On spring break continued (or the beginning of Surgery)

This past week felt like an extension of spring break.


Monday’s orientation to the surgical clerkship ate up the entire day with lectures in the morning and knot-tying skills in the afternoon. Left the hospital with some mild hand cramps after the repetitive motions, but I found the practice deeply soothing and reminded me of my love for craftwork.


Tuesday through Thursday, I was excused from my outpatient surgical rotations for a poster presentation in Boston.

Originally, I had planned on a nice relaxing train ride from NJ to MA. About six hours in total, I’d arrive in Boston and then take a car from the station to the convention center. Present my poster at the Annual Assembly of Palliative and Hospice Medicine, then spend the night with a friend, wake up the next morning and then return via train to NJ.

The trip went mostly to plan, except that I missed my relaxing train ride. I drove from home to the Trenton, NJ station on Wednesday morning, but left a bit later because I wanted to say goodbye to my lovely Honey-bun. Then some traffic popped up and I arrived minutes after my train had scheduled to leave. My train ride filled with reading some books, completing some flashcards, and perhaps even a nap was quickly replaced by a five hour drive to Boston. An uneventful drive, though I would’ve preferred the train.

The presentation went well. I had collected the interviews for the podcast into some qualified data and struck up fun conversations with interested attendees. The palliative conference had coloring stations and blanket-making areas for guests. The entire Annual Assembly was far larger than I had anticipated, with folks from all around the country gathering together to talk about hospice medicine.

One major takeaway from the experience: I need to develop comfort with networking. I had exchanged emails with a previous president of the AAHPM, as he was giving a talk the following day about “Taking Psychedelics Seriously“. Since psychedelic medicine is my main interest within psychiatry and I’d be unable to attend the talk during my return to PA, I asked for the slides so that I could gain any information I could from his talk. He graciously agreed and offered some words of encouragement for my path in medicine.

During the conference, towards the end of the presentation session, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I wanted to approach him, but he always had someone talking with him. It brought me back to my post-college years, cruising a bar trying to find the courage to talk to a lady.

I didn’t end up talking with him in-person. I never found or feigned the courage. A good reminder that I always have a comfort zone and that I need to push past it in order to grow. I spent the drive home replaying instances in which I could have spoken with him, and the possible opportunities that I missed by allowing fear to win the day.


Friday, I spent the morning shadowing a surgical oncologist who specialized in the breast and thyroid. A slim Korean woman, she reminded me of my own mother in both her physical stature and the way that she carried herself. The plot twist occurred when she spoke fluent Spanish to her patients.


Saturday, I ventured into the still-bare, not quite spring, forest about an hour west of Coopersburg with my fourth year friend, Michael. We aimed to collect antler sheds. As bucks prepare for the coming spring season, they drop their previous year’s antlers like a child loses a tooth. Then, the antlers regrow at an astonishing rate, usually bigger each successive year.

The search for antler sheds gives an individual a goal while out in the woods during the non-hunting season. As the deer lose their antlers in the early spring, it gives the hunter an excuse to go out as winter recedes. This trip also provided an excellent opportunity to hand-off his best hunting spots, so that I could become acquainted with the area and develop a relationship with the landscape. Perhaps I will take my first deer this fall.

We found one good antler and spent one night in the cold.

A good trade.


Long Form Sundays

On Death Podcast

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