Saturday, January 29, 2011


Here are the answers to last week's Muggle Medicine vs. Magic quiz!

1. Locomotor mortis - "Leg-Locker Curse" - locks together the legs of the victim, making him or her unable to walk.

2. Redactum skullus - a hex that shrinks the target's head

3. Septum transversum - embyronic tissue that becomes the diaphragm and other important abdominal structures

4. Furnunculus - a spell that causes the victim to break out in boils

5. Foramen magnum - a large opening in the base of the skull through which the medulla oblongota (among other things) is transmitted

6. Nervus spinosus - a branch of the mandibular nerve

7. Cistem aperio - a spell that opens a large crate or chest

8. Bulbospongiosus - an erectile muscle in the perineum

9. Auricularis - pertaining to the ear

10. Homenum revelio - a spell that reveals human presences in the surrounding environment

Friday, January 28, 2011

Muggle Medicine or Magic?

Now that we are officially done with anatomy (or will be, as of 1 pm today), I am giving you all a pop quiz.

For each item below, determine if it is a term from Anatomy or a spell from Harry Potter.

1. Locomotor mortis
2. Redactum skullus
3. Septum transversum
4. Furnunculus
5. Foramen magnum
6. Nervus spinosus
7. Cistem aperio
8. Bulbospongiosus
9. Auricularis
10. Homenum revelio

Click here for answers!  No cheating!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Things Could Always Be Worse?

This exam week is really the exam week to end all exam weeks (hah, just try using "exam week" more times than me in a single sentence). Yesterday we had our Anatomy Unit IV exam (head and neck), coming up on Friday is our Anatomy shelf exam (basically a national, standardized final - see this post if you want to know more of my thoughts on shelf exams), and then the following Monday is our final for Ethics, Humanism, and Professionalism.

This is by far the busiest week in terms of tests that I have had so far in med school. BUT before you start feeling tooooo bad for me, I look to other med schools to make myself feel better.

NJMS has a block schedule, which means we really only take one major class at a time. Just as a reminder (in case for some weird reason you haven't memorized every single word I've ever written in the blog), our first block included MGM, or Molecular and Genetic Medicine (basically biochemistry) plus a Physician's Core class of Medical Interviewing.

Our second block, which we are finishing up right now, is ACE (Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Embryology - with Histology thrown in there too, but apparently it doesn't deserve it's own letter in the title) with a Physician's Core class of Ethics, Humanism, and Professionalism, or EHP. People really freaking love mnemonics in med school.

Coming up next is Physiology with Physical Exam.

But people I know at other med schools take alllll of their classes at once. Yes, they move slower than us in each subject (because the class will last the whole year), but it's still like, 7 classes they have to be able to keep straight at once. And come exam week - now that is an exam week that makes my exam week from hell look like the easiest exam week ever (woo, beat my record!).

Obviously, there are pros and cons to both a block schedule and a regular schedule (for instance, some schools have a systems-based curriculum, so in every class they will be learning about the heart at the same time - the biochemistry behind it, how it develops in the embryo, the anatomy of it, how it works in physiology, drugs and diseases related to it in pharmacology - and that's sort of a cool way to learn).

But come exam week, I am VERY happy with our block schedule. Not only do we rarely have more than one exam at a time, but we can also actually enjoy ourselves for a night or two after an exam instead of struggling to catch up in all the other classes we abandoned while cramming for the exam for that one class.

Friday, January 21, 2011

M1 Patient Diagnosis

M1 means first year med student (as opposed to law school, where 1L means first year law student - who decides this stuff?). This is DEFINITELY how we sound when we try to interview patients, but hopefully minus the computerized voices at least.

Watch an alternative ending to this video, or more videos like it here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Intro to Preceptorships

Preceptorship: a period of practical experience and training for a student, especially of medicine or nursing, that is supervised by an expert or specialist in a particular field (source).

One thing NJMS is particularly known for is early exposure to clinical medicine. At many med schools, you don't actually see a real patient until you begin rotations in your third year. Here, there are many opportunities for shadowing physicians or volunteering in a clinic right away in your first year, and for those who are too busy (lazy) to participate in electives, we are forced into patient interactions anyway through preceptorships that started in the beginning of January.

There is a list of participating family medicine specialists, internists, and pediatricians throughout NJ who agree to take on a first year med student, and it is a lottery system for who gets paired with whom. Then for the next 13 weeks for about 3 hours a week, we shadow our doctor and hopefully as we learn more, get to be involved with the patients' care by starting to take histories and soon, performing basic physical examinations.

Right now we're two weeks in, and I'm pretty excited about it. Everyone is going to have a completely different experience based on the doctor that they shadow - the types of patients they see plus what each doctor actually allows us to do. I'm trying to keep a really open mind and take every experience, whether positive or negative, as a learning opportunity. The doctor I'm shadowing is incredibly nice and so far has been an excellent teacher. I know I will be able to learn a lot from him and from the experience in general - hopefully by the end of this I won't be so uncomfortable in front of patients and won't be so afraid of things like stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Med School Toys Part II

Watch out everyone, I have a stethoscope and I am sure at some point in the near-ish future I won't be afraid to use it!

As some already know, I had a huge moral dilemma trying to decide what color to get. You can order a stethoscope in more than FIFTEEN colors!!! Ok, maybe "moral" is not the right adjective, but it did feel like a big deal. I was deciding between purple, hunter green, and the new "pearl pink" (pictured), but decided at the last minute to go with classic black. Not only will it match everything, but I think I'll have a better chance of being taken seriously as a doctor. Unfortunately, I am no Elle Woods - plus, patients and older physicians seeing me as mature and put-together is probably almost as important as actually knowing all my stuff. And I certainly don't need anything working against me in the look-at-me-as-an-adult category.

