Monday, August 24, 2009

Because I'm Technologically Astute

I just figured out how to change the profile associated with this blog to the email address I actually use now. Hopefully that will simplify my life a little. It may also lead to some new people finding this blog - hello, everyone! I hope that all my previous posts are fit for present company.

Anatomy is going well so far - it's really encouraging to see how well the first year students have been doing. It's kind of hilarious, because most of them seem to think I know everything, because I'm a TA - yeah... I don't, actually. But I have gotten really good at knowing how to look stuff up, so if you want help with that, I'm your girl. I'm sticking to my guns so far about not telling anyone what a structure is if I'm not sure I'm right - makes me look kind of stupid sometimes, but I'd rather look dumb than tell someone the wrong thing. If someone asks me, and believes me, "because I'm the TA," and I'm wrong, then that's unfair - so I'm taking one for you all, M1's, and you're welcome.

Studying CNS pathophysiology right now - basically seizures, headaches, strokes, etc. It's pretty interesting - the module is a little confusing, so I'm highlighting all the parts that don't make sense so I can tell the module author. Apparently, "You left out a bunch of words and phrased things in a really confusing way," isn't all that helpful when they're trying to revise. Who knew?

House is a mess... I need to clean, but don't really want to, so I'm not. The worst part is it would probably take about fifteen minutes to make things presentable. Oh, well.

On an entirely different topic - Eoin is the best cat ever. Know why? He doesn't mind baths, for one; he rides in the car well, for another - but the absolute best thing? If he feels sick, he meows (you all know the "cat about to throw up, meow, I'm sure), waits for someone to come see what's wrong, and then runs downstairs to throw up on the concrete basement floor - after showing you just where he's going to go, so you can clean it up right away. Fantastic. I may never get another cat - I couldn't top this one.

According to our neighbor (across the street), our next-door neighbors with the barking dogs and the tabby cat don't ever feed their animals. Now, I don't know how true that is - the cat's old, and old cats get kind of bony - and the dogs certainly look well fed. But I wonder. We'll keep an eye out. Another neighbor said her cat has feline leukemia, so I think we're going to keep Eoin in till he's got his vaccination in the next month or so. We only take him out on the leash, and don't let him approach other cats, but better safe than sorry. Everyone thinks that the neighbor tabby is the disease-spreading culprit - poor kitty. Unfortunately, poor kitty likes to spend time in our yard, so we want to be sure Eoin stays away from her and anything she might leave in the yard.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I generally try to be a nice person. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. That said, I'm having a very difficult time with one of the other women in my program.

She's a sweet person, who tries really hard to be helpful. That said - she is incredibly distracting, irritating, and often says things that make life more difficult instead of less.

This person comes into the lounge nearly every day, and chats with the people who are trying to study there. Now, I don't know about you, but I usually assume that when a person is typing away on a computer, or discussing an assignment with another person, or smiles at me and then immediately returns to what they were doing when I arrived, that that person is busy and doesn't want to visit. This woman doesn't. She continues to talk, is oblivious to cues that are meant to indicate the end of a conversation, and often speaks to us condescendingly about the things we are trying to learn (she's a year ahead of the rest of us, and already on the wards). Or she tells us that the material we are studying is wrong, and that "the attendings say that..." - which is fine, but not really helpful - if we miss an exam question, "So-and-so said the attendings say..." is not a valid reason. I appreciate that she's trying to help, and she's probably coming in because she wants to socialize a little and relax. That's fine - but we are not taking a lunch break, we're studying, and we don't have the time to facilitate her down time.

It's aggravating to say, "Have a nice day," as she leaves, and then realize that your polite nothing has invited her to stop and lecture you for ten minutes on what she's going back to the hospital to do. She can't go out the door without stopping to talk at least three times.

The thing is, she is basically nice, and very friendly - but she has often wasted an hour of my time this way. I guess I should stop trying to be nice and just walk away and study elsewhere - but why should I have to? Our lounge is for relaxation and studying, mainly by the first and second year students in our program - if I'm using the lounge as it was intended, why should I have to leave because someone else is being disruptive?

