I hate to admit it, but one of the ways I sort of organize the chapters of my life are by heartbreaks. I’m one of those people who just likes the same guy… until I like the next one.

I’m sort of moving past one now, a difficult one I might add. I forgot how I used to express the pain and heartbreak. Today, I was looking through old dance videos, and I came across an ahuroa I was a part of in 2010:

This song is about unrequited love: Ta’aki goes to an island to find the perfect engagement gift for his betrothed Nua. However, while on the island, Marama watches him look for the most beautiful black pearl and falls in love with him. However, after he finds the perfect black pearl, he leaves to return to Nua and Marama is left heartbroken over unrequited love. This is her song after Ta’aki leaves; this is her goodbye.

In 2010, I was getting over one of the major crushes in my life–arguably one of most life-changing guys I’ve ever met. I cried on stage while dancing this song because it was so moving.

Now, in 2017, this song feels more relevant than ever. For awhile, I forgot about this song and how I used to sing it in my dorm room to help me move on past heartbreak. In the song, Marama sings how she prays to the gods and ancestors to help lessen the pain and to move on. That’s how I feel when I’m struggling to get over someone–I just want the pain to end.

I’m glad I re-found this song because this song has helped me through so many heartbreaks. It’s my reminder to turn heartbreak into beauty because that’s, in my opinion, the best way to move on.


2017 Goals Mid-Year Update

Hello dear followers,

Last December, I wrote a series on goal-setting using Habitica. Since 6 months have gone by, I’d like to write an update on how I’ve been doing.

Here are my goals I set for 2017 last December:

  1. (COMPLETED) Pass my senior comprehensive with distinction
  2. (RESIGNED) Produce a high quality literature review (worthy of submitting to a journal) about diversity in STEM and high-impact practices
  3. (ON HOLD) Become proficient in R (at least proficient enough so I feel comfortable putting it on my resume)
  4. (RESIGNED) Find employment: If research works out, get a research intern position.
  5. (IN PROGRESS) Find employment: If research does not work out, attain my EMT certification
  6. (COMPLETED) Enroll in Physics II (or at least know when and where I will be taking it)

I’m really proud to say that I’ve completed or am on my way to completing all the goals I set out for myself.

Passing my senior comprehensive with distinction was certainly the proudest moment of my college career because I was able to pass my paper and oral presentation all on my own–without the help of my professor. I did not feel comfortable with my comps advisor for reasons I will not disclose, and therefore the process was very much my own. I’m so proud of myself for passing with distinction, because now I can own my success. I had several all-nighters on the road to my presentation day, and I spent only about 40 hours on my presentation and maybe only 50-60 hours on my paper, but I’m proud of the work I put in.

Due to the stress of comps and not having the motivation to continue reading hundreds of pages per day on top of my school work, I resigned from producing a publishable paper. I don’t feel bad about it–research simply isn’t for me and that’s okay. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I do not need research on my resume to be successful.

I started teaching myself R but I don’t have the patience or focus to really hone in on R right now.

I found employment for the summer, though it is not research related. I get to be an 8th grade science teacher for the amazing program Aim High. This summer is my first summer being a Lead Teacher. I’ve had an amazing summer so far, and I really do love teaching. While I still want to become an Emergency Medicine Physician, I would like to teach later in life in some capacity.

Because research never worked out, I opted to get my EMT certification instead, especially after realizing how much I love Emergency Medicine. I think when I made my list of goals, I had not discovered that Emergency Medicine was my calling. However, after I realized it was my calling, I’ve been inseparable from the ER. I want to work again as soon as possible, doing something I know I love. Hence, getting my EMT certification. I’d like to save up enough money to pay for my own MCAT classes and application fees to medical school, as well as money for rent when I do eventually attend medical school.

I enrolled in Physics II! That means I’ll be done with my medical school pre-requisites by the end of 2017!

I’m glad I blogged about my goals in 2016, because looking back on my accomplishments is rewarding. I feel like I’ve actually made progress in my life and I feel motivated to continue going after my dreams.


June 24, 2017

Okay y’all. I admit I’ve been terrible at keeping up with blogging. Like I’ve mentioned previously, I make no promises on how often I update. I just felt like posting a couple of quick updates:

  • I graduated from college! Yay!
  • I’ll be finishing up my medical school pre-requisites this fall
  • I will also acquire my EMT certification hopefully within the next 6-7 months
  • I’m a Lead Teacher for a youth summer program this summer, teaching basic physics and engineering design
  • I’m teaching myself how to meal prep due to aforementioned job
  • I like birding still and I have an Instagram dedicated exclusively to my adventures @GammaCas
  • I have bird feeders and now my mom is into birds too (but she won’t admit it).
  • I started making a spreadsheet about medical schools I might apply to… because whenever I talked to friends about post-undergrad life, it kept leading me into this stressful hole of medical school so I figured I would turn that stress into productivity
  • I’m trying to work out because I want to be strong for my future patients
  • Basically everything I do is about my well-being

And honestly, that’s my life now. I read, do yoga, try to exercise, go birding, teach, and I sleep like 9 hours a day. All right y’all. I’m a real adult now. At least for the next 5 weeks.


