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White Coat Files

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FC: The White Coat Files An account of my medical school adventures Year One | Erin Wash

1: The White Coat Files Year One Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. -Marie Curie | About Me Erin Cincinnati native. Ursula woman. Notre Dame alumna. Second year medical student at Tulane. Obsessed with Google labels. Morning person. Pauses for beautiful sunsets. Trying fervently to live with intention. (picture is a Botticelli morph from here: http://morph.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk//transformer/)

3: How I got here... I've never had a blog before, but thought it might be time to get on the wagon to keep everyone updated on my greatest new adventure: medical school. So welcome and enjoy! If you have any tips, I'm all ears. I've always had an interest in medicine, albeit a fairly naive one when I was younger. After going to Notre Dame for college, I somewhat abandoned my goal of becoming a doctor, and came back to it after several meaningful volunteer experiences (and realizing going for a PhD by doing bench work was NOT my dream). Getting here included, but was not limited to: -sacrificing a summer to take Kaplan courses for the MCAT, then taking the dreaded test -finishing a degree of biochemistry at ND -applications to 15 schools- one common primary app and then secondary ones specific to each school, carrying a lovely price tag to boot -2 interviews, traveling to New Orleans and Cincinnati for them -and finally, the acceptance letter to TULANE! When I visited New Orleans, LA for the first time for my interview, I felt a connection to the school and the city right away. The faculty and students made a great impression on me, emphasizing how honored they were to host all the interviewees. A new dean had just arrived from Harvard, whose sentiments deeply touched me: when asked why he chose to come to Tulane, after accomplishing much back at Harvard, he replied, "I like a challenge." Hmm, sounds familiar. The students I met were so welcoming, obviously devoted to service and the rebuilding of New Orleans, and committed to helping one another, fostering an environment that was supportive versus competitive. Needless to say, I was sold. So, orientation starts July 31 (super soon). I'm trying to make the most of the next few weeks in Cincinnati with family and friends. More stories to come soon! a | Sunday, June 21, 2009 Two Paths Diverged in a Wood...

4: Thursday, July 2, 2009 Any excuse for a party... and this was a good one! | "Thank you, Mr. President!" (Chicago Tribune photo by Nancy stone/ May 17, 2009) | f | The gorgeous Ursula grad | Shannon, me, and Katie on Commencement Day | Photo op with Ryan

5: On Saturday, my family welcomed over 80 family and friends to our home for a graduation party. Although the Oehler side has been blessed with 3 weekends together in a row, I know the whole family loves any excuse to all get together and hang out, watch the kids run around, and catch up on each others' lives. Since Katie and I just completed some great milestones, it was awesome to celebrate with all of you! I think I lost count how many times people said they were proud- thank you so very much! I'll try to keep it up with the next installment of my education... A couple more blog/school/NOLA related things. Special shout out to Ryan for helping me come up with my blog name ;) Anyone interested in learning more about Tulane's medical school should check out this site. It's kind of the unofficial website- very user friendly and easy access to all the things the students really need. The reflections on the cadaver memorial and the dean's letters are quite interesting. The admissions stats are ridiculous- makes me incredible thankful to have a spot on the class of 2013 at Tulane. In exactly 4 weeks I will be in New Orleans moving into my apartment. I'm living in the Civic lofts building in the Central Business District with a T3 (third year medical student)- talk about a change from Cincinnati suburbs or South Bend living... I'll try to make a few more posts up here if/when anything else exciting happens, but the real stories will come from the big easy :) Cheers!

6: 1 flat trailer tire, 850 miles, 5 gas stops, 1 night/ crazy thunderstorm in tuscaloosa, and 24 hours later... WE MADE IT TO NEW ORLEANS! On Wednesday my parents, Katie, and I started our journey to the south. We had some bumps along the way (literally too), but pulled in to the Big Easy at about 11:30AM Thursday. As we approached the city, we could see the skyline in the distance, with a huge black rain cloud hovering above it. After driving through rain, it seemed too fitting that we'd arrive in it as well. As it turned out, this little rainfall worked to our benefit, causing the temperature to drop slightly as we unloaded the trailer and cars. Grandma and Grandpa Wash met us here after camping the previous night to help me get settled. By dinner time, my room was fairly organized and unpacked- a record for us. I met my roommate Ashley that afternoon when she returned to the apartment after her clinicals at a local hospital. She is a T3 (third year medical student), so she just started doing rotations in the hospitals, leaving lectures and labs behind. I'm super excited to be living with her- not only will she make a great roommate, but she has lots of advice for my first 2 years. Living in the CBD (central business district), I am in the heart of downtown NOLA. We were able to walk to dinner that night at Mother's Restaurant, a famous restaurant. Thus started our weekend-long feast of New Orleans cuisine. We had gumbo, jambalaya, and po-boy sandwiches. Friday morning was the start of orientation weekend for me. Our class of ~170 gathered to glean the wisdom from the deans, older students etc. I was very impressed with the entire morning. All of the deans emphasized their sincere goal for all of us to graduate- this is a stark contrast from stereotypical medical schools of old, which warn you of a 50% drop out rate, making you wonder if it will be you or the person next you going home... They gave us a break down of our class, and gave inspirational messages about our missions as medical | Sunday, August 2, 2009

