N-NW to the Future Medical Tour

welcome to my N-NW to the Future Medical Tour blog. those who know me know that i occasionally fall off the face of the earth from time to time. (yes, sometimes for a year or two at a pop...) i don't really expect this year to be any different as i travel around alaska, washington and montana completing all my medical rotations. i plan on graduating from the university of washington physician assistant program in august '09. that said, i do expect this year to be a busy one and this is going to be my attempt at letting you know what's the latest scoop - even if it is a bit less intimate. i hope that you will be able to have a better sense of what's going on in my life and possibly more scarily... what's going on in my big dinosaur brain (see perfect date link).

past stops
nome, ak  family practice   sept 23 - jan 30
anchorage, ak psych feb 2- 27
port angeles, wa ortho mar 16 - 27
anchorage, ak inpatient mar 30 - apr 24
fairbanks, ak emergency med apr 27 - may 22

next stop
browning, mt surgery  may 25 - june 19

** for a full schedule, drop me an email.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

belated notes on white mountain

on top of white mountain. the airport is above the community on top of the next hill.
the delightful finds when exploring the community.
gotta love small town post offices.
quite the nice clinic. 

before i left nome, i had the opportunity to spend a week in the native village of white mountain. i think this had to be one of the most scenic and friendly bush villages i've ever visited. it's located right on the river, set into the hillside. white mountain is on one end of the community and the airport is up on another hillside. (this actually made for a good run each day - running up white mountain, down in to town, up to the airport, back down in to town and then all over again.)

i knew i was in for a good time when i got off the plane and some one passed me the keys to a sno-go (snowmobile). i then proceeded to follow a couple of other people on sno-gos and toured the town. pretty darn sweet.

the rest of the week was spent working 9-5 in the clinic. the doc and i both stayed busy each day - but it seemed like the hardest workers were the health aides. the three women who worked at the clinic were 3rd generation health aides and needless to say, were super friendly and extremely competent. 

after work, i usually went for the aforementioned run and then we also had the opportunity to go skate skiing one evening. it turns out this dinky little community has a 6 mile groomed trail just for skiing.  i have to admit at this point i was thinking "how in the world can i finagle a job here..." the thought passed after i learned that there was no full-time position available. good thing.

somewhere i had a draft about my experience here that had a bit more depth, but i seem to have lost it. arrggh... well, enjoy the photos.

it's coming...

oops. i kind of dropped off the planet again. imagine that... long hours at the hospitals, learning an amazing amount of medical knowledge (who knew this pea brain could contain so much information?), traveling every 4 weeks to a new locale and then not contributing to my blog. you can thank my family and closest friends. when i've had some profound epiphany about medicine, life, myself, blah, blah, blah... i usually call one of them and then, never get around to posting the same interesting stuff here. go figure.

so, there is much to write and i am kind of thinking that my little road trip from fairbanks to browning, montana is going to inspire me and give me some time to ketchup. in other words, this boring little piece is actually a tease to get everyone lured back to the site and hooked in again. 

a couple of entries and some fantastic photos coming...  promise. really.

**also a little heads up... for those of you who want to think that i am a person of depth and compassion, stick to my blog where i limit my 14 year old sense of humor (kind of). those of you who can appreciate or at least tolerate ummm, my lack of a social etiquette filter, feel free to check out my facebook webpage.  (facebook.com   search: stephenie bennett)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

seeking balance

after a long day, with many frustrating patients - some of whom were not willing to meet me anywhere along the spectrum of working together to feel better, i came to another epiphany (hence the title "seeking balance")...

i don't really care, so you're really f*#ked. have a nice day.

how's that for compassion and sensitivity? okay, okay, hopefully those reading this know that i am joking - but the thought did make me laugh. i will be forever thankful for being born with a wicked (and usually juvenile) sense of humor. (a shout out to mum and pops for this... the apple falls oh, so painfully close to the tree sometimes, huh?)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

pequeno bennett 1.10.09

pequeno took a turn for the worse over the holidays. an issue with his cervical spine, which he has had since he was a puppy, became progressively more debilitating and the decision was made to allow him to seek a healthier vessel for his delightfully goofy and loving spirit. he passed on yesterday.

