Lower 48 Has Nothing on Us















My cell phone alarm starts ringing at 7:30am. I know it’s the alarm; cell phones don’t work in this part of Alaska. I roll over and the surrounding darkness makes it feel like 4:00 in the morning. I check the weather before getting ready for clinic: -33F but feels like -54F with wind chill. Yikes! Before venturing outside it’s time to suit up! I start with ski pants, my down filled jacket, winter boots, throw on a face mask, wrap a scarf around my face for good measure, put two pairs of ski gloves on and I’m set. It takes us 10 minutes to walk to clinic. As we’re walking across the tundra, I can feel my lashes growing heavier and stick together as frost begins to settle, I call it pseudo-bacterial conjunctivitis.

We arrive at clinic and just as we’ve stripped down to our clinic clothes, there is an influx of patients. The thrill of starting a new clinic day and seeing patients presenting for “problem visits”, red eyes, follow-ups, routine eye exams, etc. starts rising. It is time to take what our professors taught us in school and apply it to my patients. I think back to all the cases I’ve seen in the span of three months: diagnosing Eales disease, a potential melanocytoma, and a retinal detachment. Thank goodness my professors and preceptors are enthusiastic about teaching, hence allowing me to inundate them with questions sans apprehension.

Time is of the essence, I’m the doctor now and that is how my preceptors treat me, not as an intern but as a colleague. With patients lining up in the waiting room, I know I need to be efficient without compromising patient care. I think back to second year when it took me almost 1.5 hours to complete an eye exam; after nine months of rotation, 30 minutes max for a healthy patient. I would have laughed when I was a new student at NECO if someone told me that it was possible to do a full exam in less than 40 minutes!

The week is a blur and I realize I’ve seen about 50 patients. My mind is reeling from the cases I’ve seen and I know a portion of this weekend will be spent researching particular topics. NECO has an awesome journal collection which I take full advantage of as a student. One would assume that weekends would be spent in front of the TV to make time pass. WRONG!! We frequently visit our preceptor’s houses for fondue parties, dinners, and game nights. The Alaskan experience allowed me to know my preceptor’s at a personal level; and forget calling them Dr., we call them by their first name!

“Clinic is canceled this week because it’s frozen.” Where else on Earth would you ever hear that statement?! What will I do this week? With no shopping malls or theaters and two grocery stores I know shopping won’t be an option. The weather is supposed to be around -40F with wind chill so taking a casual stroll may not be feasible. “What will I do?!” QUILTING!


Our preceptor shuttles us to her house and we’re in fabric heaven! She provides us with material, patches, a sewing machine, and her limitless knowledge on quilting. I completed three quilts which will be donated to a Children’s Hospital and trust me, it’s not purely altruistic. I LEARNED how to quilt and that’s a skill I’ll carry with me for life. I want to end with a quick statement that will summarize my time in Alaska: I would go back in a heartbeat.

Stay tuned for more Alaskan adventures :)



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 at 5:31 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.