Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Don't Eat Organ Meat

Today several of us walked over to the hospital cafeteria to buy lunch, because we get a 10% discount with our med student ID cards. The med school and several hospitals are connected via skywalks, tunnels, and hallways. So it took us about 15 minutes to get to the cafeteria utilizing 2 stairwells and several halls.

We get to the cafeteria and are checking out the food and the lines, debating what to get. And the following conversation occurred:

Me: Oh, grilled beef liver. Interesting.
Aiden: I don't eat organ meat.
Me: o_O? Umm, all meat is organ meat.
Some doctor in line: *stifles a laugh*
Aiden: Shut up! You know what I mean.
Me: But all meat is organ meat. Muscle is an organ!
Some doctor in line: *laughs while looking away*
Me: Seriously! You're eating organ meat anyway if you eat meat at all.
Some doctor in line: *continues laughing*
Aiden (to me): You're an ass.

I thought it was pretty amusing. :-)
Apparently my anatomy lab group is "infamous" in the other lab. The anatomy labs are divided into two huge rooms by an "inner lab" between them. Today people from the other lab came by because they heard our group was able to nicely dissect out the chorda tympani, lingual nerve, and inferior alveolar nerve on the right jaw. We dissected out so many things today (well, people in my group, not me - I didn't cut the body at all today, just poked around in it), I feel so accomplished. Too bad that gave me motivation not to study after I came home after classes.

Anyway, I <3 my anatomy lab group.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bar Crawl

To prove that I'm not always locked in my apartment studying (actually, I think I don't study nearly enough), I went to the annual med student bar crawl. :-) It's for the M1s and M2s to mix and chat.

My roommate paid to go but he lamely backed out and decided to go home for the weekend (he lives about an hour south of the med school). Apparently he doesn't like bars much and large groups of people tire him out. I think he's just being lazy and antisocial. -_-

Alright, before I go any further, I realize after typing up most of this post that it's going to get really confusing unless I create names for people I'm going to talk about. So . . . the cast of characters for this post are (all names are changed):

Aiden: white guy
Alex: Asian guy
Carson: married guy
Leslie: anatomy lab-mate
Michelle: MD/PhD gal

Anyway I met up with Carson and Alex in front of the med school (Aiden and Michelle soon joined us) and we all walked to the first house. We get there and go around back to the backyard. It was pretty dark so I could only make out people's silhouettes for the most part. Same thing goes for my rum and coke - no idea how strong I actually made it (it tasted strong). Note: it's been months since I've had any hard liquor, and quite some time since I last really drank anything alcoholic - so I could feel the effects pretty quickly, but I'm not a light-weight. I can stay in that "pre-tipsy" and "tipsy" stage for quite a while before getting drunk. We all stood around chatting and drinking a bit, wandered around and talked to some M2s. I make some vodka and Sprite drink (again in the dark, and it tasted stronger than I'd like). Then suddenly a cop shows up telling everyone that someone called concerning the noise we were making. o_O The M2s who organized the bar crawl had talked to all the neighbors in the immediate vicinity and they were all cool with it; however, the M2s didn't anticipate people 2 blocks down from hearing the noise we were making.

So to avoid a noise violation and ticketing, the party broke up in half and half of us went to the second house a bit early. We hung around out back and inside the house. I found Leslie there - she had arrived late and just gone directly to the second house. It was nice seeing her. We stood around and chatted some more, lol. Then we chatted up some of the Asian M2s (or rather they sought us out and chatted us up). One of them talked briefly about her Little Sib (the M2s are the Big Sibs to the M1s) and how she was such a gunner. This Little Sib wants to be a plastic surgeon, so yeah, she's a gunner. They're so funny. :-)

After this we went to the first bar (otherwise it's not a bar crawl). Michelle decided to stay behind at the house for a bit longer. There were already quite a number of other med students by the time we got there. Thankfully we found a place to sit. Carson mentioned something like 2/3 of our class is married (he studies with 3 other daddies). I hope that's an exaggeration but even if it's remotely that high, it still makes me sad. He had to leave around 11pm, which was unfortunate - but his wife was sick and she had work at like 7am this morning.