Here is a picture of me with my new stethoscope and my less-than-new scrubs and white coat (well, me if I was 2-D, headless and handless, and lying on the floor of my dorm room). Do I look like a doctor, or what?

But wait, there's more! Soon I'll have my very own ophthalmoscope and otoscope which of course begs the question - once I have all the equipment, do I even need to keep going to class, or can you just start calling me doctor now?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quotes from an Anatomy Professor

"If you put parathyroid as an answer on the test, I will hunt you down and smack you."

That is because the parathyroid glands are small, easily destroyable (during dissection of a cadaver), and behind the thyroid so it would be pretty impossible for the professors to tag it for the practical.

Who knew professors could have a sense of humor?

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Non-Vacation Vacation

Now that we're one week back into classes, have you been wondering what a first year med student does with her first real break from medical school? Does she:

A) study, because it's not really vacation since another unit of anatomy started Monday?

B) spend lots of time with family and try to (pretty unsuccessfully, stupid snowstorm) fit in seeing friends she hasn't seen in the last four months?

C) read a book called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers?

Or, obviously... drum-roll please...

D) all of the above!

Everyone pause and take a minute to think, "What a weirdo - who reads a book about cadavers in their free time?" Ok good, moving on.

From the back cover, the book "visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them." Just some of the topics include cadavers being used in first-year anatomy labs, in seminars for surgery practice, for vehicle safety crash tests, and for other very odd things like medical cannibalism and crucifixion experiments.

There was also a whole chapter on crimes of anatomy. Apparently, dead bodies used to be a pretty hot commodity, and plenty of morally questionable men made a good living in the 19th century out of body snatching - literally stealing bodies from recently dug graves and then selling them to anatomists or universities to use for dissections. Two men, William Burke and William Hare, really take the prize for going the extra mile though - they weren't content with just stealing already-dead bodies; they also murdered guests that stayed in Hare's lodging house (everyone needs a day job) and then sold those cadavers to Dr. Robert Knox of Edinburgh University.

I found the book to be equal parts creepy, funny, and informative - probably the same three adjectives that could be used to describe the author's personality.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ugly: Cadavers Are Full of Sh*t

Literally. We found this out the hard way when our cadaver's colon was accidentally cut into. It's not that it was surprising - what else would be in there, right? But it's really an unpleasant smell, and definitely an unpleasant consistency. So unfortunately, my group did not get to do the last dissection; we just followed along with other groups. The professors thought that it would be better to keep the cadaver closed rather than continuing to move things around inside and let more of the colon contents ooze out. I would have to agree.

Other than that, I have exactly three complaints when it comes to dissecting:

#1. You get starving during dissections. Why is that a complaint? Because it creeps me out that after looking into an opened human body for two hours I need to go home and immediately eat a gigantic meal - especially when some professors make meat jokes constantly ("ahh, there is a nice brisket" or "look, you found flank steak - delicious with garlic"). It's weird. And while I can't really look at meat the same way anymore, it's unfortunately still very delicious.

#2. Dissecting is exhausting. Even having just one two-hour (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer) lab knocks you out for the rest of that day. You come home from lab, shower, eat your gigantic meal, and then usually pretend to do work until it's an acceptable time to go to bed. And by pretend to do work, I mean have your book open in front of you while you watch TV or play stupid games on the internet. Studying by osmosis works, right?

#3. Dissecting is uncomfortable every time I'm reminded (especially if it's unexpectedly) that I'm working with what was once a person with a life and a story. The body hair and fingernails agitated me the most. Everything else about the body just seems fake. A cadaver doesn't bleed, and embalmed skin doesn't really feel like a real person's skin, so it's easy to believe that it's not a real person. Or at least easy not to think about it. But when a loose hair gets stuck on your glove, or you accidentally brush against a sharp nail - there's no difference between a cadaver's or your lab partner's, and that is a very uncomfortable feeling that will definitely give you the chills. The hands in general were also very discomforting, for reasons that I'm not sure I know how to put into words.

For me, dissecting was such a weird mix of needing to objectify but wanting to personalize (anyone who knows me, or has at least read my post on assigning emotions to human organs, knows I like to make up stories about everything), and finding that balance could be tough. In the same vein (pun very much intended), I have mixed feelings about not getting to do the head and neck dissections. On one hand, I feel cheated that our med school class is the first year not to get to do it. But on the other hand, I wonder how well I would really be able to handle it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Day!

Happy 1/1/11 everyone (thanks Mom for pointing that out)! I once read on some website somewhere that one good way to not give up on goals is to tell people about them so that you're too embarrassed to quit (or fail). So, internet world, let me tell you my New Year's Resolutions in the hopes that I will be shamed into keeping them.

1. Floss.
2. Actually be consistent in updating the blog - I'm aiming for a new post every Tuesday and Friday so that people will know when to check for updates (...on Tuesdays and Fridays, for those who needed more clarification).

Also, if you're looking for a late, cheap holiday present for me, as I know so many people are, follow my blog by clicking the big "Follow" button on the right side of the screen. My secret New Year's Resolution (secret means not on my official list of resolutions found above) is to look cooler and have more followers that don't necessarily share my last name. Because looking cool is what's important in life. And, if you become a follower, you get a prize. That prize is that every time you look at your Google Reader, it will tell you if my blog has been updated since you last checked. Best. Prize. Ever.