*Featured image courtesy of Black medical students at Tulane University School of Medicine*
I cannot believe I am already a second year medical student! I keep pitching myself to make sure this is real because honestly, I did not think I would make it out. If you want a cookie cutter version of how of the last semester of a first-year medical student should be like, then please do not read this blog. In fact, if you generally view medical school as roses and butterflies then I really do not want my experience to scare you lol. I am going to be very honest and vulnerable in the post so please be ready if you want to know how my last semester was like. This is going to be LOOONG, probably even longer than my last update so I hope you are comfortable and drinking some sort of hot beverage because this is the TEA behind my recent semester.
Ok, so let’s start off from where I left off before. After I finished my first semester, I was chilling during winter break, watching movies, eating good food, and talking to friends virtually. Winter break was only two weeks which I feel like was not enough time for me to fully recover from the beatdown I received last semester. There were two more blocks we had to take before the first year of medical school was over. One of them was Host and Defense, which is pretty much semesters (by semesters I mean undergrad semesters) of microbiology and immunology crammed into six weeks. The last block was Staying Alive, one of the hardest blocks in medical school, in which we learned the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system and the renal system. This included the physiology, pharmacology and pathology of each system. When I tell you that I knew this upcoming semester was going to be hard but I was enjoying my winter break like I would be in it forever, haha. The weekend before we started Host and Defense, I finally started studying by doing the readings and watching videos. I have never taken immunology or microbiology so everything I was learning seemed foreign to me. But I thought, hey, if I got through anatomy, one of the hardest classes I have taken in my life, then I can get through anything!
Host and Defense was actually more challenging than I thought. There were different cytokines to know, the so many leukocytes that aid the body during a bacterial or viral infection, and we even had to learn some things about public health. If you read from my previous update, my school runs on a flipped classroom setting, where we answer questions in class instead of having lecture. There were some days were I was getting more than half of the questions wrong. During one of the quizzes I had to take for TBL, my score was 1/10. What is wrong with me? I thought I would be getting the hang of med school, but apparently not.
For this block we had one exam halfway through the course and a final exam during the end. Although our grades in class matter to determine if one is understanding and absorbing the material, because of COVID, you did not need a 70% to sit for the final exam. The final is the determiner of whether you move on from the class or whether you have retake it, or even worse, retake the course. I really wanted to do well on the first exam because that would mean that I would have a higher chance to pass the final that was coming up. I already had a study plan set up but then…my laptop stopped working after I tried to update it to a new software. Omg are you kidding me? This had to happen out of all times! All of my notes and materials for the exam were on there! I just broke down crying after I talked with Apple on the phone. I was definitely going to fail this exam ☹️.
Honestly, my laptop breaking was a blessing in disguise. I had not been outside the house in soo long because of COVID so it was my first time going to the mall in almost a year. It was so beautiful with all the lights still up from Christmas and New Year’s Eve and the water fountain spurting out colored water. It was my chance to see that there was more to life than waking up, going to class online, sleeping, studying and regurgitating. I had to go to the mall four times in order for my laptop to be fixed and I unfortunately had to erase all of my documents on there in order for my computer to function ☹️. I was so letdown, but I was fortunate to have saved some of the most crucial notes on OneNotes and GoodNotes on my iPad. By MLK day, my laptop was finally fixed, however, I had only three days to fully go over three weeks’ of material. I was completely overwhelmed.
Finally, it was exam day. I was so nervous, but I felt that I have tried my best to study for it with everything that happened. As I was taking the exam, I knew I failed but I was hoping maybe not too badly. After one takes the exam individually, there is a group portion where you go over the answers with the people in your TBL group, which is a group assigned to you from the medical school that you stick with during your first two years. As we were going through the answers, I kept getting so many incorrect. First five questions, then ten, fifteen, twenty…I had to stop counting. Sometimes everyone in my group would say “I chose B”, while in my head I would say well… I chose D. At one point, I completely just stopped talking because I was so embarrazzed by how poorly I did. I ended up getting a 56% with the curve while the average was a 77%. What is wrong with me ☹️.