Soon after he left, we made our way (slowly) to the second bar. I found Leslie again, who we had lost on our way to the first bar. Some M2 guy was flirting with her for a little bit big time. When he was engaged in convo with someone else, we chatted a bit. Apparently she joined the LGBTPM student group as well and, like me, had to miss the first meeting. So here we were, sitting at a bar crawl, wondering what the next event for that group is and when it's going to be. Leslie joined Aiden, Alex, and I on our way to the second bar. Leslie and I had our arms locked (I think she might've been a tad tipsy, and high heels don't help) and we were somewhat flirting and commenting how much we love our anatomy lab group - how everyone gets along so well, how we all enjoy going into lab with each other, how we're all so laid back yet driven to get the work done, etc. Too bad she has a boyfriend.

We get to the second (and last) bar and it's packed. For whatever reason people decided to skip one of the bars. Being a small small town just outside a major city, there weren't a lot of bars to hang out at within walking distance. We quickly lose Leslie as she veered off in some random direction. Then Aiden and I lost Alex in the dense crowd, haha. Michelle was supposed to meet up with us again at the first bar. However, she ended up nursing this poor Asian guy for two hours who drank 15 shots of vodka or something within an hour and was vomiting all over the backyard of the second house. So . . . I never saw her again that night.

I wandered and wove my way through people, looking for a drink. And I found Leslie again with the M2 from the first bar who was flirting with her. He got her a drink (which she then handed to me). She went outside to take a call and I met back up with Aiden. We were standing next to . . . I'll call her Kat, a Filipina girl who's one of Aiden's anatomy lab-mates. She was being hit on by like, 3 guys because she really dressed up for the event. We chatted a bit and I met some new people in the process (my med school class is so big that there are still people in my class who I've never seen before). Someone bought a pizza and offered me a slice. :-)

Then Alex wandered back to us, somehow. He went outside briefly and met Michelle, who relayed to him the story of why she wasn't able to meet up with us. Outside I met Leslie again, who just got off her phone. She went inside, disappeared into the crowd, and came back with her friend and this fruity drink that I don't even know what it's called. After a while Alex and I decided to head back, so we said good night to Aiden and left the bar at like 1:30am.

Alex hadn't drank anything for about 2 hours, so he was more or less sober by the time we got to my apartment. I had offered to let him crash at my place if he wasn't up for driving, but he insisted that he was fine now. I was still a bit tipsy and would remain so until I went to bed. Alex was starving, so I quickly fixed him up a chicken fajita-like wrap as he played on the PS3 a bit. When he finished, I asked him again if he was sure he was sober enough to drive and he said he was. So with that he left.

So that was my night. I didn't end up going to bed until about 2:30am but I slept so well (as I usually do after drinking some alcohol). It was a lot of fun. I kind of wished I branched out even more and met more people other than the clusters of people I already kind of knew, but whatever. The M2 guy who principally organized the whole event was pretty cute I decided after a few drinks, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him through the throngs of med students. Oh well.

And now I must study because I'm so so so behind. >.<

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Curse and the Stuff of Nightmares

So I'm cursed, and the curse continues. It seems that every person I find attractive - without fail - is either in a long-term relationship or is married. I never noticed how many guys (and girls) in my class are married before now. It's like, Hey you're attractive and nice. *Looks to ring finger, finds a ring, damn*

Sigh. Why do I even bother?
Anyway, last Wednesday we scooped out the brain of our cadaver. It was kind of tough because after cutting around the calvaria (skullcap), our brain was kind of stuck to the skull. We had to really pry it off. No one else's brains were stuck to their skulls. -_- An M4 helped us do the remaining scooping out, but he did a kind of shoddy job cutting the membrane that separate the cerebellum and cerebrum, so our brain kind of broke into two pieces. The brain is surprisingly heavy and squishy, but I expected this. So now our guy is missing the top half of his skull and his brain. Oh, and the brain's in a bucket next to our cadaver.

On Friday we dissected the eyes. That was actually really cool because the structures around the eyes are so easy to see (small as they are). Unfortunately, our cadaver had fat eyes. There was a lot of fat cushioning behind his eyes, so we just kept picking pieces of fat out from behind his eyes. Gross. We (and by "we" I mean the other guy in my group) dissected one of the eyes from the front so now it looks like it's popping out of the socket. And he bisected the eye so we could look inside.

Yesterday the professors and the M4s helping out in the lab bisected all the cadaver's heads. So now, not only are the cadavers without skullcaps, without brains, have their eyes dissected out, but their faces are also split in half all the way down to the mandible (lower jaw). It's pretty freaky. It's also freaky that the scalp is just hanging to the side, so sometimes we put it over the face and it just covers the entire face.

