Tag Archives: Training

My Life is Very Glamorous Now

For anyone keeping score, I have not written a single blog post in almost two years. In that amount of time I have passed a whole bunch of tests, finished medical school, moved partway around the country, and become a for real, honest-to-God surgical resident. Impressive, I know. I return now to divulge all the juicy secrets about doctors and describe all the ways that my life is exactly like Grey’s Anatomy.


Actually, I’m back because I got an email that someone might have hacked my page and been posting malicious content. The security threat was neutralized (unknown source, but it could have been either of my regular readers) and once I remembered my password I realized what a gold mine of ridiculous stories I am sitting on and how much I miss writing. Shockingly, this blog is visited routinely despite not logging in for over two years. There are comments from 2014 that will still be awaiting moderation when the world ends. If I had monetized this thing two years ago I could probably get a York peppermint patty at the gas station, but as I mentioned, I have been busy living a very glamorous life, which I will detail below.

The main perk of being a surgical intern is that you get do everything. Actually, mostly everything. All of the cool stuff gets done by people above you, BUT you get to do everything else, so pretty much lots of pushing buttons of the computer, taking papers from one place in the hospital to another, and keeping tabs on dozens of patients doing their best to leave the hospital to overdose on drugs or make poor decisions as soon as they can. Also, everything is your fault unless you have proof of being in a different location, being on a different service, or an iPhone video of the attending surgeon telling you explicitly to do that specific thing. The basic procedures that are “intern level” are bestowed on you as though they were gifted from God himself, but really it’s just a chief resident with a healthy opinion of himself “letting” you do a gallbladder. But trust me, you are very busy and definitely not with busy work.

Perfect resident

A second perk of being a surgical resident is the ease of managing your life outside of work. See, a “resident” describes someone who lives at a certain place. To “intern” someone also means to confine them to a certain location. The ACGME had to create new rules specifically so that we worked less than 80 hours a week. Simply put, your life outside of the hospital becomes pretty well simplified into brief periods of lucidity shortly before or after going to sleep. Starting residency, I was shocked at how little cleaning I needed to do, since I was never actually in my apartment long enough to make a mess. I have since managed to surreptitiously move into and live in an upstairs call room at the hospital, and I use the neighboring anesthesia call room to store all of my boxes.

A third perk of surgical residency, which I consider to be a defining perk of surgery in general, is the ability to wear scrubs every day of your life. I love my scrubs. My sweatpants at home aren’t as comfortable as my scrubs. I can change them whenever I want, add or subtract layers above or below them, and they are so comfortable I could wear them as pajamas. Acceptable all days of the week, on the floor, most of the time in clinic, they simplify your life and wardrobe into a nice dull shade of green. Gain a few pounds and no one will ever know. They are impossible to wear inside out once the logo and tag get washed off in the scalding hot bleachy hospital wash water. Depending on the situation it is possible to layer your scrubs for maximum efficiency, allowing you to remove and dispose of the top layer on the go (while seeing isolation patients, for example).

Finally, one of the key factors that made me choose to be a surgeon in the first place, I actually feel like I help people. Surgery, as an act, can directly fix problems. Gallbladders come out, mesh goes in, wounds are repaired, infections drained….whatever that individual needs, we can often help them in a tangible way. Of course some people have chronic issues no surgery can fix, but that’s a common theme in all areas of medicine now and a bigger problem than choosing your specialty.

Honestly, surgical residency is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy. The one episode my wife showed me started with the surgeons going to the hospital after the sun had risen, which immediately tipped me off that it was going to be incredibly wrong. Ironically, surgery residency is more similar to Scrubs than to any other show. The ridiculous “cast” of hospital staff you work with every day, the unbelievable patients and family members under your care, and the combined drama of having all of your patients experiencing their worst day ever weave together to form a story so impossible to communicate effectively that you end up just seeing the pieces.

I wish I could tell you about the stress, the anxiety, the soul crushing nights of trauma, delivering bad news to cancer patients, and grasping for ways to explain to families how their loved one has died. I wish I could share the combined experience of every sleepless night, running around the hospital while three pagers ring incessantly, worried that my action or inaction would cause harm to a patient. Conversely, I wish I could tell you about the bond I have with my co-residents, the thrill of mastering difficult technical skills, of doing work well, and the peaceful content after a job well done. There is a deep satisfaction to working as a surgeon so impossible to convey that it’s easier to just show the “skits”, the short stories that are relatable and funny, easy to tell at dinner on the weekend.

