Thursday, June 19, 2014

"By the Road to the Contagious Hospital..."

I'm sad to say that this will be my last post on this blog.  Orientation finishes today, and tomorrow is my first day on the floors in the hospital in my new role as physician.

I even have an ID badge that tells people who I am!  It's very official-looking, isn't it?  Looking at it, someone might even mistake me for someone who actually knows something.

is this real life?

All joking aside though, I am so ready to start.  Being a medical student was amazing, but I can't wait to finally be able to introduce myself to patients and say "Hi, I'm your doctor."  It still feels fake - even after four years of studying and practicing, I don't feel like I know enough about anything to treat anyone.  This year is going to be an incredibly steep learning curve (I feel like even that is a HUGE understatement).

Any new beginning is scary - in medicine or in anything!  I've gone through so many new beginnings throughout medical school (every new rotation, hospital, attending) that I should be used to these first-day jitters by now.  But I do feel like I'm as prepared as I probably can be (or actually, should I have re-read Step Up to Medicine? Or all of Harrison's? Oh no! What if everyone else did that?), and I'm sure I will be well-supported by my co-interns, my senior residents, the attendings, the nurses, and the program administration.  All that's really left to do is just jump in!

Hopefully I'll continue writing in some capacity, and I hope you buy my book when I write it one day (just kidding? kind of?).  Thank you for sharing my journey with me, and always feel free to email me with anything at

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tanzania and The End of an Era

I apologize for my lack of recent posting, but as you should already know (Vacation Post 1), I have trouble writing when it's not a form of procrastination for something else.  So let me bring you up to speed:

After match day, I had a couple other electives at UH, and then I went to Tanzania for just over three weeks.  One blog post cannot even begin to do that trip justice, but I'll do my best.  I went with the program Work the World in Arusha, and I cannot recommend them enough.  It was not cheap, but it was incredibly well-run, safe, fun, and gave me an incredible experience at Mt. Meru Regional Hospital.

I spent two weeks in the general medicine department, and I learned an amazing amount in my time there.  The Tanzanian doctors were great to work with, and I got a lot of hands-on experience.  I learned how to make do with very limited supplies (probably the most valuable thing I learned), I learned about typhoid and malaria and HIV and TB, and I learned so much about the amazing Tanzanian and Massai patients.

the female ward (pics taken and posted with permission)

families waiting for visiting hours outside the ward

mzungu Dominic learning on rounds

But enough about medicine - in those two weeks, I also got to visit St. Jude's, an amazing school for gifted but poor Tanzanian children; help out at two orphanages (Neema House and Paradiso); take a traditional Tanzanian cooking class; drink Konyagi; and go on a three-day safari to the Serengeti and to the Ngorongoro Crater with a fellow medical student on my program.  We had a fantastic time, and saw all of the Big Five + some extras (like my personal favorite, the zebras).

the beautiful Serengeti
Sarah and I in our jeep!

zebras are cool.

And after the program, I climbed Kilimanjaro.  It was very rainy, very very difficult, and I definitely got altitude sickness (which involved some vomit, and a lot of me trying to convince myself in the middle of the night that I had pulmonary edema... I didn't).

I (slowly) made it to the top with the help of my amazing guide Nicholaus and the rest of the crew.  I cried on the first night because I was alone in a tent and I was wet and muddy and there was a giant spider and I don't like ANY of those things and I was like, "WHAT am I doing here?!" but after that first night, don't worry, I got more and more miserable the higher and wetter I got.  But I was really good at faking smiles for pictures whenever the rain briefly stopped...

only day 2 - not too miserable yet

but views like this made it worth it (I guess)

Uhuru peak.  Phew. 5,895 m (19,341 feet) high!

I suppose it was worth it because now I can say I climbed Kilimanjaro!  And that's pretty cool.  But I'm oh so glad it's over.  :)

Kilimanjaro beer > Kilimanjaro mountain

Once I returned to the US, there was that minor thing called medical school graduation, and officially this blog is a misnomer because I am no longer a medical student, but Dr. Elena Welt, MD.  After graduation, I packed up my apartment, had to say good-bye to my awesome roomie of FOUR years, and now I live in DC!

My amazing parents without whom I couldn't have done any of the things I've done.
A new, exciting phase of my life is beginning.  Eek!!