Recently in Thuy Nguyen-Tran Category

Keep on Truckin'

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"I am still learning."
-Michelangelo

Yesterday, I leaped out of my coach in excitement when I was able to correctly identify Vancomycin as the proper treatment for MRSA and point out that the actors were wearing their stethoscopes backwards in the medical TV drama "Off the Map". Why was I excited? Because it was thrilling to be able to apply some of my medical knowledge in unexpected ways. I am now a good month into the second semester of med school and once again, I am amazed at the immense amount of things we have learned in such a short amount of time.

This semester includes a physiology, neuroscience, microbiology and immunology, and the continuation of our clinical skills course. In addition, we have a service learning component to our clinical skills course. And this semester has already included dunking our heads in cold water to see how low our heart rate can go (class record is 17 beats per minute by the way) swabbing our noses to learn what microorganisms (my nose is home to Staph aureus in case you were interested), learning all of the finer parts of the brain (and realizing that the infamous Pinky and the Brain song is very inaccurate), and getting a glimpse of what a pediatric exam is like (and realizing how much kids DO NOT LIKE ear exams).

Besides that, I also had the opportunity this past month to attend the 2011 SNMA (Student National Medical Association) Region II Conference in Chicago. The conference was a wonderful experience in which we got to network with other medical students and physicians in the Midwest, bond with classmates (nothing beats a 6 hour car ride complete with Taylor Swift sing-a-longs and copious amounts of candy) and learning about interesting medical topics. Some of the workshops included studying for the board exam, a look at the health care reform, and medicine in correctional facilities. During the conference, some of the discussion topics were familiar to me and some were completely new, which made me realize the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know and have yet to learn....which is a scary but thrilling feeling because it is exciting to know that you are always learning.

New Year, New Semester

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"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
-Hal Borland

First, off Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year is always marked with reflecting on the past year and dreaming about the year to come. For me, there has been a lot to reflect on.

2010 marked several big milestones in my life. I graduated from college and started medical school. Both of these events have put me closer towards my goal of becoming a doctor and both of these events have been met with much excitement and some fear. In particular, medical school has been quite the adventure so far. I have learned so much already in a few short weeks and know that there is much ahead in terms of learning.

Besides learning from textbooks and from classes, I feel like I have learned more about myself. Learned what I am capable of, learned my strengths, learned my weaknesses, and learned what I need to work on. Thus, with the new semester starting in just two days, I have made some resolutions for myself:

1) Exercise more (with the rec center just minutes away...there is no excuse not too)
2) Eat more (and better) (candy and energy drinks are not the best study foods)
3) Sleep more (4 hours a night is not optimal)

One of the things I realized that I needed to do was to take better care of myself. School is demanding in terms of energy and time, so it is important to be physically and mentally fit to be able to handle the rigors of school. Thus, with the new year ahead, I have made a resolution to take better care of myself so I can be better prepared for what lies ahead!

Just the Beginning

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"I am not now, that which I have been."
-Lord Byron

Today marked the last day of classes for my first semester of medical school and as you can probably tell by when my last blog post was, it has been a busy one. So much has happened in the past 18 weeks that I have not had time to really reflect (which will be what winter break will be for), but one thing is for sure...I have learned a lot not only in terms of content but more about myself.

One thing you can count medical school being is intense. The material comes at you fast and you have to deal with tough topics that challenge you. And it's these challenges that really test your patience, determination, and stamina. I have learned what study strategies work best for me (lots of flashcards, colored pens, and whiteboard markers), what I need to do to destress (thank goodness for my drum set), and what my strengths and weaknesses are (horrible at spatial reasoning and memorizing, but okay at hands on things). There are definitely moments that you freak out and get stressed, but those moments are heavily outweighed by the times when you are reminded why you are going into medicine.

