice again, this time between Stony Brook and Buffalo.  Both may be cheap, because I’m an in-state resident.  However, I have the fate of 4 long years in my hands, and now’s not the time to make a messy decision.

Since it’s already late and more hopefuls on the waitlist waiting, my decision had to be made quickly.  Well, the push and rush of it all pretty much settled my original decision to attend SB.  Here are the pros: very nice campus, very NICE and renovated hospital, incredible sports facility down on Main Campus to satisfy my daily workout sessions, international opportunities (yes! I finally get to study abroad!), maybe a little too conveniently close to home, higher ranking, and the general vibe of the school.  I can get away without a car (for now), because coming back from the city I’m still in walking-everywhere mode.  Now, I also would not like the freezing cold and slushy weather of Buffalo.  There, I unfortunately cannot get away with walking around town without watching my back every few steps.  Besides, I’d hate to be battling wild storms of the century before I start seeing my first patient or fighting insurance companies.

To conclude, I’ve been very grateful for a wonderful year.  I do not regret letting go of Buffalo, as I have fond memories of my first interview and taste of medical school there.  It would have been worthwhile to live independently during medical school.  It would have been another action-packed, life-changing 4 years on my own, far away.  But I think it’s time to return back home to my roots on Long Island, and begin another incredible chapter from here.