Friday, December 30, 2011

Cool-Down Lap

Back in the days of my athletic prowess as a star player bench-warmer on my high school lacrosse team, we used to have timed 2-mile runs before lots of practices.  After you finished that 8th lap on the track, you had to walk one more lap to cool down, because stopping suddenly could probably kill you... or something like that.  This 10-day glorious vacation feels a little like that cool-down lap.  We've been going-going-going, and really pushed it out for our last exam on the 23rd which was on dermatology and cardiology (two subjects that naturally fit well together), and then suddenly it was over and we have over a week off from school.

But if they gave us NOTHING to do over break, then it would be like coming to a complete stop after running two miles, and we might get muscle cramps.  So thankfully they scheduled a test for us on January 4 to make sure we maintained a slight jog throughout break.  Don't get me wrong, up through Christmas we (I'm assuming all of us) were in the stage of hands on your knees, slightly doubled-over, huffing and puffing, can't move even another step.  But now I'm back up to a slow jog.

This test is for our Physician's Core class, Advanced Physical Diagnosis.  It's pass-fail, so no one seems to take it that seriously, but we've been warned that it's quite possible to fail, and we've seen the proof in the unhappy-looking third-years that show up to our lectures each week.  Not wanting to be THAT third-year, I am doing what I call relaxed-studying over break.  While my family watches TV, I sit with them ...but with my Physical Exam text book open.  When my family needs help cleaning up the kitchen, I can claim I'm too busy studying (shh, don't tell them).  And for a couple hours every couple days, I am actually legitimately studying.

The problem with this cool-down lap though, is that it's not really a cool-down lap at all because at the end of it it's not like we get to hit the showers, drink gatorade, and talk sh*t about our coach (what? we never did that in high school...).

intervals, nooo
So it's really more like my most dreaded runs in high school - intervals - where you sprint the long side of the field, then jog the short end, then sprint the long end, etc. etc. for like, a million hours 20 minutes.  Right now we're jogging along the short edge of the field, but that long edge is coming up again soon.  In high school, I would get so behind during the sprinting portion that during the jogging portion I would try to make up for it and catch up to everyone, of course making me that much more tired when the sprinting section came back and pulling me further behind.  Luckily I'm a much better studier than I am a runner, and I'm saving up most of my studying energy for our 5-month sprint when we return.  Now, if only you burned the same amount of calories from studying as you do from running...

My middle school lacrosse team. I'm goofy-looking #16

[I very recently discovered this ability to cross words out.  Expect to see more of it in the future right now.]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pinky Swear

 I PROMISE there will be a new post on Friday.  It's already written and everything!

Friday, December 9, 2011


"A young person typically gets atypical pneumonia"

Who comes up with the names of these things??

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pop Quiz

 Questions I wish were on yesterday's exam, and their corresponding slides from lecture:

1. When following the correct protocol for an autopsy, the patient should be:
A. Alive
B. Dead
C. Zombie

2. Who do corticosteroids work on?
A. No one
B. Some people
C. Everyone

Answers: 1) B  2) C

Friday, December 2, 2011

The People Who Live in My Brain

Now I could be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure there are lots of little people that live in my head and are responsible for making my brain work (we somehow must have skipped that chapter in anatomy...).  I imagine a highly organized factory that is my body, and all the employees have been working together for years and years (25 years and about 9 months to be exact) so they're quite good at what they do, and they only mess up some of the time ("Time to open the urethral sphincters" "But it's the middle of the night, do we really want to wake her to go the bathroom?" "Too late, the wheels are set in motion, she's gotta go NOW").

hi-ho, hi-ho
Unfortunately for me, the workers are part of a very powerful union which enforces very strict work hour regulations.  As a result, I have a limit or cap on my weekly productivity.  Sometimes I try to trick my employees by drinking lots of caffeine, and that usually works in the short term.  Like a couple Fridays ago, I studied almost straight from 7 am until 2 am with the help of my good friends Coffee and Diet Mountain Dew (great friends, they really have such addictive personalities, hardy-har-har).  But if I am above-average productive on one day, then my body needs to balance that out by being below-average productive the next because of these ridiculous union rules.

So even with 8 hours of sleep after that productive day (falling asleep took some help from my friend Bad White Wine), the next day I was SO UNPRODUCTIVE.  MY BRAIN EMPLOYEES WENT ON STRIKE:

"We worked for 17 hours yesterday, we deserve a day off," they argued.

"But I have a test in two days, you can have a break on Monday," I argued back.

"But we want to read Perez Hilton for 6 hours," they counter-offered.

"But there are 43 autonomic drugs to learn, and that's only one fifth of the test!" I angrily spat back.

"But if we don't read these stupid articles on the Internet, who will?  WHO WILL?!"

