Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Summary, 2010 Resolutions

end of the line by *Blepharopsis on deviantART

It's now the close of 2009 and the just before the beginning of 2010. Let's take a look at my 2009 Resolutions. Hmm, seems that I was quite successful on some points but woefully failed at others. Such is to be expected I suppose. Let's see how 2009 went (using the 2008 in Summary template):
2009 in summary (and this is by no means an exhaustive list):

Winter Semester (January - April):
- Got a new roommate (or apartment-mate, I suppose). He was alright, except when he cooked, then the apartment reeked of kimchi.
- Was a GSI for the undergrad Intro to Genetics course. Was totally kick-ass at it! :-P Read about some of it here.
- Got over 10,000 views on my blog! Not particularly exciting, just being amused.
- Went to China over Spring Break with other public health students and faculty. It rocked!! Read parts I, II, III, and IV.
- Was performing poorly in research, but was able to get a second chance to redeem myself. I hope I actually did redeem myself . . .
- Worked on an epic final project with my friend, AG-F, for a class. Read about the genius here!
- Got straight A's (somehow) in all my grad school courses. Grad school wasn't so hard . . .
- Said my farewells to the city of my undergrad. :-( Pictures here.

Summer (May - August)
- Was going to travel around in China! Then the swine flu scare, and my trip got canceled. T.T
- Saw the Star Trek movie twice, lol; the first time with a friend (YY-F), the second time with another friend (SR-F) and my brothers.
- Saw Up with my brothers.
- Went to my old roommate's, AW-M's, wedding in July.

Fall Semester (Late August - December)
- Started med school.
- Volunteered at a free clinic (with pretty much all the other M1s, lol).
- Gave an obesity presentation at a nearby high school.
- Joined the LGBTPM (LGBT Persons in Medicine) student group.
- Came out to my labmate, Leslie.
- Visited SN-F in Chicago when SR-F came to visit. :-D
-> Saw Where the Wild Things Are with SR-F and the roommate.
- Got a pediatrics externship for summer 2010!!
- Finished first semester of med school. :-O
- Saw Avatar in 3D with SR-F and my brother. Good movie!
- Saw Sherlock Holmes with both my brothers. Good movie!
- Met an old friend, JR-M, for a late lunch. Caught up a bit. JR-M had been my next-door neighbor for 7-8 years of my life.
- Met an old friend, JS-M, for a late lunch. Caught up a bit. I had known JS-M since elementary school.

- Met many great (new) bloggers and have had the wonderful opportunity to chat with several of you online. You make my days and I'm so thankful for getting to know you. :-)
2010 Resolutions

I'm going to take it easy on the resolutions this year. I'll try not to make "benchmarks" for myself.

1. Be healthier. Eat healthier, exercise at least 3-4 days/week. De-stress more. Hopefully the rest will follow.

2. Take more pictures, record more memories.

3. Keep in contact with friends. Solidify new friendships.

4. Keep up in med school. Do a bit better academically, take more advantages of certain things.

5. Pursue what may be (I hope) the beginnings of a relationship. It's a secret. Well, I guess it isn't so much now that I've mentioned it here . . . but no details for you till later. ;-)
Now to plug some new blogs that I've recently began Following. I'm still catching up in reading all their posts, but all in due time.

A Beautifool Chaos
Frozen with a Heart on Fire
Rock James Bottom

If you haven't visited them, definitely stop by and say hi in 2010!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Geeked Out

use the force by *Blepharopsis on deviantART

Not much has transpired since I finished up with exams (and I rather like it this way, for now).

After I went to Michelle's birthday celebration, we went to her house for cake and wine. There I met Alice, a fellow M1. Somehow it came to the topic of how horrible our genetics course was way back in August, and how frustrated we all were with it. I find out her undergrad major was basically in genetics, so we commiserated and felt an instant bond. We probably spent a good hour or two talking about genetics, how it was taught, how it should've been taught, its ethical ramifications, its growing utilization in health care, etc. At one point she was on the edge of her seat as we both bemoaned our dislike for the lab technique called "maxi-prep" (where you take a ton of cells, break them up, and extract the DNA).

Totally geeked out.