Oh, well. Not really looking for a solution - I could be blunt and tell her I need to study, or leave the room. I know what my options are, I just feel mean for doing either, and kind of resent her for putting me in a situation where I have to be rude to her or not get my work done.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Memorization in Half-Lives

No, I don't mean that I spend half my life memorizing... although, this past week, I have. Jeez - I could have done without that realization. At any rate, I've noticed that I can memorize about half of any given set of information on one pass. So, for example, I had a drug list of 500 to learn for my pharm exam - the first time through the list, I got 300 right. Out of that 300, I got 180 the next time; and out of the 120 left, 50.

So what this makes me think is that I should start studying much bigger chunks of information, so as to learn more, faster. Flawed logic? Probably. But I kind of feel like a genius for coming up with it.

Pharmacology is kind of an interesting subject to study. It's a huge amount of information, and you need to understand a lot of physiology for it to make much sense - the less phys you know, the more you have to brute-force memorize. I am all for efficiency (read: lazy) and so I'm not so much a fan of straight memorization. As a result, I've reviewed a lot of phys this summer so the pharm would make sense.

Another result of not liking to memorize? I can't actually remember mnemonic acronyms. You know, "Some Drugs Create Awesome Knockers"? Not so much - I usually forget what acronym goes with what, and which of the 73 "K" drugs Knockers stands for. So, I go for drug-name based memory aids - "Eszopiclone" = "Iz Zolpi Clone!" (same basic mechanism as zolpidem.)

School officially starts back on Monday - I'm starting back to class for the first time since last October, because I'm independent study and a TA for the anatomy class. Not looking forward to 8 am class at all, but anatomy should be fun - it'll be a good review for me, and a little change of pace from studying flash cards and tables in my study all day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You Won't Hear This Advice at the Doctor's Office

But I'm firmly convinced that when taken in moderation, scotch cures everything.

Bad cold? Scotch.

Tension headache from reading about gastrointestinal phys all day? As I recently discovered - scotch.

Not a lot - I imagine that a lot would make everything worse in a number of ways. But a little bit? Let's just say I think there's a reason the Irish call whiskey "the water of life."

I'd probably never get my medical license if I ever said to anyone in a clinic visit, "Have you tried scotch for that?" But really - all things are good or bad in moderation, right? I wonder a little why everyone is so comfortable prescribing opiates for people with chronic pain, and yet no one ever says, "A hot toddy will take care of that cold for you." Oh, no. It's Neti Pots and clear fluids and wait till it's over. Why are doctors so comfortable with strong drugs that have potentially dangerous side effects, and yet you'd never catch one suggesting alcohol beyond a glass of red wine a day? I'm not saying it's always good for everyone - no drugs are, come to that - but surely it isn't any worse than anything else is. And anything that can get rid of the monstrous headache I had all afternoon that Excedrin couldn't touch is golden in my book. Thank you, Glenfiddich.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It's finally spring in Ohio... we have some lovely yellow tulips in the yard, and a brand-spanking new garden plot all tilled and tucked away under a tarp until May, when it will finally be safe to put the tomatoes outside.

I am beginning to suspect that I was a little too ambitious with the tomato plants - we have about 30 started inside. I forgot that tomatoes produce all summer long, and more than one tomato at a time. Ahem. Then we went to Lowe's, which sells six foot long tomato stakes. Oh, my goodness.

So.. if we have a boatload of tomatoes this summer, I may learn how to can homemade pasta sauce.

We've been getting to know our neighbors - Phil is a middle-aged man whose partner passed away several years ago; my mother in law calls him "the pirate" because when she met him he was wearing an earring and a bandanna on his head. He's really nice, and always willing to keep an eye on the house if we're going to be gone for a weekend. He rents a room to a guy about our age, Andrew, who is also nice, though we rarely see him.