And so I probably did a total of 5 hours of work the whole day on Saturday, which is unacceptable since I was in the study room for about 10.  But then Sunday, my loyal friend Stress thankfully stopped by the office and whipped my workers back into shape so that I wouldn't fail on Monday.  Phew.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Does anyone watch Jeopardy?  If so, I hope you noticed the answer tonight whose question was, "What is a cakewalk?"  You're welcome.  that's right. i can see into jeopardy future.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I've done it.  I've discovered the perfect metaphor (simile?) for how you learn information in medical school.  Med school's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.  Just kidding, that's wrong (who came up with that line? what an idiot.  I'm kidding, I obviously know it was Ferris Bueller, right?) - we know exactly what we're gonna get because we get all the power point slides for each lecture ahead of time.

Trying to learn information in medical school is just like playing a game of darts, whose rules I've completely changed to fit neatly into my metaphor.

Let me explain.  Your brain is the dart board.  You have a bucket of darts (that's right, a bucket - I told you I tweaked the rules a bit), and each dart represents a piece of information that you are trying to get stuck in your brain, aka the dart board.  But it's timed - so you have very little time to throw all those darts onto the board.  You can try and throw them one at a time so that you'll have a good chance of those darts actually sticking to the board really well, but you'll be left with most of the bucket still full of darts at the end that you didn't have time to even TRY and throw at the board.

your brain
Your other option is to pick up the bucket and just heave all the darts in the general direction of the  board, and hope that some of them stick (that's analagous to listening to lecture - a few facts may stick in your mind after hearing all the information once).  Then you quickly gather up all the darts on the floor, toss 'em back in the bucket, and throw them all at the board again (that is analagous to studying - you get through the lectures again and hope that maybe a few more facts stick in your mind).  Unfortunately, sometimes as a new dart reaches the board, it accidentally knocks another dart off.  And that's really all you have time for.  Maybe one more quick bucket toss, or maybe you'll have time to pick up one or two darts individually and throw those carefully at the board so that they stick, but that's about it.

And then test day comes, and the professors come and count how many darts you have on your dart board, but only certain darts are counted - so you better hope the darts that you got to stick (aka the facts you were actually able to memorize) are the ones the professor cares about (aka are the ones the professor cares about ... oh. wait.).

your brain on drugs

And that's why med school is so fun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mini-Med Outreach (PUMA)

At this stage in my medical career, I really know very little.  Which is a tough fact to swallow considering I've spent most of my waking minutes for the past year or so studying non-stop.  It's frustrating to be in this situation, and not feel like you can do much to help people.  If someone went into cardiac arrest in front of me today, a teenage lifeguard would probably be better prepared than me to give CPR.

One of the electives at school is through the Mini-Med program and is called PUMA - I don't remember what the acronym stands for, but every Wednesday groups of medical students go either to the Kintock Group, a correctional facility, or Renaissance House, a place for women and mothers struggling with substance abuse.  Each week we teach them about a different health topic - Diabetes, heart health, STDs, domestic violence, how to get access to health care, and others.

We were provided with powerpoints on each topic, but there were still some facts we were unsure of while teaching.  The women were quick to point out when we made mistakes, and there was one woman with a nursing background who ended up explaining some of the topics that she knew more about than we did.  One week, a woman raised her hand as if to ask a question, and when she was called on she said, "I don't think you should say um so much." 

We wore our white coats every week, but made sure to explain that we were still just students.  That didn't stop them from asking us any type of question about their health: "I'm experiencing this, what do I have?"  We usually just told them to see their doctor, because no one wants to give wrong advice, and what do we know?  It was frustrating sometimes to feel like we knew less than some of the people we were supposed to be teaching, but at the same time I felt like they appreciated us being there each week anyway.  It took a couple weeks for everyone to get totally comfortable, but we really formed a strong bond with our group of women.

This past Wednesday was the last session, and I was surprised by how sad I was to leave.  We asked if the home did anything to celebrate Thanksgiving, and one of the women was very quick to admit how depressing the holiday season was going to be this year.  A few people are allowed to have family visit for Thanksgiving dinner, and another woman quietly said how she didn't have any family anyway, and immediately all of the other women jumped in to say, "I'll be your family."  It was so heart-warming, but at the same time, made me very sad.

Participating in this elective I think was one of the best things I could have done this year.  We become so lost in the bubble of studying that it's easy to forget what's happening in the outside world.  One of the benefits to studying medicine in Newark is that there are so many people who need our help, and there is so much opportunity to make a difference.  Part of me wants to say, "What difference can I make before I know anything?  Once I'm a doctor I can help people."  But if I wait until I feel like I know "enough," that might be never.

So while I continue to spend most of my waking moments studying, PUMA was an amazing opportunity to break through the bubble, and really form a strong connection with people in the community, and hopefully make some small difference to some people.  So this Thanksgiving I was not only thankful to be able to spend time with my family, which I really take for granted as so many people don't have family or cannot be with them for whatever reason, but I am also thankful to be in training for a career where I can be helping people right from the get-go.