I'm still glad to have our guy though. The cadaver next to us is a creepy old lady. She had dentures, so she had this creepy-ass smile in death. They removed her dentures and put it on her chest. But still creepy - seriously, she could be in a horror movie. This is the stuff nightmares are made of . . . Good thing we all have a healthy sense of humor, especially with bone dust and cadaver bits going everywhere.

Oh, we also saw preserved deformed babies, it was sooo sad. By deformed I mean babies born without a brain (anencephaly), with their spinal cords open (spina bifida), with a huge head (hydrocephalus). For this reason I don't want to be an ob/gyn (there are other reasons too) or a neonatalogist.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tagged: Interactive Game

So I was tagged by Tyler of Thoughts of a Gay Boy in Highschool to participate in his "interactive" game.

The rules: Answer a series of questions and find a picture to represent each question, then create a picture mosaic on this site. Make the mosaic 4 columns by 3 rows. The questions are:

1. Where are you from? (You can choose to answer with your country, state/province, or city.)
2. What's your favorite food?
3. What's your favorite drink?
4. What's your ideal/favorite (future) job/career?
5. What's your favorite thing about yourself?
6. What's the place you most want to visit?
7. What's your favorite body feature on someone else?
8. What's your favorite movie?
9. What's your favorite TV show?
10. Choose one word that best describes you.
11. What time period would you most like to have lived in (in the past)?
12. What's the next thing you're (probably . . .) going to purchase?

My answers are:

1. Midwest USA (it's boring here).
2. Peking duck (I love food, but this one is god-like).
3. Guava juice (the texture of it is so good!).
4. Doctor (likely pediatrics). I'm on my way!
5. My eyebrows.
6. France. There are so many places on my list, so I just chose a random one.
7. Torso.
8. Gladiator. Again, there are many so I just chose one.
9. House MD.
10. Dependable.
11. Ming Dynasty China.
12. Pizza (though I've bought already said pizza by the time I posted this).

Now I tag:

Blogger of Hellogenation
Charlie of Charlie's blog
Courage of A Beautiful Addiction
Dave83201 of Daze Gone Bi
Fer of The maudlin story of a bisexual boy
J of be kind cali
James of Just me
Jeremy of Falling Through the Void
Mike of Random Thoughts in my Life
S of Enjoy the Journey
Shane of I just want to be me

If you're tagged, please participate! But if you don't want to participate, that's understandable, no pressure. If you want to tag people when you're done that's cool, if not, that's cool too. If you're not tagged here and still want to participate, by all means please do!! :D

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The (Student) Doctors are In

So this morning I was scheduled to volunteer at a free clinic for the uninsured. It was a great experience, to say the least. I'm going to bullet-point some things before I really get into it all:

1. Electronic medical records (EMRs) rock!
2. Charting sucks and is a huge (but oh so vital) time sink.
3. You forget a ton of things you really shouldn't during a patient interview.
4. The M2s barely know more than M1s at this stage in the game.
5. M3s and M4s somehow gain the ability to do physical exams lightning-quick.
6. Med students have better handwriting than doctors.
7. Patients are very very patient. Very.

Alright, now to flesh things out a bit more. I woke up before 7am (ick) so I could get to the free clinic by 7:30am. We see the first patient at 8am but patients have been waiting there since like, before 6am. o_O All the patients are currently uninsured, many just recently uninsured. The managers (current M2s) gave us a quick and dirty run-down on how things work, leaving us M1s scratching our heads and going "Wtf, how do we do this?!" It's all good - every M1 was paired with an M2. The M3s and M4s came in later with the volunteering doctors.

So the EMR rocks because it's such a nicer way to organize things. And it's really cool to be able to pull up a patient's old files quickly. On paper things get to be really messy, as I write all over the place in the margins in such a way that only I know the order of the things I wrote. But charting sucked up a ridiculous amount of our time (mainly because I don't know how to chart and was basically allowed myself to be dictated by the M2 who took the patient history with me).

During the patient interview, despite currently taking an interviewing course and have already interviewed a standardized patient, there was just so much that we could/should hit with each patient that I just kept forgetting things to ask here and there. Thankfully the M2 who was with me asked follow-up questions to mine to get a clearer picture of the patient's health. With my second patient, I kept forgetting to ask age-relevant questions about colon cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes. Things that I should have known to ask from having taken so much cancer genetics. *Sigh* It's all good, the doctors and the M3 kept complimenting us on our collection of the patient history considering it was my first time. ^_^

We were required to have our stethoscopes with us, though we M1s haven't learned how to use them yet. They were more decorations around our necks. However, my M2 showed me how to listen for heart rhythms and lung sounds, as he just learned how. For my 2nd patient (I only had 2 patients in the whole 4-5 hours I was there) the M3 did a lightning quick physical exam. He looked like he was just poking and massaging the patient super-fast; it was pretty cool actually. The M3 was also really on top of his game, asking all sorts of questions and knowing all sorts of knowledge. I suspect our knowledge expands nigh-exponentially towards the end of our M2 year. The M3 was also burping out shorthands left and right, and I didn't even know half of the stuff he dictated to me.

