1. I don’t care what anyone says, Chicago summers make the long winter worth it. #chitecture #chicago (at Lakefront Trail - Lincoln Park at Fullerton)

     
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  3. Three day layover in El Salvador to visit Nelson! 

     
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  5. 10 favorite things from my summer in Bolivia

    Three day tour of the salt-flats with Mac. Click here for pictures!  

    Watching the world cup with my Bolivian family. If a game was on and I was home, we were definitely watching it. 

    Scrubbing into the surgery with Dr. Gallardo my first week in Bolivia. 

    Meeting a random friend on the way to Villazón who let me sleep at his house and whose friend had a big screen TV on which we watched the America/Germany game. 

    Everything about Tupiza. Went there twice. Beautiful, small town with warmer weather than Potosí and a super nice & cheap hotel

    Showing up in to the middle-of-nowhere city of Ocurí to find the most hospitable hospital of the whole summer. Such a blessing! 

    Going out for meals with my Bolivian family. And cooking for them!

    Finding Café la Plata, going there nearly every day for my Cappuccino, and becoming friends with the barista, Orlando. 

    Goofing around playing guitar with Jonathan (17 year old in my Bolivian family) and the youth group at church.

    Going to the thermal pools just outside of Potosí with the pastor and his family. 

     
  6. As I go from hospital to hospital in rural, southwestern Bolivia, I’ve become a pro at asking directions. Since the hospitals are frequently on the outskirts of town, I usually have to ask at least 5 people for directions. Hospital Yocalla was my 17th hospital and this sign meant I only had to ask two people for directions :) (at Yocalla, Potosi, Bolivia)

     

  7. This summer I am conducting research in Bolivia. I am visiting 20+ hospitals in this region of Bolivia and having surgeons, nurses, hospital directions, anesthesiologists fill out a survey that will show the state of their hospital’s capacity to offer surgical care. As I introduce myself to the hospital directors, saying I’m a medical student working with the Ministry of Health, I find myself wondering what these people think of me. I don’t have my MD and I’ve never provided surgical care myself, who am I to come in and do research to help improve the care they provide?

    As an unexpected bonus, my first week here I had the incredible opportunity to scrub into a surgery with one of the surgeons I am working with, something we don’t usually get to do until 3rd and 4th year of medical school. He allowed me to help with dabbing up blood, cauterizing, holding retractors, and cutting sutures, all things I am more than capable of doing. It was amazing, but once again I kept thinking to myself, how does he trust me to let me help with these things, I only just finished my first year of medical school! 

    During undergrad, pre-meds fill their time with research and shadowing in hopes of showing medical schools that we really are interested in pursuing a career in medicine. However, the problem with all those years of “exposing yourself to medicine” is you become accustomed to not being useful, to always having to stand back and observe rather than contribute. Whenever I shadowed, I made sure to introduce myself saying, “I’m just a pre-med,” as if to say don’t expect anything from me, I’ll just stand here and watch. Even with the research I was involved in at Vandy, I didn’t put much stock in my ideas, frequently relying on the direction of the physician I worked with.  

    But I’m in medical school now and I’m wondering when I will make the transition to believing I actually have something to contribute?

    In the past year I have started to see patients about once every other week, learning how to take a history, do a physical exam, put everything in the electronic health records. And yet I still find myself telling people, “Oh I’m just a first year,” once again suggesting that you shouldn’t expect much from me. Whenever an attending physician asks me a question, I am eager to show off my knowledge, but I find comfort in the fact that if I am completely wrong he or she will correct my mistake and the patient will be fine.

    My gut reaction is I will start believing in my ability to contribute third year of medical school – by then I will have started rotating through the hospital and will be a part of the patient’s care team. I will have completed boards and everything I need to know should be stored somewhere up in my brain, right? However I know when the time comes, I will still have this feeling that there are others better trained than me to be doing this or that. I will still find comfort in the hierarchy of medical training, in which there are plenty of people to catch my mistakes.

    In a profession in which people with entrust us with their lives, there is an inherent pressure that a lot of other professions won’t experience. I think it is the seriousness of the work that causes me to time and time again to not trust myself. And even as I become more experienced and more confident, I know I will always be a little anxious when it comes to the more risky treatments or procedures. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, rather something that will push me to be the best physician I can be, striving to learn more and be at the front of the field.

    But of course that’s a long way down the road, and for now I am content being “just a second year” :)

     

  8. 3 Day Tour of the Salar de Uyuni

    When you are in Bolivia, you can’t miss the opportunity to go to the salt flats, which are in the southwestern corner of the country. I went earlier with week with a buddy from school, and here is a glimpse at the three day tour…

    Day 1

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    Just outside of Uyuni is the train graveyard, everyone’s first stop. 

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    At the edge of the salt flats, you can stop to take pictures on the mounds of salt that are ready to be picked up by the local villages for further processing. 

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    Driving a little bit farther, you reach the middle of the salt flats, with miles and miles of salt all around you. 

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    And of course everyone knows you have to take funny perspective pictures when you are in the middle of the Salt Flats!

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    A lot of people bring props to take pictures with, like this polar bear for example :) 

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    A little further into the Salar you’ll find the Isla de Pescado, which is covered in cacti. You can hike up for great views of the salt flats. 

