And verily the latter portion will be better than the former– Quran, (93:4)

“This time last year, everything was so different”.

I came across that quote a few days ago and took a few moments to ponder how that applied to me. Last December, I was in my second year, studying for finals, worrying about boards, trying to figure out if I wanted to apply for residencies all over the US or to stick to the NorthEast, and having a dreaded fear of third year coursework. Fear of the unknown was the correct definition for my feelings at that time. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep up my grades while performing well in clinic, or would the load be too much for me to bear. On top of all that, I was worried about how I would be able to continue commuting when there was less time to study yet more to study for. Plus, it was when I first had the idea to start this blog! Alhamdulillah, it all went well, but there were definitely many difficult yet interesting experiences that helped me mature this past year.

The spring of the second year wasn’t bad at all, exams came and went and everyone moved on. Fast forward to June, trying to juggle Ramadan while studying for boards was a test of its own. Fasting is never hard, but attempting to catch Taraweeh every night and concentrate on muscle innervations and subtypes of bacteria while operating on 2 hours of sleep was not an easy task. It seems like just yesterday that it was the first week of July and one of the secretaries was warning me about third year coursework, saying that she felt bad for my class for what we’ll have to endure.

15 classes, ranging from dermatology to pediatric orthopedics to reconstructive surgery, were taught. As an added bonus, if something was taught in class and a patient just happened to exhibit that particular clinical case, you were expected to be able to identify it, research it, and be prepared to discuss it. A classmate of mine did not Doppler the non-palpable pulses of a patient. After a harsh scolding by the clinician, she had a presentation prepared the next day about PVD. I once had a new patient in the clinic from the ER who had an ankle fracture. I had to obtain her X-rays, then classify the fracture and present treatment options. Like all new things, it was tough and hard to get used to in the beginning.

In between working in clinic for 4-5 hours every morning, then rushing to classes and exams until 6 PM, we had to make a list of the top 5 residency programs that we wanted to extern at, then apply and wait for their verdict. Everyone has their own opinion of how to go about choosing a residency; location is a factor for some, while others consider long hours vs a family friendly program, and still others don’t care where they are as long as they receive the best training. Since my interest is pediatrics, I looked into ped focused programs, which were in Virginia and Florida. But after a lot of research and reading externship evaluations, I decided to apply to only NJ programs that had a nice mix of peds and surgery. The general advice is that you should try to match at a residency where you would eventually like to practice. So I guess you could say that I looked at location 🙂

Last week, I walked out of my very last academic exam ever. Alhamdulillah, it was such an incredible feeling to realize that I never have to sit and study for an exam again (besides future boards!). From now on, any knowledge I learn I can apply directly to the clinical situations that I come across. I can focus on my clinical skills, and use every patient that I encounter as one step more to becoming a better physician. When I look back at last December, my first year, and even my college years, I really would not have imagined to have reached this point. I gave up a lot to reach this point, but was it worth it? Absolutely. But when someone asks if I would do it all again… let’s just say I’m glad that it’s over 😉