15 December 2006

Medical News: IQ & vegetarianism

The British Medical Journal announced today its findings re: the relationship between IQ in childhood and vegetarianism in adulthood. Check it out!

13 December 2006

From Biddle & Little

I keep trying to get in her way, but all my mom does is study, study, study.... -Biddle

07 December 2006

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Guess what? I just cracked my first neck! :-)

In osteopathic manipulative medicine lab this morning, we began learning a method of treatment known as high-velocity low-amplitude (HVLA) therapy. It's the type of treatment you usually think of when you think of chiropractic treatment--you know, the one where the physician twists someone's neck really quickly and it looks like they're going to take the patients head off? Yep, that's the one. It's only one out of a ton of different types of treatments we learn (most of which are more like massage therapy or physical therapy), but it is, to the non-practitioner, the most high-profile/interesting treatment we use [see link above for a description of osteopathy, if you're curious to learn more].

It was pretty funny to watch a group of medical students walk into cadaver lab for the first time back in August, but telling them they have to crack each other's necks for the first time? That's truly hilarious. Everyone was nervous. We thought for sure that one of us was going to break someone's neck. In fact, the professor had us start with the neck first, because it's the scariest part--he says that once we learn this, none of the rest of it will intimidate us. It's pretty crazy, though, to see a room full of 80 students, all cracking necks for the first time.

Good news, though--I didn't kill my lab partner. Nor did I break his neck. In fact, with a satisfying pop, I fixed his neck dysfunction! Ah, the joys of medical school. It is, without a doubt, a place where there is never a dull moment. Anybody want to volunteer to be my next guinea pig? :-)

11 October 2006

Week 10

So, it's been two months since the first exam in Anatomy. I'm now in week 10 and it's the night before the last set of Anatomy lectures. We've now officially covered all 1100+ pages of Gray's Anatomy, plus an entire Histology book and an entire Embryology book. All in 10 weeks. Did I mention, too, that I've also learned how to crack...erm...I mean fix...a joint or two? They weren't kidding when they warned us that medical school is like trying to drink out of a fire hose when you're not thirsty. I think my hose may have had some gravel in it, too. At any rate, 6 days & counting now till the final exam. Then I'll be free of the dead & on to the living. ;-)

14 August 2006

Bring out the dead!

** Important author's note: I feel the need to add a disclaimer to this entry, to warn you, in all seriousness, that this post is not for the faint of heart. If you're troubled by the concept of death, squeamish about bodies, skip this post. Otherwise, read on. But don't say I didn't warn you! **
Monty Python wasn't kidding. I'm not dead yet, but I feel halfway there. I'm about to begin my third week of medical school (well, or 2nd, if you count from 0 like the professors do....) and I already feel like I've been hit by a truck. This is one wild experience (experiment?)....

Friday's exam was actually not the most difficult part of this process so far. Don't get me wrong--I don't feel like I performed too terribly well on the tests (<--being the dumb-@ss first year that I am, I managed to strain my back while trying to carry my books last weekend...as a result, I spent much of the week too gorked out on muscle relaxants to study effectively)--but it was still just a test. (<--Listen to me, "just a test." Have I been invaded by aliens? Highly likely.) What may or may not have been a test: after three full days of orientation lectures orientating us to everything, we were thrown, without warning, into a room with cadavers. Four cadavers, prosected (i.e. pre-dissected), lying on metal tables, oozing formaldehyde, missing skin.... To be perfectly blunt, it was gruesome. Don't misunderstand--I've seen dead bodies before, on more occasion than I'd care to recount. But those bodies were mortuary-embalmed, shrouded in the strangeness of theatrical makeup and staged position. They were bodies. These are cadavers.

There's something odd about walking into a room where four cadavers are strewn, almost haphazardly, onto metal dissecting tables. It's eerie (I'd say pun unintended, but perhaps I'm wrong?) to view these people in sheets of flesh. It's especially odd when you don't expect to walk in on them, lying there, naked. I swear, I almost apologized!

There is something to this, I think, however. I have this strange desire to apologize to these people as I probe their muscles and veins. I am fascinated by their bodies, honored to be able to study them, to touch them, to see up close what so few get to see. Yet I wonder--what kind of person sacrifices their body to science in this manner? Did they realize, when they signed up for this, that they would be literally dis-membered in front of us? Did they imagine themselves, devoid of skin, missing fingers, having arms dis-articulated so that we could learn the minute details of gross anatomy?