Around 7:30pm or so, we decided to hit up the bar crawl that Leslie was organizing. We went to the first place to find that no one in our class was there. o_O We saw 2 guys, so all of decided to go to the second bar early. The second bar was rather . . . avant-garde. Again, no one from our class was there. What gives?! We hang around there for a bit . . . there weren't many people at the bar except for some people in their 30s to 50s that looked like they had went there right after work. At one point several of them started to line dance to something . . . wtf. Well, at least their mango mojito was really really good. :-P

At around 9pm or so, after we had been there for well over an hour, people from our class finally started to show up. Leslie showed up a bit later, all dressed up and rather tipsy already. She bought me a shot of tequila, lol. Then several of us spotted this really really tall guy at the bar. He must've been at least 6'6" if not more. Several times people would whisper (insofar as much as one could whisper in a bar) how they wanted to go up to him and ask him if he had Marfan's syndrome . . .

Totally geeked out.

Lastly, I was chatting online with my friend JW-M (I'll call him . . . Jake) from undergrad. For about 3 years now, Jake has been trying to get me to sign up for Steam, an online gaming vendor of sorts. He bought me 2 games on Steam, Torchlight and Jade Empire. He knew I'd never play these games or get Steam unless he did something like getting it for me, lol. Truthfully, I haven't really played any PC games since starting med school - maybe a little bit here or there right after an exam. :-/

Anyway, now I'm pretty much addicted to Torchlight. It's a "dungeon crawler" very similar to Diablo II except that it's easier to play and level. My brother is also kind of hooked on it too, as I let him play a character on my account. I haven't tried out Jade Empire yet! Alas all good things will come to an end once med school starts up again.

And yes, we've totally geeked out (much to our parents' dismay).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

1/8th of a Doctor!

Finished my last couple exams about 2 hours ago. I think I did alright. It's been a long week and I'm glad I'm done.

Biochem exam. That was absolutely brutal. I barely passed though, thankfully. Enough said. For future reference, I'm asking a pharmacist - it's their job to know more than me in this arena.

I also shadowed my mentor, a pediatrician. Speaking of which, I got a position for a pediatric externship for the summer! It's actually a really cool program: 8 weeks, $2500, shadow a primary care pediatrician for 2-4 weeks, shadow 1-2 pediatric subspecialists for 2-4 weeks, and maybe some clinical research. The coordinator really works with each extern (there are 8) and tailors their experience to their interests, so I'm really excited for that! Anyway, back to the mentor shadowing. It's was alright, pretty much "bread-and-butter" pediatrics (strep throat season it seems). Learned some interesting things, but to protect patient info (not that I know them anyhow) I'll just mention some of the things I've learned:

- Be careful when diagnosing strep throat. Using antibiotics when it's viral won't help and may make things worse. Not using antibiotics when it is strep throat (bacterial) is dangerous - kids can develop rheumatic fever (which affects the heart) as a result of a strep infection.
- A lot of kids have innocent heart murmurs that go away spontaneously as they get older. No idea why that is . . . I should ask the next time I go in.
- Kids can be born with a cataract. And sometimes these cataracts don't impact vision at all.
- Kids can be born with 20/20 vision in one eye and 20/200 vision in the other. They have to wear an eye patch over the good eye to force the brain to "fix" the bad eye - they way they probably won't need glasses at an early age.
- A strep infection can lead to PANDAS, where they develop sudden-onset OCD (or other mental health issues). Treating the strep infection promptly can remedy the mental health symptoms. Who knew that mental health issues may sometimes have an infection as the root cause?

Mock lab practical. So after the biochem exam, and after mentor shadowing, I still had to go into the anatomy lab with about 100 other med students and identify stuff on the cadavers in practice for our exam on Wednesday. By this time in the semester we aren't really phased by the dead anymore.

But I'll say one thing: there was this body with the largest penis I've ever seen. Seriously, the head (more properly - the glans) was the size of like a jumbo-sized chicken egg. o_O Way to make all the living guys in the room feel inadequate, lol. In all actuality, we don't envy his . . . penile prowess. It looked way too large to be comfortable for his partner. The 2 girls next to me were like, "If I saw that on a guy, even if he was totally hot, I'd take one look and be like 'Alright, peace. See ya.' And run away."