When I was driving home, I got myself food and just cried. The semester back was already starting on a rough track like how? Around this time, I started to go to therapy because I really wanted to combat the feelings of anxiety that I had. My therapist was so kind, she told me that I needed to not beat myself up because I am in such a challenging field. It was nice to talk with someone instead of keeping all of my negative feelings to myself. The final was right around the corner and after talking with her, I decided that I was going to reach out and ask for help on how to do well. I asked all my mentors, some of my classmates, and tried to schedule a meeting with the professor on how to do well. I needed to pass this block.
My mood started to feel better and then went downhill the following week. That Friday, I had three classes, a physical exams skill course with my partner, an online case, and then a practice interview with a volunteer patient. I planned to stay in school the whole day and wanted to treat myself with some First Watch after my first class (med school is all about treating yourself tbh.) As I was getting out of my car to get my food, I actually locked the door on myself! Ohmygosh nooooo. I went inside the restaurant and started asking for help. Unfortunately no one knew how to open locked car doors and I ended up standing in the corner of the restaurant for almost two hours waiting until a locksmith came. This day could not have been any better. Finally, the locksmith guy came and opened it for me for $60 (shoutout to him for reducing it from $120) and I went throughout my day. During the volunteer interview, the patient told me that my voice was soothing, but I needed to speak up and asked me if I had any experience interviewing. Great, thanks for stepping on what little self confidence I had left.
After getting beat up learning white blood cell disorders, public health and HIV, the final exam was in a couple of days. I was soooo nervous. There were so many bugs and drugs to know and I felt like I had to watch over 100 Sketchy videos to keep them in my head. One my mentors gave me her list of all the WBC disorders (shoutout to her) and I made a long chart of all the bacteria and fungi we learned in the class. I also went through every single question that we did in class (almost 400 questions), re-answered them, and wrote notes on the side. Alhamdudillah, I had my laptop this time around so I had everything I needed to do well. Looking back, the fact that I learned so much for just a six week course was insane. I never felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant until now.
Finally, it was the day of the final exam. There were 100 questions total and I kept telling myself “all you need is a 70”. When I was taking it, I was taken aback. What? I have never seen this type of question before?! I kept marking a lot of questions, but I eventually answered everything before the time ended. Instead of going straight home like a smart person should have, I stayed behind to discuss some of the questions with my classmates. I said one thing for one question and…it was actually a different answer. Ugggggggh what if I failed this final?! I did not want to retake it because that meant I would have to spend all of spring break studying for it!
The next day, the school emailed us and said that we would found out our scores at 5 pm. My anxiety was sky high. I felt like I could not do anything until I knew my score. At 4:58 pm I kept telling myself ‘It’s ok if you have to retake. You are just going to study for it over spring break and you will pass it the second time, just like you did for Anatomy.’ Once 5 pm came, I refreshed the page and checked my score. 72…72% I PASSSSSSSEEDDDDDD!!!!!! I came downstairs jumping up and down screaming I passed! I cannot believe I passed Host and Defense! Only one more block to go until my first year is OVER!!!!!
Ok y’all get ready because if you think that was a roller coaster ride, this is going to be the loop-de-loop because this next block was the hardest block ever. So get ready.
After I passed H&D, I was so ready to get through Staying Alive. I went through Anatomy and H&D so I thought I was super strong to get through Staying Alive, finish my first year of medical school, and get the summer break I truly deserved. I was actually excited to finally learn about the different systems of the body as I never really got to learn that in undergrad (one of the weaknesses of being a biochem major). During our first week, we learned about the cardiovascular system and even though I was still getting questions wrong I thought, it’s ok, I will have a comeback like I did in H&D. Also during that time, I got really sick. I attended my nieces bday party and came down with a really bad cold. I did not think it was Covid because after the first couple of days I felt better but I made sure to not to be in contact with anyone for the next 14 days just in case. So I was pretty much studying with a stuffy nose and a headache, the worse combo ever but I made it through.
