Selma – Bruce Davidson

The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent mass of wrath that followed brought back to memory a few excerpts from a book I read in college. These are the words of American Theologian, James Cone, from his book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”. Written nearly a decade ago, they need no preface.

The crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans in Jerusalem and the lynching of blacks by whites in the United States are so amazingly similar that one wonders what blocks the American Christian imagination from seeing the connection.

To reflect on this failure [to connect the analogy of the cross and the lynching tree] is to address a defect in the conscience of white Christians and to suggest why African Americans have needed to trust and cultivate their own theological imagination.

The cross has been transformed into a harmless, non-offensive ornament that Christians wear around their necks. Rather than reminding us of the ‘cost of discipleship,’ it has become a form of ‘cheap grace,’ an easy way to salvation that doesn’t force us to confront the power of Christ’s message and mission. Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with a ‘recrucified’ black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.

In the 7 years that have passed since I read these words, neither I nor the world has budged when a Black American died. After Trayvon Martin was shot, I forgot. After Philandro Castile died, I forgot. After Deondre Hamilton was killed, I forgot. After Eric Garner suffocated, I forgot. For 7 years I watched as Black Americans were hung on a tree. And I forgot.

It is America’s eternally unresolved query: what will Lady Liberty do with her black citizens? James Cone’s critique of American Theology is a war hammer that bludgeons beyond the boundaries of theology; it critiques American identity. America is a young nation with an unresolved problem that has been hidden beneath the guise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. To understand what it means to be American, an individual has to ask how they have resolved the enslavement of Black Americans.

Sherman Phoenix – Sara Stathas at Milwaukee Magazine

When the riots started I was upset. At one end of the spectrum, I understand that a riot is the language of the oppressed. But at the other end of that spectrum, I also don’t think violence or threats of violence are a solution. In a body as freeform and seemingly anucleate as Black Lives Matter (in addition to the larger unorganized visceral response), we cannot realistically expect a uniform reaction to the murder of George Floyd. There are many cries and wails today, and we should look closely to separate the anguish from the ruckus.

Jazz at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs December 1960. Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Thad Jones, Clark Terry, Phil Guilbeau.

In a play there are many parts. In the pit are the strings. At front and center is the prima donna. In the wing are the supporting thespians. Above the curtains are the stagehands. All contribute to the play. Similarly, in a movement like Black Lives Matter (and certainly in our individual responses to such a movement), we all contribute to that play. And we are all at different stages.

When my friends blacked out on Instagram, I couldn’t find it in me to do it too. When my friends went out and marched, I didn’t think I had it in me either. I take a lot of time to process things, and, at the core of the processing, is a desire to be authentic.

Everyone has their own voice and response. No one should be shamed for reflecting on these days. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If you are still processing, you are not doing “nothing”. Your thoughts will inform your voice, and you will discover an authentic way to respond.

But this moment is not about us. It’s not about me. It’s about Black America.

Look at the history of this nation. It is 200 some odd years old and the scars of slavery have yet to scab over. What we see today is the cumulative cry of 200 some odd years of anguish. 200 years! If my mother yells at me, I’m quick to respond; but if a black man dies, I just forget. That’s my privilege. That’s something that Black Americans do not have.

MLK at Riverside Church in New York City delivering his speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence”.

This moment is for Black Americans, for Black America. My voice has no place in this–at least, not at the forefront. After George Floyd, it is incumbent upon us to listen.

As the nation reflects on this impasse, we should acknowledge that we are entering a complicated sphere. There already exists an incredible amount of literature and discourse regarding liberation, justice, equality, etc. The dialogue and rhetoric is established. Part of the resolution to America’s eternal query is education. Listen to experts and to people that have thought on this. Our 15 minute opinion is exactly that. Their years of reflection–and experience living in what we are discussing–are exactly that. There is something to learn here because, clearly, we haven’t learned much in the past 200 years. If we can’t see it when it’s shown–or at least understand the tiniest fraction of what Black America is pointing out–then our vision requires revision. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

This moment is the perfect storm. If it weren’t for quarantine, would we have had this large of a response to George Floyd? If it weren’t for our President, would we have had such a dichotomous diatribe? If it weren’t for the death–perhaps sacrifice, even–of yet another Black American, would we even be at this moment?

2020, despite all of its luster and gleam, is the opportunity to move our nation “to higher heights of democracy and the great dream of justice and humanity”. We have to listen to this penultimate of 200 years lest we simply, yet again, forget.

This post is a sort of stream of consciousness regarding the current events. I am not writing to inject my own voice into the discourse. Rather, I hope that I can be a voice for other processors and introverts like me. My mind is already dreaming up ways to be involved, to be an ally, and to finally *listen* to and *act* for and with Black America.

I watched a guy play some improvisational piano today. While he was playing, someone from the audience asked him, “How did you become so good?”