I look around me during lab session, the cadavers on the tables, the x-rays and CT scan images on the light boards, skeletons hanging from wheeled racks, and I see among these things all these young, eager students. They move around with ease, sticking their fingers into bodies, around bones, and teach each other. I feel sometimes like I am the only one momentarily frozen, momentarily un-moving, wondering: at what point do we all realize that we're merely dust? When do we come to an understanding that, in a matter of moments, we'll be cadavers, too? And what do we do with this awareness? How do we hold on to this knowledge without losing our minds?

I look down at the back of the little old woman, splayed open before me, lifeless. I can only hope that in this study, through this person's sacrifice, I'll find some semblance of an answer....

11 August 2006

The First Exam

Today is the 8th day of medical school...and the day of the first examination. Ouch. When they told us that this experience would be like drinking out of a fire hose, they weren't kidding. I'm drowning in knowledge.

At present, I'm sitting out on the second floor hallway, outside the lecture hall, waiting for my classmates to finish taking the written portion of the examination. Next, I get to go back in there and try my hand at a "practical" examination--meaning I have to make sense out of nonsense and be able to distinguish stuff on slides. My confidence in this skill is definitely waning....

Ironically, though, I'm not as nervous as I usually am before/during exams. I'm too exhausted to get riled up and everyone around me is so hyper-concerned that it's already getting old.
I got called into part II of the exam before I could finish this post. More on the mayhem in a moment!

10 August 2006


Ah, histology...it's a bear, but videos like this (however rudimentary!) definitely help facilitate the learning process.

31 July 2006

The First Day

Despite all odds, I actually made it to and through the first day of medical school.

It almost didn't happen. Murphy chased me all the way to Bradenton, where I nearly lost my seat in the class over the fact that I had an allergic reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine and therefore can't get another to ensure immunity. Four plus visits to various specialists, several needle sticks, and a whole heap of bruises later, I finally received word last week that I'd be approved for clinical rotations as long as I get tested for hepatitis every year. [<--it's actually kind of ridiculous, as they don't test us for *all* infectious diseases, and they do test us for some for which there are no vaccinations...so to think that I could've been kept out of school by one random test...well, let's just say it's been an interesting few weeks leading up to today....] At any rate, I made it. And even Murphy couldn't keep me from getting to school on time this morning, where, if we weren't in our seats by 8:15am, we'd lose our spot in the class. No joke. Which brings me to the main point of the day: the school now owns my ass. Seriously. I mean, I've been through grad school, I know that my life has to revolve around medical school, but this medical school takes all that to a whole new level. For the next few years, my every move will be videotaped and recorded by the school. I have to swipe my badge to get in the building and swipe it to get out, even though the area surrounding the school consists of a public high school full of yuppie kids on one side and a field of cows on the other. [Those damn cows, they just steal so many textbooks!] If I'm going to be late or--god forbid--absent, I have to call the dean's secretary. Even if it's just going to be by a few minutes. Literally, one of the deans told us today that, "if you get an email from my office saying that you need to be here at 10am, you'll be in my office at 10am. Don't even bother to ask why--just be there. No matter what." Needless to say, this dean was in the military before he became a medical school dean. He's also an orthopedic surgeon. Why am I not surprised? At least two of the deans are like this. One told us, point blank, that if we had a problem with one of our classes that we'd better not even dare go over his head to the other dean. Ouch. Add that to the fact that we have a dress code and we can't eat or drink (not even WATER) anywhere in the building other than the cafeteria, and, well, I'm in the army now, aren't I? I half expected to be issued a rifle. Of course, that started early in the day, right after they made us say the pledge of allegiance and then watch a really horrible, terrible very bad video of someone singing God Bless America. <--it should've been, God Help Us, as I was (thanks to my last name) assigned to a seat in the second row. It took all my willpower not to roll on the floor laughing, especially when--and I swear I am not making this up!--in the midst of all these scenes of America, they threw in a picture of the school. As if it's on par with the National Monument or Abraham Lincoln. Key words: AS IF. Okay, so perhaps I'm already turning into a cynical medical student. More likely, however, I was trying to distract myself from the waves of anxiety that kept hitting me. The best part was when we had to fill out this form that asks you to bubble in how much $ in loans you'll amass over the next 4 years. Now, we'd seen the numbers parsed down by year, more often semester--but no one ever mentioned the total. I do the math. Then I do it again. $240,000. Should I run screaming from the building now?!?!? I certainly *felt* like I should! The biggest challenge will not be the money issues, though. Surprised? You won't be when I tell you that I will take more credit hours over the next school year than I did as an undergraduate. The next ten weeks? Those are reserved for anatomy. Ten weeks...to learn anatomy? All of it? And that includes embryology. Wow. What in the world have I gotten myself into? Oh, yeah--medical school. ;-)

22 May 2006

Steps Two, Three, & Four: Roommates, Summer Reading, & Resignations

It occurs to me, as I begin this post, that the idea of numbering these "steps" toward medical school is acutely ludicrous. Not only are there a plethora of steps, tasks, chores--whatever you want to call them--the idea that they happen in isolation, like climbing stairs one at a time, is a false assumption. As with most life processes, everything about this change is happening all at once. Does it go without saying, then, that I'm overwhelmed?