Why this Pre-Med Student is taking Avian Biology

I attend Occidental College–a small, liberal arts school in Los Angeles filled with ambitious students with large life goals to change the world. As a pre-medical student, I often feel like I’m surrounded by classmates who are purely on a track of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Physics and Chemistry. Not only am I pre-med student, I’m also a Kinesiology major–a major that is ironically underrepresented in the pre-med community at Oxy.

So it must sound extra weird to know that I’m also taking a class called Avian Biology.


Not only am I the only non-Biology major in this class, I must be one of very few, if not the only, Kinesiology major to have ever taken this class. Despite Avian Biology being an upper division, 300-level class, there are no requirements beyond Introductory Biology classes. (A list of upper division Biology classes that anyone can take at Oxy as long as they’ve taken one or two Introductory Biology classes can be found at the bottom of this post.)

But why in the world would a pre-med take Avian Biology? It has nothing to do with my career goals… or so it seems.

Let me entertain you in describing what a typical school day is like. I don’t have a single hour of free time; I’m consistently in class, lab, interning at the hospital, or occupied by an extracurricular activity. I’m often awake until 2am just to wake up at 8am to repeat this cycle. In short, I’m very busy.

But when I don’t have school, I get to walk around campus and listen to birds. I get to hear the call from far away and identify it as a red-shouldered hawk before I can even see it. I hear house finches, California scrub jays, and look for the rufescent underbutt of the California towhee. Bonus points if I’m able to identify the bird without my binoculars because I have poor vision. Sometimes I can’t identify the bird by call or sight, so I record it for later. Extra bonus points if I’m able to get close enough to see some distinguishing features on my iPhone’s video quality.

See, learning to birdwatch has taught me an incredible amount of patience and observation–both of which are necessary to become a successful health professional. As someone who plans to go into Emergency Medicine, arguably one of the most stressful specializations, it’s important for me to learn how to take a deep breath, listen, and observe what is in front of me. To identify the situation–whether it’s a bird or a diagnosis–in real time is an important, but hard-learned skill. However, it’s so incredibly satisfying to identify a new bird for the first time. I’m sure this will also be the case when I’m a doctor.

I love Avian Biology because it helps me develop qualities and virtues that can’t be taught: patience, observation, and persistence. Avian Biology brings me out of the loud space of my computer playing Grey’s Anatomy, and into the quiet outdoors filled only by the chirps, tweets, caws, and psh-psh-psh of birds.

image1 (14)

Admiring a Bald Eagle tending to its young in the San Gabriel Mountains. Felt like such a beginner next to the other birders with their impressive telephoto zoom lenses and telescopes, but still felt very excited anyway. Photo taken by Amanda Zellmer. April 9, 2017

When I inevitably become a hermit during my medical-school years, I know that I can take a walk outside and find peace in being involved in something other than medicine. To quote my professor, “everyone should be familiar with at least one class or family of organism.” I’ve been happy to study humans, but studying birds definitely makes me better at studying humans. I get to take my knowledge of humans and draw connections and analogies when looking at the anatomy and physiology of a bird, which in turn solidifies what I know about humans.  Unlike other organisms that exist in specialized niches, birds are quite literally everywhere. That gives me hope that I can study medicine anywhere in the world, and keep up with this hobby of birdwatching.

So I encourage all pre-meds to explore an interest outside of medicine. I especially encourage my Kinesiology peers to look into a biology class that isn’t required for graduate school. While it might seem daunting to study a subject outside of the normal course load, there’s a reason why these classes do not require upper division courses in order to take them: they are not necessary! And who knows, you might discover you’re way more interested in birds than you thought.

Here are a list of classes anyone can take after only taking one (1) Introductory Biology course:

  • BIO 226 Cell Biology*
  • BIO 250 Plant Form and Function
  • BIO 260 Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems
  • BIO 270 Ecology
  • BIO 275 Flora of Southern California
  • BIO 280 Evolutionary Biology

Here’s a list if you’ve taken two (2) Introductory Biology courses:

  • BIO 240 Vertebrate Physiology*
  • BIO 268 Biostatistics*
  • BIO 323 Histology*
  • BIO 350 Microbial Symbiosis*
  • BIO 350 Avian Biology*

*These classes also require CHEM 120 or CHEM 130 as a pre- or co-requisite with BIO 130.


