Tag Archives: medical school

RE.NE.GADE!

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Beginning of the semester. I had my ‘natural Ghanaian’ hair. Obviously there is NATURAL hair, then there is mine. Relative to the weaves, my hair is natural, though it is relaxed.

Fifth year has been interesting so far. In my seventh week now, it feels like I only just started medical school.  As expected, at the beginning of the academic year, everyone was looking their very best. Guys all clean-shaven and looking delicious. The ladies, got to say, my classmates, they kill it every day.  Gorgeous braids and weaves from almost every country on the planet. (Lord knows I’ve never heard of some of these countries)  Everyone really was looking good. I certainly was. I just decided to go with a different kind of look. #Renegadestyle. I started my semester not with braids or a weave but rocking my natural ‘Ghanaian’ hair.

Reason? Well, in second year, I noticed the cyclical hair changes of my colleagues. Without fail, the cycle kept recurring semester after semester. Thing is, hair styles have a ‘life-span’. In some four to six weeks from the time t, that weave is old. It’s just gotta go! Everyone wants a new look. As if on cue, the weaves come off and for a week or two everyone rocks their ‘Ghanaian’ or ‘Nigerian’ hair, then, the cycle repeats.

Really? Hair? You are probably thinking, this girl has a lot of time. Cyclical hair changes? Who pays attention to that? Okay, let me get to it. Thing is, I have always considered myself a bit of a renegade/ rebel/non-conformist. I always chart my own course. The whole follower thing, doesn’t really work for me. So, for something as trivial as, what to do with my hair? Well, I put some thought into it. I certainly do not want anything anyone else has. No thank-you.  I mean, if most people will have a weave at this time, that certainly is my cue to do the exact opposite.

ImageBeing a renegade gets me in quite a bit of trouble with authority from time to time. You can certainly figure out why. As they say, trouble is the spice of life. Oh wait, no one says that. They should. Conforming is boring! I like different, I am different, I do different!  What is that they say about if something ain’t broken…The genesis. How did it happen? How does a person become non-conformist? I have come to the conclusion that for me, being told too often that I could not or should not do one thing or another led to this outlook. I guess I was on a mission to prove everyone wrong, and again, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’.

Case in point, my love for sports.  In basic school I almost made it for the track and field team but someone brought up sickle cell and I was out. In high school I really wanted to try out for the basketball team. Again sickle cell and I was out. Thus after high school, I played basketball with the guys, I got different friends to train me. There was jogging too. Just because I was prevented from engaging in sporting activities, I decided that is what I want to do with my free time. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. That only upsets me and inspires me to get it done! Just an aside, persons living with sickle cell are perfectly capable of participating in sports/ exercising.  Within reasonable limits of their health of course.

Being the renegade that I am, there really is no way I am going to live the ‘expected’ sickle cell  life. People expect a sickly person who just can’t do much. First, a little reorientation.  Persons living with sickle cell can live healthy lives, I cannot emphasize this enough. Second, I am too much of a hyperactive person to do the sick thing. No, I’ll pass. I got sports, church,family, friends, social activities and lastly school. I don’t have time to be sick. “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Of course I have been blessed in so many ways, my health certainly is my biggest blessing. I really am a walking testimony, it is worse for others but there is a lot of will power at play here.

There is the thing with medical school. After high school, when it came time to decide about university, my mom did a bit of asking around. A few well meaning people advised that I not pursue medicine because the stress might just exacerbate my condition. She really had my best interest at heart. It certainly has been difficult, but guess what, I’m still hear. I guess I’ll be singing Chris Brown’s-Look at me now, in a couple of years.  Just because it is expected that medical school is going to be unbearable for me, I decided I am “gonna kick ass”.  If I wasn’t this much of a  renegade, I would have probably accepted that advice five years ago and given up on my passion.

Then there is sickle life. People generally do not speak openly about their health, certainly not Ghanaians, but really, why should they? Persons living with sickle cell, generally keep it secret. I think it has something to do with the fact that y’all expect us to break into several pieces right in front you, or worse still, just up and die. Don’t know what it is? I always wondered why in school kids with asthma did not mind telling everyone but those with sickle cell hid it like it was contagious or something.

So, I tell everyone I have sickle cell disease. It seems to have a bit of the non-conformist element going on in there, but that certainly was not the reason. Maybe it helped, because it is in my nature to be different. Whatever it is, I said it, you all know. I pretty much stuck a person living with sickle cell sticker on my face. No, I am not going to die tomorrow. Please don’t act like I am.  I am just passionate about this cause and don’t mind putting myself out there. I just want to reach as many young people as possible, change misconceptions about sickle cell disease and ultimately assist you make an informed life choice.