Newark Renaissance House
Kintock Group

Mini-Med at NJMS

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Extreme Eponyms

Here's your cake, Tissue Factor.  I hope you enjoy it.
There is only one thing in this whole world that is worse than eponyms (seriously only one thing - and it's not genocide or natural disasters, that stuff is mere child's play).  The worst thing in the world is things with more than one name.  You should never have to use "aka" more than once in reference to a single substance.  As if the coagulation cascade (all the many many steps that lead to the formation of a blood clot) isn't complicated enough, all the involved factors have at least two names.  The one that really takes the cake, though, is tissue factor aka thromboplastin aka factor III.  Why oh why must we fill the precious real estate in our brains with so many teeny tiny details?  [You also know it's bad when before a professor introduces a new molecule, such as Gp2b-3a, he prefaces it by saying, "Don't shoot the messenger, I didn't do the naming."]

More curious about where "take the cake" comes from than about the coagulation cascade?  Me too.  Read all about it's origins here.  One clue:

It's a cakewalk...  it's a cakewalk.

Listen to your friend, Billy Zane. He's a cool dude.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quotes From A Pharmacology Professor

"You can see chemically that this is an interesting molecule... well, maybe you don't think it's interesting but I do."

nope, not interesting

There are people out there nerdier than us!  We call them phds and they teach us most of our science lectures.  Say what you will about me and my fellow med students, but I can honestly say that there is no chemical structure that I will ever look at and say, "Ooooh now THAT is an interesting molecule."

Some other great quotes from professors last year: here and here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post-Exam Slump

It's a real thing.  And apparently impossible to avoid.  Even when it's the most beautiful fall weather all week.  And even though I still get at least 7 hours of sleep the weekend before the exam because otherwise I am an incoherent zombie for 2 weeks.  It's just mental exhaustion.

When tests were every 3 weeks (like for our last class, IHR), it was no big deal to slack off the week after the exam.  You sleep in Tuesday, run all your errands on Wednesday, stress about how behind you are on Thursday, actually see your friends and family over the weekend.  And then you feel refreshed for the next week and spend it catching up, and then you still have ANOTHER whole week after you catch up to enter serious-I-mean-business study mode.

fall is so pretty, why am i so grumpy?
Now that tests are every other week, we don't have that buffer week, and you really can't afford to take a whole week off from the serious studying.  Or really more than a day.  I tried so hard not to let myself get in a downer mood this past week - I went to the gym the day after the exam, watched the lectures, went grocery shopping... and then the next day I just gave up.  I stayed on top of school work for the week, but everything else sort of fell by the wayside.  I don't think I've responded to an email since the last exam.  I don't know about everyone else, but I seriously need mental breaks after exams, and I'm going to have to figure out how to work those into my schedule because otherwise this is unsustainable for the next 5 months.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Around the World in 80 Minutes

The Global Health Alliance, a club which has only been around for two years, put on a great event this week!  The event was called Around the World in 80 Minutes.  Members of the Global Health Alliance chose a country and presented a poster on that country's healthcare system, and bought or cooked food that was representative of the country.

The event was open to everyone (and over 100 people came, most likely because of the free food!) and we asked for donations at the door.  People could mingle, taste food from all over the world, and learn a little about the healthcare systems and issues from other countries (I hope that at least someone learned at least something and didn't just eat and run).

Each country prepared 3 multiple choice questions from the information on the poster, and the guest who answered the most correct questions got a $50 gift card to Amazon!  That's either half a textbook or a whole review book - an excellent prize.  The event was co-sponsored by lots of other student groups (which is how everyone could pay for their country's food) which allows ALL the donations to go to Partners In Health.

Here are pictures from some of the tables.  Of course, the pictures were taken towards the end of the night, so there's not much food left, but you'll just have to trust me when I say everything was delicious.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Gift That Just Keeps Giving

Does the Henderson-Hasselbach equation EVER go away? 

I think I have learned it almost once a year starting with freshman year of high school in Biology - and then again in AP Biology senior year, and then in both Intro to Biology and Intro to Chemistry in college, probably in Physics, again for the MCATs, again in Biochem in med school, definitely again in Physiology, again to teach the MCATs, and now again in Pathology.

I think I actually understood it for real for the first time last year in Biochemistry.  The seventh time's the charm, that's what they* say!

Even though I get it now, pKa still gives me nightmares sometimes.

*by they, I mean me, when it takes me seven times to learn something

Friday, October 28, 2011

We're Getting Fooled Again

For your viewing pleasure...

"How is this relevant to anything?" you ask.  Well, it's not really.  But I'm pretty sure NJMS is trying to trick us again in the same way they tried to with Mind, Brain, and Behavior (get it, get it? we won't get fooled again?).

Remember how our schedule is supposed to be a block schedule?  One science-y class plus one how-to-be-a-good-doctor-and-learn-social-skills class at a time?  They're doing a bad job that.  The science class we're in right now is DPPT - Disease Process, Prevention, and Treatment.  This class goes from last week until mid-March.  March!  That is like a 5-month course which is very un-block schedule-like.  Plus it incorporates both pathology and pharmacology, basically the two biggest subjects ever in med school.  So uh, no big deal putting them together, because neither is really that intense right?

