Sunday, September 20, 2015

Running around (literally)

Dental bits: 
1. Your bone starts to resorb once teeth are lost. Wearing dentures (and applying constant pressure) adds to this resorption. This is why we encourage patients to get root canals to save the teeth or get implants.
2. If you don't have enough bone, you can't place implants. Think of bone as the foundation for implants!

All of a sudden, the weather's become gorgeous. The heat in the air is gone and Philadelphia evenings hold the perfect running weather. Philadelphia is gearing up for the upcoming Pope Francis visit! Penn is officially closed on Friday but everyone is nervous about Monday too. The traffic is being rerouted all over the city (as far west as 38th street!) and people are told to prep for the weekend as if for hurricanes/snow emergencies.

Look at this new stage! Mark Wahlberg is hosting the concert on Saturday. Unexpected choice to say the least...

The essentials lined up on Chestnut St. 

After an entire summer of studying for the boards and seeing patients 3.5 days/week, I had crazy back pain when I first got to Botswana. I couldn't even do some of the moves in Zumba! I've been determined to move around more and enjoy the beautiful Philadelphia nature before I (possibly) move next year. Besides, it is SUCH a luxury to be running around outdoors- with music, in the dark, along spontaneous routes- none of which I could do safely in Botswana.

Inspired by our Zumba song: "Whistle "While You Work It", I'm trying to have more fun. For example, one day I went on a hunt around the dental school to find triple trays. These trays which eliminate the need to take three impressions: PVS final impression, bite registration, and counter model. We don't have any in our regular clinics, so after peeking my head into several clinics, I was super tickled when I finally found one. We ended up not using it (plastic is too flexible), but this mini treasure hunt was super fun.

I will say: fourth year has been pretty crazy so far. I've been busier time-wise my first two years of dental school. But there are tons of things to keep track of: residency deadlines, licensing exams, competency exams, patient things, that are solely my responsibility. I can't turn to my classmate and ask when X is due... because everything is different for everyone. For example, my residency app deadlines are just coming up while my classmates have either gotten accepted (!!!) or are interviewing right now.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Botswana recap 1: everyday life.

I'm thankful for this long weekend. I got to sleep in, stock up my fridge, and have a little breather before this semester begins in full throttle. It's a strange feeling knowing I'm nine months away from graduation. A lot is going to happen in those nine months though: residency interviews, ADEX NERBS, Match day!

First, the dental bits in my life:
1. How many times can you take a PVS impression of the same prep? I believe I set a new record for number of impressions taken last week. I'm extremely lucky to have a teacher who holds me to a high standards and lets me fail... all the while having my back.
2. The importance of 47 degrees: My biggest role in operating theatre was irrigation with saline solution. Pronounced sah-LINE in Botswana. As I learned during studying for boards, bone starts to necrotize at 47 degrees, making the use of irrigation essential during drills.

About my dental externship: I'm still processing my Botswana experience. The dental clinic, my travels, patients and surgeries I saw, HIV-related pathologies, being different from everyone else, life without wifi or hot water...  I wrote briefly before here about my life in Botswana, but now I have pictures whoop!

I stayed in the Penn flats- hosted through a partnership between UPenn and University of Botswana. The house also houses medical students doing elective internal medicine rotations, residents working in various specialty clinics, and physicians. For the majority of my time, there were six students staying in one unit, with various doctors going in and out of the other unit. This entire unit sits on a "plot" (addresses are given as plot numbers) and surrounded by a wall with an electric fence.

The students were amazing: adventurous, positive, compassionate, open-minded... Best part of my experience was living with the students going through similar experience and emotions. Oh! And Zumba in the evenings at the school across the street.

The final E's are long in Setswana, making Pilane "pill-LAH-ni" and Gaborone "Hah-bo-RO-ni".

Princess Marina Hospital was a 15 minute walk from our flats. Most days I was at the hospital by 7:30AM. On way to the hospital was Main Mall, a sprawling strip mall with an outdoor market. Main Mall also had the grocery store Spar, Nando's (a fast food chicken place every Motswana was obsessed with!), and cheap lunch vendor options.

This is inside Spar. Botswana's official language is English. People mix up Setswana and English in conversation, but newspapers and hospital documents were in English. Grocery stores had everything an American could want, including peanut butter, yogurt, and TUBS of vaseline. Vaseline is the chapstick in Botswana. There were tons of produce: tiny apples, cheap avocados (less than 50 cents each), and oranges/nectarines/naartjies. Much more than I expected for a country in drought.

Botswana has great beef: this is Seswaa, the traditional marinated dish. 

The country is in a severe drought, with the dam at 4-5% of full capacity as of this summer. The med students and I went running at the yacht club on Wednesdays where the lake is now a dry dusty bowl.

We often didn't leave the flats after dark. As foreigners we definitely stood out and attracted a lot of attention. We had a handful of stories about people getting mugged after dark, getting phones and cash stolen. Instead, we stayed inside to cook (or went out to dinners in a cab), read (there were tons of books around the flats), and sleep at 9PM. On weekends I traveled- which is another post altogether- but during the days, especially if the power was out, I went to sleep when the sun went down. On the days clinic ended early, I explored places around Gaborone, including this cute outdoor coffee shop in the Village named after Alexander McCall Smith's book: No. 1 Ladies Coffee House. I got the red latte with rooibos tea, another extremely popular Botswana thing.

This photo is the last one that got uploaded before my phone was stolen. A friend from Baylor med (thanks Kathryn for connecting us!!!) and I went to Sanita's, a nursery with beautiful greens and yummy lunches. The place reminded me of my other favorite nursery: Tiny Boxwoods in Houston. I almost cried upon seeing so much greenery in one place, because rest of Gaborone is dusty, cactus-ey, and lawn-less.

It is bizarre and strange to be home in Philadelphia writing this, because I can walk around at night, I don't attract stares everywhere I go, and I'm spending dollars. Botswana's currency is called Pula, which tellingly means rain. Sometimes the entire August feels like a dream then I remember waking up to the sunlight coming in through the curtains, roosters crowing in the background, the metal gate to our flats clanking open and shut...

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.