Year of the Ox

Chinese New Year starts on February 12th this year, and we are celebrating the year of the ox! Whether you are a believer of zodiac signs and all the associated traits and symbolism, or not, we can all appreciate the legacy of this Chinese tradition. (Read more about it here: LINK). To get myself prepared for the holiday spirit (in the safety of my home), I made a quick doodle using Procreate and turned it into a wallpaper for my phone.

This year I also decided to (be basic and) make a vision board. Noted – the term “vision board” is loosely applied given the COVID-19 pandemic in its current rampage. Some of my hopes of 2021 include travelling to Japan, road trips, and simply having the luxury of reading in a cafe. Albeit, I will accept if none of these things manifest if it means maintaining the health and safety of our communities, country, and globe. In that case, I won’t mind changing the “2021” into “2022”!

My loosely envisioned “vision board” also features my ox!

I have more posts planned to come. In the meantime, how you are planning to celebrate Chinese New Year in 2021? 🤩

I’m Board

Happy new year everyone! 🥳🎉 What do you get during winter break in a house full of hungry and bored university students? Lots and lots of charcuterie & cheese boards. I made this graphic for a close friend of mine for their birthday to honour their unconditional love for charcuterie boards. I wanted to make a quick post to share this fun graphic I made!

The word “Charcuterie” stems from 15th century France (according to various blogs and Wikipedia) where a specific guild was responsible for the production of salted and dried meats – referred to as “charcuterie”. On the other hand, cheese boards are enjoyed by the French and British. The French often have a cheese board before dessert, while the British prefer cheese after dessert. It appears that charcuterie boards emerged between WWI and WWII as a dish enjoyed by the upper class (source). Nowadays, charcuterie cheese boards have been popularized and often include all kinds of ingredients, some perhaps unorthodox. I’ll bet the elite class enjoying charcuterie boards during the interwar periods won’t have predicted seeing vegan cheese and vegan meat on such a platter. The beauty of charcuterie boards is that you can make your own, tailored to your taste. Furthermore, the meticulous process of assembling your board is ultimately rewarding if you achieve an aesthetic product. Thus, if you are ever bored during the holidays, try making a charcuterie board!

Year in reflection

The new year is around the corner, and I assume most of us are anticipating it’s beginning with greater hope and optimism. A reflection of 2020, for me, entails a bittersweet recollection. Whilst this year did not go according to plans, nor did I expect such turn of events, I think I made the best of the situation, along with my family and friends. In fact, some of my favourite memories might come from this past year.

To recap my year, I spent a lot of time with my mom and dad going on hikes and supporting local restuarants/cafes by ordering takeout. We truly had some amazing food memories this past year. One of my fondest memory is having outdoors picnics after ordering seafood pizzas from Steveston Pizza Co. (any of their Castle pies are delicious!). Other honourable food moments include doughnuts from Mello, poke bowls from Pokerrito, and biscuit brunches from Chewie’s Chicken & Biscuit. I also loved taking strolls around Vancouver (while adhering to regulations and when it is allowed) and discovering new things about the city I grew up in. My mom and I frequented Mount Pleasant to discover all the hidden gems from the Vancouver Mural Festival. Another huge part of my 2020 was volunteering at a rabbit shelter. With the insidious presence of COVID, I could not continue to volunteer at the hospital or with community members. Diverging my time to the rabbit shelter in lieu of my pre-COVID commitments (which have been halted by the pandemic) has helped my mental health immensely. Over time working at the shelter, I also rediscovered my pure and utter love for bunnies. Perhaps because I see many similarities between myself and these friendly, reserved fluff balls.

I wanted to comment on the challenges that the pandemic has imposed upon our relationships with friends, family, and other people we love. 2020 has truly tested our abilities to maintaining long-distance relationships. I am beyond lucky to have such supportive friends and people who continuously show their love through countless hours spent over Zoom meetings, phone calls, and other creative and safe sources of communication. (One highlight being sent flowers 🥰). These people have made my 2020 brighter and brought me so much joy, and I am forever grateful ❤️

I am incredibly thankful for the safety and health of my friends and family. If I ever need motivation to get through another day, week, or month of quarantine, I think about these people, as well as the people in my community. If you ever need the same motivation, think about the people you care about the most. I encourage everyone to stay home as much as possible and to adhere to your local regulations (for the Ontario peeps, here is the provincial lockdown guidelines and restrictions). We are all in this together! And together we can make 2021 a better, brighter year ✨

‘Tis the season

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas! ‘Tis the season to light holiday candles, drink hot cocoa, and watch terrible Christmas movies on Netflix. 2020 has changed everyone’s life and what we determined to be “normal”. I wanted to document how we managed to regain some of this “normal” throughout this holiday season (while staying safe). I am so grateful for the wonderful people around me, who have inspired and motivated me to bring holiday cheer to others around me.