I'm pretty convinced that med students have better handwriting than doctors. I wrote a prescription script for my 1st patient (w00t!), of course the doctor had to sign off on it. I made sure my script was legible. I suspect doctors get their bad handwriting not from med school, but in residency. Charting really does take a long time (still haven't figured out how doctors see so many patients a day; 15-minute time slots are NOT enough). I'm thus not surprised handwriting deteriorates to chicken scratch.

The patients we saw were very very patient. Triple emphasis on patient. My first patient had been waiting about 1.5 hours before being seen by me (and the M2). And by the time we were done with him, about 2-3 hours had gone by. The doctor who I presented to was so excited with this patient and used him as a "teachable moment." It was really neat, and I think the patient had a sense of humor not to be irritated after waiting so long. Also, our 1st patient was 66-years-old and should be eligible for Medicare (which would mean there was no reason why he should be seeing us). But he kept getting denied for some reason (stupid little reasons, silly government, ugh). The doctor wasn't happy about that, and ordered us to find the patient Medicare info and to help him get coverage. o_O

So yeah, that was my morning. My first real foray into clinical medicine. Saw 2 patients, wrote a prescription, did a ton of charting, dressed a huge sebaceous cyst (not doing dermatology I think), and learned more than a few things.

Hey everyone, Courage from A Beautiful Addiction is back to blogging! Head over to his blog and welcome him back!! :D

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mask of Genetics

Genetics is a mysterious and complex realm, a field that frustrates and scares many. I've never explicitly explained why genetics is a field that fascinates me and motivates me. If you told me 4-5 years ago that I'd be so interested in genetics now I might've laughed at you. If you told me that I'd be wearing my Mask of Genetics now I might scoff at the thought. Why then is it such a focus of mine? Truth be told, I kind of "fell" into this field of interest and here's how it began.

I did a lot of research in undergrad. I first worked in a pharmacology lab that focused on the Ras oncogene (genes that are over-expressed in cancer) pathway - in particular its role in neurofibromatosis and breast cancer. Then I worked in a human genetics lab on genetic deafness. With some genetics research under my belt, I had a decent grounding before I even took the intro to genetics course. I continued in my one-year foray into grad school by working in a colorectal genetic epidemiology lab.

Also in undergrad, genetics was emphasized in many of my biology courses. It was taught as being the "thread" that united and wove through all of biology, and all of life. Through genetics we can better understand evolution, development, and disease. It helps to connect things such that things that wouldn't otherwise make sense starts to make sense. It's not perfect (is anything?) but it gets the point across pretty well.

Evolution Class
Mask of Biology I
Mask of Biology II

I then began to pursue my interest in genetics further, in grad school. I took several courses with genetics as the focus - how genetics was utilized in public health, how the public views genetics, how physicians view genetics, how med school education shies away from genetics and how this can be improved, etc. My friend, AG-F, is a genetic counseling student. So having her perspective had a huge impact on me.

At this time, with the more I learned about genetic diseases and cancer genetics, it began to become a bit more "real." I had a friend whose cousin had/has colorectal cancer in his early 20s. And towards the end of the semester my friend, RZ-F, calls me to tell me someone who used to live in her hall sophomore year died of colorectal cancer. At age 22. I had vaguely known him. Something like this was obviously genetic in nature. In fact, with my (public heath) knowledge I could diagnose that without even having to think. How could it have been missed? How could his doctor(s) not notice? Did they not take an accurate and detail family history? Was he adopted? So many questions, so many frustrations that I could know "so much" and be able to do absolutely nothing.

Apparently genetics is something most physicians avoid or forget easily (or never learned it well in the first place). As such, genetic conditions are often missed or misdiagnosed. I had endeavored then, as I had all semester long, to continue to teach my undergrad students about genetics with a health "twist" so that even if they never take a genetics course again, it lingers in the back of their mind. The least I could do (at that point) was educate the generation or two of potential physicians and researchers after me about the emerging importance of genetics in health and medicine.