Since finals are coming up, I will have to be brief and will elaborate later, but some of the highlights of the semester have included serving on panels and mentoring pre-med students, meeting amazing classmates and building strong friendships, volunteering at the KOLA Program, which provides health care services to the American Indian community (http://www.aicdc-mn.org/node/24), and learning about Positive Exposure on the last day of class, which is an organization founded by a former fashion photographer that uses photography and art as a way to alleviate the stigma against genetic differences and celebrating its beauty (http://www.positiveexposure.org/)

These experiences among others have reminded me about why I want to go into medicine by illuminating the human suffering that does exist and the health needs that must be met. These experiences have also been motivating because I can see the work that has been done to alleviate those issues and how I and other medical students can help.

It's crazy to think how much I have gained and learned in just 18 weeks and it is even crazier when I realize this is only just the first step and there is much more to learn, which is very exciting.

The Art of Making Something Out of Nothing

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"L'arte d'arrangiarsi"
-Italian proverb

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to be a speaker at the annual Minnesota Medical Foundation Scholarship Luncheon. It was truly an honor to have the opportunity and it was even more of an honor to be a recipient of a scholarship. Through generous donors, other students and I have the means to pursue out educational goals with less financial stress. It is also very motivating and inspiring knowing that you have such support.

Thus, I have much gratitude for the donors and wanted to take the opportunity to thank them again in this blog. Below is a copy of the speech:

"L'arte d'arrangiarsi or loosely translated is an Italian phrase that means "the art of making something out of nothing." I stumbled upon this saying over the summer and I realized that throughout my life, I have seen the power of making something out of nothing.

For me, this traces back to my parents who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam with literally nothing but a dream. They took a risky sea voyage to escape a war-torn country and spent months in a refugee camp before coming to America where they have successfully raised a family and pursued their dreams of freedom and higher education. I was lucky to have such role models growing up.

In particular, they imparted two important lessons. My dad told me that health is the most important thing a person could possess, while my mom told me education was your most valuable asset. With these two lessons, I was inspired to pursue a career in medicine where I could help others lead healthy lives and educate them on how to do so.

As I grew up, I pursued different experiences that exposed me to medicine. The most defining experience I had was participating in the Minnesota's Future Doctors program, which helps students from underserved populations prepare for medical school and alleviate health disparities. The program started with 22 students and now has more than 150 students and counting.

To help combat health disparities, several of my fellow Minnesota's Future Doctors participants and I started a student group focused on working towards alleviating health disparities and giving back to the community. Our group, called Circle of Giving or COG, started with five students with a shared interest and has grown into a nonprofit organization that has held various awareness events, service trips, and fundraisers with the goal of equipping students with the skills so they can continue to give back.

These experiences have led me to where I am today, a first year medical student with a passion for working with underserved communities and the goal of becoming a pediatrician. However, this would not have been possible without the generous scholarship support I have received.

Scholarship support provides other students and me the means and opportunity to pursue our goals. While throughout my life I have seen much can be accomplished with humble beginnings, with such generous support, that means there is even more potential to leave a greater impact and inspires me to one day give back so I can continue this circle of giving."

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1/16th of the Way There

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"There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm."
-Willa Cather

Last week marked week 10. Week 10 was significant for two main reasons. First, it was our infamous midterm week in which the first year medical students had 4 days of exams covering anatomy, histology, embryology, genetics, and biochemistry. Secondly, it mean that we were 1/2 way done with the semester. 1/4 way done with first year. 1/8 of the way done with our first 2 years. 1/16 of the way done with medical school.

After the round of midterms, my body buddy (or one of the classmates I share a cadaver with in anatomy lab) made that observation that we were 1/16th of the way done with medical school, but he didn't feel like he was 1/16th of a a doctor. While I don't know what 1/16th of a doctor feels like, I thought he raised an important point. We are well on our way through medical school.

Looking back on the last 10 weeks, there definitely has been a lot of blood (from looking at histology slides), sweat (our classmates are rather athletic and some ran the Twin Cities Marathon), and tears (from both frustration and happy moments). There have been times when studying seemed to go slower than molasses on a cold winter's day and there have been times when I could not be any more excited to be dissecting in anatomy class. Medical school definitely has it's ups and downs, but overall I have been very happy. Even when I struggle with a topic or am frustrated, I feel a general sense of happiness overall....after all, being able to overcome something that is hard for you to do instills a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to keep going. After all, we are 1/16th of the way there.