For him, listening to a track, figuring it out, and improvising along with it is actually very simple. The difficult part was becoming skilled enough so that listening to a track, figuring it out, and improvising along with it became simple. There was no shortcut to getting better. In order to play piano at the level he was playing, he had to put in over 15 years of study and practice. “You can become good at anything,” he said, “but you need to put in the time to become good at it.”

This made me think about my life–at 27 years–and what I’ve been sinking my time into. Am I becoming skilled at something worthwhile, or am I sinking my time into still and stagnant ponds? I near the end of my second year in medical school, and, as weeks only separate me from my first board examination, I have pangs of regret from the past year and a half.

One and a half years is one and a half years more of becoming a master at something. Right now, I don’t feel like a master at all. I don’t even feel like an apprentice, and sometimes I don’t even feel like a medical student. At some point in the past year and a half, somehow I adopted the idea that I just have to pass. That’s a corrupt idea, and, like a toxin, it diffused and poisoned all the other aspects of my life.

Two years ago, I stood in the middle of the Sussex Family Practice clinic closing up some notes from earlier in the day. In the middle of a chart, a thought came over me that I hoped I would be able to recall in the future: “I would give anything to be studying something in medical school right now instead of typing notes.” In school, I knew there would be days where I didn’t want to study, but, in those times, I hoped to remember how badly I wanted to be in medical school.

Unfortunately, there have been too many days when I didn’t want to study. When I tried to recall what I felt two years ago at the clinic, I felt nothing except for what I imagine an addict feels when they are desensitized to that elusive high. I tried to remember what it was like when the Dean of Students called my cell phone and told me I was accepted. I tried to remember what it was like texting Dr. Davis and getting a text back that read like I was going to be his partner in a few years and how proud he was of me. I tried to remember what it was like when I drove to my dad’s house after class and saw the smile on his face when I told him I was going to medical school. I tried to remember what it was like hoping my shift in the ER would go by faster so that I could go home and tell my sister, mom, and stepdad what they surely already knew but wanted to hear from their brother and son. I tried to remember what it felt like hugging my mom that night and telling her, “I got in, mom! I got in!”

But that poison for settling for passing was too potent. It’s disgusting to see the disparity in my motivation between year 1 and year 2 in medical school. In the beginning I was diligent with my time and studying, but now I’m complacent and wasteful. Somehow I missed the forest for the trees. You can’t reduce medical school into just passing your exams. It’s two more precious years you can add toward becoming skilled at something difficult.

I watched a guy play piano today. He said that you can become good at anything, but you need to put in the time to become good at it.

I wrote this post in mid-April 2017 when I was finishing up the 4th semester of my medical training. At that time, I had little confidence in my knowledge and preparation for my board examination that was originally scheduled at the end of June. Ill preparation forced me to defer my scheduled exam date into mid-July which, subsequently, forced me to miss two weddings that I earnestly wished I could have attended. If there was ever a time in my life where I felt like I was falling for rock bottom, it was in the months leading up to, during, and a little bit after my dedicated board preparation. This post is a reflection of that mentally draining season of my life, and about my regrets over how I approached my medical training.


As a child I never really esteemed superheroes like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, etc. Instead, I liked Scooby Doo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Powerpu–…. I suppose I never really appreciated superheroes and their inhuman feats because they seemed really fake–not that Dexter’s secret underground laboratory was any more realistic.

Maleficent was released in the summer of 2014 and I went to a very cute theater to watch it. We were a party of 3 and the theater only had loveseats, so the 3 of us scrunched up together in a loveseat for two in order to watch the flick. The film retold the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the “Mistress of All Evil”.

The enthralling aspect of Maleficent was the ambiguity of the heroine herself. We all grew up categorizing Maleficent, the witch rife with jealousy and the eminence of evil, into the villain’s archetype. However, the film appealed to our compassionate tendencies and developed Maleficent into a character worthy of, if not deserving of, our sympathy. How is it that this Mistress of All Evil suddenly became the subject of my affection?

I saw Maleficent as a (super)hero, and I think I that allowed me to recognize the quality I esteem in my heroes: flaws. The hero’s mistakes make them authentic and relatable. They do great things out of love and/or duty, but these great things are not necessarily magnificent like redirecting an asteroid from Earth’s atmosphere or soaring across the Manhattan skyline. Instead, they are attempting to demonstrate a genuine love for others which ultimately manifests as a magnificent deed. Along the way, as many of us certainly have experienced, they make mistakes and commit errors they wish were erased. They regrettably harm others and are swallowed in their emotions. But since they are heroes, they continue to learn and try to love.

Furthermore, I’ve come to esteem the hero’s struggle with ambiguity. I enjoyed the small philosophical disagreement Daredevil and The Punisher had on a rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen. Both of them sought the pacification of criminals, but both of them had a different way of achieving that end. Each saw a flaw in the other, and I think that’s what makes me appreciate those heroes. No one is infallible or inerrant. Yet, despite his or her flaws, a hero still strives to love.