Just Gotta Press On
Too Epic
Mask of Teaching

Perhaps above all, genetics holds this kind of awe and mysticism for me. It's difficult to explain, but there's something to be said for genetics to be a literal and metaphorical link between all people and all organisms. That we share over 99% of our DNA with the person next to us, that we share the same building blocks as the food we eat, as the diseases that make us sick, as the grass and the trees and the animals. And DNA operates without consciousness, it just continues to work almost flawlessly every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

Life is for the Living
Masks of Sexuality I
The "Gay Gene" Part I
The "Gay Gene" Part II
The "Gay Gene" Part III

Hopefully after this one would have a clearer view of my Mask of Genetics. If not, read the links in this post to all my past posts with a heavy genetics emphasis to them (and likely there are a couple I missed). It's clear that genetics permeates many posts in my blog and blends into several of my other Masks. I suppose in a sense it's also the "thread" that binds parts of my blog and some of my Masks together with me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Improving Medical Genetics

Alright, time for Point 2 on my Blurbs: My issue with the genetics course and my recommendations to the faculty.

So this course was to introduce us to medical genetics. I was on the M1 liaison committee for this course and it was honestly somewhat frustrating hearing the excuses made by the faculty (valid excuses though they were). Most of their arguments boiled down to "We didn't have enough time. We had to cut something and we decided to cut that." -_- In its current iteration, this course doesn't really help us as future clinicians recognize and diagnose genetic illnesses, nor really help us track them through family history. Some diseases and important points were highlighted, but certainly not enough to be useful. Apparently there's a lot of "turf war" going on between classes and allotting time. Ugh, inter-department politics (not to mention inner-department politics). Fact is, there are things they could've done to improve the quality of this course given it's very short class-time.

My recommendations on the eval were as follows:

- Simplify and combine the lectures on transcription and translation into a single lecture.
- Simplify the cyclin/CDK material and combine the lectures on mitosis and meiosis into a single lecture.
- Have a lecture on Mendelian genetics and non-Mendelian genetics.
- Have a lecture on epigenetics.
- Have a lecture on creating pedigrees and emphasize their importance in medicine (or make this a short online tutorial).
- Have a lecture on genetic counseling: who are genetic counselors, what they do, when to refer, etc (or make this a short online tutorial).
- Have a lecture on the ethics of genetics and genetics research (or make this a short online tutorial).
- Have 1-2 lectures on cancer genetics. The first can focus on the genetics of cancer (e.g. Knudson's two-hit hypothesis, transformation from normal cells to hyperplasia to malignancy, a little bit of pathology), and the second lecture can focus on specific genetic cancers (e.g. BRCA1/2 and breast cancer, APC and familial adenomatous polyposis, p53 and Li-Fraumeni).
- Reorganize the lecture on Huntington's corea, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis to highly other genetic diseases (specifically Huntington's corea, Prader-Willi, Angelman's, and sickle-cell anemia). DMD and cystic fibrosis have been repeatedly covered again and again in other lectures.
- Simplify the development section of this course. Combine weeks 1 and 2 into a single lecture, and weeks 3 and 4 into a single lecture.
- Enforce greater communication between faculty lecturers so that the same topic isn't lectured on over and over again (i.e. telomerase, DMD, and cystic fibrosis).

If they even did 1/3 of the recommendations above I believe this course would've been greatly improved next year. But it's not like it matters much in the long run, as in 2-3 years there's going to be a massive shift in the curriculum into something entirely new and unrecognizable, and the current classes we now take will be abolished for a new system. That could be interesting . . .

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life's Hand and Death's Mask

I know it's 9-11, but many others are covering the significance of this day so I won't belabor it here . . .

So yesterday was a LONG day. I saw my apartment for a total of about 45 minutes between 8am and 9:30pm.

For lunch I went out with some other M1s to this Mexican restaurant/bar. It was in a pretty shady part of town (thank God we went in the middle of the bright day). It was my first time having mole and it was delicious! Though I think I may have burnt my lips and tongue a little, grrr.

After classes were done, I had a meeting because I was a member of the M1 genetics liaison committee, a group of students who met with the genetics course director and gave our feedback to them. I won't discuss this here as that can be a post in it of itself.