I went to lab early to raise the body, only to find all the bodies already raised and arranged for the exam later that afternoon. Well, that just cut an hour's worth of sleep I could've gotten instead. :-/ It's very cold in the mornings here now. I'm talking single digit or below zero Fahrenheit. Brrr . . .

I did pretty well on the lab practical, only got 2 out of 46 wrong. Mildly annoyed I wasn't able to identify the pudendal artery, but whatever. One of the structures tagged was the vagina, and we had a discussion about it afterwards . . .

My labmates and I were discussing the lab exam. And one girl was like, "I know this is really really embarrassing, but was that structure the vagina? I've just never bothered looking at one in the hemi-section." We agreed. We thought it was too easy for it to "just" be vagina. We were all looking on our structures list to see if they were different parts of the vagina on there (yes, there are different parts like vagina vestibule or anterior vagina). But no, it was just vagina. And that made it easy. :-)

And this brings me to today. :-)

I set my alarm for 6:30am, so I could get up and study a bit more before my last 2 exams: anatomy written and human development (devo). I didn't get up until 6:50am or so, at which point I heard this NPR story on correcting lower limb defects (e.g. clubfoot, congenital displacement of the hip, etc) in Honduras. Seeing as part of the devo exam is on limb development and defects, I saw this as a divine sign to get up.

So yeah, the exams came and went. Weren't too bad, I hope I did better than I thought. I'm usually a pretty good judge of how well/poorly I do on exams, so I have high-ish expectations for these exams.

Alright, have to leave in a little bit to celebrate Michelle's birthday. Going out to lunch with her and other friends, then to her place for cake and wine. And later tonight, there's apparently a triple birthday bash somewhere in the city. I don't know the city at all, so we'll see about that. Could/should be fun though, and my labmate Leslie is planning it (as she's one of the 3 birthdays coming up). Maybe there'll be some interesting development(s) between now and when I go home Sunday morning, but don't bank on it. :-P

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Kinda Hate Myself . . .

. . . for procrastinating half of Saturday away, especially since my biochem exam is on Monday. o_O

My motivation to study is at an all-time low. I did 2 lectures on Friday, 4 on Saturday, and that means there are 5-6 left to do all on Sunday (today, I guess). *Sigh* Truthfully, I loathe studying biochem. I enjoy learning, I appreciate what I learn, I just hate trying to memorize it all because there's just so much.
That's a biochem "map" of most/all of the biochem pathways. Now, of course we don't need to know all of it (especially for this exam), but we do need to know a good chunk. For a more detailed look at that picture, go to the ExPASy site here.

On my Facebook status, I have: "[Aek] kinda wishes biochem had a physical form so he could stab it with cadaver-blunted scalpels. o_O"

From that, a friend linked me to the follow YouTube vid:

U of Pitt Med School: Lord of the Rings parody 1

When I watched it, I couldn't help but laugh. It was soooo bad, but so hilarious. Particularly apt was where "Gandalf" declares "You shall not pass!" to a med student who accosts him. Here's an excerpt:
"It began with the forging of the great bling-blings. 3 were given to the anesthesiologists, fairest, most rested of all physicians. 7 to the renal lords, great managers of electrolytes and craftsmen of the Foley. And 9, 9 were gifted to the administration, who above all else desired power and research . . ."

U of Pitt Med School, Lord of the Rings parody 2 (the sequel)

Short excerpt from it here:
". . . There is a union now, between the two biomedical science towers. BST1, fortress of UPMC research; and BST2, stronghold of cheap foreign labor. And now a third tower rises, a third BST constructed solely to hoard NIH funding . . ."
And I'll end this post with a song linked to those parodies:

'On Call' - Med School's That Way

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tripartite Post


First of all, I'd like to thank those who commented on my last post and/or emailed me, it meant a lot to me. To those of you who wrote emails to me, I will (eventually) reply to them. I have final exams next week . . . and I just wasted all of today procrastinating. *sighs* Well there just went 5-6 hours of potential studying today. :-/

Alas, whatever my issues, I must suspend them for now. How typical - always postponing the issues at hand, always with a "good" excuse, always well-intentioned. I think this is something med students are particularly good at doing.

Though, I must admit, there was a blip of deus ex machina that showed that the universe at least acknowledges my loneliness. An old friend from elementary school (and we ended up going to the same place for undergrad) messaged me on Facebook. He wanted to let me know that he got into dental school and because it had been forever since we last chatted, he suggested that the next time I'm home, we should grab lunch and catch up. He was one of my best friends growing up, so I'll definitely take him up on his offer.