Today’s blog post will be very short because it’s already 2:08am and I’m trying to try this whole “get enough sleep” thing this semester. But it’s part of my Habitica list to try and blog at least twice a week, specifically on Wednesdays and Sundays so here I am. Hello.

The best part of my week was on Friday. One of the nurses who has somewhat unofficially become my mentor offered to write me a letter of recommendation. I was so stunned because I don’t remember formally asking him for one ever (and I tend to be very formal about it). I remember perhaps joking about it, and the nurse told me, “Oh you totally asked me like weeks ago!” I feel so touched that he would take something I probably said as a light (but sort of serious) joke, and then felt that I was a good enough volunteer to offer me a letter of recommendation.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but I think the best letter of recommendations are the ones you don’t necessarily have to “work hard” for. What I mean is that I didn’t have to try to kiss up or impress this person. I’m a naturally hard-working individual. And yes, I did want a letter of recommendation, but that wasn’t the reason why I work hard.

The same goes for the letters of recommendation I’ve received from my college professors. I never went into my Kinesiology professor’s office for the purpose of grabbing a letter. I genuinely love systemic Anatomy, and I just felt so moved to go into her office and announce it to her. And that was the very beginning of a great faculty relationship. Now I get to just drop by and talk to her about my life, and it feels natural. So when I asked her for a letter of recommendation, despite me still being nervous, I knew that if she said “yes,” it would be because she genuinely knew who I was–not someone I was faking to be.

I think these are the best letter of recommendations. The ones where your professors or mentors know you very well just because you’re you and they find that worthy of bragging about in their letters in order to purely help you achieve your goals.

Now because I’ve made a connection with this nurse, I have definitely one letter of recommendation ready for when I apply to medical school. Some people call me crazy, but working over one hundred hours in the ER was worth every moment, and getting this letter was just the icing on a very sweet cake.

Second Semester Senior

The other night, I was talking to one of my friends, Lynn, about my post-graduation plans. She’s currently a sophomore, while I’m about to graduate in May. When I was a sophomore, I had a lot of anxiety about what my post-graduation life would look like. Would I get a job? Would I go directly into medical school? Would I go into teaching? Would I got abroad? I had so many different plans. In fact I had 6 pretty distinct plans before I came up with the plan I have now.

Plan 1: Get a job working for Aim High

It seemed like getting a job after college was the most natural transition, and it’s what most people who aren’t going to graduate school do. However, I realized I didn’t want to go into the workforce directly, even though I absolutely love Aim High and will continue to give back to the organization for the rest of my life.

Plan 2: Apply for a Fulbright Master’s in the UK

I realized that I didn’t want to go to school to learn how to teach (I would have pursued a Master’s in Education). Although I do wish to teach in the future in some capacity, now just was not the time.

Plan 3: Apply for a Fulbright ETA

I looked at all the countries I was eligible for (aka, those that don’t require a language fluency), and none of the countries got me excited.I felt that I shouldn’t apply for something unless it makes me super happy and excited. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t have a good and convincing strong application in general. And why would I waste time trying to convince myself that I was happy when I know I wasn’t?

 Plan 4: Apply for a Luce Scholarship

I applied to be nominated for this scholarship, and I was rejected.

Plan 5: Apply for the JET Program

When applications opened for this one, I felt the same way I did about Plan 3. Although this is a program in a country I am very excited about, English itself is not a subject I’m enthusiastic about. So once again, although I could probably make a strong argument for why I want to apply for the JET, it wasn’t ever going to be the thing that made me the happiest.

Plan 6: Do research for a year

I still think this is super exciting, but not as exciting as my current plan. And maybe my mind might change when I potentially do research over the summer. I just don’t have experience in research now, but I think I like the idea of research more than I might actually like it. But that’s based on my very limited research experience… so who knows.

Current Plan: 

I’m applying for a summer research program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Regardless of my acceptance or rejection, I will get my EMT certification either in the summer or fall and then work as an EMT for a little bit before I apply for medical school in the Fall of 2018. I absolutely fell in love with interning in the emergency room, and it’s an environment I genuinely enjoy working in. It’s the place that makes me the happiest and I think being happy is way better than convincing myself I need to do a fellowship abroad in order to be a good candidate. Also, as an EMT I would get to gain skills I would not otherwise acquire. This is the plan I have now, and this is what makes me excited and ready to graduate.

I’ve always been the type of person who starts to transition from one part of my life to the next quite smoothly. For example, I have two classes this semester + comps + research. I’m spending more and more time working outside of school so that I don’t get too attached to a school schedule. I’m sure I will miss Oxy when I’m done, and I’m sure the second semester senior feelings will hit me soon. But for now, I’m very excited to go on a journey after graduation–one where I am not weighed down by academic obligations I’m not passionate about but one where I get to immerse myself in an environment that makes me feel joy every single day.