MC Jin’s track “Like A Rock” is about a son recalling his early relationship with his father and applying lessons learned from then to his relationship with his newborn son. Although I’ve never had a comparable conflict with my dad, I was captured by how this song characterizes fathers–particularly my own. The wisdom and advice in the song are what my father speaks to me in our conversations, and the sentiments and considerations are the same.

My dad is my hero. He is the authentic and relatable character I esteem. Despite his mistakes and errors, he continues to sacrifice himself for me out of love and as his act of love (1 John 3:16-18)–his love manifest as a magnificent deed. His sacrifices make me love him even more and make me proud to be his son. How can I develop into that same kind of man? For whom am I sacrificing myself? Who am I loving? What can I learn from my prior mistakes? How can I be a hero?

Demarcating Railroad

Between the brain and heart, no other collection of tissues has inspired as much depth in human thought and curiosity. A couple of months ago we dissected the heart: that vital and tireless organ, the vessel sustaining our bodies with life’s elixir. Just as centuries of thought before me likely pursued, I also thought of the heart’s emotional and cultural depth. What did it mean that I manipulated the heart and traced its own sustaining vasculature?


I really miss Milwaukee. I really miss its culture and personality–especially its young art scene and creative crowd. I love being back in school, learning, and studying, but even good bread becomes stale. The monotony becomes monotonous: wake up wishing you had an extra hour of sleep, go to class, eat lunch, study, go to lab, eat dinner, study, take a short break, study, sleep later than you wanted, repeat. Whenever my friends and family ask me how school is going, I regret that my initial thoughts and response cannot develop beyond, “Good. I study a lot”–oh, and maybe some complaints. All medical students love to complain.

In anatomy, there is the general idea that environment and space are dictated, that placement and infrastructure follow function and activity. My function, as a student, is to study, so my “form” is largely bounded to within the limits of campus, my apartment, and the rare off-campus study-spots. If studying was all there is to being a medical student, my structure and function would be adept and confluent–but I think there is more to being a medical student. Currently, my “form” is not following my function.

I really want to learn more about the city I’m in. I can’t really put a finger on its pulse, identify the automaticity of its beat, or characterize its qualities. I wish I had, or at least I wish I could feel like I have, time to explore and learn the various neighborhoods and communities. I want to know more about this city and its citizens so that I can more wholly and authentically care and serve. Since four months ago, my life has become school, and, since then, I feel like I’ve become somewhat selfish with my time and relationships. I feel slightly off beat, almost as if rhythmic discontinuity of the heart were a precursor to its atrophy.

The disintegration of my dreams and the constriction of my creativity were some of my greatest fears upon entering school. It’s unfortunately common throughout medical education for students to lose those traits. A large part of that might be because, as first year medical students, all we really are tasked with is passing our exams. School, the one obstacle separating us from our dreams and career, essentially becomes a selfish venture, and we subtly rationalize that selfishness as necessary for this season in our lives: “I need to pass my exams. If I don’t pass, I won’t even have the opportunity to care for people in my 3rd and 4th years,” or, “You’ve made it this far, so it’s fine if you just take these next two years to focus only on school.”

Another reason might be because medicine, like fast food and as some might say, is a service industry. Some people don’t think doctors require a developed or even extant sense of altruism or selflessness; a doctor simply needs to be able to perform his or her job competently. Some people, on the other hand, think a doctor needs an intuition of altruism and selflessness; a doctor ought to appreciate the privilege of the profession and its innate services to all men and women. I fall in the latter camp, and I think it is overly reductionist to think a doctor only needs to perform a job competently–but perhaps I am too much of an idealist. Medicine, after all and as some might say, is like fast food: a service industry.


Although it is a rare experience and unique to the medical student’s experience, holding the heart in my hands in lab did not give me any profound or poetic thoughts. I thought I would have been able to contribute to the libraries upon libraries of poems, songs, and essays on what the heart meant to poets, singers, and rhetoricians–but, for me and at this point, the heart is just tissue derived from embryonic mesoderm that folded upon itself and differentiated into a pump within a sac. Has medical school diminished me into this sort of minimalist? Has it already started to depreciate my dreams? I hope not and I don’t think so. There is emotional and cultural depth to the heart, but right now, regrettably, I don’t have much time to consider it. I’m scribbling my soul away into legal pads and loose leaf paper, and it’s easy to forget that I, too, have a heart that needs to be sustained.

The old Levi Skinny Jeans

In college I used to be big into the whole skinny jean thing. I still appreciate a good fit in my jeans, but I can’t fathom the lack of utility and freedom in the skinny jeans today. I used to wear Levi 511’s which were their skinny fit jeans a few years ago, but now I wear their 513’s which are straight slim fit.