All my complaining aside, it does soooorta make sense to lump the two together because the course is organized in a systems-based way.

What does that mean?  Well, we have a cardiology unit where we learn about all the things that can go wrong with the heart and then we learn about all the ways we can fix those things.  Then we have a pulmonary unit where we learn about all the things that can go wrong with the lungs and how to fix them, and etc. for the other organ systems in our body.

But don't pretend this is a block schedule.  Come on now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Aren't new versions of things supposed to have more features than the old versions?  Apparently not always.  I have a Macbook Pro which came with Quicktime X already installed.  OK, great.  Haven't really used it.  But I recently discovered the joy of not going to lecture.  Our lectures are all recorded and put onto ITunes which is SO NICE.  Since I like to get things done in the morning, I would rather wake up and get it all done, and then watch the lectures on my own time.  If I went to lecture, then by the time I get home I'm exhausted and don't do anything the rest of the day.  Plus I usually ended up re-watching lectures at home anyway because I wold inevitably miss something the lecturer said.  Blah blah no one is ever going to want to lecture for med school again, I'm ruining medical education blah blah blah.  I like watching lectures in my bed.  Sorry.

Quicktime X: Bad News Bears
But everyone since MGM - remember biochem? - (ok not everyone, but a lot of people) have been watching their lectures in Quicktime instead of Itunes on 1.5 speed, or 2 speed so that the lectures go faster.  I had not jumped on that bandwagon.  "No, no, you get more out of it if you watch it at the normal speed."  Wrong.  Recently there was finally one lecturer who spoke soooo slowlyyyy that I decided to try watching the lecture on 1.5x.  AND I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT.  I asked my roommate who gave me very explicit instructions.  But the menu options simply did not exist.

Quicktime VII (just kidding, 7)
So what does someone of my generation do when we have a problem?  Google it and see how other people fixed it.  "Where are A/V controls in Quicktime X?"  GUESS WHAT.  THAT FEATURE DOESN'T EXIST IN QUICKTIME X.  What version does my roommate have? 7 (although I think it should be written as Version VII).  So I had to download version 7 even though I have a newer version so that I could listen to my lectures faster.  And this is not such an easy feat - if you try and download quicktime, it (it = the internet) tries to give you version X obviously because that is the newer one, and why wouldn't someone want the newest version of something?

But all the trouble has changed my life for the better!  One of the other perks of watching the lectures at home is pausing them so that you can make sure you write down every word the lecturer says, but that often turns a 50 minute lecture into an hour and 20 minute lecture.  But when I watch it at 1.5 speed, even with pausing, it only takes about an hour to watch the 50 minute lecture.  Time Saver!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shameless Plug

Here's the poster we made that's hanging in the school and in the hospital to advertise some of our events.  I just wanted to share it with you all because I'm weirdly really proud of it.  And I spent the whole morning printing it.

Ahh, Busy

So much going on this week, no time for a post!

But here are some of the things I'm involved in that are coming up, and that you can look forward to (some only if you go to NJMS and some only if you're in my family, sorrrrrry):

  • My review (on this very blog!) of Dr. Tony Youn's book "In Stitches," a humorous take on his journey through med school
  • Lecture by Dr. Jaime Torres, regional director of Human Health Services on the future of US Healthcare (Mon, 10/24)
  • Primary Care Careers Dinner Banquet (Wed, 11/16) to celebrate National Primary Care Week
  • LGBT and AMSA are sponsoring a panel on what it's like to be out and in medicine (Thurs, 11/3) in honor of National Coming Out Week
  • Global Health 101's major event of the year, Around the World in 80 Minutes, where students teach everyone about the healthcare system and health issues of different countries and serve food from that country (Wed, 11/2)
  • Our first test for our new class today (take-home, but closed book - I really wonder how many people in the class will actually be honest with that)
  • Some very fun family events this weekend! :)

Lastlyyyyy, I just started the third book in the Game of Thrones series and it has really been taking up a large portion of my non-studying time.  In fact, had I not started it, I probably would have had time for a blog post, and to finish studying for my test already, and to run a marathon, and to learn how to play the guitar, and to learn a new language, and to....

To read excerpts and learn more about "In Stitches," check out Dr. Youn's website here

To learn more about National Primary Care Week or Primary Care Progress (the organization), click on their names.

To learn more about angora rabbits, click here

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"You Can See This Grossly"

I knowwww that words have more than one meaning, but sometimes when I hear a word, I think of the definition I like best, and then I get fixated on it and can't snap back to the "correct" definition which is "relevant" to the situation.

