Since beginning medical school last year, I have increasingly been pondering this question: How can we shift the focus of our energy into promoting health, rather than reacting with healthcare? To me, seeking ways to decrease our risk of attaining chronic illnesses, all while improving our mental health and relationships with others, seems to be an obvious path to follow. However, this path is often complicated by finances and varying levels of community engagement, among other factors. I decided to dedicate one week of my summer selectives to learning about how various leaders are discovering solutions to these difficulties, all while finding creative ways to promote health and wellness in their communities. To get the ball rolling, I reached out to the consultant in my mentorship family, Dr. Dave Agerter. He supported my interest and connected me with Sandy Anderson at Mower Refreshed, a unique community wellness movement in Mower County, Minnesota. From the beginning, Sandy welcomed me and transparently shared the successes and challenges of the Mower Refreshed initiatives: Healthier Choices, Mental Fitness, Workforce Wellness, and Latinos Saludables. One of the greatest leadership “pearls” offered by Sandy was that at the end of each day, she asks herself, “Did I engage, equip, and/or empower today?” By having a daily check-in with these questions, Sandy can stay on track, ensure that she is using her talents to the best of her ability, and promote the wellness of her community. I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Mower County Public Health, Mower County Statewide Health Improvement Program, United Way of Mower County, Vision 2020, and the Hormel Foundation. These leaders provide creative solutions to addressing health, education, economic stability, and community pride and spirit by providing programs, volunteers, and monetary resources to shift the culture of health and wellness in Mower County.
I’ll admit sometimes I eat brownies for breakfast. If they happen to be out, and I’m whirling through the kitchen to get dressed and upright on the moped and into the hospital, I’ll grab a brownie and chase it with a pot of coffee. I’m getting help. Actually, I’ve invented my own Crisis Hotline for others. I call it Dialectical Brownie Therapy (DBT), an adaptation of a cognitive treatment known as dialectical behavioral therapy, and I’ve been learning to practice on my current psychiatry rotation. For my version of DBT, as in real Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the goal is to seek a synthesis between two extremes, between feeling overly controlled and feeling out of control. When I eat brownies for breakfast, I get caught in the Hegelian dialectic between 1) my own out of control emotional vulnerability of wanting the goodness of a gooey brownie regardless of the health consequences and 2) the over controlling invalidating environment that shames me for wanting to eat chocolate for breakfast and oversimplifies the ease of reaching for the banana or granola instead. I get caught between blaming myself and blaming others for the problem of brownies for breakfast. Only after significant work at distress tolerance did I arrive at a revolutionary conclusion: I am fine to have brownies for breakfast (acceptance) AND the brownies need to be radically different, healthier (challenge).
His name was Caddy Shack: not the first horse I had ridden, but the first horse I had ridden in a long time. He didn’t know me; in fact I’m sure I was a stranger, as I had only arrived at his house 30 minutes before. Still, here I was, riding through the woods of Wisconsin on his back, four other horses in front and none behind. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the adventure that “Camp Polzin” had to offer. Following our hour-long horseback trek through the woods, we were greeted by the warm smells and hearty taste of the first of many excellent Sue Polzin meals. Though she claims to be a high-school math teacher, I suspect there is a Cordon Bleu degree in her past. After the first evening, my classmates and I settled into our beds, excited for what our selective in Black River Falls, Wisconsin had in store. The rest of the week only brought more adventure, including 5:30 AM boot camp workouts, journeys through white water rapids, volleyball games, and high altitude rope-swings. Most days we didn’t know if we were at camp or on an educational venture. The answer came when we entered the clinic and hospital. Black River Memorial Hospital (BRMH) is one of the few and certainly the most remarkable remaining independent hospitals in western Wisconsin. The newly renovated BRMH bears the marks of an excellent community hospital, apparently the pride-and-joy of the town. Across the street, the more humble Krohn Clinic signifies years of dedicated service to the community, being named after the founding Brothers Krohn, akin to our own Mayo Clinic. Within these walls, there are no three shields representing their mission, but the doctors and staff of the BRMH and Krohn Clinic are hospitable beyond belief, chatting in the hallway about career pathways and real-life decisions for a half hour between procedural cases. From the front desk to the back door, the place seems to say, “Welcome, hope you enjoy your stay.”
“I look through a half-opened door into the future, full of interest, intriguing beyond my power to describe…” - ...
As a single, recent college graduate, I never knew I would like Rochester as much as I do now. I love the Mayo Clinic, but the town was supposed to be the “compromise.” Rochester is actually a really nice place to live and has a weirdly exciting mix of cosmopolitan and suburban vibes. I live right above The Loop–a metropolitan restaurant and bar–and around me all I see are skyscrapers–99.99% of which are Mayo buildings. There are a lot of cozy restaurants and bars around me, and there are plenty of people there all throughout the week—not just on weekends! There are lots of coffee shops, chocolate stores (my favorite), and even a wine and painting center called Canvas & Chardonnay.The stops at the top of my list have been the People’s Food Co-op (an organic grocery store with really great gelato) and the boba tea stand at Thursdays on First & 3rd (a summertime street festival in Rochester with lots of food, music, and more!)
So I was scrubbed in on a colon operation the other day, and the senior resident had been teasing me for bringing my sourdough starter with me to Florida for my surgery rotation. No one understands how important fresh bread is to my sense of well-being. The attending colorectal surgeon, who is a lovely, soft-spoken man, muttered very quietly, “If you make oatmeal raisin cookies, you get an A on this rotation.” I don’t need much of an excuse to bake something new, and this recipe I cobbled together from a bunch of different sources is definitely worth an Honors grade in surgery. As such, I am taking the man at his word, and of course I used the baking process as an opportunity to study: Maple Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Raisin Colon Cookies Recipe 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cumin (key secret ingredient)
Beginning medical school at Mayo has been a period of intense transition. Everything is new! One can see newness in every aspect of life: location, hours, subject material, lingo, commuting challenges, distance from family, relationships, friends, and colleagues. The list goes on and on! What does this period of transition mean for the first-year med student? First, it is daunting. For many people, new is bad. The familiar is comfortable and feels safe. Newness even has a noticeable biological effect on us. Constantly experiencing change activates the stress response; unfortunately, the stress response can wreak havoc on our bodies. In the same way, not knowing anyone or anything in your environment can make you nervous, anxious, scared, or even sick; this is the challenging side of newness. However, newness can also be a good thing! Although the stress response can sometimes be very detrimental to us when left unchecked, it can also be good—interestingly, it helps keep us alive. In the same way, the newness of medical school has many overlooked benefits.