After that I went to the Saturday free clinic mandatory meeting. I had signed up to be a volunteer but I was accidentally left out of the schedule. After a few pokes via email I was assigned to volunteer two Saturdays this semester. I'm sure practically every med school has a free clinic run by med students for the uninsured and under-served population. Here, each M1 is paired with an M2 and we take the patient history together. Then an M3 or M4 conducts the physical and, with the M1 and M2, makes a preliminary suggestion as to treatment. The volunteering doctor then either approves or modifies our decision. Interestingly, we have pseudo-prescribing powers as med students at this free clinic (though we use a very limited formulary for dispensing drugs, as we're not allowed to prescribe brand-name drugs because the patients would never be able to afford them, even if they worked better than a generic). I say "pseudo-" because we can write the prescriptions, but the volunteering doctor(s) there must sign off and okay it. Same thing goes with referring powers.

Practically every med student volunteering for this free clinic is super-excited because this is the first instance where we'll have real clinical experience and have real patients. This is what we went to med school for (well, hopefully most of us).
Life's Hand

After the Saturday free clinic mandatory meeting, I met up with an M2 and went to the APAMSA (Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association) dinner at a faculty's apartment. He lives in a very nice apartment right on the riverfront and he's incidentally the founder of APAMSA, so it was quite an honor. He's a pediatric gastroenterologist (they call him the baby vomit doctor) and it seems like an interesting field . . . I may ask to shadow him in the clinic and during procedures.

It was a lot of fun and great getting to know other M1s, M2s, and even some M3s and M4s. I met the M4 who's "assigned" to my anatomy table to help us out. She's a really pretty half-Asian who's going into neurology. Gah, why're all the M4s so hot!!

This one M2 guy brought his wife and 14-month-old son to the APAMSA dinner. He's the first Asian Mormon I've ever met! And his son was soooo cute, and shy; he wouldn't let anyone but his mom and dad touch him. The mom sat near me with her son for a good portion of the dinner. After a few minutes the son got comfortable enough with me to cautiously lay his little hand on my leg a few times (he was still avoiding everyone else but his mom and dad). A few minutes later he was pointing at something and looking at me to follow his gaze (he avoided eye contact with all the other strangers). And then he put his little hand in mine and just rested it there for a minute or two. It was definitely an "awww" moment. If we had a bit more time to interact I think we would've become friends. ^_^

This impressed the people around. I can generally establish rapport with (most) babies and kids within half an hour, somehow. I'm not sure how. But it's really cool that they just feel comfortable around me. I really like kids of almost all ages and I have my ways of connecting with them (usually). As a fellow M1 said, it's almost as if I was "destined" to be a pediatrician, lol. Babies!!
Death's Mask

Today we started the 2nd block of anatomy - the head and neck. Omg, there are sooo many bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, and veins in the head. I think I saw more names flash on the screen today in just 2 hours than in all of the last block combined. Not cool. -_-

Then in lab we had to finally uncover the face of our cadaver. Now, cutting into our cadaver's arms was disturbing, especially since we had to sometimes tie them up so there was a rather grosteque Christ-like appearance with arm parts splayed out. But we got used to this easily enough, and certainly during the lab practical exam there were arms sticking up at random angles, almost as if to wave or grasp at the air. And now we do the face, one of the most personal and "human" parts of the body next to the hands.

His eyelids were slightly open, his glazed eyes staring blankly and deathly at us. We cut into his face and began to peel back the skin. We initially cut too deep and stripped the muscles and everything from the top of the skull. A professor took such pity on our mutilation that he spent more than half an hour dissecting the skin off half the face for us to show us just how superficial we had to cut, as well as pointing out structures we surely would've destroyed without knowing.

Staring at our cadaver's face as it was being stripped of flesh was an . . . interesting experience. He died with this expression that I couldn't quite place - a rather quizzical death mask. From one angle he looked sad, almost with regret. From another angle he looked quite peaceful. And from yet another angle he appeared almost arrogant and proud (even as flesh was slowly being sliced away from his right cheek). The professor remarked that our cadaver had nice facial muscles and that perhaps he was a particularly expressive person in life.

The other cadavers around us each had their own unique death masks etched upon their faces. The old lady beside us had this creepy almost-grin, and as the group stripped her skin off it reminded me of a horror movie. Another group further down had progressed even further and the skin hung by the sides near the ears - it wasn't really recognizable as human anymore.

To be honest, I'm very surprised that no one fainted or vomited. It seemed like the normal thing to do in this situation. Perhaps we've become comfortable with death . . . As my friend said, "You can't pay me enough to do what you do." And my response, "Ironically, we're paying a lot to be able to do what we do."