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    Of course everyone is pumped to stay in the Hotel de Sal, which is constructed almost entirely of salt! And don’t you fret, even though you are in the middle of nowhere they have plenty of snacks and alcohol to sell to the tourists :)

    Day 2

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    After a delicious 7:00am breakfast, we were on the road again.

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    Quick stop to take some pictures on the train track heading from Bolivia to Chile. 

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    Stop to take some pictures with Volcán Ollague in the background, a huge volcano (19,000+ feet) in the Andes mountains on the border of Chile and Bolivia.

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    Lunch comes when you stop at the Laguna Cañapa, which has beautiful reflections and a few flamingos scattered around. 

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    If you turn around from the Laguna Cañapa, you have this amazing view and may even see a few of the Guanacos hanging around. 

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    Next you head to the Laguna Hedionda, which was the best spot for us to see Flamingos - they were everywhere! But it was super windy and cold, so I quickly got back in our car after snapping a few shots. 

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    After those lagoons, you head into the desert and eventually get to the Arbol de Piedra, or tree of rock. There are a lot more than just this rock, but this is the most commonly photographed one. 

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    The last stop of Day 2 is the Laguna Colorada, which has some fantastic views and lots of flamingos. But because of the altitude and it being winter, it was so incredibly cold. Most of us went to bed around 8:30 just so we could bundle up in our blankets and sleeping bags.

    Day 3:

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    It’s a long day back to Uyuni, so you have to get up at 5:00am to have time for the journey. It was absolutely freezing - like, miserably cold. 

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    You get to see some geysers, but I was too cold to really enjoy them that much. I just wanted to keep moving because I knew what was up next…

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    Warmth! The Aguas Termales. There is no way to describe how amazing these thermal pools felt after that cold morning, but it was absolutely amazing. We sat in those pools for a good hour before we had to get going. 

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    The Laguna Verde wasn’t really green when we were there, but beautiful nonetheless! 

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    At the Chilean border, a lot of people choose to go into Chile instead of returning to Uyuni, so we said goodbye to some of the people in our group. From there it was about 7 hours back to Uyuni, with a few stops and lunch in between. All in all, it was an amazing three days in one of the most beautiful areas of the world I have seen! 

     
  9. Often the best time to explore a city is in the early morning, before the streets are crowded and the roads are jammed. #potosi #bolivia (at Ciudad De Potosí)

     

  10. Planes, Buses & Blockades

    As I planned my trip to the city of Potosí in southern Bolivia, I knew I wanted to save money and I knew I wanted an adventure. Well, I certainly got my wish… 

    Tuesday (27th): Leave Chicago and have a quick layover in San Salvador.

    Wednesday (28th): Land in Lima at 1:30am. Get my bags, go through customs. Find a place to sleep by the waiting area outside arrivals. Sleep for four hours cuddling with my bags so nothing gets stolen. Head to my friend Brandon’s apartment at 6:30am. Explore Lima all day with Brandon and his buddy from med school. Head to the airport at 8:00pm. Take off for La Paz at 10:30pm.

    Thursday (30th): Land in La Paz at 1:30am (which is the highest international airport in the world at 13,300ft). Catch a cab to the apartment of a friend of a friend. Get to her apartment at 3:00am and quickly fall asleep. Wake up. Get my bus ticket to Potosí leaving that night. Attend devotion and have lunch with everyone at IJM La Paz. Purchase my in-country SIM card. Explore. Head home to pack. Find out there is a blockade of the highway to Potosí and my bus won’t be leaving. Go back to the bus station (30 minutes away) to get my refund and book another ticket for the next day.

    Friday (31st): Sleep in. Eat lunch with some of the IJM interns. Head to the bus station to see if there is still a blockade. Wait 2 hours until they confirm there is a blockade and will give me my money back. Book a bus instead to Cochabamba, taking a round-a-bout way to Potosí. Pack. Head to the bus station at 10:00pm. Find out I was charged about $3 more than the locals for my ticket. Watch as a bunch of local Bolivians argue with the bus attendants to get me a refund. Leave at 11:30 for Cochabamba.

    Saturday (1st): Try unsuccessfully to sleep. Realize it is a lot colder at night on the bus than I had anticipated. Gratefully accept the offer of the local next to me to share his blanket. Sleep maybe 2 hours total. Arrive in Cochabamba at 8:00am. Call my contact in Potosí, who has a friend in Cochabamba. Get picked up by the pastor at 10:30 as I’m falling asleep sitting in the bus terminal. Nap at his house. Eat Silpancho for lunch prepared by his wonderful wife. Go with the pastor to visit a friend in the hospital. Take another nap. Head to the bus station. Eat dinner with a random Israeli tourist. Leave for the city of Sucre at 8:30pm. Site next to a larger women who smells strongly of alcohol. Sweat all night because I dressed for cold, not realizing we were much lower in elevation.

    Sunday (2nd): Arrive in Sucre at 5:30am. Book a bus to Potosí. Leave for Potosí at 6:00am. Sleep for 2.5 hours. Arrive in Potosí at 8:30am. Take a bus to Pastor Hernan’s church. Attend church at 10:00am. Get introduced to the congregation looking like a grease-ball, not having showered for two days. Walk with pastor and his wife to get to know the city. Move into the spare room in the house of a lady from church. Shower finally. Attend evening church. Sleep bundled up because it gets real cold at 13,400 feet.