He's really grossed out

For our new class which started yesterday, DPPT (what? it's an acronym?! who would have guessed?), we have both histology labs and gross labs as part of the course.  In this case, in the histo labs we'll look at tissues under a microscope while in the gross labs we'll look at structures you can see with the naked eye (gross = macroscopic).  I get that.  I do.  I promise.  But I CANNOT help but assume the gross lab is going to be similar to one of those haunted houses where you're led from station to station and shown disgusting things like a bowl full of eyeballs (peeled grapes), or brainz (spaghetti?), etc.  The histo labs are where we look at tissues and the gross labs are where you look at gross things - obviously.

Something tells me I'm going to be grossly disappointed when I get to lab :-(

Friday, October 14, 2011


IHR, Infection and Host Response, comes to an end today (and because all of our course titles require an explanation, this class was Immunology and Microbiology).  If microbiology has taught me anything, it is this: it is a terrible idea to eat someone's feces.  Also, I should stop biting my nails.

A lot of the parasites we learned about are more prevalent in children/toddlers because they can't help but put their fingers in their mouths, so any parasite eggs they may accidentally touch (in the soil, or on any infected surface) get directly into their bodies.  Pretty sure I'm at the level of the toddlers on that one since I have absolutely no self-control when it comes to not biting my nails.

But it's a lot worse for me because first of all, I'm almost 25 and should be done with that by now (ALMOST - I still have two whole days before I'm in my mid-twenties, so stop rushing my life away, goshhhh) and second of all, I'm a med student and have seen the horrifying disgusting pictures of these parasitic diseases - which you think would scare me into never putting my hands near my face again.  But at least I've also learned that my immune system is wayyyy more developed than a toddler's - so ha-ha, whatup now toddlers?!

That's also why we can eat honey but babies can't; their crappy undeveloped immune system can't deal with the small amount of germs that are sometimes found in honey.  Adults - 1, Babies - 0.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Over 10,000 hits!

Granted, half of those hits are probably me - but still, that's exciting!

As a reward to all my loyal fans, I give you a surprise WEDNESDAY post with.... more ugly pictures!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Triaging Information

The "normal" medical definition of triage is prioritizing patients based on their urgency of need of care.  However, we (me and Jenna - remember her from all those Ecuador posts?  She's still around, I just can't seem to get rid of her) have created a new, and in my opinion, better, definition of triage for medical school.  Basically it means skipping over any information that we decide is not important enough to spend precious study time on.

There are overwhelming amounts of information to memorize for each test, so we have to prioritize where we spend our time, ideally spending more time on the topics that are more likely to show up on the test.  Usually we do a pretty bad job - we'll spend 2 weeks studying like 5 lectures (you know, so we can learn them reallly realllly well), and then all of the sudden we have 3 days to study the rest of the 30 lectures (and then forget everything about the first 5 lectures anyway).  So when it comes down to crunch time, you just can't spend the time on learning the inane details of all 30 of those lectures.  We started using triage as a synonym for prioritizing our time, but it's quickly taken on its new meaning.

"Do you think we need to know the serology for all the hepatitis viruses?"
"Triage it"

"What about the names of all the mosquitoes that carry encephalitic viruses?"
"Triage it"

"Horse viruses?"
"Triage them, and why are they even included in this course?!"

And so, ladies and gentlemen, triage now means skip.  Try to use it at least once in a sentence today.

Breathing? No - Dead. Thanks, triage card!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jewish Housewives' Disease

In honor of all the Jewish holidays that go on during this time of year (I really want to be mad that our exam is the Monday after Yom Kippur, but since we haven't had lecture with new material since Tuesday, it's sorta hard to say we don't have enough time to study....), I thought I would shed some light on the disease called Jewish Housewives' Disease as a DIRE WARNING to people who are heading in that direction.

Jewish Housewives' Disease's less fun name is Diphyllobothriasis, and it's caused by a tapeworm that's found in some types of fish.  If you cook the fish that contains this tapeworm (full name: Diphyllobothrium latum), then no biggy.  But if you eat it raw or undercooked, then you can get an infection that's sometimes hard to diagnose because you get very non-specific symptoms - stomach pain, anemia, fatigue [read about a real-life tale of a tapeworm from the NY Times].

So why are Jewish housewives most infected?  Because the world hates Jews?  Maybe.  But more likely it's because Jewish housewives make homemade gefilte fish (or at least they used to) - which is basically a delicious mushed-up ball of all different kinds of fish as well as an excellent excuse to eat gobs of horseradish.  And like any good cook (not that I would know), they would taste the gefilte fish to make sure it was perfectly flavored before they cooked it - aka raw.  And then... they would get INFECTED.  And to get better, they would have to take MEDICINE.

It's the making for the perfect horror movie, right?  I already thought of the tag line (read slowly in a deep, menacing voice). "All she wanted for Passover was to impress her mother-in-law with homemade gefilte fish.  She didn't ask for the uninvited guest ...   in her BELLY." 

Stephen King and I are already collaborating on the script, if anyone else wants in.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy October!

Look, we got an itty-bitty pumpkin because we're merry med students!

Worth every one of the 79 pennies it cost!  It may be hard to carve though - I'll need an itty-bitty x-acto knife.  How many pumpkin seeds do you think are inside?  Five?