Please join me. Be different, stand out. We can’t all be full on renegade, but we can all stand up for the cause. Please get tested. Know your haemoglobin genotype and that of your partner. Make an informed life choice.

#Renegadethings #nonconformist #saidit!

Regards,

Sefakor-Enam.

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WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?

The Miss World 2013 finals were recently held in Indonesia. As you might be aware, Miss Ghana 2012, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter was the second runner up, and in effect, Miss World Africa 2013. Congratulations to Miss Shooter (OK, I thought I had the coolest surname, but this one definitely kills it.)

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Miss World Africa 2013. This picture is not mine (obviously). Dark skinned girls rock!
Photo credits: Carranzar Shooter, http://www.facebook.com/ Miss universe & missology

Miss Shooter is actually a medical student, a colleague of mine. Don’t ask me how she combined medical school with, arguably, the biggest beauty pageant in the world, I really have no idea. This post is about young people making great strides in their lives. Young people, coloring outside the lines, thinking outside the box, living outside the rules and making a difference, in their own small way.

Miss Word Africa 2013, is back to the mundane existence of a medical student. She has however done great and deserves commendation. (Side note, I think dark-skinned girls absolutely rock. I am unapologetically biased.)  Behind the scene battles, struggles of combining medical education with pageantry at the local level, not to mention, international, escapes everyone. It really does not matter now. She persevered through it all and has the crowns to show for it. I wish her the very best in her endeavors and hope she excels in the various projects she has taken on board.

Still in the realms of pageantry, Miss Earth Ghana 2012, is also a colleague of mine. Again, how she did it, beats me. What is important, she did. I have had it with people using medical education (education in general,their youth etc) as an excuse for mediocre living. If you set out to do something, you can! If you are only passionate about medicine, fine by me. Make a difference even while in school, educate someone about the stuff you spend 18 hours studying and stop using it as an excuse to while away time.

Another colleague, also recently started a beauty and grooming page on face book. She actually has good skin and has been said to dabble in the modeling industry, so I am quite optimistic she will do a great job. She gives very insightful tips about keeping your skin healthy. I recently saw some information on her page about breast self examination. I think we can all apply what we learn to impact lives, however insignificant they may seem.

In the area of clothing, T shirt design came up last year. The line is college style. I liked one shirt that said ‘I FIND THIS HUMERUS’ (get it?)  but I especially loved another one that said ‘CHICKS IN MEDICINE.’ It had little chicks (actual baby fowls/ chicken(s) ) with stethoscopes round their necks. Now, that I would totally rock.

Dekage clothing is another one I am very excited about, African print inspired clothes. Designed by a colleague of mine, they are the kind of shirts I will buy for a friend as a gift. He has a highly selective target market, like most things in life, it is not for everyone. No matter what you set out to do, you can’t please everyone. Some people will just not ‘get’ it. Don’t lose sleep over them, just keep at it.

Spirituality/Christianity, boasts the largest number of people making great strides. There are a good number of preachers in my class. One of them is actually published, two books and counting. They make time to lead various religious groups, preach etc. Why? Because that is what they are passionate about. We all make time for what is important to us. What are you passionate about?

Of course, Sickle Life. Blog, Facebook and twitter pages (and much more, in the future).  Education and information about sickle cell disease to help people make informed life choices. This is what I stand for. We are just a few people, all under 25 years, and still in school. We stand for different things, are passionate about them and find the time to make them happen.

Outside medical school, a friend of mine, currently engaged in his national service, started a group. Mindsets networks. He seeks to change the mindset of the youth in several areas. He does this through the various divisions of MsN such as health, education and family. In its first year of existence, it already has a very strong membership, about 700, on facebook alone. They really do give the best quotes, thought provoking stuff. They are making an impact on the youth by realigning our thought process.

This young lady, Elsie, a pharmacy student. I absolutely love her work. Her posts are always so insightful. She could pretty much start up, with anything and end up on one attribute of God or another. She starts up talking about hydralzine or azithromycine and next thing you know she is drawing correlations between the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drug and the grace of God or his favor. It really is mind-blowing. She has somehow managed to put some of my pharmacology lessons in perspective and at the same time, make me more grateful for who God is and his many blessings in my life. All this, through her writing. What talent are you refusing to explore? You could actually impact lives.

