Matched: the where, the when, the what, and the why

For those confused about what “matching” means: During the last year of medical school – all students choose a specialty (running the gamut of family medicine to surgery) to receive further training, in a period called “residency.” This residency can last anywhere from 3 to 7 years depending on the specialty. The match is important because the student has to apply to multiple residency programs in hopes to receive further training. They interview and rank programs, and the programs rank the applicants. This all goes into a computer that spits out a perfect “match.” The contract is binding. However, in the event in which you do not match (more applicants than spots available) you cannot practice as a physician. You must “scramble” into a program that had open spots, change specialties, or try re-applying the next cycle. 

After residency, the doctor can choose to further specialize and receive even more training by pursuing a “fellowship.” (Such as an internist specializing in cardiology.) This can also range anywhere from 1-3 years. During these years, the resident and fellow will receive a base trainee salary, usually in the low to high 50k range. 

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First and foremost – THANK YOU all for your love and support and encouragement and messages and “likes” and calls, I couldn’t have done any of this on my own. The biggest of all gratitude, of course, goes to God who continues to make these things possible! Here is the low down. :) 

The where: I’ll be doing my ophthalmology training at the Georgia Regent’s University (previously known as Georgia Health Sciences University, and prior to that Medical College of Georgia.) It is located in Augusta, Georgia, 2 hours away from family! It’ll be a welcome change.

The when: This is where things get confusing. I start in July 2015 (until 2017.) The first year of training, or “intern year” (aka this year) is done separately. I will be matching for intern year in March, aiming to stay Pennsylvania for one more year. Let’s make it count with as many memories as we can get ok? Ahhh, I’m definitely going to miss it here…

The what: The biggest confusion arises between ophthalmology and optometry. While there is some cross-over, the average patient often doesn’t know the difference. Ophthalmologists go through 4 years of residency training in addition to 4 years of medical school whereas optometrists go through 4 years of optometry school. Thus, ophthalmologists tend to handle the medical and surgical management of various ocular diseases, while optometrists work more with refractions and visual acuity.

The why: because it’s the best field of medicine, duh! All kidding aside, ophthalmology was a field that just sorta “fit.” It fit my goals in what I was looking for: it’s the perfect combination of medicine and surgery, is outpatient, maintains a great physician-patient relationship, has a good lifestyle, and has awesome “toys” (aka lasers and lenses) to play with. Plus we get to deal with the eyeball! Fun stuff. :)

So, thank ya’ll again for accompanying me on this start of the journey of becoming an ophthalmologist!! Next step – graduation. :)

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For your amusement, how I handled the 24 hours before finding out my early match results is included below. (Hint: Not well, haha.) 

Pre-match: 

24 hrs before (7 am): Begin the distractions with a transitional year program interview.

19 hours before (12 pm): Poor life decisions begin. Approaching danger zone by choosing to eat a seemingly innocent caramel topped double chocolate chip cookie for dessert after lunch.

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17 hrs before (2 pm): Stress eating ensues. And quickly snowballs. Tour of hospital ends with a stop at a chocolate cafe. Tempting.  No quickly turns into yes. Proceed to order the “Ridiculousness,” a chocolate cake topped with chocolate mousse and peanut butter whip cream. Demolish it. Decide to be helpful for fellow applicants. Finish their “Death by Chocolate” dessert, a chocolate mousse/pot de creme covered in ganache. Thirsty. Top it off with an “Italian” hot chocolate, consisting of pure nutella. Damage done? 2-3(?)000+ calories.

15 hours before (4pm): Realize that previous 3 day juice fast post holiday break does not bode well for a stomach overloaded with chocolate. Spend next thirty minutes shuttling back and forth to bathroom. Seeing/smelling/thinking of chocolate brings sensations of wanting to hurl. Attempt to throw away all remaining chocolates in house, but instead, hide it for future. Death by chocolate indeed.

13 hours before (6 pm): Stress levels mount. Attempt to elicit sympathy from friends with varying levels of success. Decide its best to sweat it out at the gym. 6.5 miles, 50 push ups, 30 inverted sit-ups, 20 chin lifts/dips, and 2 hours later, feel somewhat relieved. (Briefly consider getting stressed more often for better workouts.)

8 hours before (11 pm): Finish homework, always best when saved for last. Prayers. Time for bed…let’s see what tomorrow brings!!! 

1 to 6 hours before (1 am – 6am): Is it 7 yet?? Darn it. Sleepless in Philadelphia, and drag self out of bed.

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TIME (7 am): Parents call me whilst I am *in* the bathroom asking for news. I am so tired I lost track of time! Refresh my email and there it is from SF Match. Heartrate mounting, I click… and… matched. Exhilaration!!!! Forget sleep. THIS GIRL IS GONNA BE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST!!!!!!!!!!!

7:01 – 11 am: WAIT WHERE AM I GONNA GO? Spend next few hours obsessing/ trying to dissect/remember my rank list.

Year of the Horse

2013 was the year I learned to live. To stop waiting for things to happen. And to pursue my dreams. 

