Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dumela from Botswana! The high's and low's

I wish I were writing with better news, but it's the afternoon and I have calmed down a bit. My stuff has been stolen... I'll save the chilling details. After spending all morning filing a police report and breathing deep, emailing people, and crying some more, I'm still here. In Gaborone, in Botswana.

Besides this incident, life in the dusty Gaborone winter is great. I live in the Penn flats with other Penn med students working in various hospitals. Zumba in the evenings, "seswaa" (braised beef in traditional Gaborone style) with South African wine, running in the dirt trails at the completely dried-out yacht club, having "sundowners" watching the sunset then the stars... Sometimes we don't have electricity or power in the evenings but even this I try to see as a unique experience (baby wipe showers, anyone?).

During the weekdays as part of my Penn dental externship, I work at Princess Marina Hospital, a government hospital in Gaborone 15 minutes walk away from our flats. I follow the oral surgeons on our rounds, and go into surgery in the "operating theatre". There is currently no dental school in Botswana so all our dentists have been trained abroad. I saw my first cleft lip repair in my first week!

English is the official language of Botswana so people speak English albeit using British terms such as "chips" for French fries. It's winter here but during the daytime, sun feels amazing even in shorts and a T-shirt. If I had my phone I'd have a photo here.

Anyway, just wanted to peek in and say hello so my blog isn't completely abandoned. I love that dentistry is relevant in all corners of the world. Meeting others interested in global healthcare and specifically Africa has been amazing. I've had tons of time to think, relax, eat good food... all in all I'm doing great, considering. (Did I really write that? Because two hours ago I was a mess.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

aisle or window?

In a few hours, I'll be well on my way to Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. Botswana is right above South Africa (yes it'll be winter) and the sand is red there (says the Internet). I am excited to smell the air and taste the foods, two senses that can't be delighted via online photos. And you know the excitement is real when my emoji game goes a little overboard.

Over the years, I've gone from preferring window to aisle. It might be my friend Kathryn whose deep fear of deep vein thrombosis inspired my own... but I get so angsty on airplanes, especially when flying alone. I need to get up and walk around.

The bright-line rule in packing for this trip: Don't bring anything I'd be devastated about losing. Leave anything I could buy in Botswana. 

I went into dental school today to run some errands and ran into Dave! Who told me that his beau asked him this: "why are you so cranky all the time?" We laughed and agreed that every person dating a dental student might wonder that.

I am SO EXCITED to see dentistry in Botswana (there's currently no dental schools in Botswana), dental health of the people there, and fun dental culture bits (like in Korea how every toothpaste has bamboo salt). My flight itinerary is a little insane... so I won't be in Botswana until Sunday afternoon (gulp). Until then, beautiful peoples, please have a great week of orientation/ back-to-school/ rotations/ work/ camp etc.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Studying for the NBDE Part 2

NBDE Part 2. It's a two-day exam with a total of 500 questions in 10.5 hours. Now that clinic is over, my main focus is studying for & passing the boards. Some of my classmates took the exam in our final weeks of clinic, but I gave myself the weekend to study after clinic ended. My exam will be Tuesday and Wednesday, then I'm flying out on Friday (yay!). 

I like to pack my bag for the entire day and hop from place to place with study breaks in between (CVS run, grabbing iced coffee etc). Thankfully Penn has beautiful study spaces (that are open in the summer!) with huge tables, not to mention that our dental school is technically open 24/7. On Saturday, I packed a little too much and quickly learned my lesson. The subtle hills of West Philadelphia are mountains when you're carrying fifteen pounds of books-laptop-notes...

My care package arrived just in time to brighten up my studying! Chocolate from Mark (note written in his characteristic stick-pile handwriting) and this one mechanical pencil from dad... The lead comes out when you shake it! We're easily amused.

Studying for boards has been a wonderful process of polishing up what I already know. For example, dental materials becomes much more interesting after you've used them! Now I know the reasons for using certain cements for specific restorations. My weaknesses are very clear on practice tests: pharmacology and oral pathology. More practice tests & First Aid for this last final stretch.

If you're studying for your boards- Part 1, Part 2, or USMLE steps- best of luck! I was told that the hardest thing about my last year of dental school will be juggling the many projects, coming in sequence month after month: Boards. Residency app's. Mock mannequin, then real mannequin exam. (All the while traveling for interviews), Screening for NERB then actual NERB, MATCH DAY, CCE's, points and requirements for graduation. Then hey, May has arrived.

One day at a time.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

exciting & eventful end to summer session

I woke up yesterday with a big smile. Last day of summer session, last day before I go on vacation. All day long, I kept announcing to everyone (as if they did not know already!!!) "today's the last day!" And later, recalling this week's events to Bri: "I can't believe I made it!"...

Dental school couldn't let me go without one last ba-bam. I had my first pulp exposure. This is the event every dental student fears: chasing the decay until the pulp is exposed. It's the Pandora's box that opens up to fun possibilities like root canal therapy, crown lengthening, extraction... But no demon jumped out at me- in fact, we had no bleeding.

I also got a concussion contusion and had to have Lan chaperone me to Student Health clinic. Not my first time crying in clinic... Sometimes all I can is laugh at the ridiculous things that happen to me.

Third is that my crowns did not fit. This is the first time that something from the dental lab didn't fit in the patient's mouth. We decided to send it back to the lab to be re-made. This is also where I recognize what I don't know: my faculty took one look and said, "we're sending it back." Recognizing when things can be fixed chairside versus re-made in the lab, that comes from experience.

Funny tidbit: when I went to the clinic to get my head checked out, the doctor asked me about POINTS. The dental students and their points-obsession, I had to laugh. I did not hit my points goal for the summer (no shirt for Yesle) but gosh I learned so much. I officially have nine months of school left (really eight, since we have winter break and things). I want to welcome criticism, keep a happy attitude, and become a creative problem solver.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Start on: residency applications

I've added a new tag to my labels: Residency applications! I'll be applying to GPR/AEGD programs for the 2016 cycle. I pride myself on having a good grip on this whole dental school application thing but this Sunday evening, I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

I finally decided over the last few weeks: I am going to do a residency program. And commit to it too! The indecision was tiring: I was so set on working straight out of dental school one moment, then nope, definitely doing a residency. Or not. Add to it the fact that I'm not a U.S. citizen, and everything gets a bit more complicated... But this is it. I'm going to do a general practice residency.

Gretchen Rubin has the best stage presence. 

Clarity. Recognizing I want a stress-free externship month. So I'm asking myself to work extra hard this month of July to wrap up residency applications and ace my boards-NBDE-part-II (what a mouthful). Here I'm going to pretend Gretchen Rubin and I are best friends and that she reminded me about the Strategy of Clarity over lunch.

The whole point of working hard is to have fun, right? After all, all we have are relationships. This weekend I got to meet a newborn baby full of hair (most darling eyes), watch Inside Out with the boyfriend (survived without caffeine for the 10PM show!), and laugh over pizza with new/old friends. Being able to work hard in one moment so when I'm with loved ones, I'm able to fully embrace it (sans guilt and constant time-watching). Another moment of clarity.