One of the hardest classes was learning ECGs because it was difficult to discern what going on with those curves. Haha, definitely not going to become a cardiologist. Around that time, we had our simulated patient interview, where I had to interview and then perform physical exams skills on a simulated patient. For the first interview, the patient’s feedback was that I was nervous and looked unsure of myself. Pretty good description of myself tbh. So for the second patient interview, I tried to come in with a lot of confidence and pointed out the patient’s fever and assumed that he could have some sort of WBC cancer. This time, my feedback was positive and he said that I had one of the best interviews. Hmm I thought, if I believe I can do it, then it will show!
The day of our first exam for the block was coming up and my nerves started to kick in once again. It was over cardiovascular and respiratory physiology and pharmocology and I was still confused on a lot of topics. I watched videos, reviewed questions, and met with some of my classmates virtually to go over some topics but looking back now, there were definitely holes that needed more time to be filled. When I was doing the exam, I felt alright and just hoped I got a 70%. After doing the group portion, I found out that I got a 62%. Ugggh. I went home pretty defeated and texted all of my mentors of how terrible this block is already starting out. It’s ok, they said, you will get better at it. Ok, if you say so.
The following weeks felt like they were going as slowly as molasses. We went over renal physiology, pharmacology and then hemostasis. I was doing ok in class but I was tired. Tired of just sitting on my computer all day studying these concepts and tired of trying to regurgitate them in class. It felt like nothing was happening and sometimes looking at others who were living what seemed like their best lives on social media made me sad.
Finally, it was day for our second of the five exams for the block. I really tried to study the questions and do practice problems but it was difficult to absorb the information. I just knew this would be an L but I was hoping that I would do better than the first exam. Welp…I actually did slightly worse. I got a 60% :(. Man, I am tired of doing my all and still getting beat down by these exams. After the exam, I went and got bubble tea with my classmates and tried to forget about how terribly I did. Spring break was right around the corner so I was going to do everything to enjoy it and recoup for the end of the semester.
I actually relaxed during spring break, hung out with so many people and ate lots of food. I was not vaccinated at that point so it gave me a little anxiety being around anyone but it was honestly worth it. After spring break was the start of WrightQ, a weekly class where we were in small groups and went over clinical cases with a faculty member. The professor I had was one of the best at my medical school, which meant that he expected us to really research and understand each of the learning objectives. We learned about cases of heart attack, hypertension, and kidney diseases all while doing regular class. Initially, I was putting a lot of time into it but then something else was happening…Ramadan.
Ramadan is the time of the month where Muslims fast 30 days and try to become as spiritual as possible. It is literally the best month and I love it so much. The year prior, many of the rituals of Ramadan were done at home because of Covid. However, now the mosques were opening up and people could now perform the nightly prayers if they brought their own prayer rug and wore masks. I was so excited for Ramadan but also really nervous of how it would mesh with medical school. I started to get a little PTSD because when I was studying for my MCAT and doing medical school applications, it was also during Ramadan. That was a definitely a rough time period for me then to try and be the best Muslim I could be while also trying to be the best med school applicant and I felt like I would feel the same now. I went to all night prayers during Ramadan and tried to prepare for class in the morning. It was so nice seeing all of my family and friends but at the same time, I was not being efficient at all. My third exam was during the beginning of Ramadan and I got a 54% :(. Ugggh how am I going to balance all this? I really want to enjoy Ramadan but I also want to pass medical school. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who did terribly on this, the average was a 67%, but still I just wanted everything to turn out well.
Because I had so much going on, my performance in WrightQ was lacking and my professor noticed. I would randomly get called on to explain the pathophysiology of a disease or the complications associated with it and although I really tried to come up with an answer, it was not as detailed as the other people in my group. And that made sense, they had more time to go through and study before for the session and at the same time study for our classes while I had to do a juggling act. During a midpoint evaluation my professor wrote, “Oumou, I sense that you may have been under-prepared for some case closings. Sometimes you share a lot of relevant and useful information, but other times you don’t have much to share.” Crap, ok, I needed to do better then. I tried sleeping less and staying up later, but I was really behind. It was almost May, the last month of my first year of medical school, and I just kept thinking ‘How am I going to make it through?’