The Cost of Education

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"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
-Derek Bork

Last week I went in for a financial aid meeting and learned that the average indebtness for a graduating student from the U of M Medical School class of 2010 was $175,000. That's right, $175,000 or the cost of a small house or two 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class GL550 4WD with V8 or 175,000 items from the Dollar Store. While that is quite a daunting number, the value of the education I and fellow medical students will be receiving will be worth it.

Now approximately 2 months into medical school, I have realized what an investment medical school is. On the individual level, it is is an investment in terms of money, time, and energy. In addition, to the loans one must take out, one is also sacrificing a lot of their time into learning and gaining the competencies necessary to be a successful doctor. On the institutional side of things, the school is also investing many resources to help students succeed. Thus, overall medical school can be seen as a costly endeavor but in the end it will be worth it. The hours upon hours studying in the library and the thousands taken out in student loans will pay off in the end. The education we are investing in now will enable medical students like me the chance to work in a field we love and are interested in and also improve the health of the community. While the costs may seem high now, in the end the rewards will be worth it.

The Changing Face of Medicine

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"Even after all of these years, you still have fun."
-University of Minnesota Medical School Alumni

This past week I had the fun opportunity to have breakfast with University of Minnesota Medical School alumni. This event was organized by the Minnesota Medical Foundation and was a way for current students to interact with alumni and thank them for the support they have provided.

The table I sat with had alumni from the class of 1960 and 1970 and it was interesting to hear the path they have taken and where they are now. It was also fascinating to compare notes about what medical school was like decades before to what is now. Some things are still the same, such as the use of the phrase "body buddy" as a term of endearment for the classmates you share a cadaver with in anatomy lab and the classes had roughly about 170 students.

However, some things are different. The curriculum is different and the make-up of the student body has changed. The alumni were impressed with the curriculum's emphasis on collaborative work and integrated course material. They also noted that while my class is about 49% female and about 20% minority students, the class of 1970 had only 8 females and 2 minority students. Thus, we all were impressed at how drastically things have changed within a span of a few decades.

However, the biggest takeaway I got from the whole experience is how much these alumni enjoyed what they are doing, which was inspiring. Even though it has only been 7 weeks of school, there have been times when I have felt overwhelmed, but seeing the alumni happy with what they are doing is motivating and reminds me of the reasons why I want to pursue a career in medicine. In particular one alumni told me that even though he has been working for decades, "Even after all of these years, you still have fun."

Becoming a "Pro"

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"So live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."
-Will Parrot

Before last Friday, I didn't know that dental therapist was an occupation, how humor can be an integral part of the health profession, or that there are approximately 800 students enrolled in University of Minnesota Academic Health Center programs. However, after classes on Friday, those were among the things I took away from the Foundations of Interprofessional Communication and Collaboration (FIPCC) class. FIPCC is part of a new initiative to help students in health professional fields better learn what it means to be professional and demonstrate interprofessional teamwork. This course entails meeting with small groups of students from the different health fields, such as dentistry, pharmacy, public health, and veterinary medicine, completing online modules, and group discussions to help with professional growth and development as well as help students learn about other health fields and how to effectively work together.

So far we had the kickoff event which included several speakers, an overview of the course, and a brief introduction to our fellow group members. One of the take away messages that stuck with me (besides the story of how one speaker illustrated the power of humor by telling us how he received a warning instead of a speeding ticket when he pulled out a Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" card for the officer), was the above Will Rogers quote that touches on the importance of maintaining professionalism.

As aspiring health professionals, we are entering a field in which people are literally entrusting us with their lives and as the Spiderman quote goes "with great power, comes great responsibility." We have a responsibility to adhere to the accepted professional code of conduct and values. A responsibility to use our specialized knowledge to the best of our ability. A responsibility to respect the needs and concerns of those we serve. A responsibility to enhance the health and well-being of others. Therefore it is important to perform these responsibilities with honesty and integrity.

