Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In Loving Memory

It's been five years since you passed away.
Your absence still stings.
You filled a space that no one will ever replace.
What I would give, if I could say, "Hello Dad" in the same old way.
The greatest gift I've ever received came from you...
You believed in me.

"What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I have found in the son the unveiled secret of the father."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hiking Echo Mountain

So i started logging some miles this week, I've been averaging 6 miles/day running on a boring treadmill like a manic hamster. To mix it up a little I decided to hike a local mountain- Echo Mountain.

The trail head located on Lake Ave.
First is finding the Trailhead: From the I-210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena, you exit at Lake Avenue. Drive north for 3.4 miles to the end of Lake Avenue. Park along the street. The hike begins to the left of the stone gateway on the east side of the street. There is an old post pointing the direction to the old peak. 

The total distance is roughly 5 miles roundtrip with an elevation of 1400 ft. I would say the difficulty of this hike was "mild to moderate"-- the trail is well maintained without much wildlife (i.e. not many snakes or cougars crawling around). I say this because a few months back I hiked Mt. Wilson in the Los Angeles National Forest from the trailhead in Sierra Madre and came across two rattle snakes and one brown bear on the way up the peak-- i contemplated terminating my hike that time but meh...finished it anyways with many catecholamines circulating in my blood.

Echo Mountain Megaphone

The total hike time for Echo Mountain is roughly 3 hours at a moderate pace. Once you reach the top you will encounter the amazing echo megaphone. Scattered along the top are various posts detailing the rich history of the mountain, specifically the ruins of an old resort. This particular day had overcast weather but on a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean, downtown LA, Santa Monica, and even Catalina -- all gorgeous views.

At the peak


I must say that i was impressed by the large number of senior citizens that were hiking this particular mountain, particularly Korean folks, lol. They were hiking like pros while I was sweating bullets. At any rate the best part of the hike was reaching the top and eating my sandwich.   

"No one ever drowned in sweat" - Lou Holtz

Monday, January 28, 2013

"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run..."

I woke up this morning with a powerful urge to run, so i ran. 

I donned my pajamas (sweatpants and an old Jesus T-shirt I had won in a raffle a long time ago...) and ran alongside the Los Angeles river ... no thinking, no worries, no distractions, no depressing thoughts... just running. Somewhere around mile #4 it dawned on me--- this is something I've been missing greatly.
This blog is bound to change from a log of my experiences through medical school and residency into a log of running in Los Angeles. There are beaches, mountains, rivers, and plenty of trails in this great city. 

Lets explore.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Long days in the ICU

There is a methodical approach to pronouncing someone as "Dead." -- this in itself is not very difficult. The existential and medical definition of being "dead" is slightly more complex; still each of us can accept it's meaning depending on our religions or existential stance. However, by far the most difficult part of all is standing in front of a grieving family and explaining how despite all efforts you've failed...As if the family was somehow expecting your to actually save the patient's life. After breaking bones and inserting tubes in every hole you can imagine... You walk out from these rooms feeling utterly defeated.

Just when you're about to sit and ponder in hindsight how differently you could've managed the patient, you're interrupted by intercom calling out "Code Blue" for someone who is about to pass into that bright light. I reckon it's better to remain occupied and physically exhausted than sitting down feeling sorry for yourself. I'm reminded of that box from two years ago...

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself
                          -DH Lawrence

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


So it’s been six months since I last posted anything on this blog...

Although I anticipated ending my experience as a blogger six months ago in lieu of the crazy grind that marks the beginning of residency, writing on this site has cemented my belief in the value of cathartic writing. Also to my surprise, these posts have on occasions helped folks who are curious about random medical topics.

I’m back.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Restless Med Student" is now a Doctor.

In this blog you will read of my journey as a hapless student navigating through medical school and  my rewarding yet futile quest of becoming the next William Osler. Here you will find stories describing challenges that encompass both blunders and achievements- from my descent into a miserable 8-month depression after the death of my Father and nearly dropping out of medical school to being published in two peer-reviewed journals and scoring in the 99th percentile of the USMLE.  Life is darkness and light. I wish there was a way to briefly summarize this journey in a few sentences but all I can say is that... it was worth it.  

If you're a student considering pursuing this long and wearing path,
I have a few words of advice:
    1. As you gain knowledge, stay grounded
    2. Learn and re-learn because you'll forget if you don't.
    3. Grow some thick skin in the process
    4. Remind yourself why you wanted to help people through medicine.
    5. Don't pursue medicine for the $, the most important things in life aren't  things.