7: students in New Orleans, being called to improve communities. Friday afternoon, Grandma, Mom and I did a bus tour of several parts of New Orleans, including the Garden District, Uptown, the French Quarter, and the Lower 9th Ward. It was a great little history lesson of this gorgeous city. Mom and I really appreciated seeing the 9th Ward- this area was most heavily hit by Katrina, with only 5% of the population returning after the storm. There are several organizations working to rebuild homes for the neighborhood, including those led by Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt. It's incredibly sad to see empty lots with driveways leading to no where which once held families' homes. Other perks of the tour included mansions (like the one used in Benjamin Button), history of the French and English speaking parts of the ciyt, and a cemetery, where all are buried above ground, making the burial sites "reusable," compared to the plot of land which maxes out after one use. That evening we met up with the rest of the family in the French Quarter for a delicious dinner at Oceana. Katie and I headed back to my apartment and the parents and grandparents continued their night out on Bourbon street :) Saturday morning/afternoon Katie and I went on a float trip with my class about 90 minutes outside of the city. We were given tubes for ourselves and our coolers, making for an enjoyable afternoon. Despite a mid-river downpour, the weather was great and we made lots of new friends. I had so much fun that the float trip was the only thing I did yesterday. This morning we got up for mass at St. Patrick's church. The building was beautiful and mass was a new experience. The priest didn't face us for the blessing of the Eucharist, and we came up to the front to kneel for communion. I might explore a little more to check out other masses. This afternoon I'm doing a bus tour of the health sites Tulane has had a hand in building new clinics in. There is a family BBQ tonight and tomorrow is my white coat ceremony. Unfortunately I'll have to say so long to my family afterward, so my real adventure will begin then. More to come! Cheers, Erin PS- Hello and welcome to any and all new family and friends to the blog. Thanks for taking the time to read up on my life in NOLA! Feel free to comment and let me know if any of you have a blog!

8: Monday, August 3, 2009. The day I received my (short) white coat. The White Coat Ceremony is relatively new to the medical school scene- starting in the early 1990's. Today it marks the welcome and congratulation to the new class of medical students, provides an opportunity for us to extend deep thanks to our family and friends, and introduces both the privileges and responsibilities that accompany the career and the wearing of the coat. At my White Coat Ceremony, we heard from a graduate of Tulane's School of Medicine Class of 1938, as well as other deans and physicians. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," we heard. While this may have been true before, it was even more so now. No longer "school boys and school girls," we have been granted entrance to the medical profession. Wow. One of the most touching things added to our ceremony was our instruction to speak a single word into the mic as we received the coat- telling, in one word, what got us here to this point. Obviously words like family, mother, service, and determination were repeated. Others I liked included humor, luck, faith, wife, and Po-boys. The word I chose? Opportunity. If given the chance to say a phrase (which I would have preferred) I would have said Sacrifices of Others. Yes my family has helped me to get here, but it goes beyond that. Several generations of my family before me have worked hard to give their children the fullest lives they could. I only hope I continue to make them as proud as they claim to be. Opportunity seemed to fit in too, because it was through the sacrifice of others that I found myself presented with many, many opportunities that I could explore. Perhaps the most lasting life lesson I realized while at Notre Dame was to simply walk through the open door when I came upon it. All my hall and student government positions, many service experiences, and clinical research projects fall into this lesson. The people I met and learned from, the things I learned about myself, and the things I witnessed and helped bring to life- to think I'd have missed all that were I timid instead of bold... Check out the article and a video of white coat from Tulane's website. You can see Katie and dad in the background behind the cake at the end of the video! After white coat, my parents and sister packed up and began the long drive back to Cincinnati, leaving me alone in New Orleans for the first time. The weekend was fun but stressful and hectic too, with so many events to attend and endless things to see and eat in this city. I didn't think this good-bye should be any different or worse than when I did it four years ago on Notre Dame's campus. But of course this can't be true- I'm 800 miles away now, instead of 250. My parents didn't leave me in a quiet dorm but deep in the heart of the South's most exciting city. Our next visits aren't assured by football games and a week long fall break. With its hardships, however, this new chapter is sure to include many joys and exciting memories- we just have to find them :) The rest of the week: Tuesday was Registration Day. They gave us 3 hours to get an ID, email address, sign paperwork and get a TB shot. I finished in 1 and had lots of time to wander around the school. After being fed lunch, we had Anatomy orientation, which basically consisted of receiving keys to our lockers, meeting our lab groups, and taking inventory of histology slides. Wednesday was the first real day of class. Dean Kahn spoke to us about giving our peers feedback- an inherent and essential aspect of working in medicine. We then had intro classes for Anatomy, Embryology, and Biochemistry. Still lots of "this is what we'll be doing" but also much-desired instructions on where to find class notes and the like. To celebrate our first day of class, a bunch of med students went to a bar on Magazine called the Bulldog. You may know it for its 50 beers on tap and 100+ in bottles.