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2014 will be the year of the horse, my zodiac, my year. While it will require the utmost faithdiscipline, and perseverance to make it through, I know it will be an adventure of a lifetime!

And I cannot wait to find out where it brings me and what I will learn!  

You see, in 2013, I had begun to see medical school as a means to an end. I just had get through these last one and a half years to become a doctor, I told myself, and then residency would be when life truly started. Residency, I thought, was when I would really invest. In work, in the location, in church, and in friends. Residency, I said, was when I would explore, travel, and find love.

But then it dawned on me – this wait for things to happen – was not living. And most of all, life was not going to change during residency. Because I could say and do the same things for fellowship. And then for becoming an attending. And so on and so forth. The change had to do with the person within.

2013 had started on a rotation that was challenging both emotionally and physically for me. And before I knew it, I was faced with making big changes and even bigger decisions. I had to find a new apartment, take my final Board exams, and decide on a future career path. Yet I was comfortable where I was and wanted to delay the inevitable. 

But let me tell you – sometimes getting uncomfortable is the necessary breath of fresh air and the kick needed to get things started! It wasn’t so bad after all, I realized. I ended up loving my new apartment and roommates (shout out to my little women!), did well enough on my exams to apply for my dream specialty, and to top it off, sucked it up, and found a yoga and dance studio to start going to. I stopped waiting and started living. And my oh my it’s been such a sweet change! This was the shift in perspective I needed.

Looking forward, this is the year I will at last graduate from medical school and hopefully get my first “doctor” job. I find out in less than two weeks where I “match” for my chosen specialty, which starts in 2015, my second year of residency, and lasts for three years. Depending on the results, I will document my journey here to help those interested in the same field! And in March, I will find out where I will match for my intern year (this year). And then I will have two blissful months of vacation April-May (that I am recruiting travel buddies for!!) before residency begins.

Ahhh, I cannot believe I’m so close to the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another! My heart is filled with so much thankfulness for those who have helped me along, especially during this latter interview season, and with trepidation as my future unfolds.

But let us all press forward together, and dedicate another year to living fully, fruitfully, and fortuitously!! Cheers! 

possibleThis year, I resolve to make small changes for big results:

1) Pray more. (Read more. Share more. Serve more.) I am such a strong advocate for prayer and I believe it truly makes a difference! Yet despite that, I know I can do so much better with my prayer life. I am challenging myself to pray everyday for 6 months, including for my future husband (HAHA now I am embarrassed to even type that… it seemed like a good idea a few minutes ago. :P)

2) Invest deeply in others. I am surrounded by so many outstanding men and women, and I cannot wait to spend time and get to know them better! I also want to visit as many old friends as I can before work starts. Themed dinners at my place to come. =)

3) Live within my means. I will be earning my own paycheck, and want to be able to manage my own income and begin to save a reasonable percentage per month.

4) Eat healthy. Ever since I started exercising regularly, I have noticed an increase in energy and strength! It feels wonderful to be able to accomplish things I never thought I could do. My diet, on the other hand, is abysmal. My goal is to be at the best shape of my life by graduation.

5) Continue living, laughing, and loving! May this joy and hope never cease. =)

How I spent my New Years:

1) Figured out how to live stream BBC One for none other than the start of Season 3 of Sherlock. Amazing and well made that I can’t wait for the next episode already! I just hope we don’t have to wait another 2 years for season 4 (fingers crossed.)

2) Chinese parent dinner party. Translation: amazing food, lots of little kids running around (suddenly I’ve turned into the oldest?!), and plenty of hong bao. All in all, pretty wonderful. :)

Happy 4 Years!

Today is my four year blog-anniversary! What a wonderful journey it has been! 

Life around this corner has been eventful, to say the least. One of my closest friends was in an accident recently; it nearly put my heart on hold. Thankfully, she is doing better right now. It really made me realize that what matters in life is not necessarily the accolades or the money we accumulate – but rather, the people and the relationships we gain in that time. It’s been so encouraging to see the outflow of love and support for her!

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For myself, it emphasized my goal for this coming year: to continue to strengthen these friendships, in what may be my last in Philly. I finally have the time! After all, I put the finishing touches on my applications and submitted them to residency programs (early match, prelims, and transitional year programs). While it is a handful to keep track of, I am so grateful the opportunity and for the people who have helped along the way. Please continue to send me all the luck you can muster guys! =)

On the other hand, you may have noticed that engagement photos have started to overflow on my blog! It truly is a phenomenon… it is now a regular occurrence that I see a new engagement or wedding posted on Facebook! I am lucky to be close friends to several, and privy to  the details. =)

IMG_0098aThis cute couple in particular, is none other than one of my new housemates and her fiancé! I was the first one to see them in person after they got engaged and thus, keep telling her that I moved in at exactly the right time to witness this momentous occasion and be part of the wedding planning fun.

IMG_0042aaTo celebrate their engagement, we surprised them at our housewarming with this delicious cake, baked by another roommate, and decorated by yours truly! This cake was seriously THE BOMB.

