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Embroidering Gingerbread

One of my favorite parts of UMMS is the plethora of opportunities to pursue and develop your passions. For example, last year, I was one of several artists who were invited to submit artwork to decorate the new Taubman Health Sciences Library (THSL) student lounge space.

I have always enjoyed a variety of creative pursuits, including graphic design, music, drawing and, more recently, embroidery. At that time, I had finished a tote bag embroidery kit and was looking for my next project. The opportunity to design for THSL came at the perfect time, and I designed and embroidered my project in a matter of weeks.

That project fueled others, starting small with bookmarks, a snowglobe pillow, and then, finally, the embroidery project that consumed the vast majority of my free time since June. Everyone always told me how the residency interview process involved a lot of available time to pursue hobbies, and so I decided to embroider a gingerbread house quilt as a Christmas present. It was the perfect project, in that each block/gingerbread house was portable enough to work on during innumerable flights but could be assembled into something special.

As time went on, I grew increasingly concerned about whether I would finish in time. I had visions of presenting my grandmother with scraps of fabric, a sort of IOU and a promise that the quilt would soon be finished. Thankfully, by working flat out during the month of December, the quilt was finished, on Christmas Eve. Whew, I cut it close.

I love the finished project. It’s even more fun to look at the blocks and say, “this is the block I did on NICU nights” or “this one I did during lunch periods on Dermatology”. For the last several weeks, I’ve been so happy to no longer need to work on the quilt and getting caught up on my reading/other life activities. I’m starting to feel restless again, though, so it may soon be time to start working on my next project. What that will be, I don’t know, but Michigan will give me the time and space to figure it out.

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is so close. The last few months (really, all of M4 thus far) has been such a blur; it seems like the fall term should be barely starting and yet everyone has already finished their final exams.

I finished my last interview last week, and I have to admit that I’m thrilled to be home for a while. (I was starting to get a bit motion sick from all the flights, believe it or not). Interview season has been a blast – meeting all these other students, residents, and faculty who are passionate about family medicine while exploring new cities and beautiful scenic landscapes. But I’m happy to be home for now and experience all that holidays with family encompass.

And also recover from the cold I developed during my last trip. All things considered, I’m impressed that my immune system made it this long without succumbing to the germs spread by the throngs of people I encountered in every airport. It’s the unfortunate consequence of traveling, wacky sleep schedules, and, well, winter.

I sadly did not achieve my one goal during interview season of not running in the airport – it became necessary during my last trip to catch a connecting flight. My flight out of Detroit was delayed for almost an hour in order to de-ice the plane, which made an already tight connection just a smidge tighter. Thankfully, I was able to make my next flight even if I had to cross that goal off the list of possibilities.

One good part of all the flight time was that I finished the embroidery portion of the gingerbread house quilt I’m making as a Christmas present. The quilting part of the process is still in progress, so fingers crossed I finish in time, but the end is in sight.

I do love Ann Arbor around the holidays. Everything looks so festive, and the spirit of giving is ever-present. Also, basketball season is ramping up, with its concomitant fun – when we played UCLA, it was Star Wars day, with stormtroopers and even Darth Vader himself roaming Crisler Arena.

Fans also brought toys to donate to the patients in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – my brother and I are sure that this cute bear will go to a good home!

And don’t forget the Christmas cookies (these awesome ones were distributed after a women’s basketball game).

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.


I am sitting in an airport. I seem to be doing this a lot lately. Residency interview season is now in full swing; I’m in the middle of my scheduled interviews. Traveling around the country has been a lot of fun but is also rather tiring.

I actually started writing this post a week ago; I am sitting in an airport once again. Thankfully, this is my last one before I take a week off for Thanksgiving.

Lessons I have learned on the residency interview trail thus far:
⁃ TSA Pre-Check is amazing: I went through the approval process back in January and it was honestly some of the best money I have spent. It allows me to pass through security a bit faster, without having to remove my shoes or belt, leave my laptop and liquids inside my carry-on, and frankly just have an easier time with it. I ended up getting Global Entry, a program which allows expedited customs when entering the U.S. Global Entry costs $100 and automatically confers TSA Pre-Check, while TSA Pre-Check alone costs $85.
⁃ I am tired. Traveling across time zones is not an easy task, particularly in the evenings and early mornings. There have absolutely been times when I almost fell asleep standing up at the resident dinners because of this. My suggestion is to try to sleep whenever possible – on the plane if you can but definitely consider napping in between your arrival to the city and the resident dinner. On a similar vein, try not to schedule 6am flights, because they could entail waking up around 2-3am and I never thought I’d consider surgery hours as sleeping in.
⁃ Because of ACGME requirements, a lot of programs within the same specialty do similar things. Nevertheless, each program has its own flavor and definite vibe. Pay attention to this during the interview to see where you’d best fit in.
⁃ It’s a lot of fun to meet all of the other applicants and residents at your programs, but you will not remember their names for the most part (at the moment, I’m struggling to remember what day of the week it is let alone any names). So, if you really connect with a resident, write down their info immediately so you can easily contact them later with questions.
⁃ Write down program info right after finishing the interview because everything is blurring together at this point. I try to write down some notes while waiting at the airport for my return flight to jog my memory later. Another option I’ve heard of is to speak into your phone and record a voice memo (that way, your thoughts are even more unscripted without the automatic censoring that occurs when your thoughts go faster than your fingers).
⁃ Similarly, write your thank-you notes as soon after the interview as possible. With 3-5 interviews at each program, the notes can pile up quickly and it’s harder to remember what you actually discussed even the next day.
⁃ You will be fed, a lot and often. Honestly, it’s a lot more food than I’m used to eating in a day, let alone multiple days per week. Interview suits tend to feel progressively tighter during the interview season so plan accordingly when choosing your outfit.

