When do I become a doctor?

Last week, many of my classmates were posting “last day of school” photos as we completed our final classes of medical school, often captioning them something along the lines of “look you guys, I’m a doctor now!” This sent me into a reflective reverie, questioning when do I really become a doctor? Is it the last class of medical school or, more officially, on graduation day? Is it the first day of intern year, when I plunge into a patient’s room and utter the phrase “I’m Dr. Bailes, and I’m going to be taking care of you today”? Or is it some moment later when I take charge in a crisis, such as running my first code or doing a crash intubation? 

I don’t have an answer to this central question. I am trying to soak in the warm salutations of my friends and family as I wait for it to feel real.

Continue Reading →

A Love Letter to my Fellow Students, in the time of COVID-19

Yesterday I ran. I stepped outside into the blue sky and I fled, needing to feel my lungs burn. There were daffodils dancing and children cackling as they rode their bikes. No one told the weather here the world is crying. My neighborhood all dressed up in its Easter best has no idea what’s on the horizon. It makes it all the more difficult to understand and picture that we are currently experiencing a global pandemic.

I think this palpable dissonance surrounding me perfectly reflects the tension and confusion I am feeling in this moment. I have chosen a career in medicine because I want to care for others, fix their problems, heal their pain. In a few short months I will be stepping onto the front lines of this battle against our new viral invader as an Emergency Medicine resident.

Continue Reading →

To My Classmates of 2020

These past few months have been an unprecedented time of social and economic upheaval. For many of us, the effects of the pandemic have been wide-reaching, pervasive, and personal. What began as flurry of reports from far-away places has arrived on our shores in force: an invisible enemy made material through the suffering it has inflicted, and will continue to inflict. Some, at first, looked optimistically at the case-history of similar pandemic viral outbreaks in recent memory, finding solace in their scope. While lethal, these cases relatively numbered in the few, not the many. While they did burn, and burn brightly, their candles were snuffed out. This is different. The woodshed has ignited, and the tinder is dry. 

Continue Reading →

Free Fallin’

As Match day comes steadily closer and closer and thoughts of the future come creeping in, despite attempts to push them away, I can’t help but contemplate the idea of jumping off a cliff….

Now, before you call a psych consult and consider my mental stability, I refer to jumping off a cliff not realistically, but instead metaphorically!

The idea of jumping off a cliff is something that all fourth year medical students around the nation are having to figure out how to do, inherently, but don’t realize it. For so long, we have had the parachute of certainty and the wings of a meticulously thought out plan to keep us safe, but we now are forced to embrace a new friend, an uncomfortable friend, uncertainty, as we wait for the single envelope on March 20th that will dictate if the odds are in our favor for residency. 

Continue Reading →

Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: Productivity

Call me fanatical… but is it just me, or do we find value in productivity, in the busyness of each day, in the “go go go” mentality, in the ability to check things off our to do list? 

Is it just me, or do we find our value and label ourselves based off our accomplishments, off of what we can do, what we look like, the validations of others, and what we essentially have taken from society to be a yardstick of our personal value and worth to the world?

Is it just me, or would we rather be busy with tasks, inherently forgetting the value and joy in doing them, just to cross the finish line and “win” than being intentionally present, still, and fully aware of the emotions of the mind, heart, and body occurring directly in a moment? 

Continue Reading →

To Love Our Patients

It started when I was young. My Papou (“grandfather” in Greek) had died. I remember standing in a line, surrounded by people in black, in a room that seemed oddly ornate. My Papou lifeless, yet full of strength, integrity, and compassion. He looked different in a suit, something I only saw him wear to church, where he would stand proudly, and loudly, in the first row. Instead, my memories of him included him wearing scrubs or an old flannel out on the farm.

Continue Reading →

Why We Run

Each foot hits the ground with increasing force, stamping resilience into the rest of the body. The hot, humid air is stifling the motivation that began with the run. My whole body begins to regret the decision to run today, but there is no choice except to finish the out and back. Two more miles until air conditioning and lying on the apartment floor with my feet up because a PE teacher once told me that was a good thing to do. I remind myself on the last hill that I chose to do this.

Continue Reading →

Struck By Lightning

I have wrestled with this blog post for months now. After the circumstances of this past year, many have asked me to write a blogpost… to tell my story… but frankly I have just wanted to forget this past year.

For the many not aware of what happened, let me tell you. I began medical school in July of 2018. As real classes began in August 2018, I was not able to adapt to the intense stress like my classmates were. My body began shutting down in response to the stress, and I was experiencing severe numbness on my right side. Our school placed an emphasis on preventative healthcare so I decided to see a doctor in October, at which point I had begun throwing up regularly in response to stress, as well as experiencing vision loss and intense headaches. After a lot of physical therapy, complications of care, and a second opinion, an appropriate diagnosis was made: an intradural lipoma that had caused a tethered spinal cord, with additional complications. It was not that I was weak and could not handle the stress, it was that the tethered cord had caused a Chiari, so my body physically could not handle any stress. 

Continue Reading →

How many countries can you see in one morning?

Costa Rica. Uruguay. Cuba. Puerto Rico. Mexico. Dominican Republic. South Carolina. Colombia.

Dr. López excitedly marked down the places of origin of each of the patients we had seen in his clinic that morning. It was impressive, like we were at the Olympics and there was a representative from nearly half the nations in the western hemisphere. But this was a family medicine clinic in Simpsonville, South Carolina – a state where 63.8% of the population is “White, not Hispanic or Latino”, and 27.3% of the population is “Black or African American”. It was beginning to seem like the entire 5.7% of S.C. that is “Hispanic or Latino” was a patient in this clinic. Of course that is not the case, but during my clinical rotations it has been a rarity to see this kind of diversity.

Continue Reading →

Cognitive Dissonance

I have grappled with this post, both with how to articulate the words and feelings I felt and still feel as well as with the deep-rooted embarrassment regarding the event.

I have grappled with whether this would birth distaste from family, shock from friends, or portend a less than respectable reputation.

I have grappled with the idea of both revealing a flaw, nay, a hurdle that although in the moment was the reality of my worst fear come to light, proved to enlighten, strengthen, and provide me with what God has put on my heart as a story to tell to encourage others.

I have grappled, and yet, am finally letting go of that fear. Humbly exposed, I write today with the end result that although may be to my detriment may hopefully be to the benefit and encouragement of others .

Everyone makes mistakes, right?

Continue Reading →