Lastly here, I seem to have a bunch of new Followers. I don't know who you all are (yet), but thanks for Following!! :-D

The blogger of MSTP Bound asked me several days ago to write a eulogy for his now deceased blog.

MSTP Bound is the blog of a gay Asian (gaysian) MD/PhD student. His blog had been running and well-established before I even began reading blogs. I think it might've been one of the handful of blogs that inspired me to blog in the first place.

MSTP Bound chronicled his first 2 years of med school, and all the adventures, intrigues, politics, and relationships therein. Truly, his experiences were far more intense and far more interesting to read about than mine. At times, it was almost as if it was out of a Korean drama (though I've never watched K-dramas; he'd probably bitch slap me for this).

Alas, MSTP Bound met its natural end. It makes me wonder if blogs have a lifespan of their own, and I sometimes wonder how much life is left in mine. Thankfully, MSTP Bound has transcended this cycle of blog death and has been reincarnated as a new blog (somewhere).

Last week, Jay (formerly known as Randy) of Sun on my Face posed 12 questions on his blog in this post. He recently answered his questions here. They are certainly thought-provoking questions, and my own answers are as follows:

1. Whose the last person you've helped, but didn't have to?
The last people I helped were people in my med school class. You see, some of us were lucky enough to have inherit old exams from the M2 class. There's a set of old exams that have been handed down throughout the ages. Anyway, I decided to undergo the laborious task of scanning and uploading these exams online (this usually take hours, mind you). I then distributed these exams to several of my med school friends to help them along in studying. I could've been a gunner, I could've hoarded these exams to give me an "edge" in getting a better grade in class, but that's against my nature. And yes, several of my friends will do better than me - whether it's due to these practice exams, I don't know.

2. Whose the last person you loved but didn't want to?
A difficult question for me to answer, as I'm not sure I've ever really felt love (or am able to recognize it when it's right in front of me). But to answer the question, it's definitely someone I've been chatting with online for at least several months now. Is this guy a blogger? Maybe. If so, he definitely reads this blog - I'm almost certain he doesn't know who he is, and I intend to keep it this way. It's simpler if I don't formally admit my love, as the distances and situations separating us would probably crush me emotionally.

3. Whose the last person you hated, but couldn't help it?
Probably myself. As if you couldn't have gathered that much from my last post. It extends further, but I'd rather not elaborate on it here.

4. What means most to you, but could do without?
Systems and routines. I like my systems and my routines - it helps keep me focused and on task. However, I wouldn't mind if something came along and disturbed this monotony and introduced a bit of spontaneity in my life. It's so difficult for me to break out of it myself, much easier if it's from some external source.

5. At the end of the day what can you do better, and will you try to?
I can do a lot of things better. I could study harder, be more social, be more active, be more vocal. All these things are important and probably things I should really do, but will I? Probably not because I only have a finite amount of motivation and energy - and right now I'm pretty low in both.

6. Can you ignore want and acknowledge necessity?
Is this not the definition of med school? Delayed gratification is almost an art - a torturous one - that med school teaches. I want many things, but I need surprisingly little. There are perhaps things that I need that I don't currently have, but such is life.

7. What is fucked up in your LIFE that you CAN change but never will?
I'm not sure how to answer this. I suppose, I constantly put other things and other people before my own needs. As long as someone else is worse off, I can't complain. As long as people need to vent, I won't (much). It would be difficult for me to say "Screw you, I need to look out for myself" to someone who needed me. I'm not sure I even want to change this.

8. What is fucked up in the WORLD that you CAN'T change but will try?
Apathy. I've seen so much apathy in this world, and I admit I'm guilty of it too sometimes. But I'll do my best to help make people care - care about their health, their education, and their actions. I've seen kids, teens, and undergrads I've taught go from apathy to caring. Everyone has that spark, it just needs to be ignited. But as a whole, I can only do so much when there's so much apathy in this world.

9. Would you denounce your convictions to save the life of one person/millions?
Hmm, that would depend on which of my convictions is in question. How could I denounce a conviction to help others when that conviction is meant to save lives? No, I wouldn't denounce my convictions because I can't foresee a (realistic) situation where I would have to.