Anyway, for our first exam block in medical school we had a huge section of Genetics. The subject has never interested me. So, naturally, I decided to write about it. The next few paragraphs will be kind of medical/science speak, and I don’t mean to write like this to alienate my readers or to puff myself up. I actually find this practice rather helpful for my study as it is essentially me teaching what I’m learning and that allows me to reinforce what I know and determine what I don’t know (so I have to look it up). Maybe this will continue to be a thing for me as I continue to study the rest of the semester! I’ll italicize these sections as they aren’t necessarily essential to the blog entry, but they can add a little more depth and trace the background of my thoughts.

There are a lot of genetic disorders, and their pathogenesis, or the way they become a disease (i.e. method of mutation), varies. You might have a base-pair substitution in the gene which could cause a missense (not necessarily lethal) or nonsense (lethal) mutation, a deletion or insertion which would cause a frameshift mutation (usually lethal), or maybe a mutation in non-coding DNA which would affect the regulation and expression of your genes.

If an individual with a mutation reproduces, then we have to consider the possibilities of inheritance of the disease. This is where the infamous Punnet Square is utilized, but, thankfully, medical school doesn’t overly emphasize that square. Instead, our professor emphasized pedigree analysis for the different modes of inheritance: autosomal dominant/recessive, sex-linked dominant and recessive for the X chromosome, Y-linked dominant, and other non-standard methods of inheritance (mitochondrial, genetic imprinting, etc.).

There are classic disorders that arise from each method of inheritance. Achondroplasia, a disorder in which your long bones don’t grow at a normal rate and is a cause of dwarfism, is an autosomal dominant disorder. Cystic fibrosis, primarily understood by me as a problem with secretions in the respiratory and GI tract, is an autosomal recessive disease. And then there are disorders when you receive more or less than the normal 46 chromosomes. Those diseases are called anueploidies.

The aneuploidies are what got me thinking. I was in the midst of reviewing (lol what else do I do) the disorders and their characteristics when I realized that these are diseases I will start seeing in the coming 2-4 years. I’m “merely” reading and studying about Klinefelter Syndrome and muscular dystrophy, but eventually I will be seeing patients with these diseases–and I’ll know the pathogenesis. For some reason that makes me feel a little more involved, as if I have a responsibility to the patient with those diseases. I mean, who else will know the pathogenesis as intimately as the physician ought to? I think that sets a foundation for the physician: that his or her education necessitates a commitment to the patient on the basis that the physician possesses knowledge that is otherwise absent. That’s what I signed up for when I entered medical school.

On top of this, I think back to my days at the clinic when the doctor I worked with would occasionally remark that genetics would become a larger part of medical practice in the future. I definitely see that happening since the subject is so relevant and the techniques for screening and visualization have great utility and will certainly only advance further. This, of course, then opens the door of medical ethics which, given my background in Theology, is an interesting subject that I would like to be able to have a deep and educated opinion about. I know that having this information about genetics and inheritance patterns will certainly influence some individuals in their family planning. Should it?

Obviously a disease is something we all want to avoid. Further, there are some genetic diseases which do not allow for good chances of survival beyond a year such as Edward Syndrome (prominent occiput, CNS and heart defects, <5% survive beyond one year). Given the ability to counsel a couple on the chances that their child might have a genetic disease, shouldn’t we provide the service? I’m unopposed to providing the service, but I am hesitant about the implications of the service. People can draw up the “genetic breeding” and revive the “Aryan race” sensationalism, but I’m more concerned about what this indicates about our capacity to love.

Parenting is tough, and I imagine it only becomes tougher when your child has a disease. Yet, I don’t think that should change our capacity to love our children. If a parent’s love is contingent on whether his or her child is healthy or diseased, then I think it is no longer love–it becomes a want. A child becomes something selfish for the parent. However, I also do appreciate the transparency and honesty of parents who admit that they don’t think they could invest themselves into raising and loving a child with a disease. That’s honest, that’s where they are, and we should not measure judgement on those individuals. I’m only sharing a concern for what our collective capacity for love could start to become.

So, in the future, could genetics become a milestone for humanity? Will it eventually lead us to an ultimatum of sorts? It could mean that eventually we’ll be able to decide who we want to love. But that’s when love ceases to exist. I think there’s some component of love that requires imperfection: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” If everything was what we wanted, how would we demonstrate love? It’s almost like love is apophatic, but that’s only part of it. If I ever decide to have a child, I’m sure my mind will wander back to the first weeks of OMS-I when I memorized the aneuploidies, microdeletions, and inheritance patterns of genetic diseases, but I hope that won’t change how I love.

Evolution is a weird thing to experience.

The cello was relatively new to me at age 10 and I was still preparing my sheet music by writing the note names above the notes themselves. Then, one night about 15 years ago, I distinctly remember going to bed and then waking up the next day and realizing I could interpret the symbols on the staff lines at orchestra class. It was an epiphany.

