Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Last Summer

What to do, What to do

The 8 weeks between 1st and 2nd year are truly your last summer you'll ever have. Sure you may have 2 weeks here or there but never another large block of time. There are a few scenarios which you could pursue:

1.) Nothing

This is your last summer, are you crazy!? You have 8 weeks to do whatever you want, do not I repeat DO NOT spend them on medicine. Take a trip to the Bahamas, catch up with your undergrad friends who are happy out in the real world while you are still in school (which in this economy you certainly may be the better off of the two). Backpack across Europe, get in shape, hike the Appalachian train, just do something that you WANT to do and is FUN.

2.) Medical trips

Some schools offer medical missions to certain third world countries like Ghana, the Dominican Republic etc. These trips are fun as you learn actual medical skills and maybe even see a condition or two that you studied during first year. Most people I know who went on these trips absolutely loved it and wouldn't dream of doing anything else. These sorts of things also look good on a resume. Just don;t do it for that last reason.

3.) Former Job

If you have an old job at a hospital or you were an EMS, contact them during the last half of your first year and see if you can comeback. Most of you will still be living off of loan money still so its not bad to supplement your income. Do the same if you worked at BR or Foot Locker, getting paid is never a bad option. Just don't go out and get a job for the first time as no one will hire you for 8 weeks (the economy again)

4.) Work for your school

Aside from trips, the professors at your medical institution usually do some research. If you like a certain professor or a certain topic of research, approach them for a job. Most of the time they will say YES and give you a research project over the summer or longer if you would like. Never a bad idea and a resume builder or more if you work hard enough and your work gets published.

5.) Study

If you simply can't fathom the idea of letting 8 weeks go by without doing something for school, you are a gunner and I don't like you. Seriously, the best advice I can give is if you use First Aid (FA) to study with and make notes during your first year classes, reread those sections to get them fresh in your mind. I started school thinking that was going to be me but I did not follow through with that. I guess you could revisit old topics that you had trouble with, look over anatomy, or prepare yourself for the upcoming courses (Acid-Base disorders for example.) I really don't advise this pathway as you need time to relax and you have earned it. The only reading you should do is for pleasure, and so help me God, If i hear another pre-teen talking about "twilight" I may drop-kick her.

What I did

During the last few weeks of our integument system I developed Low Back Pain. I sought out OMT treatment which worked for a few days but symptoms kept returning with a vengeance. Even with the LBP limiting my mobility, i played all time pitcher for softball one afternoon. i carelessly bent down to field a grounder upon which i felt a searing pain shoot down the outside of my right leg. I flipped the ball to the first basemen, the batter was out, and I retired for the afternoon. As the days went by, the symptoms, mostly leg symptoms rather than low back became worse. I got to a point where I could not drive more than 10 minutes much less sit in a chair for 15 or so. I again sought out OMT treatment which revealed a lumbar radiculopathy during a straight-leg raise of my right leg. At this point the outside of the lower right leg and foot were numb 100% of the day. Thanks to some very good friends, I made it to all my doctor appointments and my brother came down from boston to drive me back home to Rochester, NY.

I saw my PCP's NP upon my arrival in rochester and she agreed with my doctors at school that I should go get an MRI of my lumbar spine. This is where I became fortunate. My mother is an NP of women's health and through her 25+ years of working, she knew another NP for a neurosurgeon. She told her of my condition and the neurosurg NP would access my MRI and send it to the MD. The MRI showed two intervertebral disc herniations at the level of L4-L5 and L5-S1. The herniation at L4-L5 was central and mild and the radiologist could not determine when that herniation occurred. The money shot was centered around my L5-S1 disc which showed a large lateral herniation compressing the S1 nerve root.

At the time of the MRI, my leg symptoms had been present for 6 weeks. During the later 4 weeks, I had been to PT in rochester to correct the radiculopathy dx'ed by both my doctors at the school and my PCP's NP in Rochester. At 6 weeks, my right leg was significantly atrophied especially my right calf.

Upon the neurosurgeons notification of my MRI results, he scheduled me for an appointment on thursday and upon Hx/PE (history and physical exam) set a surgical date for the following tuesday. I underwent a hemi-laminectomy with diskectomy procedure which lasted about 2 hours. I was kept overnight in the hospital and d/c'ed the next morning.

I am 5 weeks plus 5 days post surgery and recovery is going very well. I have limitations put on me by the NP which I will adhere too until the end of september. I plan to resume normal sporting activity starting in january 2010.

I was very lucky to have my 8 weeks off. Had this happened during the middle of the school year or during third year I would of had to taken a leave of absence from school/rotations to heal up.

Take your 8 weeks of your last summer and make them the most fun you have ever had. That's the most important point of this diatribe.

Until Next time

Whoop Whoop



  1. Hi, I will be entering NYCOM this fall(c/o2013)and just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with us your thoughts and insights in to medical school.

    I also admire your writing style. It is very pleasant and enjoyable to read! Congrats on successfully finishing your first year and best wishes this fall!

  2. How is the combined cardio/resp course going for you Dr. Zoidberg???

  3. Hey, I'm a 2nd year at PCOM... I was just wondering what specialties you are considering? Are you going to take the COMLEX and USMLE step 1? Have you studied for them yet?

    Our class/school seems very similar regarding our curriculum and class size. Good luck on your year, keep us posted.