We sent out holiday postcards to community members! One of the clubs I am involved in volunteers and advocates for a local support group. In times of COVID, this support group has not been able to gather for the last year. I designed this postcard, which my club mailed out to all the members of this local group in hopes of bringing folks some holiday cheer! What makes this postcard extra sentimental is that it is a depiction of our local city hall (though not a super accurate one I’ll have to admit – I tried my best, haha!).

“A Jolly Time in Kingston”. Procreate. 2020.

Making holiday cards! During COVID, many of us have to rely on the post office to mail gifts to family and friends. Mailing out parcels can be extremely slow and costly. If you are on a budget but you still want to let your friends and family know that you are thinking of them this year, you can always mail them a handmade card! There is something so special about receiving a card that has been meticulously crafted and tailored just for that someone special 🥰

Cards I made for family and friends. (In hindsight, a collage is not the best presentation of these cards due to the clutter but you get the gist!)

Our core bubble made a holiday feast! As long as you uphold your local COVID precautions and rules, there’s nothing that holds you back from still enjoying all of the delicious foods associated with Christmas and the holiday season. My personal favourites have to be vegetarian stuffing and mashed potatoes 🤤 You can still feast, even if it’s just within your immediate household. If you wanted to share your feast with others outside of your core bubble, you can always coordinate with them to drop off/exchange dishes at a safe location and safe distance. Afterwards, you can enjoy the meal together over ZOOM, Facetime, or other modes of virtual communication.

Our holiday feast❤️ (done within guidelines established by Ontario and Kingston). Peep the stuffing and mashed potatoes made by meee!

As an university student, I am ecstatic for this winter break. I can finally celebrate and rejoice in the wonderful things in life – big or small. For me, the small things include my morning coffees, painting my nails, and reading a good book before bed (I’m currently reading “When Breath Becomes Air”- very good so far!). The big things are finishing my second last semester of undergrad and applications to graduate schools! I am privileged to enjoy and experience all these things. And I have immense gratitude and appreciation for others in our community who make this holiday possible for the rest of us (e.g. store employees, frontline workers, etc.). I hope you can also rejoice and appreciate all the big and small things in life. ‘Tis the season to be grateful and to spread the jolly spirit! Happy holidays everyone ~ 🎄🎁☕️

Giving Thanks

Give your thanks to the autumn season and all the thanksgiving dinners (in Canada). I made thanksgiving dinner not once, but TWICE! Perhaps I watched too much of The Chef Show on Netflix… But it was so great to reconnect with family and friends (while following COVID-19 precautions: limit your social bubble and keep indoor gatherings small) – and for this, I am extremely grateful.

Here are some of the recipes I “followed”. Peep the outcome in the photos above 👀

Stuffing: (10/10) I skipped the eggs but it still came out delicious!

Mashed potatoes: (8/10) I added parsley, dill, and parmesan for more flavour.

Zucchini, eggplant, tomato gratin: (9/10) I thought this dish would be quite bland – plain roasted vegetables – but it actually turned out great!

Italian roasted cauliflower: (11/10) Yummm…Don’t underestimate cauliflower 👅

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on most people’s mental health, mine included. If anything, thanksgiving has taught me the value of reconnecting with family and friends. If you are ever feeling down, reach out to a friend or family member, whether it is meeting them at a local park (safely) or scheduling a Facetime call. Give thanks to the people who mean the most to you, or make them a wholesome meal to express your gratitude. Just be sure to follow the COVID protocols specific to your location while doing so. Here are the BC guidelines for my BC peeps. Happy Thanksgiving from Canada! 🥳

Second MCAT (6:30am + Advice)

So I wrote the MCAT at 6:30am. It was a chaotic 3 months leading up to the exam 🤧 I was able to improve on every section, except for C+P (a coincidence that the section I bombed was the first section at 6:30am?!! I think not). Nonetheless, I wanted to share some study and exam prep advice that helped me improve my mark! Note that I used AAMC, Princeton Review, UWorld, JackWestin, and Khan Academy to study.

Chemistry and Physics

Funny thing is that I actually scored higher on my first MCAT in C+P (97%!). I found the AAMC material for both sections the MOST helpful. They were the closest to the level of difficulty on the actual exam. But if you have bad luck like me, sometimes you get dealt with some of the more difficult C+P passages (I confirmed with a very reliable source: Reddit). The Princeton Review and UWorld C+P materials went in-depth for various topics, sometimes more than necessary- for example, overemphasizing low-yield subjects. It doesn’t hurt to learn more things but don’t drown yourself in the more difficult, low-yield questions. That’s my word of caution.