Friday, September 30, 2011

To-Do List

My ridiculous to-do lists are really quite ridiculous.  I get so over-ambitious when I make them up that there is really no possible way I can finish all the things on my list for a particular day.  But even knowing that, somehow I'm always still disappointed with myself when it happens, aka every single day.

Here is my to-do list, photo taken this past Monday morning:

As you've noticed, on Monday I was still working on things from the previous Wednesday.  As you've also noticed, Thursday is not on the to-do list.  That is because I finished everything I wanted to do on Thursday!  As I finish things, instead of crossing them off, I delete them.  Trust me, it's much more satisfying.  And being able to delete a whole day is really the best feeling there is.

I also usually include things like "shower" and "eat dinner" on my list because (A) those things do take up time in the day and (B) I really like being able to delete things from my list.  The reason you don't see any of those on the list above is because they actually get done, so they're always deleted from the list.  You're not gonna see "eat dinner" from Wednesday still on the list on Monday - that would mean I hadn't eaten dinner in 6 days!  Now that would just be ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beans For Breakfast

Medical school is ruining me.  For breakfast one morning this weekend I had poached eggs with runny yolks - and for 48 full hours, I nervously waited for Salmonella or Campylobacter symptoms (which, by the way, never showed up).  But even worse, there was a bird on my friend's window sill when we woke up on Saturday morning.  She said that birds always hang out there and that her air conditioning unit is covered in bird poop.  A normal person might have thought, "Oh that's annoying."  But all I could think about was that she was going to end up with histoplasmosis!  Histoplasmosis, really?  I need help.  And apparently so does Johnny Cash.

(fast forward to 1:30 to hear about his bout with histoplasmosis)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fever and Malaise

What I have learned in microbiology so far is that every single disease presents with fever and malaise.  Starting a test question with, "a patient comes into your office complaining of fever and malaise" is not helpful.

Differential diagnosis: anything (really narrows it down, thanks).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


For once, we didn't have lectures or any work to do after our exam yesterday which meant we could actually enjoy the afternoon without overwhelming feelings of guilt.

A few of us went to Jersey City for lunch and to see one of our friend's new apartment.  But while we were enjoying a guilt-free beer with our sandwiches and spicy french fries (yum!), I couldn't help wondering what everyone else in the restaurant does that they can sit and have leisurely drinks at 2pm on a Monday afternoon.  Students also?  Homemakers?  Work at night?  Work Tues-Sat?  My curiosity will always go unsatisfied because I think it's probably considered unmannerly to ask random people sitting near you what they do for a living and how they can possibly be doing what they're doing.

A definite perk of being in school, though, is that the day is pretty much yours if you want it - like today I made an appointment at the genius bar at the Mac store and every single time slot I wanted was open because how many people are going to the mall in the middle of a weekday?  I made the mistake of going to Shop-Rite last Sunday morning and it was craaaazy.  I realized I have to take advantage of being in school and do things like grocery shopping on weekdays, when normal people are at work making money.

I'll be in bed talking to my friends on gchat who are already at their offices, and in that moment I'm thinking I have the better life because it's 10:00 and I'm still in my pajamas.  But come 5 or 6pm when they sign off gchat, they're done for the night.  I'll still be on the computer for another 5 hours trying to figure out which bacteria are oxidase positive and Gram negative and show up pink on MacConkey agar but green on Hektoen plates (potentially still in my pajamas).

Pros and cons to everything.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Med Student Stereotypes #3

Stereotype #3: The possibility of free food will make a medical student attend almost any event.

There is nothing a med student loves more than free food.

When we plan for any sort of interest group meeting or elective, the majority of the planning goes into what food we're going to provide.  Because unless you have the MOST interesting interest group in the world talking about the MOST interesting topic in the world at a time when there's no other meeting going on and right after an exam.... you better be serving food if you want anyone to show up.

While some people do have a few interests that they might be willing to head to a meeting about even without the lure of free food, the best way to ensure a crowd at your event is to send out an email with FUN COLORS promising FREE FOOD!!!.  That way, even people who might not feel all that strongly about whatever it is you're trying to teach them will still show up.

Pizza is the stand-by, but to realllllly draw a crowd, some people get fancy.  Indian food, Chinese food, sub sandwiches.  But sometimes the amount of food you have to order is overwhelming, and pizza is just easier.  Plus, it's cheaper, and still delicious.  There were weeks last year when I ate free pizza for two meals a day like three days in a row.

This time of year is a heavy meeting time - all the interest groups are holding their first meetings, the non-credit electives are starting up, lecture series are beginning...