The Different Aspects of Medicine

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"The good physician treats the disease,
The great physician treats the patient who has the disease."
-Sir William Osler

I am now officially done with the 5th week of medical school (which means 5 more weeks until midterm week!) and as you may guess, it has been a busy 5 weeks. In just a little over a month, my class has learned about genetic diseases, the biochemistry involved in blood coagulation, what muscle tissue looks like, how to dissect cadavers, and so much more.

In addition to the science and more technical aspects of medicine, we have also been working on the more "humanistic" skills involved in medicine in a course called Essentials of Clinical Medicine (ECM). In ECM class we have discussed strategies for interacting with patients as well as practice on how to do medical interviews and physical exams. During week 3, we learned how to do physical exams on the upper extremities on fellow students and this past week we practiced conducting medical interviews and taking patient histories on a standardized patient or a trained actor who comes in with a hypothetical problem. Thus, it has been a very interesting experience being able to combine the material we learn in class to real-world applications. For example, in anatomy we learned about the muscles in the rotator cuff and we were able to apply the knowledge of what those muscles do during the physical exams. While conducting patient interviews, we had to recall different diseases and their symptoms and use that knowledge to guide the questions we asked during the interview. And in all honesty, it has been challenging.

Being able to integrate all of the information we have learned and to think quickly on our feet is a skill one must have. You must be able to draw upon your technical and medical knowledge while remembering that the patient is a person and not a disease. In ECM class we read about patient stories where physicians have focused too much on treating the disease and not making sure that rapport and partnership is established between the patient and doctor. Being able to treat the emotional needs and concerns of the patients is just as important as treating their physical ailments. A patient must be viewed as a person as a whole. Thus, there must be a fine balance that is struck between the more scientific and humanistic side of medicine and finding that balance is something that will take time and practice.

So it begins...

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"As University of Minnesota Medical School students and future physicians, we take this oath as we enter into a career of partnership with our patients, collaboration with our colleagues, and improvement of our health care system.

We pledge to commit ourselves to excellence in the care of our patients.

We pledge to uphold the integrity of medicine and commit to maintain the highest standards of professionalism.

We pledge to be stewards of education.

We pledge to embrace our social responsibility to practice medicine justly.

We pledge to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Let this white coat be a reminder of this pledge, of the privilege we hold as students of medicine, and of our commitment to service."

-Excerpt from University of Minnesota Medical School Class of 2014 Statement of Commitment


When asked how medical school is, a common response is "It's like drinking water from a fire hose"...basically a lot of stuff comes at you very fast. With two full weeks of classes under my belt, I would have to agree. The amount of material we are learning is delivered quickly and the courses are fast-paced, so it is easy to be overwhelmed.

This year, the University of Minnesota Medical School has implemented a new curriculum that involves a lot more independent learning time as well as small group work. For our first semester, the first year medical students (MS1) have 3 courses:

1. Human Structure and Function (HSF): This course includes anatomy, histology, and embryology all rolled into one.
2. Science of Medical Practice (SMP): This course includes genetics, biochemistry, and presentations from patients.
3. Essential of Clinical Medicine (ECM): This course entails learning about how to do patient interviews, physical exams, and case studies.

As you can see, a variety of topics are covered in just a semester and I am literally knee deep in books. However, the faculty and staff are very supportive and have provided resources to help students. In addition, there is a very supportive and collaborative atmosphere among students, which makes things are manageable when you have the "we are all in this together" mentality.

This feeling of belonging and community was very established during the White Coat ceremony in which the class of 2014 received white coats (as well as a nice stethoscope and reflex hammer!) as a symbol of our commitment to medicine and our official welcome to the medical community. At the ceremony, not only were we able to celebrate with our family and friends, but we all recited a commitment statement that was written together as a class. So when the going does get tough and the hours of studying get long, we will have the oath to look back on and remind us of our commitment to medicine and becoming doctors.

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Be kind. Be trustworthy. Be direct.

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"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Where you live. What you eat. How much schooling you have received. Your family background. The color of your skin.

What do they all have in common?

