Shadowing Dr. Nwynn 10/12

Hi everyone! Just got back from shadowing Dr. Nwynn in outpatient surgery. Today I observed two surgeries, both mid-urethral slings, which treat incontinence (leakage of urine with everyday activities, like coughing, sneezing, or laughing). The procedure itself is still a little confusing to me, but from what I understand, a sling made of surgical mesh is inserted around the urethra (pee-pee hole) to keep it from drooping during physical activity, which causes the leakage of urine. Dr. Nwynn said this particular procedure is a little tricky because it’s completely blind- he must depend solely on touch to navigate around the internal organs.

As the patient was being prepped, Dr. Nwynn said that surgery is a sort of dance. There are so many different steps that must be followed in sequential order. Either the circulator or surgeon must present the patient, the case, and possible allergies. Patient is positioned- legs placed in $5000 stirrups; arms extended in a T-position; towels covering all exposed skin aside from area of incision. Scrub nurse does a count of surgical tools. Circulator confirms. Spotlights are turned on. Anesthesiologist injects the gas into the patient’s bloodstream, asks the patient questions. When patient is no longer responsive, anesthesiologist gives the cue to the surgeon to begin. Clock starts. Everything must be done precisely in that order.

During the few hours I spent at the hospital, I talked a lot with the anesthesiologist, whom the doctors call Chopra. A wise Indian man in his 60s or early 70s, Chopra bombarded my brain with great insight into both the world of medicine and how one can become successful in life. Chopra shared with me activities he believes everyone should integrate into their lives (not necessarily in order of importance) to reach his/her full potential:

  1. Read biographies. Gaining insight into how people endured and emerged successful serves as a tool for us to reach our maximum potentials. Chopra suggested I read Marie Curie, the woman scientist who discovered radium, and Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.
  2. Set aside time for yourself to meditate and think about yourself, your values, your goals. Get in touch with your inner soul. You must know yourself better than anyone else does.
  3. Make music. Whether it’s piano, violin, or singing, set aside time each day to play. According to Chopra, studies have shown that people who play music on a daily basis are intellectually more enriched and well-versed than those who do not. Apparently, musicians make better doctors.
  4. LISTEN. Engage in intellectual discussions, but don’t dominate the conversation. When you talk, you don’t listen, and thus, you are not learning. Learning stems from listening. So listen to those around you, take advantage of the resources you have at your fingertips. Listen to TED talks. Join Toastmasters, where you will hear intellectually stimulated people share knowledge and insight.

Regarding medicine, Chopra explained how in this technological age, robots are swiftly replacing doctors. Think about it- robots can be programmed to diagnose and treat patients. They are MUCH cheaper than highly trained professionals. In fact, it is very likely that fields like internal medicine will be replaced by robots in the near future. Both Chopra and Dr. Nwynn told me that if I wanted to go into medicine, go into a field that requires HANDS, like surgery. Anesthesiology is also a very competitive field nowadays- good money, hard to replace, and LOTS of responsibility.

Inside the OR, Chopra was telling me to think outside the box, to work for the greater good. “This right here,” Chopra said, waving his arm at Dr. Nwynn and the scrub nurse and the patient, “this right here is inside the box. Anyone can do this, all they need is to be trained.” Chopra then pointed to the plastic clip attached to the patient’s finger, called a finger pulse oximeter, that measures how much oxygen one is getting. “This, however- the inventor of this device was thinking outside the box. Can you believe it, a little piece of plastic you attach to your finger that measures amount of oxygen in your blood?”

Personally, I still think being a physician of any sort is one of the most rewarding things a person can be. Doing service to the people, changing lives, saving lives. But Chopra is also right- working for the greater good, making ground-breaking inventions, is just as, if not more, rewarding.

Okay, I must get back to studying now! I hope you guys found Chopra’s words of advice just as great as I did. What an amazing, inspiring man. And at the end of the day, dressed in plain blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a white cap, he is only human. Just like you and me.


Happy Friday everyone, we survived another crazy week, and now it’s time to enjoy the weekend (or if you’re me, the THREE DAY WEEKEND!!!) 🙂

This week in human biology, our objective was to memorize 39 bones in the human body. Having memorized all 39, I proudly recited them to my dad, who stood there with his professional “doctor” face on (the serious poker-face he always adopts when I start talking medicine to him). After finishing, my dad looked puzzled, as if thinking, That’s it?!?!. He went on to tell me that the bones I had named were SUPER SUPER basic level, that I had merely skimmed the surface of the human skeletal system.

That word he used- level- got me thinking about the different levels of knowledge, experience, and sophistication in any facet of life, be it academics, music, sports, etc. The idea of one gaining additional layers of knowledge as one gains experience may seem intuitive, but it is also such a prevalent theme in life that I felt the need to take a step back and examine the role “levels” has played in my life thus far.

Last week, my dance teacher told me about the process of learning latin: you first learn the basic  footwork of the dance; then the details of foot placement, hip action, arms, and core come into play. Not at once, of course- over time and diligent practice. Each week I gain a level of dance knowledge and sophistication. But here’s the thing- you ALWAYS have to start at the beginning, set a very strong foundation, and build upon the fundamental technique with more intricate, sophisticated details. Not just with dance, but with anything in life. As an infant, you first learn to sit up, then crawl, then take your first wobbly steps,  and eventually run. Levels are a natural phenomenon of life. In math- you start with simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. You use these tools throughout your math journey, whether it’s algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or calculus. All these examples share a common thread- everything ties back to what you learn in the beginning. Without a strong rumba walk, how can I expect to dance difficult open gold routines? Without learning to crawl, how can I run? Without learning basic computation, how will I be able to manipulate variables on a  three-dimensional plane?