I'll be graduating from UCLA in a couple months and will be specializing in Internal Medicine, perhaps sub-specializing in the future. I'm happy with my decision. The journey has been demanding and sometimes marked with doubts but this was the path I choose eight years ago while watching my Dad being wheeled to an OR... damn good decision.

Lastly, I want to motivate students out there who come from an underserved background-- perhaps a recent immigrant struggling with English or someone from "the hood" with little resources and an uphill battle to success.

 Match Day: (3/16/12))
My family (five of us) came to this country when I was 9 yrs old, our family's annual income was less than $22,000 living in a one bedroom apartment for several years. I'll admit without embarrassment that we grew up with government assistance. Nothing was easy... but nothing is impossible. I worked hard and never lost focus. There's countless stories of folks who through hardwork and sheer will have beaten the odds. We are all dealt with certain cards that we must play in life, but the difference between a successful grasshopper and others is not a lack of strength or knowledge, but rather in a lack of will. In this path you will experience failures (trust me!), but success consists of navigating from failure to failure without loosing enthusiasm, so don't give up.  If you wish to read more about this topic, then I suggest this post from awhile back.

I started this blog 4 years ago with a post describing the humbling experience of starting medical school. The humbling process never stops but i intend to end this blog today.  Peace!


Friday, January 13, 2012


bulldog winning

It's been several months since I've been here but I wanted to quickly follow up on a previous entry where I posted my strategy to 'win' on the USMLE Step 2.

To be brief--- the plan worked, I scored in the 99th percentile. The key was to review First AID twice, complete the entire UWorld Qbank in tutor mode, and take one NBME practice exam. Sometimes you just have to be like the bulldog and stare down your challenges.

Good luck!

Monday, October 17, 2011


"when you think of your human senses, how do you fell when knowing they are just one way of seeing the world?"

Truth is...I’m hitting a wall in my research...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bootcamp Letters

Jumping from the Towers... My grandchildren will feel it.
At the listless age of 14, I was sent to a Marine Corps mini-bootcamp called Devilpups at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. Unlike a number of participants at the camp who were forced into participating, I had volunteered without realizing the degree of pain and humiliation I was to succumb. The reasons behind my decision laid in the belief that my late Father, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran, felt I could not endure several weeks of hell. 

Mother was hesitant to sign the waiver but after some persuasion by Dad, she signed the papers. On the day of departure, there were approximately one hundred teenagers from southern California at MCRD waiting to be picked up by rows of white buses marked with Semper Fi emblems.  We were told by staff to stand and wait for the sergeants inside the bus to exit and deliver their special welcome.   The first sergeant who came out of the white bus began hollering at the group, calling us ‘Nancy” and emphasizing how we were prohibited from looking into their eyes.

Just before I boarded the bus Dad looked at me with a dash of anticipation, as if waiting for a change of heart…  But I spit my pride and said to him, “I’ll see you in two weeks, alright.” He smiled and said “Hey, don’t drop the soap” in reference to a story he told me the day before of how Army recruits in bootcamp bathe in communal showers.
In my na├»ve thinking, it was a challenge I wanted to undertake mainly to impress my Dad and break a Father-Son Complex that I’d carried for years. After the first few days of bootcamp, The Drill Sergeants gave us the opportunity to write a letter to our parents. Well… twelve years later I opened this letter… it brought on many tears.  In the letter I ramble to Dad with a foolish pride about how much I enjoyed bootcamp and how great I was being treated, I can chuckle now because those were some of the most eternal weeks of my life, LOL.

When you look back at your fleeting life, which moments will you vividly recall the most? The achievements, your contributions to society, or the little pieces of humanity you gathered along the way. The earliest memory of your beloved one. The desperation and glory of crossing a finish line or the moment when you first felt the seemingly empty satisfaction of altruism. The smell of Mom’s cooking… Bootcamp is one of mine.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

United States Medical Licensing Examination (Step 2)

....Can't for the life of me understand why the National Board of Medical Examiners charges $1355 to sit and take this exam. Now that my bank account is lighter I'm more compelled to study. FYI, if you're a fellow student who will soon be taking the exam-- i'll be using the following resources and posting my score when it arrives.

  • FIRST AID for the USMLE step 2CK
  • USMLE World Qbank (i've been working on this sucker since the start of 3rd year)
  • SIMPLE cases (internal medicine)
  • Step Up to Medicine (USMLE step 2)