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Entries in Loma Linda Medical School (2)

Tuesday
Jun052012

Medical Student and Ultramarathoner: An Interview with Brad Harris

Anyone thinking about a marathon during medical school? This guy eats them for breakfast!

Brad Harris is a 3rd, soon-to-be, 4th year medical student at Loma Linda University. When he is not rocking the wards he's probably in the mountains, pushing his lactate threshold to the limit.

Tell me about your last race?

My last race was the Old Goat 50 miler on March 24. It was a trail race on 75% singletrack trails in the beautiful coastal Santa Ana Mountains. It was a tough course with 13,000 feet of climbing. Ninety-five percent of the course was either going up or down. The physical side of running an ultra race proved to be much easier to train for than the mental side. At some points in the race all I wanted to do was stop and stretch, just so I could have a good excuse to stop running. By the end it became a battle to find motivation to finish. Overall, it was great experience and a good challenge mentally. I finished with a smile on my face.

What did you feel like after finishing a first 50 mile run?

HUNGRY! I subscribe to the theory that your body tells you what it needs through cravings so that meant that I ate nachos, chili, pancakes, gatorade, chocolate milk, salty potato chips, and grilled cheese all within the first 10 hours after the race. And it was all guilt-free eating. Of course, crossing the finish line was a lifelong goal for me and brought a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, but stuffing my face sure brought a lot of satisfaction as well.

When did you get into running?

My high school biology teacher got me into long distance running in 9th grade. I have since transitioned to more trail running. After moving to Southern California for medical school, I found the local mountain trails lots of fun to play in. Running has become a way of life now.

Ok, I know you like pain, was that what inspired you do pursue medicine?

One of the biggest reasons I first decided to go into medicine was to give back to my community. I've been very fortunate to get medical help when I've needed it most. I've been shown compassion and experienced how it feels to receive it. I look forward to being able to this on to others both locally and globally. Another thing that appealed to me about medicine was the opportunity to be a part of a community that constantly strives for excellence and works to improve peoples' quality of life. In addition, I really enjoy the mental stimulation that medicine provides. It's a challenging career that will always be evolving, changing, and making you think. As I started medical school, I became very interested in wilderness medicine and specifically high altitude medicine. I love the mountains so its a pretty natural fit for me. I look forward to incorporating as much medicine as I can into the things I love to do in the outdoors and giving back to the community.

One of my favorite quotes kind of says it all...

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

- Albert Pike

What types of races have you done in medical school?

While in medical school, I've done 2 big races (2010 Boston Marathon & 2012 Old Goat 50 miler), a few smaller races, and am constantly coming up with entertaining endurance challenges with friends on the weekends to challenge ourselves. My goal throughout med school has been to get out into the wilderness at least once a week to run, rock climb, or backcountry ski. Its a great way to clear the mind and a good motivation to be efficient with studying.

How do you keep up with medical school and have time to train at such a high level?

I try to maintain a focused yet flexible training schedule with a lot of variation, but some times school doesn't comply with my training schedule. Check out my guest post on Endurance Training During Medical Training.

Has your running life opened any doors in you medical career?

I've made great friends and met all kinds of interesting people that are in the medical field at races and while out training, but the most direct way that running has opened doors is that it provides an easy icebreaker to start up conversations with residents, attendings, and patients on a day-to-day basis. Its fun for me to find out what other people like about running and create a common bond. I've found that the shoes that people wear in the hospital tend to be a great conversation starter.

So what’s next for your running career?

My most important goals are to continue to stay healthy, push myself, and meet fun, interesting people through running. In addition to these goals, I keep a google doc chocked full of future adventures. It's a dynamic list that helps keep me focused and  keeps me dreaming. I highly recommend this type of adventure list to anybody that enjoys the outdoors.

A few running adventures on my short list for the next couple years include:

  1. 100 mile trail race,
  2. Running up Mt. Whitney,
  3. Running the West Coast Trail in BC Canada
  4. Running the Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon.

How has staying connected to this passion helped you in medical school?

The biggest way running has helped me in medical school is it has allowed a time for me to clear my head and remember that life is much bigger than the current landry list of stressors I may be facing in my life.

Thursday
Mar082012

They Tell Me That Medical School Will Change Me

By Tamara Moores, a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University specializing in Emergency Medicine.

They tell me that I’ll change.

They always do.