the past several weeks have been very difficult, but mindy juliana and i made certain that this past weekend was full of joy and love to counter the endless tears that fell. peq's last days were filled with dance breaks, homemade sheep liver brownies and countless belly rubs and head scratches.

peq was my security blanket and companion who was there for me with unconditional love over the past four years. he, his baseball bat tail and ability to drool out 3 quarts of saliva for every quart of water drank, provided laughter at every turn. i can't believe how much i miss him already, as i know those who loved him will, as well.

whatever your method of celebrating his spirit, please take a moment to remember him - i think he would love that.

pequeno bennett
1.1.2005 - 1.10.2009

Friday, December 26, 2008

happiest holidaze to all!

wow! where did the time go? i was just starting out on the journey of a lifetime (the beginning of my clinical year) and now, it's the holiday season and almost time to welcome in the next year. clearly, there has been a bit of a gap between my last posting and today (arrgghh, a over a month has passed by). i actually have several drafts written up, but have been unsure of how much of my personal experience to share. 

the past three months of clinicals have been exciting and i have learned so much that i barely even know where to begin to describe it all. that said, i will give a shot of at least giving a glimpse of me learning about the medical system, humanity and my tiny space in it all. i really expected the exams, diagnosing and treating part of my experience to be the most difficult - and it has definitely been challenging, but what has challenged me more though is the trust building aspect of the patient-provider relationship. i had thought that with my background working with different populations, often underserved, in education, counseling, and agriculture that i would find building relationships easier than what i've come to experience. 

there are power dynamics in these patient/provider relationships that are difficult to navigate. trusting the patient, having the patient trust me, finding compassion for everyone equally - these are difficult in the confines of a 20-40 minute visit when a patient is in pain or sharing some of his/her innermost concerns. am i providing a space where the patient can really confide what is the issue? i, at times, feeling like i am sizing up a patient - i am being told the truth or manipulated? why is the patient REALLY here in this office? when do i share information? what information do i share, what information do i withhold? how do i inform/educate the patient? do i address big underlying issues, such as poor nutrition, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, need for exercise... or do i just treat the cough (or whatever acute issue is being addressed) and sometimes offer a pill? and the big fear of mine... what if i miss something???? what if i say something wrong, give wrong advice, interpret something wrong, say something insensitive when i miss clues provided by the patient?
thank heavens i've had folks to debrief the days with. i am inherently a very reflective person and tend to spend too much time wondering/worrying about possible mistakes made or why someone pushed my buttons or i pushed theirs. add to all this, negotiating cross-cultural waters. i should probably give a HUGE shout out (thanks) to all the providers, social workers, nurses, techs, and everyone else at the clinic who offer guidance and who assist me in navigating these waters and hopefully, are watching carefully so that i don't fail my patients. 

and now, here i am in port angeles, wa sipping coffee, writing  a disjointed post to my blog, looking forward to digging out the inside of a quinzee later today (photos to come)... basically, re-energizing for the new year and the rest of my life to come.

in closing, all that come's to mind is... it's all good. somehow, no matter what happens - if we're conscious and compassionate, we grow and we find love, then truly, it becomes apparent over again and again that it's all good. 

peas to all my homeskillets out there. may you all have the merriest of holidaze. 

**what a crazy freakin' post. they don't call me the "shiny objects girl" for nothing, i guess.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


so, i climbed the mountain 3870 last weekend. it's a half day hike about an hour outside of nome. like the dingbat that i can be - i inquired at the top how it came to get its name. now in my defense, i couldn't remember the number to save my life - which i believe is the reason, i couldn't make the logical connection to it's altitude. well, that's my excuse and i'm sticking to it. just enjoy the photo. (i have a delightful 360 video from the summit, but once again being techno illit, i'm unable to post the darn thing.) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a dear friend....

i found out recently that my close friend from childhood, kelly armstrong, was diagnosed with cancer this fall. i just want to put out a public request that anyone who happens across this website - please send a prayer, good juju, any cosmic/karmic credit you've built up, yada, yada, yada her way. she's a dynamo and though i haven't seen her in a long while, just occasional stories from my dad - i think fondly of her and know that if there were a soul in the world who will pull through all this, it's gonna be her.

caring bridge is a site where you may write a note to kelly. it's located under peep blogs on the left.

kelly - all my love goes out to you and your family.