CARS

I spent 3 months preparing for my second MCAT, where I did about two passages per day…In the end, I was only able to improve my CARS by 1 mark…No, I don’t think I cracked the CARS secret code. I tried reading the passages first before attempting the questions, then I tried reading the questions first, AND THEN I went back to reading the passages first. It also became difficult to find good passages near the end. I exhausted my supply from AAMC, Princeton, UWorld, Khan Academy, and had to resort to JackWestin passages. I think JackWestin passages are the least representative of the actual exam compared to other platforms. However, practicing CARS everyday did help me build my CARS endurance so I highly recommend doing daily passages.

Biology + Biochemistry

Wow, this section is so much easier if you have just finished two semesters of third year biochemistry, which was my case. The first time I took the MCAT I didn’t even memorize glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, or any of the metabolic pathways; they all conveniently show up in third year bchm. This section is ALL about memorization and application of knowledge, which is a lot easier if you have them memorized by heart. I highly recommend taking extra time to memorize metabolic pathways (or at least the important steps of each), amino acids (ALL), and biological terminologies and cycles. I found AAMC and UWorld quite helpful in both bio and bchm. UWorld was especially great at grilling you on the details. If you think about it, the details are worth memorizing because they might be the questions that help you achieve a higher percentile.

Psychology + Sociology

I must have been blessed with an easy P+S section because I scored a 98%! I found the JackWestin P+S outline and UWorld quite helpful. UWorld was especially helpful with reinforcing the nitty gritty. They often provide answer choices that all sound plausible. Being able to identify the correct answer demonstrates how well you truly UNDERSTAND the materials.

OVERALL what I did better on my second MCAT compared to my first attempt:

  • DON’T RELY on third-party materials. My first time taking the exam, I solely relied on TPR and AAMC (AAMC was an angel). Little did I know that TPR left out a lot of low-yield content. It’s good to be aware of low-yield topics because there is still a chance they might show up on the actual exam. It’s best to review content from various resources, making sure you don’t miss out!
  • Refer to the official MCAT outline. How do you expect yourself to score good if you don’t even know what is being tested? Plus it’s free!
  • Join FB MCAT study groups and stalk the MCAT Reddit forum. The virtual MCAT communities are truly angelic. Everyone is so kind- sharing notes and offering genuine advice for improvements. I highly recommend if you want to feel all the love ~

My sole regret: taking a 6:30am exam. I regret choosing this time because I am not a fully functional human-being at this time of day. I also had to suffer from my decision to halt coffee consumption in fear of excessive bathroom breaks. It is all the wiser to pick a time that you KNOW favours optimal performance. Or at least prepare yourself earlier. Get used to waking up at a certain time and stimulate exam conditions. (Another lesson is not to simultaneously take on a full-time job that forces you to stay up late)

Best of luck to everyone writing the exam! Just remember this is only a minor hurdle in your med journey- for I have never heard of anyone who could not continue med because of a low MCAT score. Afterall, we each have 7 MCAT attempts in our lifetime (unless you reincarnate into another premed student).

Hope you enjoyed the coffee graphic 🤩 I decided to try a different style, and I think it turned out pretty good. It’s a(n appropriate) vibe…Best of luck! Bye for now.

Premed response to systemic racism in Canadian healthcare

When premed students are asked why they want to be a physician, I assume the answer is always along the lines of having a desire to help out those in need and to make a difference in the community. In light of the recent cases of police brutality on black people and the ongoing protests, we should also ask ourselves if the field we aspire to engage in also faces systemic racism.

“Systemic Racism includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. It differs from overt discrimination in that no individual intent is necessary.” -ACLRC

http://www.aclrc.com/forms-of-racism

And sure enough, medicine and healthcare is not impervious to racism. If our reason to become a physician is to help those in need and to make a difference in the community, are we really achieving such if we perpetuate systemic racism in healthcare?

Faiza Amin has several great articles in Toronto CityNews discussing marginalization that the Canadian black community faces in the healthcare system (1, 2, 3). The recount of John River’s story about unreasonable delay in medical treatment, which was nearly life-threatening, only emphasizes the extent of this issue. Amin shows that besides suffering from medical illness and pain, many black patients also have to worry about the way they present themselves to healthcare workers. Something as simple as dressing a certain way can be seen to change the way healthcare workers interact and treat patients.

Other marginalized groups in Canada, such as Indigenous peoples, share similar experiences with the healthcare system. The death of Brian Sinclair is one tragic case where ER healthcare workers failed to even acknowledge the treatable suffering of this man. There is no doubt discrimination and systemic racism played a role in this tragedy. A paper discussing inequalities in healthcare for Aboriginal people in Vancouver shows a pressing need for healthcare workers and policy makers to even acknowledge racial discrimination. 

The Social Accountability Working Group formed by The College of Family Physicians of Canada seems like a promising movement towards bringing more justice into Canadian healthcare. Their goal is to establish greater social accountability amongst physicians.