How am I going to make it through?
It was finally May! Just a couple more weeks and I would be done with this nonsense. Because Eid was right around the corner, I decided to go to a few iftaar parties just so that I could at least feel like I did something with friends during Ramadan. I was finally fully vaccinated and I was elated that everything was seemingly going back to normal. However, I was anxious because that meant that there would be more events I would miss because of school. I had five finals to complete to move onto second year and this is the list in rank of importance:
- The Staying Alive NBME: This final comprised everything I have learned from February until May and I needed a 70% to pass and completely move onto second year
- The Interview OSCE: This final is where I interview a patient for 30 minutes and answer questions related to what they told me. I need to get an 80% on this to pass (60% of the grade was for the questions I answered and 40% was for the patient interview).
- The PE OSCE: This is where I perform different physical exams on several patients based on a sheet in the room and I would have 5 minutes for each station to complete them.
- The Clinical Medicine Final: This final is 50 questions and comprised of everything we learned in Clinical Medicine from interviewing patients to heart sounds
- The CBSE: This is a practice Step 1 exam; Step 1 being the exam second year medical students take in order to move onto rotations for their third year. The school makes us take it to determine what we need to work on and we have to retake it if we score below the school average.
My first final was the Interview OSCE but before that I had a regular exam in Staying Alive over renal and respiratory pathology. Once again, I felt completely behind because I was simultaneously trying to prepare for the other finals I had. After I took the individual portion, I knew it was a wrap. During the group portion once again I missed 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 questions?! Nah, lemme stop counting. I ended up getting a 40% on this exam! Ya Allah, I do not think imma make it out. I drove home sobbing, thinking how I am so close yet so far from being done with medical school. I literally prayed and just asked God to pick me up and carry me through the end of May because I was hanging by a thread.
My Interview OSCE was on a Saturday and I was so nervous (how many times will I say this lool). The simulated patient I had was a black woman so I immediately felt comfortable talking with her. I actually enjoyed interviewing her. However, when I started doing the post-encounter questions, I realized I forgot to ask her some things. Oh no. The questions count for 60% of the grade and if I do bad on this, even if I did well on the interview portion, I could be retaking this in early June. I stayed for so long and made sure I wrote down everything I possibly could so I could maximize my potential to pass. When I went outside, I saw my classmates and once again, being the smart person I was, I started talking with them about the questions. Oh man, I did not write that answer. I went home, scared that I would have to retake it and scared for the other obstacles that this month would throw at me.
Eid was right around the corner and I was hoping it would be on Thursday because I wanted to take Thursday and Friday off to catch up on sleep and study. My last exam for Staying Alive and the NBME were that following Tuesday and Friday and I wanted to do well on both of them. The NBME was extremely important to me because if I did well, I could move on and completely say I would be a second year. If not, that meant I would have to retake it in early June. And if I failed the retake…that meant starting the second semester of first year medical school all over again. Thinking about that gave me so much anxiety. I went through so much already being a medical student during a pandemic, there was no way I would be doing this ish all over again, come hell or high water. Before Eid day, I attended the early morning prayers at the mosque (around 2 am) and then had classes at 9 am. I was pretty much having 3-4 hours of sleep a day that week and I was exhausted! I honestly do not know how I was holding up because…that’s insane.
When Eid day arrived, my family and I dressed up and went to the mosque. It was completely packed to the point where I had to pray in the hallway. When I got home, I immediately knocked out for a couple hours. I felt like I have been hit by a bag of rocks; I was so tired and so ready for medical school to be over. After celebrating with family, I started studying for my two exams for the following week. I met with my advisor and she told me that I should still focus on the last exam for Staying Alive even though it really did not count towards anything because it can help me do well on the final. She also said I should be doing 80 questions a day. I kind of wish I did not take her advice because I should have just focused on the NBME exam. Like, why am I going to study for a exam that is irrelevant to whether I pass or not when the most important exam follows afterwards?
