Monday, January 30, 2012

My primers worked! My PCR scheme worked! My gel worked! It was an awesome day in the land of research. Last semester I was doing a genotypic identification project on the 800+ strains of yeast that the lab uses... this semester I'm doing a protein-protein interaction study with yeast-2 hybrids. It's funny how things accelerate quickly once you know some basics, no?

Anyways, the lab is awesome. I came in just as things were getting started and rounded out the lab "staff" to 3.5 (there was a guy who only did summers, the PI, and the lab tech when I first started). Now we're up to 6.5 and have a bona fide "media preparer" working the lab. It's an exciting place to be, and it's fun work. The PI is on the younger side and is wonderful to work with, always explaining things, making jokes, and making sure we understand.

I didn't know research would be fun. I started out looking for research because "you're supposed to do research" and was quite honestly intimidated by it. Now that I'm actually doing it with some success, I can't believe I didn't start sooner. There are lots of people "volunteering" in the research lab who not only get to park for free and earn a free meal when they put in more than four hours, but they get to learn all kinds of interesting research skills. How are more people not doing this?

Oh that's right... not everyone is nearly as interested in this stuff as I am. Anyways. This Friday there's a research symposium at my university - an undergraduate event put on by undergraduate researchers FOR undergraduate research hopefuls. It's supposed to provide an opportunity for people to ask questions, talk about their research, and help other people get into the lab. In that vein, I guess I'm here talking about it in order to encourage other people who may not have figured out "the research thing" to jump in and give it a shot.

So, who else is doing research, and what are you doing?

(PS - Thank you Dr Fizzy for the shout out! And WELCOME! to my new followers who came here via her blog.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Humanism in Medicine (Probably just part one)

I started my "post-decision" volunteering by volunteering in an ER. It was a small, local hospital in the suburbs and for the most part, I felt like I was in the way. I was only there for about two months before I had to take a leave of absence for classes, but the experience was such that I did not elect to go back.

Instead, I decided to become a certified EMT and volunteer with a local ambulance service. This experience has been much more productive, I don't feel like I'm in the way, and I'm learning a ton of stuff. In fact, I generally can't wait until EMS-day and wish I could find a way to fit it in more than once a week.

Much as I really enjoy my volunteer experience, I had a call the other day that really drove home a significant point for me. I've literally spent years watching medical dramas, reading med-student books, blogs, etc, and I've always thought the same thing... "Gee, some of them really dehumanize their patients and catalogue them as nothing more than procedures... that's totally not going to happen to me!"

Well. It did. It's hard not to get caught up in the moment. It's extremely difficult not to get excited that I got to perform such and such a procedure for the first time. And the capstone on all of that is that it's even harder to remember that this is someone's father, mother, grandmother, sister, loved one... that is going through a very scary medical crisis.

I know that I cannot allow every single patient experience to affect me so profoundly or access my emotional bank... but I'm going to have to find a way to keep the human aspect within sight. I also understand that learning procedures today will help me become a better clinician, will help me save people down the line, and will ultimately be good for me and everyone I come in contact with... but that doesn't mean that I have to reduce people down to an intubation, or a successful blood pressure check.

This experience is uniquely mine, but it is not mine uniquely. I imagine the vast majority of clinicians ahead of me (and those who will come after) have struggled with this issue and found a way to muddle through. I'm going to have to do the same thing.

I am nearly ashamed to admit that I didn't think this would be an issue for me. I honestly thought that because I was thoughtfully considering the human aspect of medicine that I wouldn't have to have this little heart-to-heart with myself. Turns out this was just one more thing I was going to have to experience before I'd truly know how I'd react.

Monday, January 23, 2012


So, this may come as a bit of a surprise to some people, but I can be a bit shy from time to time. Not, say, in everyday life or in normal circumstances that plague regular people, no. But in unfamiliar situations, well then yes.

Case in point: shadowing. I need/want to shadow some doctors. I'm not even picky, and I kind of want to shadow all different kinds. I work in a hospital that is chock full of doctors. This seems like it would be easy. Walk up to doctor, say 'hey, can I shadow you?', he says yes, boom, done.

But it isn't that easy for me. I mean, is that what you actually do? Is there a form that needs filled out? How do I get him to see me as a real person and not a stretcher-monkey? What if he says no? That's generally my biggest concern. If he says no then I will be embarassed every time I see him and will feel silly having asked.

Do doctors like having med school hopefulls following them around? Or is it annoying? I just don't know. So here we are. I'm swimming around in a sea full of the resource I need, but scared to take a sip.

Today I'm meeting with my med student mentor, so hopefully she has some insight into the process and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of what I like to call "the hookup". I mean, it couldn't hurt, right?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everest is a big mountain...

So, while I was project managing, one of my favorite stories was how when you climb everest, you have to keep going down, then going back up, then going back down again, in order to acclimate yourself to the lower atmospheric pressure (and thus lower O2 pressure). It was basically a story about how getting there sometimes requires going in the opposite direction.

So we are in the "new" version of my life and I find the same to be true. Over the summer I learned that we shouldn't over-schedule ourselves if we want to be successful. Now I'm learning that if you didn't get everything you needed in "First Semester of Subject" you won't actually understand anything in "Second Semester of Subject".

This seems like a no-brainer, right? The only problem being that my first degree, while progressive, did not have a linear progression to it. If I didn't like Practices in Human Resources, I only had to suffer for fifteen weeks, memorize enough to pass, and then it was over. With science, if you don't understand acid/base chemistry, there is no escape. It will keep coming up again and again over and over until you just hunker down and actually learn the differences between pKa, K, and pH.

So. What does all this mean? It means getting a "C" in Organic Chemistry I is not enough to prosper in Organic Chemistry II. So here I am again, in OChem I...

...and yes, I feel a bit "fail-y". But I also learned that true failure isn't retracing your steps, but in ceasing the journey altogether. And quite frankly, I'm not giving up. I'm trying again, this time with more focus.

Besides, this gives me a great way to segue into examples of my perseverance and show proof that I don't give up. I'm shooting for an A+ because I think it makes the point all the more poignant.

(And looks good. Let's not ignore the fact that I'm a weaselly pre-med student...)

(By the way, if you are also pre-med, or post-med, or interested in the life of the med student, or medicine, or hey, just happen to like funny things, cruise on over to this blog.
and check out the funny cartoons. And then, if you really like 'em, you can get them in book form!)

Yay Doctor Fizzy! :)