I was happy and relieved to learn that I passed my Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) earlier this month. I’ve been a certified PA since 1995, and every six years I’m required to take a 4.5 hour exam covering all of medicine. It doesn’t matter if I practice cosmetic dermatology or forensic pathology, as a PA I have to test on the comprehensive entirety of medicine.
More to the point (you may be thinking), is that I haven’t been practicing medicine at all for the last six years. And I’ve noticed, as a result, that I have the attention span of a fruit fly. Not a goldfish—did you know the myth of their three second memory has been scientifically debunked? The most recent research puts the goldfish at nine seconds, which is actually longer than the human’s attention span since the mobile revolution. (Eight seconds. Google it. On your smartphone.)
The most common response I received when I told people I was studying for my boards was a whimsically confused and nonjudgmental: “why bother?” Comments came in along the lines of: Are you planning on practicing any time soon? Won’t that be hard to squeeze in between your morning flow and midday sculpt? Do you know if I left my mat here yesterday?
Studying certainly took a lot of effort, especially considering it was for something that wasn’t going to directly affect my daily life. But I had two reasons for spending eight weeks buried in books and answering 1,578 prep questions.
Before owning a yoga studio, medicine was my life. I spent years in hospitals—in the OR, ED, and ICU. I read journal articles for fun, I attended amazing conferences, and I wore cool dog scrubs.
One of my favorite Christmas memories was being on call at Denver Health Pediatrics. Santa delivered gifts and my Christmas morning rounds were much more enjoyable seeing kids happy that they weren’t forgotten. For one morning, the floor was filled with innocence and joy instead of pain and sickness. It felt magical. Even though it was a while ago, I’m still not ready to close that chapter of my life.
The second reason for digging in and studying was that I really enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of reviewing things I hadn’t thought about for several years. Ruptured pancreatic pseudocyst? Endoscopic retrograde basket extraction? I’m listening! With this kind of content, mindlessly opting out and scrolling through Instagram didn’t stand a chance.
In the last few years, I’ve challenged myself physically with yoga through poses, technique, philosophy, workshops, trainings, and seasonal challenges. I’ve tried some new Steamboaty sports and acquired new athletic aspirations. I’ve worked on my spiritual growth with meditation and incisive attention to my own personal beliefs. I’ve endured emotional challenges associated with raising two teenagers and running a business in a remote ski town. But I hadn’t challenged myself intellectually, and I can’t tell you how surprised I was to enjoy it!
Living in such a beautiful area with abundant alpine activities, it’s easy to focus on our physical bodies and commit to exploring all the different ways to create strength and develop new skills or hobbies related to the outdoors. But don’t forget the power of stimulating your brain.
Learn to speak Turkish or play the oboe. Study astrobiology or auctioneering. Assemble an 18,000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel. Tackle your teen’s trigonometry homework. Okay, maybe start with a scatterplot, but challenge your brain in 2020!
In light and love,