On this blog, however, I can do something different. My writing over the years builds on itself. My story, my perspective, and my experience can create a narrative that is greater than the sum of its parts. The lessons and experience I am currently gaining are coming at a dear personal cost and are worth sharing. It’s worth it to me personally to take the time to sort out my thoughts and articulate them here, and I hope that over the years this story has a meaningful impact on someone else in the world too, wherever or whenever that may be.

That’s why I’m back writing here.

Thanks for reading.







Rusty Iron

After gorging myself on a delicious, satisfying, probably diabetes-inducing dinner, I sat down and proceeded to study for about an hour and a half. This is pretty typical for me, since I don’t study well late at night and prefer to relax and spend time with my wife in the evening. I also go running in the evening, since my part of the country boasts disgusting heat and humidity for 90% of the summer. To compensate, I run at dusk. I could run in the morning, I realize, but I’m lazy and want to sleep, so that never works.

So two hours after the carb fest I called dinner, I laced up my shoes and headed out to a nearby trail to put in my nightly run. Since moving a few weeks ago, I have managed to run at least 4 days a week, even on some days where I just wanted to sleep, play Xbox, or otherwise vegetate myself for a few hours.

What a happy potato….wait…is that cannibalism?

I have been attempting to retrain myself in this whole running endeavor. It used to be that my “shortest” run was 3 miles. Anything less than that didn’t count as running. This was probably drilled into me by years of high school cross country. I am trying to adjust that setting to 4 miles, a run that I can usually fit in right under 30 minutes. Usually. Not lately. See I am now almost exactly two months removed from the Ironman. I can no longer say “I just did an Ironman” and value size my meal at Chick-fil-a (I still value size, I just come up with different reasons).

Who’s hungry?

I am now at the point where I must stop “recovering” and begin “exercising”, and that means running. Why? It’s simple. I don’t like swimming, and the pool is 6 whole minutes from school, and that’s way too far out of the way. Also, I don’t really like swimming. Cycling is time consuming. What I can accomplish in an hour of running would take about 3 hours to accomplish on my bike, unless I ride it on the trainer, which is also pretty boring and hard to justify unless it’s snowing outside.

Yet another problem: after the Ironman, I did not do a good job of recovering. In the two weeks immediately after the race, I went out on two or three bike rides with my very persuasive wife and some friends, and those did NOT go well. Stupidly, I also tried multiple times to go for short runs and loosen up, also without success. I had no rhythm (thank God for spell check, I never get that word right on the first try), couldn’t keep a tempo or pace, and everything hurt. I realize now I should never have done that. One bike ride in particular prompted me to declare the need to not bike for a while. I think that was about a month ago, and I just now am beginning to feel the slightest desire to cycle during the fall. Maybe some shorter rides on the weekend with my wife will be fun.

Back to point, which is that this combination of Ironman “recovery”, starting medical school, and generalized chaos in my life has led me to become fat. Just kidding, I’m not fat, just much heavier and slower than I have ever been (AKA fat). Which is why this daily four mile run started out at a crawl. The first evening I tried it I ended up walking quite a bit of the hills. Yesterday I finally ran it in 29 minutes and felt pretty good the whole time. I’m enjoying running, and will need to run some more to compensate for all of the sitting I’ve been doing.

That’s the last part of this picture. A typical day for me now involves at least 6 hours of sitting in lecture, a few more hours of sitting while I study, and then to relax after all of that I will sit in a different place and do other things like blog or watch Netflix. Combine this new sedentary schedule with my pathetic weakness for carbs and sugary drinks (sweet tea, Dr. Pepper) and I am well on my way to becoming a fatasauraus. Ultimately, I need a race in my future to get me motivated, preferably another marathon. It’s hard to motivate myself for that quite yet, so I will just work on speed and strength on my own. In the process, I may just fall in love with running all over again.

Note: You may have noticed that I posted twice today! That does occasionally happen, since I sometimes finish two posts in a day from draft. Also, I tend to post most often when there are other pressing things in my life I need to be putting off until later (like this first exam coming up).

Thanks for reading!