9: I went for a local NOLA brew Abita Amber. Tip- Wednesday night you get to keep the glass pint glass for a take home gift :) Thursday brought more lectures and an intro to Foundations in Medicine, a class that encompasses all that doesn't fall under normal science-type classes here: ethics, nutrition, etc. Finally Friday we started Anatomy Lab. Yep, dissecting cadavers. After a 30 minute lecture on what we needed to learn from the lab, we went upstairs to begin. The labs are run by retired surgeons- Dr. Park is the only woman of 6 and is in my lab for this first block. My group has an older gentleman we've named Jeremiah. We started by flipping him to a prone position to find muscles of the back. For each muscle we need to know the name, action, attachment sites, artery, and nerve. Since this class will go WAY beyond quads, biceps, etc. you can imagine what this will soon amount to. My group is made up of 6 students, all of us excited to explore and find the body parts assigned for the day. More to come on this. | Wednesday August 5 The White Coat... and Beyond | I was incredibly happy to have my family at the ceremony- could not have made it without you! | Doctor in training!

10: Today I got not one but TWO great packages. The first was from my mom, with new Ohio plates for my new car and a purse I designed from Jenna Claire. You can choose your own purse design and fabrics etc etc. I've never been much of an artist, so this was quite the challenge for me (and Katie too). So naturally I'm not sure if I like the purse, but hopefully it grows on me. (Shout to Kelly Collins for that phrase- yes boys and purses and lots of other things "grow on us" in a great metaphysical way.) | The other great package came from a fantastic friend from ND- Michelle Byrne. Anyone who knows Michelle loves her and the positive and contagious energy she brings to life. Senior year brought many challenges to both Michelle and me, and we didn't spend near as much time together as I would have liked. Needless to say, her care package was a surprise that brought a grin from ear to ear on my face. | Thursday, August 20 When snail mail wins every time | The one and only "Erin Wash" by Jenna Claire | Very thoughtful items left in my mailbox today :)

11: So in case you have your own med school friend who needs some lovin, here are some suggestions (thanks Michelle!) 1. Tissues (for when she's missing ND or any other college of significant sentimental value) 2. Balloons (for her first party- they won't let you send beer!) 3. Hand sanitizer (to ward off swine flu) 4. Mardi gras beads (well, they're needed year round here...) 5. Ramen noodles (dinner aka meal of champions/future physicians) 6. Puppy chow (study snacks) 7. Peanut butter crackers (meals for students on a budget) 8. Apple cookies (flatter than real fruit but they did always say an apple a day kept the doctor away... oh wait, is that counter productive?!) Michelle also included an inspirational quote, which I'll save for the end later :) In other med school/NOLA news: -Today marks 3 weeks I have been a resident of this incredible city- yay! -We visited the simulation center for the first time yesterday, and 5 classmates got to practice a lumbar puncture (I might go back later to try it myself!) It's a brand new resource for students and residents to practice procedures and scenarios to prepare for the real thing! -Tomorrow we tackle the brachial plexus in gross anatomy lab. Plexus in medical jargon is basically a nerve nightmare- branching and joining and branching again. Wish me luck! Much love to my family all over the country (congrats to Katie surviving her first day of college!) and to those of whom I'm most jealous- the lucky Irish who are settling back in at Notre Dame... Cheers! The quote I promised: Ours is the pain of constantly pitching our tent and folding it up again, of befriending strangers and bidding them goodbye, of loving the world but never being truly satisfied with it, of pouring our heart and soul into a project others have begun and still others will finish. If we would not be torn by the tension of this truth, we must learn to live provisionally- to measure the road well. We need to make the most of the occasions when we can gather by the roadside to break bread and compare directions. Joy must never be discovered in the going as we never really arrive, not even in a lifetime. -Kristine Malins, medical missionary

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