It’s been a busy month since my last post. I’ve studied for and taken the United States Medical Licensing Exams (USMLE) Step 2 CS and (on Friday) USMLE Step 2 CK, two parts of what most people know as “the boards”. I’ve attended and spoken at the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) and moved out of the apartment I lived in for the last 18 months. I’m also half way through my “Acting Internship”, a clerkship most medical schools call a Sub-Internship, where I basically function as an intern (a first year medical resident). I’m doing this rotation at a local community hospital and I’m really enjoying the atmosphere, personnel, and patients. The hours are long, but not as long as for many of my classmates doing acting internships in Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Ob-Gyn (mine is in Family Medicine, the specialty I am pursuing). Applications for residency programs go live in just over a week which finds me struggling to write (for the fourth time) a personal statement that embodies me.
Needless to say, things have been hectic , and the last month has been a touch overwhelming at times. I’m certainly looking forward to some downtime after I finally complete my remaining med school requirements (just 8 more weeks!), have my residency lined up, and am able to catch my breath.
I really shouldn’t complain. Even in the last, relatively crazy, 6 weeks I’ve still had some good times. The week of AHS in particular was one for the books.
I’ve written before about destinations and journeys. The destination for AHS was clear- Atlanta Georgia- but the journey I took to get there wasn’t what you might expect.
Many, many, months ago, when the location for AHS was first announced, I made a rather rash statement that Atlanta was almost close enough for a road trip. While I had no real intention of road tripping to Atlanta, my longtime Twitter friend @PrimalRush (henceforth known as James) said he was keen to tag along for the journey. At the time I thought an actual road trip was unlikely (it’s a good 13 hour drive and airfare isn’t that expensive), but as the time got closer I realized I would regret turning down the opportunity to create an excellent story (those that know me know all too well that I’m a fan of adventures and stories).
Since I took 4 weeks off from school to prepare for the boards and attend AHS, I was able to take some extra time travelling to AHS. About a week out, I vaguely mapped a path to Atlanta, made plans to pick up my Canadian travel buddy from the bus stop, and hoped for the best!
Three days before we planned to pull into ATL, James and I hit the road with camping gear, a cooler, and a tank of gas. After making a stop at one of my favorite butchers to fully stock our cooler, we made tracks to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We travelled the length of the park on Skyline Drive, stopping about midway to camp for the night.
Without going into detail, our time in Shenandoah involved meeting some mushroomers who confirmed my Chanterelle (and Chicken of the Woods) identification, cooking a truly excellent camp dinner (with Chanterelles), having a run-in with a slightly disgruntled ranger, hiking part of the Appalachian trail in the dark, pitching a tent in the dark, waking up and breaking down camp in the dark, and then scrambling to a 360o viewpoint to watch the sun rise. When we were finally able to tear ourselves away from our solitude and sunrise we hiked the couple miles back to the car and made tracks through the rest of the park and onto our next destination in Mortimer North Carolina.
Mortimer North Carolina holds a special place in my heart. One of my longtime friends has a family cabin in Mortimer, and I’ve twice travelled with her for an escape to the mountains and the beauty of Wilson’s Creek. Mortimer is also home of Betsey’s Ole Country Store an establishment owned by my friend Bruce. The address to Betsey’s is a little deceiving- let the record show that “Highway 90” is a gravel road where you need to pull over to let oncoming traffic pass.
Anything I say about Betsey’s or the owner/operator of the establishment, Bruce, would sound like a paid advertisement, so I’m not going to even start. What I will say is, if you want to visit a beautiful part of North Carolina- visit Mortimer. And if you visit Mortimer- visit Bruce. He’s got cabin rentals, inner tube rentals, and more knowledge of the area than you’ll find anywhere else. If you ever find yourself that way, tell him Victoria sent you… Seriously!
With Bruce’s back yard as our home base (he is a gracious host), we put in many miles of hiking, had numerous dips in local swimming holes, and managed to spot some of the Perseid meteors. It was hard to tear ourselves away in order to make it to Atlanta on schedule (we actually didn’t make it to Atlanta on schedule because we opted to take a morning hike before we hit the road).
It goes without saying that Atlanta was a big change of scenery in comparison to the preceding few days. I actually didn’t see much of the city, save for the inside of the Sheraton Conference center, a few of the fine dining establishments, and Boyd Eaton’s gorgeous house where the presenters dinner was held. Prior to the official start of AHS, a number of the Physicians and Ancestral Health docs got together for a brief meeting. It was great to catch up with these like-minded Docs, and I was reminded, again, how refreshing it is to spend time with people who share passions and interests.
AHS itself was fantastic, save for a few AV snafus. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the plenary talks: namely Nassim Taleb’s antifragile talk, Gad Saad’s talk on The Consuming Instinct, and Geoffrey Miller’s talk on Sexual Fitness (not talking about “reps for time”). I was a bit surprised by Mel Konner’s and Boyd Eaton’s talk on the history of modern “paleo” diets, where they repeatedly said that our modern diet is much higher in saturated fat and lower in polyunsaturated fat than historic diets… I find it hard to believe that any diet that contains modern vegetable oils has anything other than an excess of polyunsaturated fats.
There were many excellent talks over the course of the conference, and it was often hard to pick which talk to attend out of a very tempting schedule. I look forward to catching some of the ones I missed online when the videos are posted. On that note, my talk on Dietary Fats and Fatty Liver Disease, went well. When the video becomes available I’ll try and post it here!
As much as I enjoyed the various lectures, workshops, and posters, the highlight of AHS was catching up with friends and making new ones. There is quite a vibrant online community of those interested in evolutionary and ancestral health, and AHS can sometimes seem like the interwebz in 3D. As someone who would happily trade days of online interactions for even brief face-to-face encounters, AHS was a social occasion that refilled my tanks and renewed my enthusiasm.
Back in May, on the Wilderness Medicine elective in Utah, our instructors expressed that one of the goals of the elective was to “stock good memories” for the rough times that were to follow in residency (all but 2 of the 12 students would be starting internship in the next month). I still have quite a bit of time until I start residency (though the march towards June of 2014 soldiers on), and my goal between now and then is to bank as many good memories as I can.