When I entered high school, I decided to come out for track and field. My decision was primarily motivated by Liu Xiang’s 110m hurdles race at the Athens 2004 Olympics. This was the first time I had ever really enrolled in organized sports, so practice everyday after school and even the idea of staying in shape during the offseason (which I didn’t do) was new to me. I always died on the first day of practice during warmups because I was out of shape. On top of that, I struggled as a new hurdler for two years before I could 3-step. 3-step, for hurdlers, is a huge milestone because that is one of the most important things in hurdling progression; it means that you take 3 steps between each hurdle which means you minimize the time spent between each hurdle and efficiently maximize your speed between hurdles. Beginning hurdlers usually take 5 steps between hurdles which is what I did for my entire freshman year. My sophomore year I cut that down to 4 steps which meant I changed my lead leg each time over the hurdle. By the end of my sophomore year, I finally reached the 3-step milestone and finally felt like I could call myself a hurdler.

This past week I completed my first week of medical school. You’d think it would be a milestone in my life like reading musical notes or finally 3-stepping hurdles, but, except for the “Aha!” moment which I describe below, it really wasn’t all that remarkable to me. Following my little story, I’ll throw out a few notes and thoughts on my first week in school.

My “Aha!” moment, when I realized that I was the “same animal but a different beast”, was when I was preparing for my Embryology lecture. I had no idea what Embryology entailed. In fact, I was surprised there was a textbook on the subject. All the more, I literally skimmed over meiosis and all the reproductive stuff I had to learn for General Biology. But, as I learned after skipping studying the entire Physics section on the MCAT on my first attempt because I didn’t like Physicis, I can’t skip subjects in medical school because I don’t like them. So I set up camp in Auditorium 1 and taught myself some Embryology.

It took me maybe 2 hours (still debating whether that was too long, but it was really helpful) to read through 1.5 chapters worth of cleavage, blastocyst formation, gastrulation, neural tube development, and the determinations of the germinal layers. I had no idea what these things were prior to Tuesday night. However, as I slowly traced myself through each step in prenatal development, things started to click. I was finally beginning to understand how each of us evolved from a single cell into an organism that is essentially a series of tubes magnificently enclosed together. Everything came around full circle (literally) when I realized that the amniotic cavity becomes the amniotic membrane. That was my poetic “Aha!” moment, when I realized I was in medical school and had reached Kobe System Level 6. I was a different animal and the same beast. I was the kid that couldn’t read bass clef or 3-step hurdles, and now I’m studying medicine.

  • We received our ID badges that label us as OMS-I and Student Physicians. We’re “officially” medical students. For some reason I forget this, that I’m being given the privilege to study medicine. It really just feels like college again. I study a significant amount more than I did in college–literally until my bedtime (my soft bedtime is 11 PM)–but I’ve surprisingly made enough time for some low commitment extracurriculars such as Bible study, church, soccer, and maybe even a little CS:GO–none of which occupy more than an 1.5 hours of my day. I’m hoping I can also regularly run in the mornings (because you either have to run really early or in the evening down south lest you desire to run in 95 degrees) and rotate soccer, ultimate frisbee, and basketball each week.
  • Although most of the introductory lectures were of subjects we all had studied extensively previously, the lectures literally covered a few weeks or months worth of undergraduate classes in one hour (Body Compounds, I’m looking at you). We had an awful 7 lecture day on hump day in which my attention was nonexistent for the lecture after lunch and then began to slough off around lecture 6. I can’t wait for more of those days /s
  • I’m doing pretty good with my meals. I prepare a meal for the week on Sunday, and for lunch I’ve been packing either rice, pasta, or a sandwich. It’ll get boring eventually, but hopefully I can find some interesting recipes. I ran across a recipe for a Thai Steak Salad which looked interesting, but I’m not convinced I could make a sustainable amount at a reasonable cost for the week. I also already went through a bag of Sour Patch Kids which is my study food.
  • A classmate and I were paired with our mentor, an OMS-II. The mentor program is representative of the collegiate atmosphere at my school. The second year class has been incredibly friendly and gracious; they want us to succeed. For some reason I thought the classes would be segregated just because we’re naturally at different stages of school, but this has not been the case at all. I definitely want to pay this forward when I reach second year status.
  • We met our “first patient” (i.e. cadaver) on Friday. For whatever reason that wasn’t remarkable for me, and I’m guessing that was because I generally hate labs (undergraduate Chemistry labs, I’m looking at you). However, as I’ve been studying this past weekend, having dissected the muscles, nerves, and arteries is actually helping me retain some of the information I need to know for anatomy. I get to dissect next week, and I’m not really looking forward to it.
  • I’m using OneNote to take notes, and the program started to poop on me on my second day. This, of course, is all exacerbated by the fact that I chose a Mac book Air instead of a Windows Dell laptop. So, first, I’m trying to do cross-platform work with my Windows desktop and Mac book. Second, OneNote on Mac has a reduced feature set so I can’t do a lot of the useful things on OneNote on my Mac. And lastly and most importantly, my notebooks in OneNote wouldn’t sync from my desktop to my Mac book, so I spent my an extra hour on Tuesday night making sure I had slides prepped to take notes on for Wednesday. I wasn’t happy about losing that one hour over a technical problem. I like the design of the Mac book–especially the gestures on the touchpad! But I hate how I have no intuition on organizing folders, saving documents, and other things I deftly maneuver on Windows. I’m seriously thinking about dualbooting Windows, but I’m going to wait until Windows 10 has been around for a little. But then I have to find out if Mac will support Windows 10, and my biggest worry is that will take a significant amount of time out of my studying. So, maybe I can hope this system with OneNote lasts me until Thanksgiving?