N’ayelle designs. African print fabric accessories. This, from a Bachelor of Science in Administration graduate. She started this business while in university. Anytime you see me rocking a clutch with a leather/African print mix, that’s a n’ayelle. African print shoes, broaches anything, it is always n’ayelle. Again, another passionate young person who started a business while in school from the little she had. She made it happen!

All I am saying is this; we all have reasons why we cannot. It is time to think up why you can and how you are going to make it happen. Do not let schooling limit your education. Do not let your program of study prevent you from achieving what you want to become. If you are truly passionate about something, you will make it happen, irrespective of the challenges you face, because you will use those as stepping stones to greater heights. So, WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?

I have a genetic condition that puts me at a disadvantage sometimes. Well, I turned that into an opportunity and I am trying to apply what I am being taught in medical school as well as from experiences living with this disease to help others to live as healthy as possible. I am also trying to change perceptions about this condition and ultimately, help you make an informed life choice.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

Regards,

Sefakor-Enam.

VA—K—TION!!!

Whoop!  Whoop!! Finally, I am on vacation. Boy, am I glad. I am simply ecstatic. How I wish this vacation will go on forever. But no, it is only 6 weeks long, and I’m already one week down.  NO NO NO!!!

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Va-K-tion. Dats how I do it! Fun with the girls. As we like to say, we took this wedding WORLDCUP!

So you are probably wondering, why so much excitement about being on vacation? Well, let me tell you. Briefly, I’ve literally been in school for a whole year. Not the 9 month academic year we are all used to. NO! No, the actual 364 or is it 365, and quarter days that make up an actual year. These people are just trying to kill us. Really! Ok, so we are a little shy of the actual 365 days, but it certainly felt like it. You’ll never quite appreciate public holidays, until you have been in school so long without a proper vacation or weekend to call your own.  So all we had? A couple of 2-week breaks. Well they were definitely not scheduled with student relaxation in mind. One was actually our revision break, which just so happen to be during the Christmas holidays.  Killing 2 birds with one stone, if you ask me. It was like, hey you, go home. You can’t have so many public holidays ,that will just have to double as your break, and  in addition to that, study for exams, because on your first day back, exams!

Then there was that other 2-week break, while our seniors wrote their finals. Thank God for finals!!! We weren’t allowed on the wards. So there, that’s a break for you. The best breaks though, were those super long weekends between rotations.  Say you are done with medicine exam on Wednesday or Thursday, next Monday, you start surgery rotation. You had better value that weekend and have all the fun you can. Go to the Bahamas if you have the means. Because, that is all you get. So you wonder why I am ecstatic about a 6 week break? Oh I needed it. I was burnt-out, worn-out; actually, whatever is worse than these.  It was community health, intro course, medicine, surgery, orthopedics/ trauma. Oh, I have every reason to be ecstatic.

Should have posted the minute I returned from my trauma exam, but I was too excited. Not about the exam per se, but what it represented. End of my woes, beginning of my va-k-tion.  So a friend and I took a long walk to get, well, in my opinion, the best fries and chicken in Korle-Bu, and of course I got a huge bottle of coke. When I returned, it was all movies. Yeah, the vac had begun. So, my girls and I went for a wedding, a cocktail party,  I’ve been to the beach with another friend, a few restaurants, a pub… Oh this vacation has been good. I want more. Lord. Please don’t let it end!

What to do? Now that the excitement is somewhat under control, am left wondering, what do I do with all this free time? Well, I know what I am not doing. Definitely not a vacation attachment in a hospital. Come on guys, we’ve been in school for so long, I can’t believe anyone wants to use their vacation to work. In a hospital! If I might add.

Yeah yeah, they are committed to the course. Uh ha? What else?  You know, as Yaw Perbi said, the thing about winning the rat race is, you are still a rat, win or lose.  One will think making it to medical school, is a good way to escape the rat race, but boy do we have it wrong. So as students, we barely have time for anything else, then after school, crazy work hours. Then everyone wants to specialize, be a resident, consultant, what next? It is just a rat race, seriously, when do we get time to live. And now I should use my vacation to work in a hospital, to prove that I am committed to this medicine thing? Hell no!  This is what I am going to do. Economics! Yeah you read right.

Why isn’t economics 101 a university requirement? Instead, let’s all do math, wait I already studied the same thing in high school. Is this a revision class? What is the point? Then, academic writing? Really, anyone remember anything from that course? Lord knows I’ll need a miracle to do my final year project, and what if I want publish some academic papers later? Academic writing will definitely have nothing to do with that. I really remember nothing from that course. And don’t get me started on African studies. So they danced and played the flute. Gee, how exactly is that useful in real life? I did Twi, and something else that was basically a repetition of high school social studies.