They are all one of the many social determinants of health. Without a doubt medicine is a science-based practice, but often times the equally important social aspects of it is neglected. And when these factors are not considered, this can lead to compromised care and health inequities. Studies have shown that minority patients receive poorer quality and fewer procedures than white patients. Certain populations have higher incidence rates of diseases than others. Undoubtedly this has a negative impact on the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a pre-orientation program called Introduction to Urban Areas with about 25 other incoming medical students in which we discussed health disparities and learned about different populations in the Twin Cities area. The two and a half day program was filled with engaging speakers, viewing parts of the eye-opening movie "Unnatural Causes", discussions, and community service opportunities. One of the highlights was speaking with health professional and learning about different patient populations and cultures. Being knowledgeable about different cultures is paramount in medicine because it can enable physicians to build stronger relationships with patients and provide better care. For example, some Hmong people practice "cupping" as a health remedy, which leaves bruises and this is often misinterpreted by health professionals as a sign of abuse. Or some Somali patients will call a fever, "malaria." Being mindful and respectful of cultural practices and traditions is therefore very important.

So what can current and future health care providers do? While health disparities are a vast issue that cannot be solved over night and being 100% culturally competent is an impossibility, there are steps and considerations one can take. One of the speakers succinctly summed up how one can better serve diverse patient populations: Be kind. Be trustworthy. Be direct.

Be kind: This entails being empathetic and understanding of your patients' histories, beliefs, traditions, and situation. Sometimes cultural-based practices may differ from accepted medical practices and it is important to not dismiss these cultural beliefs, but rather find a balance between the two.

Be trustworthy: Building trust is key in a patient-physician relationship. People are entrusting doctors with their lives and sharing intimate health information they may not even share with their families. If a patient doesn't feel comfortable with their doctor, then they might not be as forthcoming or be as compliant.

Be direct: Health care is a complex, especially for those who may have language barriers. Therefore, it is important that a diagnosis, treatment plan, and other information are delivered in a clear way to ensure patients are informed. This can involve using some creativity. For example, there was a physician who noticed many of his Somali patients were facing constipation problems because they did not understand the importance of regularly drinking water. Thus, he used an analogy that compared the drinking habits and stool softness of camels versus cows. While that may seem a little unorthodox, it worked because it was something that the patients could understand and relate to.

Just taking small steps like that can help enhance patient-physician interactions, especially with underserved populations, and that can lead to better care and better care can lead to alleviating health disparities.

Notebooks, Scissors, and Scalpels

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"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."
-Chinese Proverb

On a recent trip to Target, I saw the infamous "Back to School" display. Seeing the bins upon bins of erasers, glue, crayons, and backpacks lining the back of the store reminded me that it was time for me to get my school supplies too. I felt that same rush of excitement I got when I was in elementary school, carefully selecting which folders and colored pencils to get. However, this year, I wasn't going to be loading my shopping basket with Justin Bieber folders and markers.

The medical school supply list is a far cry from what I was accustomed to in primary school and even as an undergraduate. Of course there are the usual textbooks and course packets that I have gotten from the bookstore, but some of the more "unusual" items include dissecting tools, tuning fork, and reflex hammer. As I was perusing through the U of M bookstore for these items, I felt even more excited because I realized how hands-on medical school will be. We will be using the dissecting tools as we study cadavers and utilize the reflex hammers as we practice conducting physical examinations. Approaching things in a hands-on fashion is such a wonderful way to learn and I can't wait to start.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

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"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."
-Victor Borge

This past week I have never laughed so hard in my life. Why? I was a camp counselor last week at the annual Catalyst Foundation Vietnam Culture Camp (www.catalystfoundation.org) in which families with children adopted from Vietnam can get together and learn about Vietnamese culture. While one would think spending the day with energetic pre-schoolers would be tiring, I had never felt more energized in my life because I had so much fun and could not stop smiling and laughing. Whether it was doing a riveting air guitar rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" or getting taught how to hula hoop, there was never a dull moment.

