Astrud in Galveston

Astrud is a junior major, with minors in chemistry, international studies and human rights, in Dedman College. In Summer 2009, she is participating in her second summer internship with the Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She is taking classes as well as observing and following doctors through preceptorships.
In August 2009, Astrud will be participating in the SMU Human Rights Program’s trip to Rwanda. As part of a Richter Research Fellowship, she will study the effects there of public health care on childhood obesity and its impact on human rights.

It’s crunch time

If you think that applications, interviews and recommendation letters ended when you graduated high school, you would be mistaken. Over these past few days, all of us here have been working on personal statements and optional essays, trying to find the words that would best express our thoughts and unique experiences.

All of us have struggled to put down into words our desire to become physicians. Likewise, most of us have stepped out of our comfort zones, letting others constructively critique a body of work that we most likely have edited a dozen times already.

On certain afternoons, I would get this feeling of deja vu, feeling exactly the same way when I was filling out my college application. It brings back memories of frustrating moments when I would be at a loss for words, but at the same time, I recall the feeling of accomplishment in finishing everything. In time, I will finish this as well.


The summer is quite prominent on the island now as we find ourselves leaving earlier for class in order to beat the traffic from the tourists. I personally am amazed at how many different activities can be accomplished in one area of the beach. In the afternoons, I always make it a point to look at what color flag the lifeguards have put out for the day, knowing that blue means creatures in the water.

Despite the work that we are doing, facing our computers and working on our applications, we are also having a lot of fun. Just this past Wednesday, we celebrated my roommate’s birthday, and a big group of us ate out at one of the local restaurants on the island. Most of our late nights are spent playing board games like Taboo and Cranium, and we quote hilarious yet memorable moments the following day.


I have met quite a number of friends who undoubtedly will continue to be a part of my life even after this summer ends. As I sit next to them in class and listen to their stories during our breaks, it becomes even more apparent that they would become excellent physicians.

I can safely and soundly vouch that all of the future doctors taking classes with me are people who understand the fiduciary relationship between patient and doctor (It is actually a term that I learned in one of my medical ethics classes). They are willing and capable of putting others before themselves, a trait that is expected from the profession.

I must admit that I am a bit saddened by our near departure from this institution and this program, but I walk away with new friends and excitement, ready to witness all the great things that my future colleagues here will undoubtedly do.


As always, I leave you with things that I have learned over the past few days.

1. Do not be afraid to try something because you are scared to fail. Failure, most of the times, is just a detour to success.

2. Get to know the people around you and make it a point to tell them that they are an important part of your life. You never know how long you’ll have them for.

3. Surprise birthday parties are just as fun when you’re in college as when you were in elementary school.

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The pieces are falling together

Applying for medical school

May is almost over and the second weekend for my summer internship is already coming to an end. “Time flies when you are having fun,” as the saying goes.

This week has been interesting as most of us have started working more on our applications for medical school. It seems unbelievable that I am going to graduate in a year. Even more insane is the idea of applying to medical school at this moment. It is surreal, yet part of it is also exciting. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together for me. Step by step, I am working toward my end goal after SMU – medical school. I think it was only yesterday when I was completing my application for SMU and now here I am, still filling out paperwork with a smile on my face.


Around Town

The classes still continue to fascinate me, and we have started to explore the island a bit more, eating lunch at Vietnamese places and spending time at the local Wal-Mart next to our housing.

Yesterday featured a team building activity at Main Event, consisting of bowling, laser tag and arcade games. For people who think that Main Event is just something for little kids, you are wrong. The two hours spent there were a ton of fun, and we even discovered hidden talents.

So now I leave you with more tidbits of wisdom that I have learned since I last wrote my entry:

1. Balance is one of the things that we all have to master at some point. Although learning to juggle life is a good act, finding the balance is even better.

2. You are never too old to go enjoy the arcades. If you doubt this statement, visit a local one and witness adults happily pointing at the games as if it was their own personal enemy.