just because...

if times weren't a bit tight right now, i can pretty much guarantee that i would be wearing this on a t-shirt, rather than posting it on a site. 

elections 2008

i voted today and was kind of excited... not just to be a part of the whole electoral process, but because ak has the coolest stickers ANYWHERE! below are two examples - i've got 'em both on my jacket.

this is inupiak,

and this was yupik. very cool. but truly i should have just gotten the one below, because that was more in line with my absentee vote. (i couldn't find my favorite '04 alaskan election stickers, which looked like the alaskan ones above but just stated "i farted!" 

and finally for all you fans of governor...   awww, steph, are you really going to make us listen to you rant about the mcpain campaign and your bleeding heart, can barely shift any further to left, you're nearly a socialist political views? no. not today. for one moment, i'm going to let you have just this one pass to enjoy what you truly will be voting for....

that was your moment. from here on out it's all about kucinich '08!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

you know you're really in alaska when...

... this is your mode of public transportation to get back and forth from the clinic to airport.

... this is downtown savoonga, which is not to say that downtown looks any different from any other view.

... the big excitement of the day is catching a 25' minke whale.  

... enough said.
... you get your sushi (fresh whale meat) right on the beach. fortunately, this community didn't eat the muktuk (whale fat) - so, i didn't have to try that. 

i've been twice now to savoonga and have to say it is quite a unique experience.  really nice folks, but definitely as cross-cultural an experience as you'll find anywhere - u.s. or other. want to learn more about savoonga, kiddos? check out the wiki/savoonga link on the right side of the page.

welcome to nome, ak!

nome. where the iditarod ends. (i'll miss it by a month. darn it!)

 this is a hundred year old historic church. my apartment is the brown building in the back.

downtown nome. bars, bars, liquor stores, a couple of restaurants and gift shops. it kind of feels like a step back in time.

this is looking at nome from down the road. i can't wait to post the same photo once the ice comes in...

finally, an entry....

the town of nome is generally a quiet village, sled dogs howling from time to time, located right on the water. no foreign policy experts here, unless they've been out to the islands where you can see russia on a clear day. there are lots of bars, less churches and just a couple of restaurants. mostly dirt roads around modest houses. outside of town is tundra and some good size hills. i haven't had much of a chance to explore yet, though i'm still hoping to check out some of the other communities on the road system and go for a hike or two. i hear there is plenty to do, but mostly i've worked, studied or slept.

which leads me to claim, after one month, that i do believe this has been one of the most challenging and emotionally exhausting months of my entire life. on day 2, i was told to start pulling charts and seeing patients. well, heck this is a clinical rotation - of course it makes sense to start pulling charts right away. what they failed to mention is that i don't really have a preceptor to train, educate, supervise me or otherwise. i do get people to sign charts and answer questions, but education only comes to me if i am very assertive and prod people for advice. fortunately, everyone is very friendly and a couple of folks go out of their way to teach a bit. 
how it works... the students who rotate through here see all the walk-ins that come in the clinic - which is a bit like an urgent care center. (sore throats, fractures, abdominal pain, prenatal visits, pretty much a smattering of everything - which i kind of feel like i know slim to nothing about... and often, slim left town.) every fourth night, i pull an overnight shift working in the emergency room. again, the students are the front line. sadly, the vast majority of what i see at the late hours entails dealing with drunk people in various nefarious states of being. it is easy to see losing compassion when so much energy is spent on this issue at the expense of truly sick and injured people. arrggghh. 

after 3 weeks of this, poor sleep, and lots of anxiety, i took advantage last week of the opportunity to go out to savoonga two times to perform sports and employment physicals. i am also helping with community health aide training this week as another means to catch my breath. when i pulled an overnight shift sunday, i actually felt a bit less anxious. i start back at the clinic on thursday hoping that i'll be ready to go again.

well, so as to not bore folks, i'll cut this posting short. enjoy the photos. next entry... trips to savoonga. (for your continued education, feel free to peruse the nome, ak link listed under "tour locations links".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

thought for the day...

thought for the day...

Mahatma Ghandi
Things That Will Destroy Us
Politics without Principles
Pleasure without Conscience
Wealth without Work
Knowledge without Character
Business without Morality
Science without Humanity
Worship without Sacrifice