Whatever happened to economics, marketing, management?  Useful stuff that one could use, irrespective of their chosen course of study. This is what universities should require us to study. Anyways, this was four years ago, maybe things have changed now.

I recently had a rude awakening, when after about 2 years of investing my cash; I could not get my hands on it when needed. Why?  Maybe it was because I knew so little about investment and banking, yet I know enough to know that savings and investments are good. A little economic training would have come in handy. Lord knows, how many of my colleagues even have savings or investments accounts? And for the few who do, how many of us are going to be shortchanged, because all we know is basic math and science, biology and medicine and so little about banking and investing. Even worse, when we start working, how many of us are going to be slaves of the state living from paycheck to paycheck? Working long hours from one locum job to another even as doctors, supposedly one of the best paid workers just because we don’t have adequate financial knowledge?

My colleagues will probably return from this break as “consultant gynecologists” and “pediatricians” but am going to have a little financial knowledge. I guess it is only the future that can determine the long term benefits of today’s choices. Either ways, what they do during the break, we’ll still be taught when school reopens. And don’t say am not committed to my chosen field. I am. Probably more passionate than most. Especially so, since I have been the patient for so long. Now, I can be the doctor, and manage others living with the same condition I live with. If this is not drive, what  is? I’ll just much rather do it with some financial knowledge and know-how so I do not spend my future working for a salary but rather working out of passion. I certainly am not one to do locum/ part time jobs. Lord knows my body needs all the rest it can it get, so it doesn’t act up, this is how I can ensure that. The plan is, one job only.  I already have my eyes on the (sickle cell clinic) Centre for Clinical Genetics at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.  Now that’s working out of passion.

But hey, a little reading is in order, even during a long va-k-tion. Definitely going to read my medical books. I need to revise.  Who knows when else I’ll have so much time on my hands. Am doing all the routine stuff that I am always too busty for. Top on the list, medical checks. I know, I really should do better. Medical students/ doctors , generally don’t make time to see the doctor, ever. That not good. We can’t have that. Dental check up, fundoscopy, the works. There is still physio tho, bummer. It’s all good. A nice excuse for me to be in school twice a week to see my friends and hangout quite a bit, just because I can. I am at home now, really far from school, enjoying time away from all that. Having some me time and time with my mom.

Definitely more sleeping. I could  make a hobby out of that. Lols. Maybe some shopping, beach trips, hanging out with my friends, and yes more time for all things sickle life. So help me God. Plan is to enjoy this va-k-tion as much as I can. I certainly have a stressful year ahead, catching babies (obstetrics and gynecology rotations) and pediatrics. I love kids, but not when they are sick, that’s  an emotional roller coaster I don’t think I can prepare for. Oh and I get to see all those babies with sickle cell. Hmm that will be hard. I’ve been told that is a very troubling experience, you know, all those sick babies. God give me strength, Babies with sickle cell disease! Don’t know how am gonna do that. U need to experience the pain to get it. All babies can do is cry, how do you know, how can you tell exactly where the pain is? Hmm ! Lord grant me strength.

Anyways, that’s in 5 weeks from now. Now though, I am enjoying my vacation. Y’all will be hearing a lot more from me now.  Live each day to the fullest. Make each day count.

BROKEN??? (Part 2)

To post or not to post? This has been the question I have grappled with for a while. Kept telling myself, Is it not just sour grapes? Get over it girl. Grow up. Really, what benefit is anyone going to derive from reading this. Most importantly, I told myself, you put yourself out there  as a strong young lady, this however, is so out  of character. Just drop it! Well, I am only human, and there is only so much I can take. When boundaries are crossed, people get hurt.

So, the day of the exam came… I wasn’t exactly impressed with myself at my first clinical station thus the plan was to go all out at station two. Examine the ABDOMINAL SYSTEM. Abdominal system? Really? I know we are all not medical students, but any fifth grader can tell you, the abdominal system does not exist.Basic Science! The gastrointestinal system is what exists. Why the fuss you ask? Well, we have all had examinations. Everyone knows that understanding the instruction is as much a part of the exam as answering the question. So I repeated, Sir, abdominal system? And he, in harsh tone replies,  I said examine the abdominal system.