So let the season of free food (free = pre-paid in the Student Activities Fund of our tuition) begin!

to see stereotypes #1 and #2, click here and here

Editor's Note (can I be the writer and the editor?): The only other way to ensure a crowd at your event is to make it mandatory.  Unfortunately I don't have that power, although i would love to write a mass email to all the students, "Come to Global Health 101 - or PERISH."  Somehow, I don't think that would be ok.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NSFW (just kidding, it's safe)

For those who don't know what NSFW means (hi grandma!), it stands for "Not Safe For Work."  Websites will often put this at the top of their pages as a warning to people who may be reading in a public place that what's about to follow may include something inappropriate - some image or video that you wouldn't want to be up on your computer screen at work if your boss happened to be walking behind you.

Don't worry, this post does not include any porn and is totally safe for work.  But sometimes the things we study don't really seem all that safe for work.

We're in the bacteria unit of microbiology and each day or so we learn about bacterial infections of different systems - of the skin, of the respiratory tract, of the gut, and of course, of the genitourinary tract... which basically consist of UTIs and STDs.

As you might imagine, our notes are filled with lovely pictures of all the characteristic sores and ulcers that accompany such bacterial infections.  And when I'm studying in a public study room, I feel very uncomfortable whenever someone walks behind me as I have giant pictures of disgusting genitalia on my computer screen.  Sometimes I even quickly minimize my notes (which totally makes it seem worse) before I remember that I'm not actually doing something wrong, and everyone around me also has to study those same lectures.

I would switch to studying less explicit diseases while in public places, but first of all - is studying the differences between watery and bloody diarrhea any better?  And second of all, when my professor includes clip-art like this (with sound effects!) in her lecture:

How am I supposed to be mature about it???

Friday, September 9, 2011

Procrastination Part II

This is the way my normal study habits work:

Do two minutes of work, check facebook and get annoyed that no one's posted anything new since the last time I checked, do two more minutes of work, check facebook again and get annoyed about what that one kid posted, do two more minutes of work, check facebook again and get annoyed that no one's posted anything new (not even that one annoying kid who ALWAYS posts things??), do FIVE WHOLE minutes of work, then reward myself by checking facebook, twitter, NYMag, Daily Beast, Perez Hilton, any med school blogs, facebook again, twitter again, go back to work and start the cycle over again.

How do I break this vicious cycle of spending all day in front of my computer and getting nothing done? I wish I could say self-control. Because one would think that I would have at least a small amount of that. Don't deceive yourself though, I don't.

I go to the study room on the 8th floor of our building because for the first two weeks of school I didn't know the wireless password so I had NO CHOICE but to actually do work for longer intervals than just five minutes. CRAZY, right?! And yet, I still found ways to procrastinate. For example by continuously counting how many pages there are left to go over in a particular lecture. Which is obviously really important considering at the bottom of every page of slides it says "Page X of Y Pages." I'm not kidding - I think I spend equal amounts of time counting the physical pages and actually going over the content in those pages.

The no-internet strategy doesn't work for me anymore anyway since someone so rudely shared the password with me last week. Basically I just need someone to sit behind me at all times making fun of how often I stray to a different website so I feel bad about myself and stick to studying.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


OK I clearly haven't posted in awhile. There are many reasons that I could give for why I haven't posted, but it's really just that I'm excellent at procrastinating.

I spend more time procrastinating than I do doing ANYTHING else. I procrastinate for more time than I actually study. I even procrastinate going to bed sometimes. I'll be lying in bed, absolutely exhausted, and will sit there flipping through random facebook albums or just hitting "Stumble!" over and over again, not even letting the pages load before I stumble again. All I want to do is go to sleep, but I just can't make myself close the computer and shut my eyes. And it's never like I'm doing something interesting on the internet that's keeping me up.

My biggest form of procrastination is watching bad TV illegally on my computer (shh, don't tell the police). Anyone who knew me growing up knows that watching TV was never a big part of my life. I was always the one left out in conversations about any show that was on the night before. But I have become absolutely addicted to shows like Teen Mom and Real Housewives of Anywhere. I watch plenty of good shows too, don't get me wrong. I went through the entire series of How I Met Your Mother in about 2 weeks, and I watched the whole first season of Game of Thrones in a day and a half. I've rewatched all of Futurama, and am re-beginning season one of The Simpsons for like the fifth time. All unnecessary! And yet I can't tear myself away.

Through the help of a friend, I have discovered a really wonderful and amusing form of procrastination which does not take as long as a TV show and is much more entertaining. Last year while studying for an exam, this friend sent a few of us an amazing picture in which she made herself pretty close to identical to Justin Beiber. Why would anyone (who is not a 12 year old boy) want to make herself look like Justin Beiber? To avoid doing work of course.

While I could never ever look like Justin Beiber no matter how hard I try (my hair is way too curly), with the help of Photo Booth, I have managed to take some pretty ridiculous looking pictures of myself instead of studying. The ones below were taken on two separate procrastination sessions. Please enjoy them, and I hope I still have friends after this (although I won't be surprised if I don't).

my personal favorite:

and one kinda pretty one just so no one thinks i'm actually a hideous monster...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Second Week, Second Year

Well I am officially done with my second week of my second year of med school. The problem with being a second year is that you're no longer a first year. As a first year, no one expects you to know anything at all. When you're a second year, I think people assume you know sooooomething. Since the expectations are higher, it's just that much more disappointing when it turns out you still don't know anything at all.