3. Eat a variety of food while you are young and less picky.


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Weekend of remembrance

ferry1.jpgMemorial Day just passed and the free day could not have come at a better time. Most of last week was spent on introductory classes, and we were given quite a bit of free time in order to adjust to our surroundings and bond with each other.

This week, although not as hectic as the ones in front of us (I couldn’t help but look at the next couple of weeks’ schedule), is still going to be a busy one. But before I let my mind wonder about the challenges of next week, I want to pay special tribute to this week.

Being a science major, I have sat through a handful of science lectures regarding various topics from the brain to earthworms. Last week we sat through lectures that showcased a great deal of variety. We learned the important structures of the thorax and even got to look at x-rays at one of our imaging lectures. Medical ethics was another topic that we got a flavor of this past week. Our topic was rather interesting. Is medicine a science or not? One would be surprised at the variety of answers that emerged from that one question, not to mention that it took us a full two hours to discuss the topic.

ferry2.jpgAside from classroom activities, most people took advantage of the free afternoons and long weekends. This past Thursday, a group of us took a ferry to one of the nearby islands here in Galveston.

thestrand1.jpg The water had a ton of surprises, from dolphins to pelicans diving into it. However, the sight of the actual island where we docked was a bit more depressing. Just like some of the buildings and houses on the island itself, one can see the havoc that Hurricane Ike caused. It was a moment of reflection on my part as I really took in the effects of the natural disaster. It was impressive to see how the residents here are coping with the situation at hand and admirable how quite a number chose to remain on the island. Now, that’s courage.

The first week is over, and yet I feel like I have learned so much more than have given back to this community.

Some lessons from the week:

1. Never underestimate the power of time. Although it is not capable of bringing things back exactly to their previous condition, it gives people time to heal, something important for the process of rebuilding.

2. A camera is a wise investment. Sometimes, pictures really speak louder than words.

thestrand2.jpg3. Going out to shop with girls requires comfortable footwear. You never know when you will spend the next eight hours of your life going to store after store. Trust me, it can happen.

4. If you have never been on a Duck Tour of a city, I highly recommend it. There’s no better feeling than going about 23 mph on a vehicle designed for war combat.

5. Take time to appreciate things that come naturally like the roof over your head or hot breakfast. You won’t like it when they are taken away from you.

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Start of summer on the island

S7303633.JPGIt’s Tuesday. A week ago I finished my last final, went home and took a glorious nap. Merely a week later, I am sitting on the couch, flipping the channels on the TV as I try to browse over the chapter for tomorrow’s lecture.

Yesterday and today were focused on just introducing us to the classes that we are going to get a preview of ( gross anatomy and radiology, biochemistry and embryology), a tour of University of Texas at Medical Branch and free time so that we could bond as a group and adjust to our new environment.

S7303631.JPGI think I have done more physical activity in the past 72 hours than the past few days combined. I have jogged and skimboarded by the beach for hours, enjoying the sun with full knowledge that the next few weeks are going to be a lot more hectic. But so far, I’ve picked up a few important things:

1. Ramen noodles are a staple food. If you are spending more than five days anywhere and you are on a budget, bring a box or two and then be creative with it.

S7303659.JPG2. Sand will get on all of your clothes when you are on a beach no matter how careful you are. The earlier you accept this fact, the less cranky you are when you get back from the beach.

3. Make sure that you know the location of the nearest bank. You never know when you will need its services. Have I mentioned that banks will notarize items for you for free?

4. Learn to cook the basics – rice, pasta, eggs. You might think that you do not need this skill now, but when you least expect it, nature will call upon you to cook something to feed yourself.

S7303652.JPG5. People make the memories. You could be eating at a cafeteria that still bears the effects of the recent hurricane and still find it the most exciting place with the right people with you.

I know that life is about to get more hectic as the weeks go by and the classes start to pick up, but hey, at least I’m by a beach. I cannot complain about that. Finally, long walks on the beach is not merely a fantasy but a reality that’s 50 feet away.

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