milwaukee river
I’m starting medical school next week. Since I moved away from home (a mere 1.5 months after my sister moved out which essentially leaves an empty nest at home) for the first time and uprooted from all of my networks and friends in Milwaukee, I figure I’d be able to keep you guys up-to-date on my life with my blog. In fact, this is the sort of reason I purposed my blog for way back in ~2004. I’m very anxious and excited to set out on the next few years of my life! But, for sake of the chronicler’s mind, let me give a brief overview of how I got to this point.


Middle School

I don’t know that middle school amounted much to anything besides video games and sleepovers so that my friends and I could play more video games. In the 6th grade I happened upon a late night showing of Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary concert shows at Madison Square Garden. I became a fan after watching him glide effortlessly during his Billie Jean performance. Thereafter my days after school would be split between searching for Michael Jackson videos (pre-YouTube era, think P2P filesharing networks) and video games.

High School

I started to get a little more serious about playing cello, ran the hurdles in track, started to think more seriously about school, and, of course, played video games. I grew a lot as a cellist having enrolled in private lessons in the latter 2-3 years of school, and I also had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall with my orchestra as a freshman and senior. I grew to love the hurdles, but I think all of us loved our coach even more. These years were also when I started to consider my faith in Christ more seriously. It was a sort of peak in my faith journey. In light of that, I also began to consider my future more seriously. I went to a great high school. I think I barely made the top 50% of the class because… video games.

As much as I considered my future, I didn’t take the college application process very seriously. Marquette University’s application was too easy to skip so I haphazardly applied. I ended up matriculating to Marquette University because it was close to home and I had decided I wanted to study Theology with plans to apply to medical school. God bless my parents for trusting me because I don’t know many parents that would be happy if their child dropped tuition dollars to study Theology.


You could characterize me as a tweener in college. I declared a major in Theology, but I ended up shorting myself on the opportunities within the Theology department at the expense of taking more science courses for my application to medical schools. My favorite course was an elective Theology course that explored conceptions of God in the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern epochs. That class challenged me by reading texts and discussing ideas I felt like I had no business reading or discussing; it definitely made me grow as a student and learner. The other class I particularly enjoyed was my independent study in English. I worked with my American Literature professor and capped my semester with her with a short paper titled, “How to Read Southeast Asian American Literature”. Once again, that course made me grow, but it also developed my confidence in approaching a subject and making a scholarly proposition and defending it. Additionally, it served as a sort of foundation for me and my personal process of discovering my ethnic roots.

My college years also matured me. I was a very prideful and arrogant freshman, quickly humbled by my first Chemistry exam. However, it was my faith that convicted me by the end of my freshman year. I remember going on a retreat with InterVarsity at the end of the school year and hearing the exposition on Phillipians. That letter to the church in Philippi was exactly what I needed to hear and I was convicted of my prideful tendencies. If Christ, who was divine, humbled himself to be with humanity as one of us, who am I to think I am worth whatever I valued myself to be? Throughout the rest of my college career, I would become more heavily involved and invested with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and, in turn, my faith continued to develop and mature.


I worked as a medical scribe for three years. I spent one year in the ER and quickly adopted a lot of the cynicism that plagues the specialty (which isn’t necessarily misplaced or “wrong”). Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to relocate to a family practice clinic at which I would spend the next two years. I scribed for a fantastic doctor of whom I cannot speak any more highly of. The experiences I had at the clinic with him and the rest of the physicians and staff were immeasurable, and I will certainly carry a lot of his habits and work ethic with me through school and into the field. It was evident he cared about his patients–even to the point of sacrifice, which I admired very much. I hope that I can practice like him.


Now I’m moved down to the South to start medical school. This is my first time away from home and my first time in the region. I’m nervous since I haven’t studied for the past three years, but I’m looking forward to everything. I anticipate that a lot of my experiences at the clinic will help me keep perspective of the material I learn, and that they will also serve as a source of motivation when I encounter the inevitable valleys of the next four years. I will try to keep you all regularly updated with thoughtful thoughts. For now, I’ll try to prepare for the first week and enjoy the weekend!