This little stunt at the beginning of the exam could make or break you. Was I to examine the gastrointestinal system, where for example I could pick up jaundice in the eyes indicative of a possible chronic liver disease or was it just an abdominal exam, where all i had to do was examine the abdomen? My plan, do the abdomen then a general if I had time. After all if I was told to examine the precordium, I will certainly examine the area over the heart before attempting a general exam. God help me if any lecturer thought it within his power to ask a student to examine the precordial system or chest system, sound ridiculous, right? Yeah, so is the abdominal system.

This is Africa tho. Adults are gods. Who are you to challenge a consultant? They are allowed to do as they please. Pull stunts like this without any repercussions. Medical school examinations are so subjective, it is sickening. Get one consultant and you know you are very likely to fail, irrespective of your efforts. All the people I went with failed. U get just enough not to pass. what is called a VITO mark. Palpate deeply or lightly, you are wrong. Percuss firmly or softly you are wrong. We came out, and sharing our experiences, it was obvious, all he was there to do, was to disapprove of our actions. Case in point, for my ABDOMINAL SYSTEM exam, general exam was to be at the end, for my partner, general exam was at the beginning, guess what, we both failed. There was simply no passing with him.

Back to my exam, so I started, and he had problems with everything I did. U will think the consultants who taught me for 12 weeks were a bunch of idiots. Good thing I know better, this was just a person who had positioned himself to criticize everything. Then it happened. I started tearing up, I could not take it anymore. Was I really that stupid? Did I really know nothing at all? Was all that coming to the ward while unwell wasted. Why did I come to the wards the previous week when I was in so much pain, and yet right there during the exam, everything was wrong. Tears started rolling down my cheeks.

Then I found an enlarged spleen in my patient. Was taking out my tape to measure, which was normal practice on the floor on which I had been taught for 12 weeks. His exact words: “If you take out your tape measure you will see what I will do to you”. Sorry. Is it just me, or was that a threat. During an examination! What did I do to merit that? So, his point, estimate the size of that spleen. Maybe I should have figured it out. I didn’t. Direct communication will certainly have been more beneficial. He then proceeded to a time wasting strategy of asking about distances from Accra to London, and how they are obtained. Seriously dude, am in an exam, u really think that’s where my mind is? A colleague was asked to explain an idiomatic expression. Seriously. During an exam. It had no bearing whatsoever on the exam being done. All he sought to do, distract us and waste our time.

Back to measurements? What is the difference between 7cm, 8cm and 9cm, by estimation. Guess Mr consultant forgot that the difference between massive and moderate splenomegaly is 1 cm. A centimeter that can easily be missed. So in the end, we settled on massive splenomegaly, He wanted differentials, I gave him that, then he asks a question I obviously didn’t know the answer to. My reply, sir, I don’t know, guess what? He goes like, I knew you did not know that is why I asked you. Seriously dude!

In summary, I did it all. Was spot on with my diagnosis. Gave my differentials. Yes so I cried. No I did not do a general exam, guess what, the guy who did, failed too. He had cause to complain about my examination skills, but well, that was him just being… and I fail! Icing on the cake, I know people who straight up missed diagnoses. Located pleural effusion on the wrong side of the chest, no it was not an error in reporting. Full on got the diagnosis wrong. If your mom was the patient, with the pleural effusion diagnosed on the wrong side. Lord help her, yet somehow passed. Because they met a different consultant. Me and all those who went to this one guy, fail, for myself, after doing everything right. It is just unfair

The unfairness of this exam alone speaks volumes. Placed against the backdrop of my personal struggles to make it to this exam, I got to a point of asking myself, really, whats the point? Why go all out? If all its going to take is for one consultant on the day of exams, due to some highly subjective marking scheme, to fail me. I might as well not  put in the effort. He broke me. Never thought I will see the day. I am trying to crawl out of this pit because it can only lead to self destruction. Two more years of medical school, many more exams, I need to start caring again. At this point, no more pushing through the pain. If I happen to be feeling sick, I stay in my room. If I am in school, and I feel sick, I leave. No more all out. It doesn’t pay. Definitely not in medical school. Whats important to me now, my health, health and health. If however you are in a place where putting in extra effort gives tangible results, please go all out. I just got tired of putting my health at risk for no real value. That’s not to say I am  being lazy about my work. I am certainly doing the basics. Just cutting down on the extras, hopefully, for now.

Far reaching effects of one persons actions. It is unfortunate, but real. Please consider the full effects of what you say or do on others. A lot of people go through so much on a daily basis, so the little things you do, may have a much greater impact than you can even begin to imagine

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AFTER SURGERY EXAM. Surgery rotation was all about my health. Paradigm shift. Crawling outta the pit, gradually