Classes were finally over and WrightQ was coming to an end too. I got called on for our last session and I shared everything that I researched for the question while also admitting I had a challenging time finding more resources. My professor looked at me and said “Oumou, you could have just done a mesh search on PubMed it takes 30 seconds and that could have helped you with this question”. Oh, ok, thanks. I hope that is helpful for when I do WrightQ next year because honestly I am done trying for this year. His final evaluation crushed me and I honestly feel like I cannot be liked by this teacher:
Finally it was the day of the last Staying Alive exam. When I took it, I actually did the best I did on all of the exams. I got a 68% and the average was a 68% so that means that something was actually clicking. I was so happy and got myself food to celebrate. But was I celebrating too soon?
For the next two days, I tried my hardest studying for the NBME. There was soo much to go over and soo much I did not know. I went through as many questions as I could at one point doing 200 questions in one sitting. My head hurt and I really wanted to give up but I could not. What if I fail? I kept praying and just hoping that I would make it through. My cousin was having her graduation in New York the following Saturday and I really wanted to go. However, if I did not do well on the retake, I would not be able to go as I would be studying for it. I also wanted to worked as a Peer Leader over the summer for the Prematriculation program, which is where second year medical students teach incoming medical students for a month. I interviewed for the position and I knew that if I did not pass the NBME, I probably would not get the job. There were so many factors swirling around passing this NBME and I was just hoping that I did well.
Finally, it was the day of the Staying Alive NBME. I tried to come in pretty confidently. I can do this. This is not the first final I have take and it sure will not be the last. I know more than I think I do.
As I was doing the exam, I knew I did not pass. So many of the diseases looked the same and there were a couple questions on topics we barely covered in class, smh. Man, it looks like I am going to have to retake this. There is no way on God’s green Earth that I passed this.
After the exam, I went outside and all my classmates were jovial and cheery, happy to be done with the most important exam of the year. I, however, was not. “I think I failed”, I told my friend Needa. “Maybe I did too, there was so many questions I did not know.”, she said. No, I thought, she passed and I failed, I just have a feeling. I went to get food and shop but I had a pitting feeling that I did terribly. As I was shopping, there was notification stating that our exam scores were to be released at 5 pm. My anxiety hit the roof. I definitely failed, I definitely failed, I definitely failed. I texted all my mentors “I think I failed.” “Don’t say that, Oumou, maybe you passed.”, they all said.
When I was driving, I turned my data on so when 5 pm came I could refresh and see my score. Time was going by sooooo slowly but finally, it was 5 pm. I refreshed and it said 60…60%. I failed. I failed the Staying Alive NBME. “I passsssed”, Needa’s text read.” “Alhamdudillah”, I said. “I am so happy for you, but unfortunately, I have to retake it.”
Uggggghhhhhhhh I have to retake that stupid exam. I immediately called my mentor and she told me that I would be ok. She had to retake an exam and they pretty much use the same questions as before so I should try to remember as many as I could for the next one. I pretty much texted everyone telling them I failed and they all told me to keep my head up and sent me resources and told me how they studied for the exam. I called my mom and she was a little disheartned. “You studied so much”, she said. I know. I did. But it did not matter, at least not now.
I went home, feeling the sadness of the world upon my shoulders. When my mom asked me about it later on, I just broke down. It just felt like I had the worst luck. Everyone I talked with seemed to have pass, why not me. What is wrong with me?
The next day I found a library that was open near my house and checked it out. I also got myself some icecream after a friend Apple Cashed me some money (shoutout to you Naseem!). I was passing this retake, I do not care. Now I had two weeks to completely go over everything I got wrong, and I was lucky because the retake exam was pretty much the same as the first exam. But I just wanted to be done.
If you look at the list of finals I put above, I still had three more finals to take. First up, the clinical medicine final. I barely studied for this one because it’s pretty pointless imo but I went to the library and spent a couple hours going over slides and questions from the class drive. This one should be easy. However, when I took the exam the next day, it was harder than I thought. What?! I do not remember learning that stuff? I was really hoping I did not have to retake this one as well.