Since I am living in the exact same room in the exact same building with the exact same people, the beginning of this year felt a little bit like the Twilight Zone or Groundhog's Day. Nothing has changed. On the first day of class, everyone even sat in the same spots in the lecture hall as they did all of last year. Other than the requisite, "OMG hiiiii how was your summerrrrrr?" conversations, it really felt like we had taken a week off from class, not an entire summer vacation.

There are two big differences from last year though:
  • The first is the presence of all the new first years! I was finally getting used to all the people I would see around campus, and now there are all these new faces that I don't recognize at all.
  • The second is what should be the absence of last year's fourth years. Their absence wouldn't be so weird since I knew very few of them, and they were not on campus very often anyway. But the lack of absence is funny. For example, the other day I ran into last year's student council president (who I guess is doing his residency here at NJMS) wearing a LONG white coat. Just a few months ago we were emailing him about the lecture hall being too hot, and now he is a DOCTOR. Like a real, live doctor. Sometimes I forget that that's what will happen when we eventually finish.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Galapagos - Part III

Now for the fun stuff! As much as I'm sure everyone wants to hear a minute-by-minute, day-by-day account of the Galapagos Islands, I'm just going to give the highlights.

Most of our excursions consisted of some combination of the following activities: hiking, snorkeling, beach, and taking pictures of/learning about animals. Jenna and I also added a few of our own activities:
  • a fun game called "don't throw up or have diarrhea on the island," a game that's harder than it looks
  • an actually fun game called "if the animals could talk, what would they be saying right now"
  • and three, "how close can we get to take this picture before we scare the animals away"

One of the best activities was a beach that was just completely filled with sea lions. Sea lions have two completely different personalities. When they are in the water, they are so elegant-looking and cute (yes, they can be both) and active. On land, they are gross. Smelly and lazy and covered in flies. Plus, they don't really have back legs, so they can't move very well on land. They would get up and start walking somewhere and then just give up and flop back down. "It's too harddddd to walk because my back legs are stuck together, I'm just gonna lay here instead." On another day, we actually saw a newborn sea lion with it's mother. Female sea lions are apparently pregnant for 11 months out of every year!

a pretty sea lion just as it came out of the water

a sandy, lazy sea lion (and me!)

On one hike, we got to see lots of blue-footed boobies and albatrosses. Albatrosses, like the sea lions, have trouble walking. Their necks are way too long or heavy for their bodies, so with every step they have to sort of swing it from side to side to be able to move. Apparently it was mating season for the birds while we were there. Albatrosses mate for life, so they have this little dance that they do to be able to recognize their mate from last season. The boobies however are a bunch of sluts - all they do is show off their beautiful blue feet to another booby and they're ready to go.

albatrosses, trying to walk

blue-footed boobies: really blue-footed

teehee, blue-footed boobie sex

My favorite bird that I saw though (even though it's so not exciting) was the mockingbird. They are so freaking cute. In the olden days, sailors would lure the mockingbirds in by giving them water, then killing and eating them for food. So the mockingbirds still expect humans to give them water, so they literally would go up to one person and flitter around for a bit (but get no water, because we're not allowed to give them), then move to the next person and flitter around, and so on and so on. They reminded me of a really annoying little kid who just wants the older kids to like him and has wayyyy too much energy. "Hi! Want to play?! Pay attention to me! Pay attention to me! No? Ok, how bout you? Hi! Be my friend! Pay attention to me! Hi! Hello! No? Ok, next person..."

The animals we saw the most of were the iguanas. They were fatties. And everywhere. And because they're cold-blooded, they are constantly searching for the sun and finding ways to stay warm. So there were two ways you could see the iguanas - either in a giant clump all piled together for body warmth, or all in a line facing the same direction (towards the sun). The second formation was almost creepy - it looked to me like cult members all patiently waiting for their divinity to descend to the earth or something.

iguana orgy, trying to stay warm

waiting for the messiah to descend

Seeing the sea turtles while snorkeling was the best, but we also went to a tortoise breeding place on our last day. The tortoises are endangered, so they've been raising tortoises until they're five years old, and then releasing them back into the wild. What's kind of cool is that they don't actually know how old the tortoises can live to because they've only been studying them for 50 years, and after 10 years old, it's actually impossible to tell how old the tortoise is just by looking at it.

giant tortoise

baby tortoise

We also saw some white-tipped sharks - we saw one (our guide insists there were six, but I'm not so sure) while snorkeling, and the rest on a hike looking down into a little bay that the sharks like to hang out in. We also saw lots of crabs, flamingos, briefly some penguins, lots and lots of fish while snorkeling, and some really beautiful beaches.

To see more pictures, you should be friends with me on facebook. If you would like to see ALL 700 pictures from Ecuador, please just let me know and I will find some way to deliver them to you.