10. Would you follow your convictions if it lead to the injustice of one person/millions?
Perhaps. If we were talking about my conviction to help others above, and if one of the people I help ends up killing another person (or millions), would I denounce my conviction to help that person? I might, so long as I didn't have to participate (directly or indirectly) in the death of that person. But now this philosophical musing is getting too complex for me.

11. Is your life about giving or taking?
My life is usually more about giving than taking. But I'm by no means a saint.

12. If you died tomorrow, what footprints have you left?
I feel like, despite everything I may have done and the people I may have impacted, that I would'nt leave a significant footprint on this Earth. Perhaps if I'm lucky, I'll be blessed with the butterfly effect and someone I've interacted with will rise to greatness - perhaps a student of mine or a good friend. But at best those footprints would only be indirectly mine. I feel like I haven't achieved much yet, and all I see are footprints to potential in the future.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Face of Broken Solitude

I think it's time that I show one of my faces behind the masks. You may have seen the eyes peering from behind, but now I'll let you see the raw flesh. For all intents and purposes my masks have covered and hidden this face of mine to my satisfaction.

You see, my masks are my defenses. They allow me to transform insecurity into confidence, exhaustion into energy, unease into comfort, vulnerability into strength, and sadness into apparent happiness. My masks are as much a part of me as anything else. Perhaps they are more of me than I realized. Perhaps I can no longer tell apart my masks from my faces, as that distinction is blurred. Indeed, this may not even be a face but yet another mask; but if it is, it's not a mask I let others see.

I've learned from a young age to put up walls of emotional defense. If I must, I can attain an almost Vulcan-like clinical mind. As such I've created masks to show you what I feel (and want to feel) and what I want you to see. You may have noticed that the bulk of my posts since August have centered almost exclusively on my life as a med student, under the all-encompassing Mask of Medicine. You may have felt me delve into issues that no one else cares much about, dedicating my Mask of Caring to some purpose that may or may not be greater than myself. And perhaps my posts read like a documentary, as I'm not the most emotional writer, even without my Mask of Stoicism. What's left to hide, I hide under my Mask of Silence. It was all for some purpose, but so that you now see, here is me defenseless, here is me vulnerable. This post may be longer than my usually long novelette posts, but realize my difficulty in articulating that which I can't even stand to see.

To reiterate, you may first want to read this post on Straight as the Arrow Flies. Deep down, beneath the masks and the walls, is a fragile insecurity that's always on the edge of breaking. As true as it was since I started this blog, I am alone in every romantic/sexual sense possible. Though I may have moved on to the next stage in my life and career, that part of me has not matured since perhaps the 7th grade. Dating and seeking a relationship, quite frankly, unsettles me to the point of emotional paralysis. Even thinking about it makes me feel exhausted and heavy. I'm being held back . . . by myself.

It truly is all my own damn fault. I don't make much of an effort to get out and explore. I generally dislike going to clubs or bars, and I certainly will not go alone. But even if I did, I don't know how to approach someone and I'm too shy to express interest. It's so easy to make excuses; after all, the Mask of Medicine pretty much dictates the majority of my life right now.

I am scared that I've become numb to my own feelings, that I wouldn't recognize love even if it were in front of me. What does it feel like? How do I know? How do I act on it? I'm not sure I'm able to separate out love from infatuation from lust. I've spent too long brushing aside such feelings in pursuit of other achievements.

And I am tired. Lately, every now and then, I laugh in the shower. I laugh at my own pathetic-ness and how nice it feels to have water flow over my body, to pretend to have something wash away my unease and hide my tears (in case I have any). And the nights I crawl into bed cold (because it's getting cold here), and alone, and wonder what it must feel like to get into bed with another person and wake up next to him/her.

For the most part I guess I'm too good at hiding this face. I wish just once someone would call me out on it. I wish every now and then someone would hug me, long and sincere, and tell me that things will be okay. I wish I could hug back and not feel awkward. I wish someone would call bullshit on my excuses and drag me out somewhere I've never been (and probably somewhere I'd never be able to find on my own). I wish I were invited to more social events and activities. And I wish I didn't have to initiate and feel pathetic doing so.