Alhamdudillah, I ended up getting exactly a 70% on that exam! I don’t have to retake that one. I also got my interview OSCE score and I ended up getting an 88%. Whoohoo 2 exams down, 2 more to go, and one to retake!
The next day was the PE OSCE exam. I practiced with Needa, my poke partner, after the CM final and we tried to run through all the skills. I also spent some time practicing on my siblings, finding their optic disc, their tympanic membrane, auscultating their heart and lungs and doing upper and lower extremity exams with them. This exam consisted of six stations in which there were different tasks we had to do with each simulated patient. I decided to leave the house early to be there before everyone else but as I was driving, it started to rain. Cats and dogs. To the point where I could not see anything. Oh nooo, I am going to be late. I came in 5 minutes late, soaking wet, with everyone staring at me, already prepared to start the exam. My heart was palpitating and now I felt really nervous about this OSCE. It’s ok, I kept telling myself, just believe in yourself and you will do fine. I went to the first station and starting do PE skills on the simulated patient and it was fine. However, when I went to the next station, a teacher was in there. This particular teacher intimidated me so it was scary having her watch me perform the PE skills on the patient. “Hurry up, you are running out of time.”, she said when I did a certain skill. I ended up doing terribly on that station and that set the mood for the other stations. I came in with a defeatist attitude, just ready to be done with this OSCE.
When I came out, I knew I had failed it, I just knew it. I almost left immediately after the exam but I decided to sit and talk to one of my classmates. This time around, I made the right decision talking to a classmate, Ashley, because she is one the nicest people I have ever met. She went through so much, having her own trials and tribulations in medical school, so she is honestly the best person to talk to when you are going through trials of your own tbh. She told me to lean on God and that everything happened for a reason. Talking with her calmed a lot of the fears and anxieties I had and I just knew that ultimately everything was going to be ok.
Everything happens for a reason
The next day, I decided to go the library to study for the NBME retake. The CBSE was the next day, but I was not going to study for that because passing the NBME mattered more to me than doing well on that exam. When I got home, I was completely exhausted. Before I took a nap, I decided to text one of my classmates if she heard back about the Peer Leader position because they did not reach out to me at all. I was assuming that they did not send out confirmations to people and was still hoping that after everything I would still be able to teach over the summer and make some money. I was also texting Needa that I probably needed to retake the PE OSCE. “No.”, she said, “I hope you do not you probably did well inshallah.” Inshallah, I hope I did.
When I woke up, the text from my classmate said “Yes they reached out the day of the NBME.” I also read Needa’s text asking “Did you pass the PE OSCE?”. And then I read an email saying: PE OSCE Retake.
I tried to cry but I could not. It felt like the world was crashing in on me. I had to retake two exams in June when my last day was supposed to be tomorrow, I did not have a summer job, I would not be going to New York for my cousin’s graduation and I had the CBSE tomorrow which I did not study for. I washed my face and the tears started to pour immediately. I went downstairs and my mom was like “you did not pass, did you?”. Yes, but not just that. Everything was going downhill. Everything ☹️.
I slept with a heavy heart and woke up around 6 am to get ready for the CBSE Exam. Who cares about this exam? I am not done. I am still here at school while everyone else is going to be done today.
As I was driving to school, I saw from my periphery a cop car pulling someone over and I did not move over to the next lane when I saw it because I did not know one was supposed to do that. Five minutes later, I saw flashing lights behind me. Crap…what is happening? The cop came over to the passenger side and asked me if I saw his car. “I do not know what you are talking about”, I told him. I did not register to me that the same cop that pulled the other person over was the same cop that was pulling me over. He checked his cameras and said he was giving me a ticket. A ticket. Right before my CBSE. So now what do I have? Two retakes, no summer job, no trip to New York, and now a ticket. When he handed me the ticket, I immediately burst out into tears while he looked at me, annoyed. This was definitely the lowest point I have reached throughout this whole year. I must have done something terrible to someone else to go through this. God, please forgive me, I am sorry if I did anything wrong wrong to anyone 🥺🙏🏾
I called my mom and told her I got a ticket. She told me to calm down and go to the exam. I was the last one to reach the exam room and while I was taking it, I was fed up. I was tired. I was done. I kept thinking about why I chose a career that does not even want me, that challenges me to the point where I feel like I am crawling towards to finish line. Why did I have to like science when I was younger?