There is no doubt stigmatization and discrimination exists in healthcare. This reality is undeniable and deeply saddening. Institutional change in response to these types of systemic racism is extremely difficult to initiate and implement. However, as premeds, we can start by educating ourselves and addressing these inequalities. We should strive to bring greater awareness and reflections on behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism. The morals of our generation build the foundation for fundamental changes in our institutions. 

I will continue to educate myself on these topics, and so should you 🤓 Here are some other interesting reads: Healing racism in Canadian health care, by Yvonne Boyer; Colour Coded Health Care: The impact of race and racism on Canadians’ Health

That is all. Bye for now ✊🏿 ✊🏾 ✊🏽 ✊🏼 ✊🏻

Sweet Tooth

Quarantine calls for extra time spent reminiscing. And specifically about childhood snacks. I have a raging sweet tooth, but I think this doodle will hold me over until I can get my hands on these goodies again 🤩

(Procreate. 2020)

 

Tangent: Cetaphil

I recently ran out of my holy grail cleanser Tatcha Deep Cleanse, and I was forced to use my mom’s Cetaphil cleanser. This only brought back all the things I despise about this cleanser. If you have oily skin (really oily like me), this cleanser does absolutely nothing. I still feel a layer of oil sitting on top of my skin even after using the facewash 3x times in a row. I started to question if the cleanser even has any active ingredients. Are they just trolling us? Selling us thickened water?

Many dermatologists apparently promote the use of Cetaphil. Okay, so why do so many professionals promote this? Well, maybe the fact that this cleanser does nothing is why they like Cetaphil. A lot of times topical medications are very harsh on the skin, so the last thing they want is a cleanser that further deteriorates the skin’s integrity.

I tried to find other people’s thoughts about this useless cleanser, and there are people that go as far as saying Cetaphil is the “devil”…Okay, I know my distaste for Cetaphil is a bit harsh but surely Cetaphil isn’t demonic? And hence begins the nosedive into Cetaphil: WHAT INGREDIENTS EVEN MAKE THIS QUALIFY AS A CLEANSER and IS IT SECRETLY EVIL?

Cetaphil_

Cetaphil Sensitive Skin Cleanser has 8 ingredients (pictured above).

  1. Water
  2. Cetyl alcohol
    • Fun fact: was first isolated from sperm whales.
    • Acts as thickening/binding agent, emollient (moisturizer), and emulsifier (remove oil) [1]
  3. Propylene glycerol
    • Humectant (retain moisture) [2]
  4. Sodium lauryl sulfate
    • Emulsifier (remove oil)
    • Surfactant that is also found in cleaning products.
    • Absorbs into the bloodstream. HOWEVER, CIR and other reviews found no evidence of SLS accumulating in organs to toxic levels [3]
  5. Stearyl alcohol
    • Emulsifier (remove oil), also prevents foaming [4]
  6. Methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben
    • Parabens act as a preservative that prevents growth of harmful microbes.
    • There are studies that link parabens and development of cancer or tumours. [5] HOWEVER, association is not always causation.
    • CIR does report low order of toxicities in paraben levels used in cosmetics [5]. While this may cause some people to squeal in fear, have you ever considered other sources of parabens? You might even consume parabens elsewhere, like in pickles or beer. Trust me, you aren’t going to get cancer if you ever used Cetaphil, nor if you decide to finish that tube of Maybelline mascara.

In conclusion, cetaphil is not EVIL.

I am not here to argue with advocates of natural cosmetics either because at the end of the day, I still despise this cleanser. From my deduction, this cleanser is lacking an exfoliant. For a gal with more oily complexion, this cleanser is one that does not accomplish the one thing that it sets out to do. If you are concerned about parabens, find another cleanser! There are so many out there, like Tatcha, that use alternatives.

This might be one of the most random posts I’ll ever make. Or it might be the start of something new because lately my stream of thoughts takes me on deep nosedives. Hope you enjoyed reading about all the random information I have collected. I encourage everyone to look for reliable information before making a judgement. For example, actually doing research instead of relying on words of lifestyle bloggers. (hmm, I wonder why all these blogs think Cetaphil is evil). Research may not always be easy, thus I think it is crucial to seek information from multiple platforms that offer diverse perspectives on a certain topic.

🤡 Keep learning and talk to you all later! 🤡

 

My sources (in a not-so-formal format):

  1. https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/cetyl-alcohol/
  2. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1120&tid=240; https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/propylene-glycol
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
  4. https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/stearyl-alcohol
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-people-be-concerned-about-parabens-in-beauty-products/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19101832

Happy Mother’s Day

I wouldn’t be who I am if it were not for my mom’s continuous support and love. Lots of love 💕 Don’t forget to send your mom a text, an email, a call, or a digital drawing (like me- feel free to use this!). Happy mother’s day!

Procreate. Digital drawing. 2020