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Mocha chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, covered in chocolate ganache, and topped with homemade whipped cream. This is probably the prettiest cake I decorated to date! IMG_0001a

Lastly, I cannot end without a mini-recipe! This was a watermelon cake I made for the housewarming as well. Pretty self explanatory to make – but here are some simple tips I picked up along the way.

  • Use an oblong watermelon! The shape gives you a natural tiered shaped for the cake. I sliced the cake into thirds, then cut along the rind in a circle. This allows you to pop the rind right off!
  • Use cookie cutters if you want to create any shapes to add onto the watermelon! (I used it for the star on top).
  • Skewers are your best friend. Stick them inside the cake after each layer to make sure the layers don’t move.
  • Other great fruits to add onto your cake are kiwis, cantaloupe, honeydew, berries, for their contrasting colors. Avoid apples and bananas because they will turn brown.
  • This can be made and stored in the fridge the night before.

Guide to Getting Married

And this is how a proposal is done.

1. Find the perfect ring and engrave your proposal.

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2. Find a suitable ring bearer. e*pick me me me!! SQUIRREL!!*

3. Place the wedding ring into a basket, and get your puppy eyes ready. b

*forget having a sappy speech and let me do all the work! she can’t say no to these puppy eyes.*

4. Get instant results.   c

*see the ring? now how about you hold out your hand just like I am holding up my paw* 

5. Enjoy the moment, but remember who did all the heavy lifting. f

Congrats T & J for having just about the cutest proposal ever! =)a

T & J Engagement Sneak Peek

IMG_9671aThis is currently the preview for T & J’s engagement photoshoot blog post… we just finished shooting this evening but I couldn’t resist editing & posting a picture (or two!) =)

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It was so much fun and I can NOT get over how many fantastic photos there are! So hard to narrow down… T & J and their adorable dog, Snickledoodle make one happy family!  =)

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DIY Rainbow Layered Cupcakes

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Who says you can’t taste the rainbow? ;)

I was inspired by a basic yellow cake featured in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine, and decided to add a little tropical twist to the all-purpose recipe. Replacing whole milk with coconut milk, and adding shredded coconut and chopped walnuts, this delightful coconut walnut cake was born! Not too sweet on the taste buds, but savory enough to be eaten on its own, this light, fluffy cake will instantly rise to become a kitchen favorite.

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And to celebrate finishing my boards this past Friday, I decide to make up for lost baking time by taking it one step further. I’d always admired the gorgeous 6-layer rainbow cakes, so why not make it in miniature? ;)

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To say that my work station was a mess was a little understatement. But rest assured, creating this six layered rainbow cupcake is completely do-able. All it takes is a little food coloring, a bit more patience, and you will have your very own masterpiece! Check it out.

Coconut Walnut Cake

(Makes 12 regular sized cupcakes)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Food coloring: Red, yellow, blue, green.

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To assemble: 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with a mixer until combined. Add eggs and beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until combined. Add the milk, vanilla, coconut, and nuts, and beat until just combined.

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2. Separate the cake batter into 6 different bowls. Make one red, orange (red + yellow coloring), yellow, green, blue, and purple (blue + red coloring.)

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3. Take approx half a spoonful of the purple batter and layer it on the bottom of the cupcake liner. You want to make sure the color will show through on the edges of the cupcake, so use the back of the spoon to push the batter onto the side walls of the liner.

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4. Gently add the next blue layer on top of the purple, taking care to spread an even layer. I found what worked best for me was dolloping the batter into the center of the cupcake and then pushing it to the sides.

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5. Repeat with the green. IMG_88126. Repeat with the yellow, then orange. Almost there! (If you look closely, I actually mixed up the order of my yellow and orange! Whoops, haha!)

IMG_88157. Repeat with the red as the last layer. You may notice that as you move up in the layers, you will need more batter per layer. That is normal since the cupcake gets wider as you move up. I ended up running out of red, and used leftover purple!

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8. Bake for approx. 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick placed into the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

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Engagement Shoot: C & J

IMG_8744a102 degree weather, an all time Philadelphia high. But this gorgeous couple, C & J, bravely trooped through despite the temperature during our photo shoot. :) b

I first met C through A, at A’s bridal shower earlier this year (A’s wedding photos can be found at this post here).

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We immediately hit it off, and when C told me about her upcoming wedding, we immediately starting bouncing ideas for an engagement shoot collaboration. :)newaTime and time again though, medicine kept getting in our way! In between my away rotations and her fiancé’s surgery schedule (Yes! He’s a real life surgeon!), we kept pushing the date back. So this weekend when an opening came up – I was absolutely thrilled that both C & J was flexible in joining me for an impromtu shoot. :)

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We decided on the Philadelphia Art Museum, one of my favorite locations, and despite the sweltering weather, had a blast!IMG_8781a

You see, C & J are not only crazily photogenic (making my job easier) but also so much fun to hang out with! They were bursting with chemistry, energy, as well as spunk!! IMG_8699a

Thank you guys so much for allowing me to capture these special moments (I had a heck of a hard time picking photos just for this post… there were just too many good ones!) I cannot wait to see you two take the next step in holy matrimony as well as any future adventures we may have! ;)IMG_8773a