After the exam, I went to Needa’s house to pick up the PE supplies for my retake and then I went to the Student Legal Services at Wright State for them to dispute my ticket on my behalf. I did not even tell my dad I got pulled over and I knew homeboy was not going to be pleased about that. One of my friends from my TBL group, Tiffani, texted me saying she had a gift for me and to come at a restaurant to get it. When I went there, everyone was so happy and excited to finally be done with first year. “Man I wish I could say that, I have to retake two exams.” I honestly just wanted to go home. The note that she gave me was so cute that I started getting emotional. I love my TBL group, what if I won’t be with them next year? The black girls at my medical school wanted to do a photoshoot with our white coats but after the day I had and the uncertainty of me even finishing my first year of medical school, it was time for me to leave.
Driving home, the weather was gloomy and matched how I felt on the inside. I felt hollow and crushed. My spirits were low. Everyone was done with their first year of medical school. Everyone but me. I needed to pass two exams to consider myself done. Why me, I thought. No, why not me?
When I went home, I went to sleep and then called one of my mentors. I was so down and told her there was a scholarship application that the school sent us but because I had to retake two exams, I did not want to do. “No please do it, you never know, the worst they can say is no.” You’re right, I will do it. The scholarship was due at 11 pm and by the grace of God I managed to submit it in just two hours. Slowly but surely I was getting some of my confidence back. My parents sat me down to discuss the day I had and told me that God does everything for a reason and that He was testing me. They reminded me about their time being immigrants in America and their own obstacles. It was really eye-opening and I felt blessed that I had parents to help guide me through what I was going through. Afterwards they got ready to go to New York while I got mentally prepared to start studying for this retake.
So, I was being a little dramatic and I was not the only one retaking. People just don’t talk about it but in fact, there were a total of 12 of us retaking the NBME so I had decided to make a groupchat for us all. Some of the retakers lived in Columbus so the next day, I told them to come to the library with me. There, my classmates and I went through so many things, topics that I was confused on, for almost seven hours! I realized there were huge gaps in my learning and I needed to spend more time looking up certain things. Instead of solely doing questions like my advisor told me to do, I decided to go back to the basics, doing the easiest questions with BRS to know what I did not know. And that worked. I realized I never really knew cardiovascular, respiratory and renal physiology. It was like building a house without a solid foundation, it was going to collapse at one point. I watched a lot of videos, read pages on BRS and did some questions here and there until I got a solid grasp on certain concepts.
I also had my PE OSCE Retake on Wednesday and a review session for it on Tuesday. On Monday (thank God it was Memorial day), I spent two hours with my little sister, Aisha (shoutout to her!) and practiced every single PE skill ever. It was difficult but it helped so much. The next day, I went to the review session and I had to watch the videos of my performance from the first PE OSCE (yes, they record you) and take notes on what I could improve on. It was only me and one other classmate who had to retake this exam so we practiced on one of the faculty members at Boonshoft, making sure we had the skills downpat. After the review session, I went downstairs to study with the other NBME retakers. We quizzed each other over topics and diseases that were going to show up on the exam and did practice questions.
The next day was the PE OSCE Retake. I was nervous but ready. Because I got pulled over last time on a rainy day, my sweet dad decided to take me to this exam. During the car ride, I practiced all the exam skills on myself and then finally walked up the medical school. I was ready for this to be over with. Because it was just the two of us retaking, they used less rooms and less patients. But the skills we had to do were the ones we practiced. I was not perfect, but I did waaay better than when I did the first time. When we are done the professor came out and said “You both passed.“. Alhamdudillah, one exam retake down one more to go.