Scientifically, that actually makes sense. Different studies have suggested that positive emotions, such as happiness can have physical, social, and intellectual benefits. In one study, humor increased the subjects' tolerance for pain. Other studies have found that laugher can reduce blood sugar levels, can help stimulate our immune systems, and can help release tension. While laughter can't cure everything, it certainly doesn't hurt to laugh once in awhile. So tell a joke. Watch a funny movie. Go to an open mic night. Don't be afraid to act silly. After all, no one ever died of laughter.

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I'll Just MacGyver It

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"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable."
-Angus MacGyver

"I think if you try hard enough and make the best of a situation, the situation won't get the best of you."
-Angus MacGyver

Once in an interview I was asked if I was intimidated by public speaking and without thinking my knee-jerk response was "Not really. I figure that if I make a mistake, I could always MacGyver my way out of the situation."

For those of you not familiar with MacGyver, he was the protagonist of the self-titled late 1980's action-adventure television series about a resourceful secret agent who used a combination of scientific knowledge and everyday items to engineer ingenious solutions to solve tricky problems, such as using chocolate bars to plug a sulfuric acid leak.

This past week I faced a mini MacGyver-esque situation in which I had to craft several bouquets, boutineers, and corsages for an event. With just a supply of tape, ribbon, and wires on hand, I was able to make half-decent floral accessories despite having no experience whatsoever. Even though I wasn't doing anything epic, I felt a rush of excitement as I was making them. It was exciting doing something I had never done before. It was exciting when the flowers hung just right as I was twisting wire around them. It was exciting seeing the finished product. It was exciting to be presented with a task, be able to troubleshoot, and be able to complete it. However, I think it was especially exciting because it was a situation in which I had to be creative and resourcefully use what I had on hand to accomplish something.

That sense of excitement has happened many times before in my life and undoubtedly will keep occurring, especially as I pursue a career in medicine. As a physician, you will be presented with a patient who has a "problem" and it is up to you to "solve" it using the knowledge in your mind and the tools you have on hand. Just like MacGyver, physicians must be able to assess the situation, weigh the different options, make a decision, and take action based on the resources and information they have. One needs to be a creative and open-minded thinker who is prepared to handle any curveballs or unexpected obstacles thrown at them. Fortunately, these skills can be developed through experience and training so I am looking forward to school starting so I can tap into my inner "Dr. MacGyver."

Party in the USA: Richfield Edition

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It takes a village to raise a child.
-African Proverb

There is no doubt about it; I love my hometown of Richfield, Minnesota. This was especially true during this past weekend when Richfield held its 31st annual Hometown 4th of July Celebration. This five day event included a carnival, parade, family fun night, battle of the bands, street dance, car show, ambassador coronations, and of course fireworks. However, the best part of these festivities is the sense of community pride expressed by Richfield residents. During these five days, people came out to celebrate not only the founding of our nation, but also the strong community spirit that exists. This celebration is a reminder of the supportive network of neighbors, friends, and family my hometown provides.

This support network has been integral as I grew up and I know will continue to be important as I start medical school. Everyone faces bumps in the road and moments of self-doubt or worry, but by having a community that supports you in your endeavors is an incredible motivator. When I was accepted into medical school, I only told a few people, but word spread quickly. Even though it is has been nearly 7 months since I received the news, people from my town still congratulate me and having someone tell you that they believe in you, even when you sometimes don't believe in yourself, makes a world of a difference.

I am also very excited to start medical school in less than a month because I know there will be at least two fellow Richfield High School graduates who will be in the U of M Medical School Class of 2014 with me. I don't know about you, but I think having at least 3 Richfield alumni start medical school this fall when there are only 35,000 people in the town is a neat achievement and a testament to the supportive nature Richfield has provided in helping its residents achieve their goals. Some other notable Richfield residents include arctic explorer Will Steger, NHL player Darby Hendrickson, and most recently The Biggest Losers contestants O'Neal and Sunshine Hampton (who were the grand marshals for our 4th of July parade!). With all of the community support, who knows what else Richfield residents will accomplish in years to come!