Okay, it's late and I need to sleep. But there's so much swimming around in my head that I want to address in several posts. So need to jot down these blurbs to serve as my reminders. In the next several upcoming posts you can expect topics such as:

- My day (being 9/10/09, and maybe 9/11/09 depending)
- My issue with the genetics course and my recommendations to the faculty
- The reason why genetics is so near & dear to my heart (not sure if I've specifically blogged about this before)
- My thoughts on health care reforms (maybe . . . I may not touch on this)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Operation: Survive Block 1 - Success

Hehe, that title's way more dramatic than reality. Oh well. I'm back! Miss me?

This morning I finished the last of 3 exams (a genetics final, an anatomy lab practical exam, and an anatomy written exam). I believe they call these "block" exams because all our exams are crammed into a single week, so we learn in "blocks" and take all our exams at the end of each block.

Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I don't know who keeps saying it's so horrible - oh yeah, the "gunners" - the people who HAVE to get nigh-100% on everything (and in that light, everything's difficult). In some respects, these exams were somewhat easier and less stressful than some of my undergrad exams. It's interesting to see half my class freak out and yet I wasn't, strangely.

Honestly, I think my mentality has changed from undergrad/grad school to now. In undergrad/grad school grades mattered a lot and everyone strove for that "A." Here, where's it's more or less pass/fail (but with gradations of pass from Honors, High Pass, Pass, and Low Pass), it feels less stressful. I know I'll pass, and anything above that is just gravy. Of course I want to do as well as possible, after all I'll need (at least some of) this knowledge later when I see patients. And I actually did really well - Honors in genetics (92.12%), and High Pass so far in anatomy (88.75%). The year's off to a good start grade-wise. :-)
After the exam this morning, 5 of us went out for sushi for lunch. It was relatively good and inexpensive sushi, I was impressed. More interesting was a good portion of our conversation.

We're med students. So of course we discuss topics relating to our classes and medicine. And I thought it rather odd and amusing how we kept returning to anatomy and dissecting cadavers (our next block is on the head and neck - definitely NOT looking forward to that). Anyway, as we wait for our meal we comment on the dreadful smell of the lab and how we have to wash our hands multiple times to neutralize the smell on our hands (though now we don't notice it as much, not sure if that's a good thing or not). I commented how if I cut up garlic for cooking, the smell of garlic on my fingers overpowers the smell of death so all you smell is the garlic. Hmmm, maybe that's why garlic is used against vampires . . . Garlic trumps death, good to know.

When I came home for the afternoon I didn't know what to do with myself and all this free time. o_O So I read this blog that someone emailed me: A Sailor Boy's Blog. Wow, some hot and steamy stuff in there! It's an interesting read, so go check it out!!

Then I went out with my roommate and a friend to a bar/restaurant that I kept hearing other med students talk about. It was pretty good and I finally tried this one appetizer that my friend from grad school (who's originally from the state I'm currently in) told me about. It was good, I liked it. And we tried the $0.99 drink of the month - peach sangria. That was good too (maybe because it was only $0.99).

I watched the Obama speech on health care when we got back. It was good . . . but there wasn't anything substantive in there for me. No real details of how things might work, no ideas how to implement things, no mention how this will help doctors with our myriad issues - ridiculous med school debt, the primary care vs. specialty imbalance, nationalized electronic medical records, malpractice caps, etc. Maybe in time, maybe never. The public ethos is against doctors anyway and people tend to think all doctors are really well off. Not necessarily true (especially primary care docs with $200K in med school loans + interest) but whatever, that discussion is for another day.

Alright fellow bloggers who don't update much, if I can do it while being busy with med school, I'm sure you can do so as well. I'm talking to you, authors of:

Amazing Corey
A Popular Dude's Secret Life
A story of a boy and the universe
Gentleman's Romance
I Gotta Story To Tell
Where I Stand

If you're reading this, please say something to let us know you're alive and doing well! Thanks!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Sensitive Soul

I took this "What type of med student are you?" quiz on Facebook. My result: "the sensitive soul." In an odd way I'd say that's accurate though I would've never pegged myself as such a few years ago. The source of the quiz comes from this comic below (please click on it to enlarge and absorb the full hilarity):
My roommate got: "the questionable admission." I'm sorry to say but sometimes I feel that's an accurate description for him - not that he can't do the work (he definitely can) but that he doesn't care about medicine as much.

Another hilarious comic is the "12 Medical Specialties Stereotypes." I particularly like the ones for dermatology, ob/gyn, and radiation oncology. See here below (again click to enlarge):

Both of the comics above come from scutmonkey, who's also the author of the blog the underwear drawer.