Despite the increasing fatigue, I am really enjoying the process. And, I’m getting a lot of time to work on my Christmas present for my grandmother – embroidering gingerbread houses to combine into a quilt. I’m certainly making good progress during all my layovers 🙂 My mom came with me on this trip, so we both worked on our needlework while flying!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

Racking up Miles

Well, fall appears to have arrived for good at the moment. Although it is Michigan, which means that 80-degree temperatures in October are not out of the question. Either way, it means that classes are back in session, fall sports are duking it out (and in some cases, approaching the end of their seasons), and, for M4s out there, it’s the beginning of interview season!

We submitted our ERAS application to residency programs on September 15, and the race was on! Urban legend suggests that interview slots can fill up quickly – within an hour and some even cite it as within 10 minutes. Needless to say, we were all slightly concerned about this need for speed. Some began forwarding emails to their pager so that program invitations would blare loud signals for all. In my case, I started forwarding emails to my smart watch, so that I could (mostly) discreetly check emails as they came in without having to obviously check my phone.

One trick I heard from previous classes (and emphatically agree with) is to carry an ideal schedule with you starting September 15. It was a lot easier to cluster interviews together by location when you had already decided that the week of November X would be reserved for interviews near X place. That doesn’t mean it always worked out nicely (in my case, the week I had reserved for a location was not an option for interview dates for that location – oops), but it mostly does.

So, it looks like I’ll be bouncing around the country for the next few months, racking up my frequent flyer miles. I’m looking forward to exploring different locales and learning about each residency program. And, I have a plan for long layovers between flights – embroidering gingerbread houses to make a quilt for my grandmother for Christmas. So, really, I can be very productive while waiting at airports 🙂

(This design is one of nine blocks. Design is by Crabapple Hill Studios).

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.

Back to Fall, Back to Class, Back to FOOTBALL!

The undergraduates have descended upon Ann Arbor – squirrels are being happily fed and newcomers are flummoxed by the Michigan left and one-way streets. But the students’ return has heralded the return of yet other Michigan traditions – cooler weather (and pumpkin-spice lattes) but, most importantly, football season. This past weekend marked the first home game and it’s always wonderful to see the Big House filled with its 110,000-plus inhabitants, cheering on the Maize and Blue.

But, this year in particular, I want to cheer on the Maize and Blue not just in the Big House or Crisler Arena (basketball arena), but also in the soccer stadium, the tennis courts, the field hockey arena, and more. It’s starting to hit me that this will be my last year as a Michigan student, and that’s definitely bittersweet.

Being a Michigan student has defined much of my identity for a long time. After some calculation earlier this week, I realized that a child starting first grade at the same time as I started UM coursework would now be a senior in high school. Oy; now I really feel old when I see the excited, nervous, and obviously freshmen as they navigate their way around campus.

One student program I have greatly enjoyed in recent years is the HAIL app (acronym stands for Honoring Attendance, Involvement & Loyalty). When students attend a sporting event, they “check in” with the app and earn points. These points can then be redeemed for prizes, such as Nike swag or other M-Den apparel. I’ve gotten some pretty cool things during the last few years, such as a Nike women’s football jersey (and my now-game day staple) last year. In order to ensure I fully enjoy the myriad sports experiences Michigan has to offer, I’ve been attending more events this year so far and having a blast. For example, earlier today, I attended a women’s field hockey event and was able to see goalkeeper Sam Swenson dancing to “Magic” before the meet began. I also picked up a clear plastic cup that, when filled with cold liquid, turns bright yellow. I swear, there’s only water in that cup!

I am thankful to have finished all of my exams for medical school at this point, so I can spend my evening hours cheering on Michigan instead of studying for the next shelf. And on that note, Go Blue!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.