Across the street is Birgit, a middle-aged woman whose husband passed away this past year - she and Phil have gotten to be pretty good friends (she says it's nice to talk to someone who understands what it's like to lose a partner). She's really funny, and the kind of neighbor you can borrow a ladder from in exchange for a plate of cookies, if you know what I mean.

It's nice to have neighbors - I never really have before, and it's kind of neat. When the power goes out, everyone goes out to their yards and visits; people chat over yard work on the weekends; people offer to help you with big projects if they see you need it. Kind of a novelty for someone raised out of sight or sound of neighbors - but I like it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Sound of Med School

... Is the burr of a coffee grinder at 10 pm.

I feel like I'm finally settling in to the rhythm of studying all the time. Not that I wasn't before, but now I don't feel so resentful about it. Just the way it is.. it helps that I'm studying more effectively, and doing well on the exams. Makes me feel like the effort is worth it.

I feel like a "real" med student this week - Pat's been out of town on retreat, so I've been studying all hours of the night, eating quick dinners of yogurt, hot dogs, and leftovers, and generally functioning the way I imagine most of my classmates do on a regular basis. Kind of nice to have so much time for studying, and for myself - but I'll be glad when he's home.

In the meantime, I'll be studying cardio at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why, Yes, We DID Buy Right Before the Crash!

As I've been watching the news lately (or, you know, reading it on the internet at 1:30 am after finishing studying ... not quite as picturesque as sitting at the breakfast table with the paper and a cup of steaming coffee, is it?), I've been realizing more and more how very, very lucky Pat and I are.

We bought a house in June 2008. Lest you think we are completely stupid, let me remind you that in June of '08, we all thought that the sliding home values were a good thing - it was a buyers' market! Kind of like... oh, I don't know... buying a bunch of stock in June of '29, we had no idea how bad things were going to get.

That said (and this is where the first very comes in), we are not worried about losing the house. We can pay all our bills. We even go out to dinner sometimes. Why? Because we, unlike most American homeowners, do not have jobs. I know this seems counterintuitive, but stick with me. We are students - our money comes from the university and good ol' Uncle Sam. As long as we don't fail out of school, we will have income. We are lucky that the recession hit while we were in school, and somewhat insulated from the realities of the job market.

Furthermore - we are used to living very, very frugally. Granted, we have no children, which is a money-saver in itself! But we live on less than $25,000 a year - and do so pretty comfortably. How, you ask?

1. We don't buy convenience foods.
We do buy store bread, now, which we didn't when we first moved - but we are busier with school, and I can't figure out how to keep it from going stale/molding before we can eat it, so we buy bread on sale and put it in the freezer till we need it.

2. Speaking of the freezer. This is the best investment you can make for saving money. Buy everything on sale - meat, vegetables, butter, cream cheese (for baking - the texture goes a little funny after freezing), shredded cheese, bread, juice. It all goes into the freezer. Our grocery budget is low - and we eat meat most nights, and always have balanced meals.

3. We buy everything else on sale, too. Canned goods, pasta sauce, coffee - you name it, we've got it in the pantry. We could probably go for a whole month without buying food, though the meals might be more interesting toward the end.

4. Craigslist. We keep a list of things we're looking for (bread machine, sewing machine, new ceiling fan to replace the one that crapped out, cabinet for the TV, just to name a few) and keep an eye on the list to get things when they're available cheap or free.

5. Sharing a checking account really curtails discretionary spending - every time I buy a coffee, I KNOW he can see that I did... and while he wouldn't care, it does make me think about whether I really need it.

6. Keeping a savings account for household spending, so that if we see a GREAT deal on something we can get it without using credit cards or maxing out the budget for the whole month.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Looking Up

Well, we got a cat. His name is Eoin, which I personally feel is a little pretentious given that we are not Irish, but my husband's ancestry is, and he is studying the history of music in Ireland, so I capitulated. I kind of think that the new-agey back-to-fairies-and-nature types ruined Ireland for the rest of us... but I digress.