Anyway, studying is going along alright. I had a mock anatomy lab practical exam last night. Nothing like spending an hour with about 100 of your peers staring at dead bodies in the night. I kid. I got 43/50 right, which isn't bad. I'm having trouble distinguishing arteries from nerves in some parts of the body (shut up, they all look the same in a cadaver - white and stringy - that probably sounded bad). It kind of sucks that we're not allowed to touch the bodies during the exam, as that's how many of us can definitively distinguish some things from others. Ah well, spending more time in the lab today with my group to get that sorted out (hopefully). People are beginning to freak out, maybe I should study more . . .

Oh, M4 Guy will no longer be helping us in anatomy lab. He's now doing his next rotation in I don't know what. Le sigh. :-(

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Randy Sighting

So Randy IM'd me briefly on MSN tonight. He's given me permission to divulge his current location because he's moving on to his next destination tomorrow or the next day. He's currently been sighted in Ontario, Canada. Where exactly in that massive province I'm not sure (I'm not sure he's entirely sure either).

That's pretty much it. This was a pretty short and random post.

Oh, I discovered that 2 of my professors are apparently pretty hardcore creationists. Ugh, as long as they don't let that influence what they teach . . . Med school just gets weirder with all these strange egos.

Lastly, check out Ben & Jerry's support of gay marriage in Vermont by introducing a new flavor called Hubby Hubby. That seems really nifty. :D

Alright, sleep time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Love & Hate

To refresh, M1 Guy and M4 Guy are from this post. Cute Girl is from this post. I haven't decided if I'm going to "codify" them (I suspect they'll be recurrent characters here) or just leave them with the designation M1 Guy, M4 Guy, and Cute Girl. For the purposes of this post I will though.

A refresher: M1 Guy is slightly taller than me, blond, blue eyes, cute smile, nice body, really nice persona, and wears glasses that makes him adorable in a slightly dorky kind of way. Apparently he's living with his girlfriend. Dang.

M4 Guy is (again) slightly taller than me, short curly black hair, beautiful blue-hazel eyes, wears glasses, a really cute smile, a deep voice that I can listen to all day, and is really really helpful and nice in anatomy lab. The following below will mostly focus on M4 Guy.

Cute Girl is shorter than me by a few inches, long wavy brunette, tan skin, and has a really cute and bubbly persona.

So it seems that all 3 girls in my lab group have a major crush on M4 Guy. He came over to see what we were doing today and he helped us identify structures (mostly muscles) of the forearm and tendons of the wrist. He stood next to me and I must say, he smelled soooo good in the formaldehyde-infused air. I was covertly breathing deeply next to him. All the girls broke into smile and lit up at his presence (I don't blame them).

This other girl from another group had come by to see what was going on. She kept putting her hands in our cadaver's arm to help identify/find structures, and Cute Girl had to resist the temptation to swat her away so that only M4 Guy may probe the muscles. When M4 Guy left, all the girls pronounced their crush on him, especially Cute Girl - she gets all giddy. One of the girls has a boyfriend, and she tells him about M4 Guy all the time.

I admit, I do have a man-crush on M4 Guy. Like the girls (though more secretly) I scan the room occasionally to see if he's around. He emailed us his notes from when he took anatomy 3 years ago, and he linked us to a site with demonstrations of live dissections (not to be confused with vivisection) where the anatomists explain how to dissect and point out important things along the way. How nice is that?!

Okay, I think I hate my genetics course now. It transitioned from biochem pretending to be genetics, to "real" genetics (which, although grossly oversimplified, was much appreciated), to now embryology. That's not "really" genetics again, ugh. Why is this class even called genetics?!

Whatever, more annoying, we had a genetics quiz this morning and there is a particular question that many of us felt had two correct answers and/or was a bad question to begin with, because it required knowledge of material outside the lecture notes. I emailed the lecturer who wrote the question to challenge its validity. His email reply was very curt and didn't acknowledge my efforts. I don't appreciate that - he could have at least acknowledge that I had a point (and I knew my explanations were fairly solid, I had researched things briefly to make sure I wasn't completely off base). His reply basically boiled down to "because I said so." Ugh.

Must not make enemies with the faculty . . . I mean, I did fine on the quiz so I guess I shouldn't complain much. I only got 2 (out of 18) wrong, and one of them was a stupid error on my part. But this other question - it's going to draw the ire of many students I think.