Sidenote: I found out the day before that I also have to retake the CBSE because I did below the average for obvious reasons, however, that will be sometime in late July right before school opens so I will be studying for that during the summer in the meantime.
Anyways, after the PE OSCE retake, I just had one day, Thursday, to study for the NBME retake which was on Friday. I went to the library by myself and spent seven hours drawing on white boards and going over concepts I had not understood for the previous exam. I did questions, after questions, after questions and watch so many videos like dang how is that humanely possible?! I was not going to repeat M1 year because that would be a waste of time and money, uh uh. I was going to pass. I will pass.
When I came home, I found out that one of my uncles had passed away, inna lilahi wa inna illahi rajuun. If you made it to this point (you still here?) then please make prayers and duaa for him and his family. I was trying to suppress my sadness and focus my energy for the NBME the next day, but it was hard. Life does not stop when you are in medical school unfortunately and it is difficult doing this while also hearing of loved ones who have passed on.
Later on, I spent almost two hours on a phone call with one of my classmates where we were quizzing each other and then we called it a night. This is it. This is the determiner. Of whether I get to move on. Of whether I get to enjoy summer break. Of whether I can say I did not waste all that money to be here. This is it y’all.
My sweet dad took me to my exam around 8:15 am. During the whole car ride, I was going through resources, making sure I understood different concepts and questions, going through FA etc. I WAS ANXIOUS! I needed to pass. I sat in the lobby with all the other retakers and we went through certain concepts we did not understand with the previous exam. Finally it was time. They put the passcode up and we immediately started our exam. I made so much duaa man. Like, I really needed to pass this.
As I went through the exam, there was so much I knew since the questions were familiar. However, there were many questions I did not know. The exam was 150 questions long and I needed to get 105 to pass. However, I had marked 45 questions that I was not certain in. Oh no. What if all those 45 questions are wrong and I don’t pass and I don’t move on and my life is gonna suck and?! I had to go to the restroom to calm down. You are gonna pass Oumou, I said in the mirror. You got this girl, I believe in you. You did your part and God will handle it from here. I went back to the exam room and started answering all the questions and went through the ones I struggled with. Time started to fly by. First 2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds…TIME.
Whoooooosh. I was done with the exam. Ohmygosh I hope I passed. When I went outside, the other retakers were discussing saying what they put. Nope, the answer was this, they would say. But I didn’t put that?! Man I need to go home.
The faculty told us our exam scores would be ready by 3 pm. I left the school around 12:40 p.m. and the next two hours felt like the longest hours of my life. God please let me pass, I thought. Please, just this, please. I could not eat, I could not use the restroom, I had to pray (because it was dhuhr time), but afterwards I could not do anything. Finally, an email popped up:
Wait, what? Did I pass? I emailed her back asking her if I had passed. Yes, you did.
ALHAMDUDILLAH I PAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!
I ran upstairs and downstairs like 5 million times just screaming and dancing and laughing and crying, I was in complete shock. OHHHMYGOSH I passed. “Mommy,” I cried as I called my mother “I passed, I passed, I am a second year medical student!” Alhamdudillah, alhamdudillah.
This semester was very very challenging to say the least. God was truly testing me but He helped me get through the end of this. I cannot believe I am moving on to second year. I was this close to staying behind but I got picked backed up. And everyone else who retook the exam passed as well! Our average was a 83% like what? We forreal did that! Alhamdudillah x100!!!
And that’s it y’all. I really hope I did not scare anyone or give you anxiety because of this haha. I am just praying that your experience is more blissful than mine and if not, hey, if I went through all this, than you can too. God does not burden anyone with what they cannot handle and tbh this experience has made me a stronger indivudiual. It has also made me reaffirm my decision for a career in medicine because if I can go through all this and still want to become a physician then I must really like this career choice. Anyways I hope you all enjoyed this long post. Please hit me up because I am free haha and let me know if you have any questions. Rooting for all of you future physicians!!!!!
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