Back Burner

With rounds, daily progress notes, grand rounds, afternoon clinics, day calls, night calls, morning reports, presentations, and teaching sessions, there are several things that had to be put on the back burner these past two months into residency, and blogging happened to be one of them, as you’ve probably noticed from my hiatus.

Morning after a night call

Morning after a night call

The other is working out and eating proper meals, unfortunately, and because of this, I’ve unintentionally lost about 14 pounds of body weight since I started two months ago. To some people this may seem like a good thing, but to me, gaining weight, strength, and muscle mass had been something I had to really work on (I was a really skinny kid before I started working out after college), and I at least want to maintain what I’ve gained.

Showing Lyra where her name came from

Showing Lyra where her name came from

There’s one thing I won’t ever put on the back burner though, and that is family. Although I see my family a lot less now, I make sure I spend some quality time with them whenever I do have the moment. Nearly everyday, I have piano time with my daughter Lyra on my lap. I have a routine of songs that I play for her: Bach’s Minuet in G major, Clementi’s Sonatina in C major, Burgmüeller’s Arabesque, Beethoven’s Für Elise, Mozart’s Turkish March… pieces my mom taught me to play when I was a child, which I’ll hopefully pass on to my child. Lyra loves them, and touches the keys whenever I play.

On nights that I get home early, I also make sure we eat a cooked dinner at the dinner table as a family. Irene and I both love to cook and it brings us together to prepare meals together. Eating at the dinner table together as a family is something we both grew up with, and I feel it makes families closer, as it’s a great time to socialize. I don’t like the idea of eating meals in front of the TV or at the desk. Irene and Lyra are my biggest supporters, and I am as well to them.


Work hasn’t been easy and life has to be adjusted accordingly. Nevertheless, I’ve been getting some really valuable training, both in medicine and in my life outside of work. There are four things I have learned to get me through my new life and career:

1. Don’t complain. Do. Residency is tough, no doubt about it. But the workload isn’t anything I didn’t expect, so I don’t feel the need to complain. More importantly, however, the work doesn’t get any easier for me or for my fellow coworkers if I complained. Because of this, I just toughen it up and do my job. Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, and I want to be strong.

2. Take pride in what you do. It’s only been two months into residency, but I feel that I’ve never worked harder before. We strived to work hard in med school to be awarded an acceptance into residency, but what we were really awarding ourselves is more hard work, and a lifetime of hard work. It may cause us a lot of stress, keep us away from spending time with our families, and may not pay us all that well considering how much student loan debt we have amassed, but there’s a certain pride that comes with this hard work, knowing that you are unleashing your full potential and pushing your limits to beyond what you thought you are capable of. What motivates me to keep going isn’t the money or the status (neither of which residents have much of anyway), but the personal sense of self worth to do the job right for our patients and for ourselves, and to do it well.

3. Value your time. Some days I go to work before sunrise then come back after sunset, and some nights I don’t come home at all. Some weeks I have no weekends, and other weeks I have either a Saturday or Sunday off, but not both. The little time I have with my family suddenly seem much more precious, and that occasional one day off is no longer ever wasted.

4. Feel your patient’s happiness. We had a patient who came in for progressive weakness that had crippled her for over a month. Having lost the ability to walk and move her arms, she went to several medical facilities who gave her the wrong diagnosis and treated her without any success. Despite treatment, her strength kept deteriorating and deteriorating to the point that she lost the ability to walk and move her arms. Her husband had to carry her everywhere she went. Frustrated with not knowing what was going on, worried that things won’t ever get better, but not giving up hope for a proper treatment, she finally came to our hospital. We did an extensive assessment and came to the diagnosis of a rare condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. After a whole month of worsening condition, she was finally put on the right treatment, and within days, she drastically regained her strength and ability to walk. She was really happy, and it moved me seeing how happy she was. It was moments like this that made me remember why I went into medicine, and why the hard work was worth working hard for.

Dr. and PA Ho

Dr. and PA Ho


2 comments to Back Burner

  • I tend to her more stories about being a physician tearing a family apart or that doctors in residency, so it’s great to see that despite your busy schedule you’re still able to maintain a great relationship with your family.

    • Benji

      It’s unfortunate whenever family relationships do not work out, for both physicians and non-physicians. Relationships are not easy, and can be full disagreements and disconnections in the experiences of those involved. Compromises, sacrifices, patience, and dedication are essential to make a relationship work. Sometimes people expect relationships to be easy and back out of them because they feel overwhelmed with the work it takes to keep them together. Relationships naturally rise and fall like the stock market. Some people make the decision too quickly to sell out when it drops, not being a little more patient to give it a chance to pick back up again.

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