Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April Volunteering

So, we have come to the end of this semester, and the end of the school year. 
This year has been really a fascinating and challenging period. I thought that I had a moderate grasp of pharmacology just from paramedic level education, but after this program I feel like my knowledge base has expanded profoundly from where it was just one year ago. 
I feel much more knowledgable and much more prepared to start medical school next month! Not only because I have a more in-depth knowledge of this one piece of the medical curriculum, but because I feel like I've learned significantly more about the approach to studying for medical school material. The block format, with intensive periods devoted to understanding the minutiae of organ systems and their function, feels much more accessible as a result of the learning expectations of the past 10 or so months. I can't help but feel that having a solid grade from the first semester looked really appealing on paper when submitted with the rest of my application to medical schools, as I was moved from the waitlist to the acceptance list about a week after sending my grades in to the University of Miami School of Medicine. I can't wait to get started in the MD/MPH track there. 

Anyways, to volunteering: in April, I've started to return to my previous levels of physical ability. As a result of spending a good deal of time in physical therapy, I'm able to use my left arm fairly well, but I'm still not quite up to full strength. Even so, I've really been able to get out and do more consistent needle exchange hours. We've had a weekly drop in on fridays for about 3-4 hours, pretty standard distribution of syringes, naloxone and other safer injection supplies. A physician at UM just started a needle exchange in Miami, so I'm really excited to bring some of what I've learned over there and get involved! 

Dr. Clarkson, Dr. Katakam and everyone else, thank you so much for your expertise, your time and attention to detail, and your hard work! I've learned so much from all of you and appreciate y'all for everything I've gotten out of this program. It's been really great to go through this process. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

March Volunteering

(This was saved in draft!! I'm so sorry!)

March has been a challenging month for me. I had surgery on my left shoulder last month, the recovery for which has been surprisingly difficult. Did you know that you can't wash dishes effectively with one hand? And typing, driving, biking, dressing etc, anything that requires two hands has been either shockingly challenging to impossible. It's really messed up my sense of time, as most everything takes twice as long if not longer to get done. Anyway, despite this, I've been still volunteering as much as I can with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network, going to drop-ins and distributing syringes and other clean injection supplies, as well as naloxone and condoms. It's helpful to be able to be in a stationary place and have program participants come to me, rather than the other way around lately. I've had a weekly drop in, about 2-3 hours each.

More importantly- we took the NBME this month, which actually felt pretty reasonable in terms of how challenging it was. There were very few questions that I had no idea about, and the vast majority seemed totally appropriate for what we've been taught this year. It felt really exciting and relieving to get an exam at the shelf level that was not terrifying! It makes me feel a lot more confident as I'm preparing to start medical school later this year.

Volunteer Hours this month: 10

Total Volunteer hours to date: 22

Saturday, March 4, 2017


As I've been studying for the NBME shelf exam, I've been really excited at how questions that would have seemed extremely difficult only last year make sense because I have a much more broad knowledge of medications, mechanisms of action, and pharmacokinetics/dynamics. Although there's a lot I need to brush up on, I feel like I'm doing a lot more review than learning new material at this point. It feels really good to be aware of a broadened knowledge base.
In mid-February I had surgery on my left shoulder, and I've had a very difficult time getting around since then. Typing is difficult and painful, the healing process is obnoxiously slow and because I'm still out of work and have had to figure out my days in the context of what hurts the least, I'm struggling a little to keep my days organized in the past two weeks. One thing that I really appreciated about the surgery and recovery was understanding the peri-operative medications being used at the time, and following the surgery I was sent home with a local anesthetic pump to function as a nerve block in my shoulder to keep the pain down as much as possible. That in particular was very cool.
Because of the surgery my volunteering has been limited. I was only able to put on one syringe exchange drop in hours, but it was pretty standard fare- distributing syringes and naloxone, discussing wound care, and teaching how to recognize and treat overdoses.

volunteering time- 4 hours

Friday, February 3, 2017

January Volunteering

It was definitely hard coming back to New Orleans after a nice break which I spent in the Everglades camping, canoeing, and hiking. It was so beautiful! I'd never been there before and was just amazed at the incredible natural beauty and the diverse wildlife. 

But, I'm back, and it's been an interesting month. I have really great news- I was accepted the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for their 4 year MD MPH program, where I'll start in June. Suddenly a lot of the pressure is off my shoulders for this program, and I feel like I can learn at a slightly more leisurely pace rather than studying constantly, cramming and anxiously clicking the "end exam" button and looking at my score through squinted eyes. As a result, I feel like I can pay more attention to the larger scope of material in class rather than focus on high value tested topics, and focus on volunteering as well. While Dr. Zhang wasn't able to host any SMNO walks due to his busy residency schedule, I worked with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network several times this month. I coordinated several syringe exchanges, taught people who use injection drugs/PWID (this is the update from a recent term IDU or injection drug user) how to recognize overdose and use naloxone through a NOHD naloxone distribution grant, and talked to people about their options for utilizing suboxone as a tool to decrease or end injection drug use. To this end, I helped refer clients to some of the suboxone prescribing physicians in NOLA. It really seems like the local political climate is becoming just a little more humane towards people who use injection drugs, although with the nominee for the us attorney general I'm sincerely worried about any advancement in humane, effective and evidence based public health minded national policy regarding this vulnerable patient population.

January volunteering- four 2-hour drop ins, 8 hours total.