This weekend, in addition to fighting the effects of my own physician's last-ditch effort to control my endocrine disorder (I say last-ditch because I refuse to undergo these types of physiological experiments while in school...I tried it once before...it wasn't pretty...I won't do it again...), I find myself drowning in checklists as I attempt some of the most difficult chores: finding a roommate, beginning my summer reading, and resigning from my job.

The roommate task is first on the agenda purely out of need: I need to have a roommate if I want to afford food while I'm in medical school. Simple enough, right? Oh, but no.... Placing the "ad" on the class website and in the class roommate circular was easy enough, as describing the space and its parameters proves relatively straightforward. What is not straightforward: the conflagration of emotions I feel when considering what qualities I seek in a roommate.

To date, I've been blessed. After a rough initial 10 weeks at my post-bacc program (d@mn frat boys!), I got to move into a house with one of my dearest friends. We got along splendidly (a surprise, to me, because I always carry this sense that I'm impossible to live with) and it was one of the first times where I truly enjoyed sharing my space with another person. I feel spoiled by the experience, actually, since now I will, no doubt, judge every roommate encounter against the perfection of that one.... When my roommate decided not to return for spring term, I recall panicking. I rented a room in another home, but had no choice over who the other roommates would be. Fortunately, I ended up in a house with two of the wackiest women I've ever met. We shared a huge space, so we all had ample privacy, and we all had such unique schedules (we were all in different programs) and personalities that we never felt burdened by one another. The third time I had a "roommate," the context was completely different. In this instance, I lived with my (former) boyfriend. We got along well, although I did tip-toe a lot because the place we were living was, in spite of his arguments to the contrary, *his* house, not mine. Except for my caution, I was struck at how comfortable I felt living with him and sharing space. Again, for some odd reason, I always feel like I'd make a terrible roommate....

So...in considering all of this, it occurred to me that I'm now in the position of having to choose a potential roommate. We'll be in the same academic program, so the notion of having separate schedules with which to buffer our privacy is a non-option. Then there are my expectations: how do I condition myself to consider compatibility with more importance than potential friendship? And how will I feel about sharing my first home, in which I know I will take so much pride of ownership? How does one, in any circumstance, go about choosing a stranger with whom to live? What will I do when Biddle, my cat, invariably breaks in on this poor soul while s/he is in the bathroom? I'm plagued by these questions....

And when I'm not pondering these particular questions, I'm gnawing on the first few precious pages of summer reading. I don't have all the books in yet (I was able to buy some at discount from a current student, but he hasn't had a chance to ship them yet), so I had to start with pathology. As if I know anything about pathology! It is so strange to open up a medical textbook and start reading. Why? I guess because for me, for such a long time, it's felt like unattainable knowledge--stuff to which, by intellect or status, I simply was not privy. So I find, as I begin reading, that I feel like a voyeur. Here I go again.... ;-)

To add to all the drama, I had to announce my resignation at work this week. It happened unexpectedly--I'd hoped to wait at least until I'd closed on the condo--but they requested our summer availability, so I realized that the "right" thing to do would be to go ahead and let them know that I won't be around after the first week of July or so. As it turned out, there are about 5 of us that are quitting at the same time. The bosses, consequently, are scurrying around, trying to hire more people. In the meantime, sales have (finally?) slowed to the extent that we have time, during our shifts, to be bored. Boredom is not a good state for me, especially when I'm taking medication that affects my hormones. Several times this week, I caught myself ruminating on my imminent departure, wondering how I was going to say goodbye to these people (I HATE goodbyes) and trying not to feel guilty for absconding my responsibilities there. This last point is particularly ironic--a trained monkey could probably do this job better than I can...it doesn't exactly take a whole lot of skill to work a cash register (patience, perhaps, but not skill)....so the fact that I feel guilty...well, it's amusing....

At any rate...this has been my experience over the past few days: an odd whirlwind of hormones, emotions, and tasks. Since Biddle has now planted herself between the keyboard and my computer screen, I guess it's time for me to end my midnight musings for now....

19 May 2006

A bird's eye view of the new home...