Note: I think I’m going to try and go anonymous from now on. An interesting aspect of starting medical school is that I have to consider my professional identity. Whenever I walk around town with my school’s emblem or name, I need to make sure I don’t embarrass the name or myself. The things I write and post on social media are definitely going to change to protect those reputations toward that end. In the era of information, anonymity is a premium to fame–and a grace for physicians. 

I was at my sister’s house a few weeks ago helping her reconfigure her WiFi settings and troubleshooting her home theater sound system. Tinkering with WiFi is a breeze and I could probably change your WiFi password behind your back, but troubleshooting her sound system took a little more effort. After Googling various search terms (Lifehack tips for improving Google searches, but honestly who uses these unless they’re doing a research paper or something) and reading an essentially useless user’s manual, I put 2 + 2 together in a little bad weather and eventually barreled my way through all of her TV settings to suddenly produce sound from her new speakers. Babam! I think we were listening to some obscure song in her multimillion track iTunes, but I wanted to test audio streaming from her TV.

Queue up the video above. We opened up YouTube and scrolled through the featured videos. We sat there and took in the sounds and sights and my mind began to wander. “What show was this at? Why are they singing that song? Why does it seem so romantic? Why do we make such a big deal about going to see people play music? Why couldn’t we just sit in a room together and do nothing? Oo, it’s Taylor Swift. I guess she is dating Calvin Harris. What is she doing?”

Music makes things sound better. I started to think about this around graduation season when two of my very good friends graduated from college. In all likelihood, this thought process was perpetuated by the new track from Wiz Khalifa, See You Again. For whatever reason, the music laid some sort of framework for me to feel about my friends graduating. It felt a little absurd if only because of the uncanny timing of the song during graduation season. On top of that, it felt a little cheesy because I wondered whether I was actually having feelings about the song or feelings about my friends graduating and moving away.

A few weeks prior to all of this, I re-visited campus to listen to one of my very good friends and mentors share a message about the privilege of God having us join in God’s mission. He shared a passage from 2 Kings 3 in which a king sought a prophet to inquire as to God’s plan for an attack on their enemies. My friend took care to emphasize and clarify verse 15 from this chapter:

But now bring me a harpist.

As Elisha, the prophet whom was inquired, began to speak, the harpist began to play and laid the framework for how the Israelite soldiers should have felt. Music makes things sound better. It doesn’t detract from any authentic message or emotion, but it does enhance it. Or maybe I’m wrong. Is what is Right, Good, True, and Beautiful all the more because of music making it more Right, Good, True, and Beautiful? Or is it an extrinsic factor that enhances a separate aesthetic quality?

I’ll end this with something I wrote as an embarrassingly overconfident and prideful incoming college freshman. In our Introduction to Theology course we were to write a short paper documenting our experience at a religious gathering unfamiliar to us. I attended a local Catholic mass near my home and wrote some regrettably sharp words that culminated, in part, at the conclusion with: “It was particularly the music that caught me, but I took the mass, in light of Catholicism, with a grain of salt; good music makes anything better.”

p.s. The only reason I enjoyed the 2005 rendition of Pride and Prejudice was because of the soundtrack. It was positively sublime.

Christmas sneaked up on me this year. There is no snow in Wisconsin to remind you that we’re in the deep of winter. The lights wrapped around houses and trees lost some of their brilliance against snowy backdrops. And I’ve just been wrapped in a whirlwind at work. I haven’t had a chance to pause and reflect on the Christmas holiday.

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol (and I especially love how Scott Cash performs it). At Christmas Eve church service, I learned about the history of this old poem. Written by a French winemaker, put to song by a Jewish composer, later condemned by the French Catholic church, and introduced to America in her abolitionist era, the song’s melody, lyrics, and history empower the haunting glimpse of what Christmas meant and means.


A religious minority group living in the vast empire of Rome awaited a savior, someone to rescue them and to fill their lives with hope. Their ancestors were displaced refugees and slaves, and they hadn’t tasted the sweet wine of hope since their exile from home. Each day they carried this story on their shoulders–until the night they received word that a king was to be born unto them. Within the confines of a dirty stable in a dismissible town, Christ’s birth was both a promise fulfilled and a bastion of hope for this people.

It’s hard for me to understand the need for a savior, one man or woman that would carry all my hopes. I imagine it is hard for most of us to understand that feeling too. Do I really need someone to save me? Am I really without any hope?


The Milwaukee Bucks have been mired in a flux of mediocrity for over a decade. In early 2000, they had some glory days with the likes of a young Ray Allen and a promising Australian center in Andrew Bogut. But rocks fell and winds passed, and the Bucks never gathered a legitimate contender’s moxie… until Jabari Parker (and arguably Giannis Antetokounmpo) was drafted in 2014.