In our first two weeks of medical school, freshmen students are assigned to shadow senior students working in the hospital. When I was a freshman, my senior student’s final comment to me was “Wow. You’re really enthusiastic… That will change.”

Now as a fourth year medical student, today’s version of the story was – “intern year will change you. You may look the same on the outside, you may portray that same bubbly, sunshine personality, but inside you’ll be different – harder, less tolerant, mean.”

They say it with confidence, they say it with authority, brooking no disagreement, allowing no doubt. Attendings, residents, nurses – they all deign to tell me my future – “there’s no way you can stay that energetic, it’s incompatible with a medical career.” Over and over I have heard this. As a medical student, I am supposed to listen and learn - to be guided by these wise elders. This morning when I heard the prediction for the 100th time, like always I politely listened with a half-smile. Yet silently my spirit roared “How DARE you smugly tell me the fate of my soul?! How DARE you justify your own insecurities about your passionless heart by attempting to degrade mine?”

Medicine is a unique environment. In my short foray into this time-honored, traditioned society, I have been buffered and shocked by the rampant negativity that oozes through the hospital walls. People seem to even take pride in their ability to bemoan their situation.

“Oh God, another consult from the ED, think they managed to even do a physical exam before calling?”

“That professor has no idea what’s on boards.”

“I can’t believe we have to be here.”

“This computer system is a joke.”

By far the most common conversation in a hospital is complaining. Tomorrow, try something different - stop and listen to the myriad people talking at work. The ratio of negative to positive conversations will overwhelm you.

Why is hospital culture like this? Shouldn’t a place of healing be full of warm emotions, positive thoughts, and uplifted people? Why is a ‘negative nancy’ the most common type of medical professional we meet? What are we doing wrong? These questions often come to mind during my workday. There is no easy answer. At the very least I know my top goal is to NEVER become that stereotypical cynical physician, and instead be the uncommon doctor with true passion for medicine.

So how do I accomplish this in such a caustic environment? Have no doubt, even at my current bubbly baseline, it is a daily war to maintain my heart for this career. So many physicians before me have fought this battle and lost. How can I succeed where they have failed?

A resident who I highly respect recently told me ‘be careful what you say, because talk patterns become thought patterns.’ This, more than anything, is my first defense against cynicism. It is SO easy to fall into conversation filled with complaints. These tiny conversations seem harmless, but over the course of a lifetime they shape your soul. Now at the end of my medical schooling, and at the cusp of residency, I am awed by the power of the spoken word. It’s undeniable - what we say both molds and reflects what we think.

Overall I believe the best weapon against developing permanent pessimism is to be deliberate in how we react to daily adversity. How do we respond to a floridly difficult, unpleasant patient? Do we moan about how annoying they are? Do we ruminate about how unfairly they treated us? Permit me to suggest a different response. Instead of focusing on how unjustly that patient has treated me, I instead try to feel gratitude. Whether or not it’s right, these difficult patients make me grateful that my life has not put me in their position. They must be really unhappy inside, to so poorly treat the people who are trying to care for them. When I am mistreated by an attending, I remind myself that they are but a momentary discomfort, and soon will be gone from my life. Over and over I find myself fighting to see the positives in my life. It is a deliberate, intentional strategy, which allows me to shine out with joy even in the little moments of the day.

I firmly believe that working as a medical professional can be a path to a life filled with meaning and passion….if we let it. Not all days are perfect, but most days I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be in my chosen career. The patients are interesting, my skills are stretched, and I feel fulfilled. Beyond these personal reasons, more than any other career, medicine reminds us how short and precious life is. We deal in broken bodies, lives cut short by car collisions, by strokes, by chronic disease. How lucky we are to be able to move our bodies without wheelchairs, to be relatively self-sufficient. Working in the medical field reminds me daily that everything can change in a moment. It is this acute awareness of the frailty of life, which makes me embrace life with so much abandon. It is this knowledge that gives me joy in the workplace, even during the rough days. To put it bluntly, life is too darn short to be grumpy.

So why am I reflecting via this forum? Perhaps because I hope that I am not alone in this fight. Perhaps I hope that by starting a discussion, we might nudge forth a change in the standard hospital culture. Maybe with forums like this, we can shift the caustic paradigm. Here’s to hope.

About:: Tamara Moores is a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University. She is specializing in Emergency Medicine. https://www.facebook.com/reflectingthelights

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