The answer is... LOTS. Which is partly why about 5 months passed without any updates here. June was a whirlwind of getting projects and papers done before the onslaught of exams. July was a brief respite including some beach days and golf in Kelowna, but that was followed by preparing for what was the most important (and most challenging exam) of my life thus far.
NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations) consist of Part 1: Biomedical Science Exam, and Part 2: Clinical Science Exam. This August, I wrote Part 1 and am so happy to say that I passed! Part 2 is a couple years away so it's out of mind for a while, but is still looming somewhere over the horizon.
So how did the exam work? For me, it consisted of just about 3 weeks of studying 5 or 6 days a week and anywhere between 4-10 hours a day. There are so many resources available to us, but the two most important that I used were Healing Mountain's NPLEX Study Materials, and the USMLE First Aid. Both had their pros and cons, but together they provided me with more than enough information. The exam itself consisted of 200 case based questions (broken up into a morning and afternoon session of 100 questions each) that included anything from microbiology, anatomy, physiology, general pathology, histology, neurology, cardiovascular, endocrinology, GI system, respiratory, immunology, reproductive and genitourinary. The exam was exhausting, most of us felt like we got slayed, but then when results came back it turned out Boucher did extremely well. The questions ranged from high school biology to concepts I've never heard of. It was a bit of a bizarre test, and from what I hear there's a complex method to marking it (scraping questions everyone gets right or wrong, allotting more points to harder questions, less to easier and much more) so even though many people feel like they fail, they still pass. It was an exam I'll never forget because of how hard it was, but also because it gave me three weeks to refresh myself on all this great material I've been learning over the last two years and cement it down. I will say Boucher did an incredible job in our Biomed program prepping all of us for it and I'm grateful for that.
Once NPLEX was over and done with (and I had to wait 6 weeks for my results!), I escaped to Quadra Island for some kayaking and camping with friends. What a beautiful place that is. We have a friend Chris that runs Quadra Island Kayaks who showed us to an amazing time including a secluded campsite (by a wolf den he later told us), some great paddling around Quadra and hot tub sessions to boot. Not a bad way to relax after the exam.
Once I returned from Quadra, it was time to get my yoga on with One Yoga and their amazing program Vinyasa Yoga For Youth. We had students come from all over Canada and North America to attend this training. It was such an inspiring group of people. School Teachers, Yoga Teachers, Social Workers, Youth Counsellors... very diverse but all sharing a passion for getting yoga out to youth because we know how much good it can do. We spent a weekend with Ryan Leir, learning about his take on Yoga philosophy, vitamins and poisons, why he started VYFY and also having some incredible practices together. The weekend itself was astounding, but when we got into the week and started learning more of the specifics surrounding working with youth I think we were all amazed at what we got out of it. There was lots of time spent at Lulu Lemon's HQ in Vancouver, where they graciously hosted us for many days. We had guest teachers like Tina James come and rock our world; anatomy superstar Dr. Genieve Burley go over the finer points of yoga anatomy and what to be mindful in our practice with youth; and the amazing team from VYFY Saskatoon talk about their experiences with the program so far and share all their wisdom. It was a moving and powerful 10 days that really helped light my yoga fire again and remind me why I loved the practice. After our training, the group of students hailing from Vancouver got together and created VYFY Vancouver. Currently we're looking around Vancouver (and B.C.) for funding and places to start teaching. We're hoping to provide youth at risk in our city with access to yoga programs at no cost to them, their schools or community centres they're a part of. I'm super excited to be a part of this team and can't wait to start sharing yoga with kids.
I had only a few days off between VYFY training and my next adventure- San Diego for the NMSA Conference, NMSA Cup and The Gathering. The Naturopathic Medical Students Association hosts a conference annually, and included at that conference is the NMSA Cup. It's basically a chance for all us nerds to get together and find out who the biggest nerd is. It's awesome. It was sort of like team Jeopardy- random toss up question (about anatomy, physiology, history and philosophy and any of our modalities) and if you get it right, you're rewarded with a chance for a follow up. We had 8 schools represented this year and it was so much fun. Boucher battled hard but we were brought down by some powerhouse teams from Bastyr Kenmore and Bridgeport University. Both had fantastic squads and I can't wait to see them again next year. Aside from the Cup and Conference, I spent a week with some of my favourite people hanging in San Diego and staying at a house 2 minutes from the beach (or the lagoon if you walk the other way). We swam with dolphins (not in the Sea World way... we were just boogie boarding in the waves and they swam up to us), drank too many margaritas and cheap american beer, ate some great food and had a blast. It's such a treat to spend time with people from school, outside of school and get to know them on another level.
We left San Diego after the conference and drove out of the city to attend The Gathering which is a chance for younger ND students to meet other students from around the country and also to meet some of the elders that have been practicing for decades and helped make the profession what it is today. We learned some of their clinical pearls, what they love about naturopathic medicine, what their most embarrassing moments were as doctors, what sort of challenges they faced and why they're excited about the future. I was so grateful to hear their collective wisdom and gain a broader perspective on who we are as a profession, where we came from and where we're going.
I took advantage of being so far South and jetted over to Dallas to see some family I rarely have the chance to see. My cousin Brad and his wife Monica (along with their kids Sonya and Amara) hosted me for a few days and showed me around the city. Of course, I ate some great Tex-Mex (but had to be careful because making rice in chicken stock is a go to move there?) and loved seeing sights like where JFK was assassinated (had a solid 3 hours at the museum and an extra half hour chatting with a conspiracy theorist outside who told me all about the grassy knoll, a second shooter and unreleased video WHICH HE HAD OF COURSE), but the best part about it was getting to catch up with my family. It's not often (or ever, actually) that I had a chance to just sit around for hours with my cousin Brad and talk. We're quite a few years apart so we didn't quite have that growing up, but it was such a treat now to sit down each night after the kids were in bed, have a few beers and get to know each other better. So awesome.
Coming home was bittersweet. I was sad that summer was over, of course, but I was also really excited for school to start back up. I missed it. Everyone at Boucher, working with patients, learning new things... I love it and was excited to be back. School is in full swing now and mid-terms are actually in just a couple weeks, which feels impossible but it's true.
If you made it this far, I thank you (and I'm kind of surprised). Thanks for catching up on what I've been doing and hopefully it's not another 5 months before I do this again!
Have a happy Thanksgiving and actually take time to be thankful for something instead of just saying it!