Oxy-CHLA Reflection

Now that my two week adventure at CHLA is over, I just wanted to reflect upon my experience at the hospital. Just to recap, my school has a partnership with the hospital that allows about 10 students to shadow through multiple units for two weeks in the Winter or Summer. I was able to visit the following units: Cardiothoracic ICU, Pediatric ICU, Medical Genetics, Hospital Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Surgery Clinic, Rehabilitation, and Surgery Operating Room.

Favorites and Highlights:

My favorite unit I visited was Hospital Medicine. I liked rounding with the attending and fellow because I was able to have a lot of interaction with the entire staff as well as the patients. The attending and fellow also took time to really teach me their physical examination skills. And although I will learn all of these skills in medical school anyway, it’s still nice to be exposed to it before entering school. I prefer hearing the process of something as simple as a physical exam–it makes my trip on rounds that much more informative.

The other unit I really liked was the Surgery Clinic, mainly because the surgeon I was with was very energetic. She was like a ray of sunshine. We got to see many patients in a short amount of time, and she just did such a phenomenal job of instilling confidence in her patients while being incredibly efficient with her time. I also got to see her when she visited the PICU earlier in the program, and got to hear how much she loves cardiothoracic surgery.

The unit I probably learned the most in was Medical Genetics. I thought it would be boring because instead of rounding on patients, they basically do consultation on patients who suspect there may be genetics at play in their disorders. And although we didn’t get to see a lot of patients, I got to learn a lot about specific patients as well as their specific potential disorders. I thought that was pretty cool because I would not have otherwise explored the topic of genetics.

Lastly, a major highlight throughout the program for me was just generally being able to understand or pick up on medical lingo. I have taken anatomy and physiology classes, and I was actually able to understand a fair amount of terminology just because I have a little bit of foundation. Also, because I volunteer at hospitals so often, I knew certain medical terms such as NPO, PRN, and all the different kinds of tubes, like NG tube and G tube. I thought that was absolutely cool and it really revealed how much I have learned over the last couple of months! I’m really glad to know and feel comfortable with the language of medicine, and that my vocabulary will continue to grow!

Lows and Expectations: 

There weren’t many lows, but rather there were many things that were just different from my expectations. I thought I was going to be super psyched about the ICU, but I actually wasn’t! Even for the CTICU, I just wasn’t as excited as I thought it would be. I think partially it’s because we were in those units at the beginning of the two-weeks, and I don’t think the staff exactly knew we were coming or what to do because we were there… so maybe our experience was just less-than-stellar due to lack of preparation. Either way, it just seemed too calm when I visited. I was also told the units were calmer than usual the days we visited. But it was just so quiet. Unlike adult hospitals, there aren’t even patients asking for things like water because most of the patients are babies. The ICU was also just very sad because many of the patients are unconscious and intubated, so you can’t interact with them in any way. I don’t really think the ICU is a place that would match my personality.

The unit that ended up being very different from what I expected was Rehabilitation. When I see “Rehabilitation” I usually think of just Physical Therapy. However, when I walked into the Rehab unit, I found out that this unit was probably the most intense unit and that the teams were huge, and encompassed by more than just physical therapy. There were occupational therapists, speech therapists, dieticians, nutritionists, medical specialists, clinical workers, social workers, spiritual workers, psychiatrists, etc. It was so interdisciplinary. I also sat in on family and team conferences and learned a lot about the patients on the floor. It was just very intense and sad, but so informative at the same time. I feel like in another world, I would have been interested in Rehab, but in this world I’m not.

Overall Reflections:

This experience was absolutely wonderful and it was totally work coming back to school early. It helped me clarify what I liked, what I didn’t, and also how to think about choosing a specialty (even though I literally have like 6 years until I have to commit, so I’m keeping an open mind). For example, I realized it was important to think about the environment and the team you work with, as well as thinking about how much patient interaction you want. This experience also showed me what exactly physicians do, and how different members of the team interact with each other. Even though I’m often at hospitals volunteering, I really only interact with nursing staff, and not the physician staff. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the direct and allied health staff at large because it takes a huge team to help a patient thrive.

Lastly, I’m just really proud of myself for getting through these two weeks–waking up early every single day before the sun rose, looking business casual every single day, and taking notes. I even committed myself to writing a blog post every single day I was there, trying to reflect upon my experiences each day. I’m really proud of myself for having been present for every moment I was there.

I’m grateful I finally has this opportunity. It really helped me realize how much I enjoyed being in a hospital setting and just seeing patients get better–and there are many ways to facilitate that! Being at CHLA has made me really excited to apply for medical school in a couple of years. Now I’m really confident that I know what I want and what I am working towards in my life.