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School's Out For the Summer...Sort Of

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A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.
-Will Rogers

1920's comedian Will Rogers was on the right track when he made the above observation about ways that one can learn. However, there were a few tried and true learning avenues that he also forgot about, such as learning through experience, learning through reflecting, and even learning through YouTube (granted the Internet didn't exist in the 1920's). Even though most students are on summer break, there is no doubt they are still learning something new and applying old concepts everyday, even if it is subconsciously and in the unlikeliest of places.

This was especially apparent to me this morning when my brother, who is getting ready for a camping trip, asked me to help him get his fishing pole ready. Unfortunately, the only fishing poles I have handled before had a magnet on one end was used to "catch" carnival prizes from a kiddie pool. So I did what most people would do and consulted Google. The first link that popped up was a YouTube video entitled "How to Spool Line Onto Your Reel" and within only 4 minutes and 9 seconds, I was an expert on spooling line! Well, maybe I wasn't an expert, but I was competent enough and now I know what a bail is. As I was spooling it, physics concepts like rotational motion and tension flooded in my head and I thought, "If I measured the diameter of the reel and had a stopwatch, I could calculate its angular acceleration." And that wasn't the first time I inadvertently applied class concepts to real life situations this summer.

Heeding the advice of my family, friends, mentors, current med students...well basically everyone...I have decided to take it easy the summer before medical school starts and that has entailed lots of leisure reading. My latest literary conquest has been "The Happiness Project", which is a book about a woman who explores different theories and studies in a quest to become happier. One of the findings she stumbles upon was a research study that concluded that people who get Botox are less prone to anger because they are physically incapable of frowning. Not only was I excited to learn something new (and rather amusing) but once again it was a moment where my brain began to recall old course material. As if my mind switched to autopilot, images of the Botox or botulinum toxin mechanism flashed by and I could practically hear my old cell bio professor's voice explaining how this neurotoxin prevents the release of acetylcholine.

So if I was able to tie in concepts from my science textbooks to ideas from a self-help book, which are almost like night and day, I realized that the ideas, concepts, and theories we learn in school are everywhere. Literally everywhere. A common lament students often make when studying is "When am I going to ever need this again?" and while some of the things we learn in school may seem trivial, the fact is they may pop up in random places. Granted, I doubt that one day someone will stop me in the street and ask me to draw a diagram of the Kreb's Cycle, but like in the above examples, lately I have been noticing that I have been able to apply old course concepts and am learning new things in the unlikeliest places. I guess once a student....always a student.

The Tassle is Worth the "Hassle"

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"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."
-Louis L'Amour

Commencement was over a month ago (35 days to be exact) and the fact that I am a college graduate still has not fully registered. Sometimes I wake up in a panic at 10 a.m. thinking that I overslept and just missed my 9 a.m. lecture, but according to my transcript, no more undergraduate classes for me because my B.S. in Biochemistry has been cleared and granted. So with a bachelor's degree under my belt, what does that mean exactly?

Well first off, along with the other four hundred 2010 CBS graduates, I have reached an educational milestone. All of the all-nighters during finals week, hours in the lab, and cans of energy drinks have paid off because with a college degree, not only will we earn on average twice as much as workers with a high school diploma over a lifetime, but we have also opened the doors to new opportunities and taken a step forward in our futures. Graduating from college is quite an achievement, so congrats to all of the 2010 graduates!

But as amazing of an accomplishment that is, does that mean us college graduates are "done" and we can rest on our laurels as we coast through the rest of our lives? The reality is no, we aren't done and if anything, it's only the beginning. After all, graduation is called "commencement" for a reason. So what is that next step?

For some it means going onto professional school or entering the workforce or traveling...the possibilities are endless. For me, I will be attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School this August and will be chronicling my experiences in this blog during the next year. The closest thing I have done to a blog was a diary I kept in 2nd grade and updating the "About Me" section on my Facebook page, so I am excited to have this opportunity to reflect and share!

Maybe my blog will make your laugh or cry or even put you to sleep, but if anything, I hope it makes you think. One of the biggest things I have learned from my college experiences is that one of the best ways to learn from each other and our stories. So I hope you are ready for more stories to come...

'Til then,
Thuy

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