Today in anatomy lab, we were having our usual conversations and gossip. But then somewhere along the line it hit a nerve, I felt a crack and felt my face showing. Our conversation drifts, as it often does, towards relationships. And every time I feel alone, left out, unable to contribute - for I have no experience, I've had no relationships. Virginal in all aspects to this subject that my peers were well-versed in.

Perhaps you think I'm silly, or pathetic, or perhaps you haven't even read this far. But this is how it is. And even now, I feel that invisible hand grasping my heart and the dense gravity in my legs. I'm no saint, I'm not some confident med student, I'm not even always on steady ground. But this much you can count on - so long as someone else needs me, so long as others suffer, so long as you have a complaint that I'm willing to hear - I won't tell you my own issues. Because it's my duty to put aside my problems for you, an aspect of medicine that I find relief in. It's my job to care but not yours to reciprocate. My masks and I are for you, even if no one's there for me. There are other people and bloggers who write more emotionally than I, who expose more of their problems than I, and who receive the love and praise of the world. I don't ask for it and I don't expect it because I don't bring it up, but you know what? It does make me sad, and I suppose envious.

I guess med students and doctors are human after all. Time to go to bed, alone and heavy with this broken solitude.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It Has a Seizure Button?!

Earlier tonight, I went to a pediatrics skills workshop for M1s and M2s. There were about 30-40 students there total, and we were divided into smaller groups to rotate through several stations.

My first station was a well-child physical check-up. Two pediatricians brought in their kids for us to learn/practice check-ups on. They were such good sports about it. One kid was 4-years-old and he was seriously the cutest and most adorable thing ever! When his mom was demonstrating the physical on him, she asked, "What's that spot on your neck?" And he said, "It's my special spot," referring to a dime-sized birthmark on his neck. He was precious; he reminds me of my baby cousin.

Alas, I didn't get a chance to play with the 4-year-old. The kid I worked with was 7-years-old. It's all good. After the pediatrician finished demonstrating on him, she asked him to pick who got to go first to examine him. And he chose me! ^_^ So in general, you go from head to toe. So I kinda massaged his head and neck to make sure everything was fine, no weird bumps or massive lymph nodes, then I listened to heart and lung sounds. I'm not sure exactly what I'm listening to because we haven't formally learned yet, but it's all good. Then I got to listen to bowel sounds and then my favorite, the liver scratch test. So with the liver scratch test, you put your stethoscope where you know the liver is. Then you lightly scratch the stomach closer and closer towards the liver until you can hear the scratching sound. Once you hear the scratching sound, you've found the inferior (lower) border of the liver. Pretty cool! I took someone's hammer and did the knee reflex on myself - that was fun.

After that, we went to the immunization session where we learned how to give injections into muscle and subcutaneously. Ugh, I had issues getting rid of bubbles in the syringe - they just wouldn't float and go away!! It was pretty bad when the pediatrician at that station laughed at my incompetence with needles, lol. I think this is a sign that I shouldn't be giving injections to anyone.

Then the last station was the airways station. Personally this was my favorite one. We were shown how to use a laryngoscope to intubate (stick a breathing tube down the trachea) the airways on a child dummy. When I first put on the air mask, the pediatrician noticed how I was holding it wrong and remarked how I must've played the piano. o_O She said she used to play piano for many years, and that I was the first person to have held the air mask the way I did. Now, all laryngoscopes are left-handed tools, so I was excited since I'm left-handed. So was the pediatrician, so we were both quite excited. ^_^ It was also funny watching the right-handed people use the scope wrong before being corrected.

Lastly, some of us returned to the first station that we had missed. It was doing a well-baby check on a SimBaby (a fake simulation baby). The SimBaby is really cool in that it can simulate different heart sounds, lung sounds, cries, pulses, can turn cyanotic (blue), and can even seizure. When we heard that, Karen - from the anatomy lab table across from me - and I exclaimed at once, "Omg, it has a seizure button?!" Let me say, seeing a seizing fake baby is kind of funny. But, if you mentally transpose that seizing onto a real baby, I think that'd be scary as hell. We thought it'd be really mean if someone pushed the seizure button while you were working on the SimBaby, because then it becomes an "Oh shit!" moment.

All in all, this was totally the highlight of my day. Karen and I spent some time just staring at the kids because they were so cute!!