So here we have a bird's eye view of the new home, albeit still occupied by the current owner. I can't wait to spruce it up with some fresh paint & (of course!) elfa! :-)

 Posted by Picasa

18 May 2006

Step One: Finding a Home.

Once the reality of actually signing up to join the class of 2010 in medical school finally set in, I realized that there were going to be several steps I'd have to take in order to make it to the first day of classes. Some of the steps--like ordering books, filling out copious paperwork, & being blood-let to prove immunity to disease--have been both tedious and humorous. None, however, have proven quite as intricate and intense as finding my first home....

It's been about three years since I last lived outside of my parents' home and six since I lived in a space that was fully my own. Because of a combination of illness and logistics, most of my belongings have been packed away in boxes or crammed into my childhood bedroom during this time. Needless to say, the living situation has been far from ideal! So when I finally chose where I wanted to attend medical school, I became quite excited by the notion that I'd actually get to live on my own again. Because of budget constraints, I didn't expect to have much choice about where I'd live. But then my father, who has spent 30+ years as a commercial real estate appraiser, decided that it would be a complete waste for me to spend four years renting an apartment when buying a home would likely allow me to recoop the investment of funds once I'm finished with school. Thanks to his generous (and I do mean *generous*) support, I am now in the final stages of buying my first home. (<--it's yet another situation in which I find myself pinching myself, the whole proposition seems that surreal!)

And yet, I did all the research, travelled around for days in the hot Florida sun looking at more units than I care to remember, placed bids on condos and lost them when the sellers refused to acknowledge that we're finally back in a buyer's market, and so on. I honestly had no idea how complicated the whole process is--even getting floorplans on some of these units (most of which have been built just in the last 5 years!) proved difficult.

That said, I finally was able to negotiate a viable contract on a unit less than two miles from school. It's a condo (so, yes, I have to share walls...and I know some of you regard wall-sharing units with disdain...but when I learned that this meant the condo association is responsible from repairs to everything that is outside the sheetrock out--i.e. roof, windows, siding, plumbing, exterior a/c, etc.--it became clear to me that this sense of security at having "maintenance-free" living is a small price to pay for having to share a soundproof wall....) located in a small subdivision of a rather large new PUD. It's very quiet--most of the people living in the community are either professionals (e.g. physicians, firefighters, police, etc.) or retirees--and the unit I'm buying overlooks a nature preserve.

Oddly enough, most of the units I considered first were only about 900 sq ft. I honestly didn't think I could afford anything bigger, even though at that small size, I knew it would be difficult to have a roommate. Luckily, though, I happened to find a 1461 sq ft unit in the same complex--and I'm going to be able to buy it for less than first two units I'd bid on, which were 500 sq ft smaller (go figure!). It's still going to be a financial strain (then again, what *isn't* a financial strain when living on a med school budget geared for 10 months but that has to cover 12?!?!?) to carry all the costs (mortgage isn't so bad, but the downside to living in a condo association is that because they cover things like lawn care, maintenance, cable, water/sewer, & hurricane shutters, is that the monthly fees add up pretty fast), but in the long run, I have no doubt that I'll at least recoop--if not gain a profit--from the purchase when I re-sell in four years.

So...I'm actually buying my first home. It's stunning, truly. But enough of my babble, you must see the pictures! (Keep in mind, however, that these pictures are populated by the current owner's stuff, which is totally not my taste...) Check out the next entry for a full view. :-)

6222 Rosefinch Ct -- In Progress
Jun 18, 2006 - 5 Photos

A new chapter.

The poet Adrienne Rich once wrote "We will not live/to settle for less We have dreamed of this/all of our lives." The quotation sums up my journey unto this point--indeed, it has been the driving force on many a night when I have had thoughts of quitting this whole crazy process of following my dreams to become a physician.

It took about 19 rejections from medical schools before I finally got a "yes" in answer to my application for admission. Needless to say, the road to get to this point has been bumpy at best. But now I'm here, pinching myself, trying to grok that this is really happening--that I am, at long last, going to begin medical school in just a few short months.

I am not naive--I know that this process will only become more difficult over time--but I begin having learned an important lesson. As Helen Keller put it, "although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." It is in this spirit that I begin this new chapter in my life...one that I hope to record here as it unfolds.

a little disclaimer...

i'm a medical student. just a student. so please, don't take anything i say too seriously. remember that i was an english literature major as an undergrad, so there is much fiction to be found in these pages. do you think i'm telling a story about you or your illness? more likely, you're tapping into my sense of "everyman"--that is, your story resonates with what i write here because it's not so uncommon after all. need help? please, please go see your physician. <--i'm not her. yet. ;-)