Jabari Parker is a great example of a savior in our world today–not only because was being sent to a needy franchise that risked being moved to a new city, but also because the hope that he provided can be quantified by the devastation that swept over the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks following his knee injury. Jabari was, for the Bucks, a bastion of hope, and the symbol of a promise of return to the early 2000s.

In a similar way, this is what Christmas means to me. It is a time set aside for me to recall why I am filled with hope, to consider how Christ is my “Jabari Parker”. It is a time, as O Holy Night lays out, for me to consider what that night in Bethlehem must have been like for two new parents and a whole community. Christmas is when a promise was fulfilled and when a banner of hope was raised to its apex. I am thankful to have an entire season to celebrate all of this, and a holiday to remind me of what it means.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

There I was sitting in Anatomy and Physiology I in the north side of Milwaukee with Top ADC NA Eric Yang. I look down at my phone and a notification pulses on my screen: “Missed call [unrecognized number]. New (1) voicemail.” Earlier that morning I almost had to skip class to cover a shift at the ER, and so I figure this call was someone calling to let me know they couldn’t work. “Whatever. I’ll listen to it after class.”

Two minutes pass and I decide to check the phone number’s area code: 344. “Alabama? That can’t be right.” Top ADC NA Eric Yang sees and tells me to search the entire phone number. Time stops.

Gimme a second.

I’ve thought so hard about this–about what I wanted to say, about whether I should even say anything. But I think I would be remiss to be silent because this isn’t about me at all. This goes back to before Sussex Family Practice and the ER; to before I moved into 1530 West Wisconsin Avenue at Marquette; to before the Spartans off of North Lily Road; to before the Homie G’s and sleepovers every weekend; to before Fairview Elementary sent me off to Brookfield; to before the second month of 1990. This goes way back.

Class ends and I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that we need to go find somewhere relatively quiet so I can return this phone call. He takes me outside for some reason. It’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and this kid takes me outside. I dial the number that the voicemail told me to call, but I misdial because I’m so nervous and it’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that I need a piece of paper and he produces a small notepad for me to jot the phone number down onto. I tap the screen on my phone 10 times. The phone starts to ring. Time stops again.

It’s surreal. It’s your dreams becoming reality. The overwhelming sensation I had was, “Is this really happening to me? Do I really deserve this?” There are thousands of applicants to medical schools every year–thousands even just for this one school–and I was chosen out of that group?

The man on the other line of the phone introduces himself as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, the school I had interviewed at 1.5 weeks earlier, and, after some small talk, eventually addresses the very happy elephant in the room: “Nathan, the reason I’m calling you today is because the admission committee has recommended you for acceptance to the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.”

Gimme a second.

I’m honored, humbled, and so grateful for this opportunity, but I would not be here today if it weren’t for all of the amazing people in my life. The list is endless and I have vaults of love for you all. In particular, I’d like to recognize and esteem my 4th grade teachers, Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore, and my incredibly supportive family. Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore poured so much of their efforts into my development and education as a young man in the Milwaukee Public School system. Their efforts exemplify the type of investment I want to make into the patients and community I serve as a physician. I can’t remember exactly what they taught me in terms of lesson plans, but what I do remember is their character and love. For my family, there is not enough that can be said. With two incredible sets of parents, growing up with the best (and “favorite”) sister in the entire world, gaining two more wonderful siblings when I was in high school and college, and having all of these opportunities before me–I know that I am blessed. I know that my life could have easily been someone else’s. None of this didn’t have to happen to me.

That’s why I share Lecrae’s track, “Gimme A Second“. There is one line in his second verse that goes: “And I’m so blessed, look at what he did to me! How could I keep this to myself? Somebody bled for me!” Those lines are why I want to share with you all news of my acceptance into ACOM.

This opportunity to train to become a physician is not to puff myself up. That’s the last thing I hope it does to me. Instead, it is to reflect and rejoice in what God has brought me to. I have this unique chance to enter a storied and prestigious profession. I will be offered a glimpse into some of the most vulnerable and hurting parts of our lives. I will be taught the delicate intricacies of our bodies and the maintenance of our systems. At my disposal I will have the inventory to fend off death and disease as best as we know how. These are all awesome things, and I did not earn this on my own. I worked hard in college, studied twice for the MCAT, and learned as much as I could about medicine–but the only reason I am here is because of God’s grace.

Christ bled on the cross atop of Golgotha so that I might live to love and find joy in him. By God’s grace I am given this opportunity to enter medical school, and, joyfully, it is my mission to serve in the same way that Christ served all of humankind: by considering the interests of others before my own, and by being obedient even to the point of death. In the same vein is one of the more impressionable quotes from medicine’s history attributed to Paracelsus, a physician during the European Renaissance: “This is my vow: To love the sick, each and all of them, more than if my own body were at stake.

I am very excited and so very grateful.