Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dec 2016

With the end of the year upon us and me returning home to the city of Los Angeles, it is finally apparent how much time has passed since this program started. 6 and a half months of new experiences, friends and opportunities. It is curious to see how my relationships with mentors, professional staff, and fellow students have evolved during this time. I've learned not only about myself during this time, but also the various impressive backgrounds and work experiences my fellow students have had. Their commitment to their own personal projects and pursuits of knowledge that lay outside the direct spectrum of medicine is always an eye-opening experience. Health can be achieved in a multitude of ways, via preventative care, pharmacological treatment, or direct surgical procedures. Watching each individual attempt to learn, improve and promote their own field is an inspiring process in of itself.

But for now, its time for about of a week of relaxation, reflection and inconsumable amounts of Japanese food...and Mexican food... really anything I can't get in New Orleans currently. And Egg nog.

Happy Holidays, and until next time
Matthew To

Total completed hours:42.75

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 2016 Blog Post

As the end of the semester looms near, bringing the year to a conclusion, various things have started to come into focus and the results of my decisions are coming closer to fruition--for better or worse.

Thanksgiving break is/was the first real vacation I've had since the beginning of this program. Although it was a bit overwhelming to take an exam so soon after the previous one, I was grateful for the week of breathing room it provided me. An overabundance of small tasks and errands had begun to pile up due to my commitments to both school and work. Laundry, personal relationships, cooking, self-care and washing my car demanded my attention, but regularly coming home post 2 AM did not make addressing any of these concerns very appealing. Simply put, after all, these months of adjusting, studying and working, I am not where I expected myself to be. The idealistic dreams of a summer time student who was grateful to be accepted into this prestigious program did not result in the realities of my current situation.

But I can't say I am completely disappointed in myself because I did put in the time and effort, just in inefficient or ineffective ways that I could not have known without trying. In the same manner, my time and effort resulted in experiences that I didn't expect either.

This past Tuesday as I volunteered at the Goldring nutrition center again, I was saddened to see that all the previous volunteers and students  had ended their services after the Thanksgiving course, and a new group of medical students had come in to replace them. Having to learn new names, and becoming accustomed to new co-workers was a practice I had gone through a few too many times in recent months. Despite this, introductions were done naturally in between small break periods of work and the class went as smoothly as ever. In fact, some of the dishes that night were the best I had ever had.

I also began seeing my coworkers, fellow students, and fellow volunteers overlapping into my different work/school/casual spheres. I was given a glimpse of these individuals in a setting I was accustomed to. Although what always seems like a common trope in these blog posts came as a pleasant surprise to me. These same individuals who I looked up to, respected and in some cases idolized, also struggled with the same menial tasks that plagued me. In a sobering moment, I realized that these individuals were just as "human" or fallible as I was.  This caused me to further respect these individuals as well as reinvigorate my pursuit for medicine and personal professionalism.

Life has its ups and downs, wrapped up in the ever flavorful Christmas wrapping called "Life Lessons". I'm sure these life lessons won't be ending anytime soon and will arrive just as unexpectedly for the rest of my studies or my career. Doctors are notoriously plagued by burnout and career exhaustion, and when that time comes, I'll look to my colleagues and myself, as a reminder to take on the task with the same invigoration and tenacity that I currently have writing this blog and studying for this final exam and upcoming semester.

November Hours Completed: 6.5 Hours
Hours to Date: 42.75 hours

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October 2016 Blog

October has been the month of sacrifices and tradeoffs. Now that a sense of normalcy has been established and a schedule or routine is almost imminent, it is only normal to expect a host of changeups and turn of events that would derail said schedule. Changes in work schedule, friends visiting, meal prep and class times are some of the milder things I have encountered. Sometimes these changes are beneficial, such as when the volunteer kitchen has to cancel class right before an exam, and sometimes they are more troublesome such as having to double on cooking recipes and portions in the same class time frame.

Being able to adapt to these changes is a life skill that everyone must learn at one time another. Sometimes the changes are subtle, and others they are madly drastic. I personally feel that one of the responsibilities of being a medical professional is being able to quickly adjust to these different changes, but in a cool calm collected manner that ensures our patients trust in us. Patients come to us not only as sick specimens but also as individuals who need may need medical counseling and ease of mind as they approach their unsure changes.

Although these changes in life may come suddenly, and when we may least need it, they are also an opportunity for us to flex our knowledge and skills, proving to our patients that we are the right candidates for their trust.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pharmacology Blog: September 2016

With another month passing by, and a handful of new experiences underneath my belt, I felt a little more secure about my place in New Orleans and the Tulane Pharmacology program. With this new stability came an increased confidence in being outgoing and actively helping others in the Goldring nutrition program. At the start, my volunteering comprised mostly of washing dishes, fetching plates and fielding questions between the students and the educators. After about three weeks volunteering with the nutrition center, I have become more comfortable with my surroundings and have gained a deeper understanding of each of the dishes, and from time to time assist in the cooking  process.Typically the meals are prepared by 4 different groups and can vary from small dishes to large week long meal prep style creations. Although it is impractical for one group to make 4 different meals, I couldn't help but feel that some of the students were missing out on certain cooking experiences. How was one individual supposed to learn how to properly cook the ground beef in spaghetti when their recipe only used vegetarian substitutes? And on the opposite hand, how could the ground beef spaghetti bring out the flavor in vegetables when they only used ground beef? My concerns were easily addressed at the end of class when the different groups came together to present their creations and consume their meals, they immediately began to converse on the strengths and weakness of each dish. Balancing the need for nutritional change against cultural comforts all while designing meals underneath 2.50 a plate is what the Goldring Nutrition center strives to do. I look forward to my next months volunteering here as well as the opportunity to improve both my knowledge and my cooking.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


 The first day of volunteering at the GoldRing Center of Nutrition began as calmly and easy-going as I could have wished for. With the start of the new school season, the class was seeing a lower attendance rate comparatively to previous classes,so much so that second portion of cooking supplies had to be returned to the freezer for another day. Although I expected to be doing a fair amount of cooking and prep work, I ultimately ended acting as a troubleshooting agent and cooking assistant for the students of the class. Rather than chopping vegetables, preparing chicken or skinning potatoes, I was cleaning dishes, washing bowls, and retrieving extra knives. Typically one might assume that I would feel bored or unchallenged given this situation, but reflective of the Goldring nutrition center the skills you learn and obtain are relative to the amount of effort put in . The staff at the Goldring center rewards curiosity, answering questions in an understandable manner while simultaneously posing the pro's and con's. I believe that my first experience volunteering at the Goldring center was a lesson in humility and humbleness. Despite being a student in the pharmacology program, to properly practice medicine it is important to take a step back and create an opportunities for others to best learn.