Eoin is a three year old black cat, who is very sweet and friendly, independent enough that I don't feel like I'm constantly tripping over him, and disdains his new scratcher. "Why would I use that silly cardboard thing," he asks, "when your living room chair has such lovely, resilient upholstery? And is that CATNIP I see on there? Come now, foolish woman - joke's on you, it has no effect on me. Crack is whack!"

Our poor furniture.

I discovered a great neuroanatomy tutorial page on Washington University's med school page - thank goodness. Because I think that the module author for neuroanatomy here may have gotten into the catnip. The book we were supposed to use is a good text, but the objectives don't really ... go with it well. So I have spent a great deal of time being frustrated and confused, and I don't really deal with either very well. As a result, this is the first post in awhile, as I decided that dwelling on the situation would not do much to improve my mood.

Anyway - the point is, now that I understand what the heck the guy is talking about, I've realized that he wrote a really comprehensive module that simply needs a little more background knowlege to be understood. And neuro is really, really interesting. Go figure. I think that was the worst part - knowing it was going to be such a great topic and then... not understanding a word.

I've also been dealing with some personal stress... I realize that I am a liberated modern woman, etc., and that doing dishes, dinner, laundry, windows, floors, and toilet is not necessarily part of my job description as first year medical student. That said - I'm also newly married, a new home-owner, and would really like our house to feel... like a home. Not an oversized dorm room. So I feel like I'm letting someone down if I don't make dinner, or if I let the dishes pile up or the cookie jar lie empty. I'm not sure exactly whom I'm letting down - most likely, just me. My husband's - well, he theoretically can cook, do laundry, dishes, etc., but I think he forgets that when he does, he's just doing his part, rather than doing me a personal favor by taking over my chores. But he really believes he thinks that these jobs should be shared equally.

Anyway ... a lot of the men in my program are married, and very few of the women - so the wives my age I know are stay at home wives and mothers, who have neat homes, hobbies, enjoy baking, and produce bouncing bundles of joy. And even though I want to be a doctor, and really enjoy what I'm doing, it's hard being constantly bombarded with other people who are doing all the other things I would really like to do. I love to bake - I love babies. But I don't have a wife, and I'm in med school - so unlike the men in med school, who can get married and have those idealistic home lives, I have to use a crock pot and get a cat. Whom I love dearly, but that's not exactly the point.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Chair

I finally found a comfy chair that fits up the stairs in our 1955 Cape Cod - not a small accomplishment! It's a light green wing chair, and has kind of chenille-y material. My husband says it looks like an old lady chair, but considering that he married a woman who like rose-scented lotion, cats, and crocheting, I'm not entirely sure what he expected. I think it looks like a perfect place to sit in my very own little study, where I can read for hours about physiology and chemistry and not be disturbed.

I'm spending way too much time looking at cats on even though I know we've agreed that we won't get one till spring. I want a kitty... sigh. Not sure how to do it, because most places want a reference from a vet and I've only ever had pets at my parents' house. Their vet knows me, but don't know if they'd accept a reference from him or not since I wasn't the primary pet-owner.

Guess I'll find out in a few months.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Day in the Neighborhood...

Or, more correctly, the Independent Study library. In my gray little cubicle, which I have happily outfitted with all the comforts of home so that I can at least have a few material things to ameliorate the effects of studying all day long.

I have a green blanket, filtered water brought from home (because Columbus water is awful and the medical school seems to filter all of theirs through a limestone deposit - it comes out white from the water fountains. Literally), a Hot Shot (nifty thing - put the water in and it heats and dispenses enough for a really big cup of tea), a beverage warmer, a space heater, and a huge stock of granola bars and easy mac.

Still ... all I want to do is curl up with my green blanket by the space heater and take a nap.

And yes, I did just get here.

Oh, a long day is approaching...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why I'm Doing This

This is just a reminder to myself, because it has been a pretty hellish week.

I'm doing this because I can't be a doctor without knowing how these things work.
I'm doing this because I never want to look at my patient, who trusted me, and tell him or her that I screwed up because I didn't bother to learn the boring details.
I'm doing this because I want to help people.

I'm doing this because I'm a masochist.

To all future patients -

You're welcome.