I guess what I’m saying is, life is comprised of an infinite number of levels. As time passes and you gain more knowledge, your level of expertise increases, until one day you will have become a master (after 10,000 hours of practice, precisely).

So yes, at this point, I only know 39 bones in the human body. But I know that once upon a time, my father was at the exact same point I am at now. Through years and years of studying, he became a master of human anatomy and physiology. I have complete confidence that with hard work, I can be JUST as knowledgeable as my father is. Similarly, I have faith that with practice and time, I will become a great latin dancer one day. I believe that anyone, with intrinsic motivation and desire, can learn and master ANYTHING. It’s all just a matter of climbing your way up the levels, one baby step at a time.

Ballroom Dance Journey

Hi everyone, hope life is great for you all 🙂 A little update on what’s been going on in my life: the past week has been very study-heavy. I took the SAT math subject test over the weekend, and I feel confident that my diligent preparation allowed me to perform well. That’s the last of the college entry standardized tests I’m taking, so I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders. On the down side, dancing has been slowing down as of late due to academic pressures and college apps. I have not danced in one entire week, which feels pretty crappy. Yesterday afternoon, as I was strolling along the levee to my favorite thinking sanctuary, I had the chance to engage in some self-reflection.

My first question to myself was, why exactly did I not dance for an entire week? The simple answer is that school is priority right now. With SAT math, lots of in-school exams, and college apps, I barely have time for anything aside from academics. Looking deeper, however, I realized such a fact can just as easily be used as an EXCUSE, a SCAPEGOAT, for not dancing. It is true that academics is my priority, especially during this critical period of testing. But the question becomes, am I using studying as a way to get out of dancing? After all, I know from personal experience that if one wants something badly, one will make time for that something, no matter how difficult the circumstances. This is the same girl who, less than a year ago, would wake up at 4:55 a.m. each day before school to practice dance, go to the school dance studio at lunchtime to practice some more, and come straight home from school to practice rumba walks on the small hardwood floor area of our living room. And now? I couldn’t even bring myself to get off my butt and practice for an entire week. What had changed?

The answer is quite simple, actually, and I’m sure many of you guys can relate. Let me use the analogy of a romantic relationship. When you first meet someone and fall in love, it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling! In the beginning, all you can think about day in and day out is this one person whom you believe is “the one”. You’re in that honeymoon phase where you and your significant other are attached at the hip, drooling over one another. Everything is so perfect, so you decide to get married. As the years pass, however, your relationship takes more work. The initial flurry of passion and excitement has faded. But you still love this person unconditionally, and you learn to accept this person’s many flaws.

I realize this is not the perfect analogy, but it gets the message across: I was dating. Now I’m married. As we all know, it is very easy to begin something, but very difficult to commit to the very end. I fell in love with ballroom dance that Valentines Day of 2015. It was so exciting to try something completely new, something I had great potential in. I had found a sport that filled the void that losing gymnastics had left in me. I had found my new niche.

When you first go into something, whether it’s a learning a new sport, a new instrument, a new language, there’s always that initial excitement, which can give rise to blindness and naivety. You don’t fully realize what you’re signing up for until you actually start. When I first began dancing, I had very honest aspirations of becoming a world champion latin dancer one day. I TRULY believed I could do it- not just because I knew my gymnastics background had given me an edge, but mainly because the fiery PASSION drove me to push myself to do things no “normal” person would do.

After the initial honeymoon phase of laughter and “good job’s” from my first coach, the real work began.  The more latin dance I learned, the more I realized how much I DIDN’T know. In a sense, latin is more difficult than gymnastics- there are so many intricacies among the bodily movements. It is a highly conceptual art form that requires intense concentration and YEARS of repetition before one can truly internalize the dance. In short, IT GOT HARD.

Now, allow me to clarify: I love the challenge of latin. That’s what makes the sport so meaningful, exciting and fulfilling. However, my high aspirations to reach the top in the dancesport world coupled with my competitive, impatient nature gave rise to FRUSTRATION, SELF-DOUBT, NEGATIVITY. Practice became frustrating instead of fun and enjoyable. I wanted so much in such a short amount of time… Thus, I hit my first mental/emotional roadblock on my ballroom dance journey. I continued to practice like hell, but the enjoyment was replaced by negativity and frustration. My impatience to become a great dancer ended up slowing my progress rather than hastening it. Without the enjoyment, practice becomes a chore.

So what got me out of this low point in my dance journey? I began preparing for my first competition. My new coaches strongly urged me to get out on the floor and compete, as competition gives you a strong incentive to practice hard, thus accelerating your growth as a dancer. After two and a half months with my new coaches, I competed at my first competition, Embassy Ball, and got second place in my division. After that first competition, I was hooked. I was hungry for the competition, the performing, the incredible energy on the dance floor.

And where am I now, one month after my first competition? Well, after the competition, my passion and motivation had grown EXPONENTIALLY. After getting out in the public eye and performing after a three years hiatus, I had found the side of me I had lost during the darkness between gymnastics and latin: the PERFORMER. At this moment, however, school is my priority. After college applications are over, I will be able to devote a lot more time for dancing. Right now, though, is time to focus on college essays and exams 🙂

So until next time, dear readers!

~Bel ❤