August Cruisin'

AUGUST 18, 2008

As I said before, sorry for the lull in posting lately. My main blogging computer crunched its last bit of binary and croaked and the repair/upgrade process has been a bit time-consuming to say the least (that's the tough part about building your own computers... crap, think I just let a bit of the inner nerd slip out).

So things have been putzing along at a fairly uninteresting rate these days. I would say it's the "lull of summer" but frankly I love this lull and academics will have a difficult time wrenching it from my grasp 2 weeks from now when class starts up again. Ok, I'll probably end up giving it up right away while whimpering and screaming "please! no! somebody!" but such is the immovable march of time.

So I've been filling my time with what is turning out to be an entertaining pastime - selling all my old undergrad textbooks on 2 sales already in the past 12 hours, who would have known there'd be such a market for 2 edition/4 year old hardcovers? But the best part about it all hasn't been the money. I know, funny.

The best part has been the old papers I have found hastily folded and stuffed into the bindings, a relic of my past (lack of) study habits and aversion to binders and organizing. College (and alcohol) will do that to you. Here's some of my favorites:

My how far we've come.

This was found in my old Biology 101 textbook. Yes, I was once tested on whether I knew and understood the terms "genetic variation" and "natural selection." There's two things that stuck out to me about the study guide.

One is just how much my scientific thinkbank has been expanded these past 5-6 years (despite my damnedest efforts to prevent it). There are thousands of words in my daily vocabulary now that were not there a couple years ago (or the gross majority a year ago). It reminds me of last summer. Last summer, I came into medical school missing a pre-req (*collective pre-med gasp*). Yup, apparently "statistics" isn't "math" enough for medical school, so at the last minute (1.5 months prior to matriculation) I had to pick up a science class at PSU to prove I was worthy of attending medical school. After talking to the dean's office, it turns out it could be any math class BUT statistics, so I flipped the course catalog to the MATH section and picked the closest freaking thing to the number 100. End result, MedZag, a cumme laude college graduate and accepted medical student, ends up enrolled in Math 107: Introduction to Algebra. With high school students. It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, since I hadn't taken algebra since I was 13 years old. Because algebra is one of the few classes growing up that I actually got a D on a test in. After many more years of math, geometry, pre-cal, calculus 1 & 2, statistics, to come back to that same subject I struggled with and to notice how easy, how fundamental it all seemed at that point of my academic career was really something. Call it "evolution." Now if only I could go back and retake BIO101 instead of having to look forward to "Circulation 201."

Second is that it's far too easy for us in medicine to assume our patients can understand what we are trying to educate them on when in actuality they may feel like we're speaking in a weird cross of latin and idiot. I've already been accused of speaking in "doctorese" when talking to my non-medicine friends about some of the crazy shit I see, but I cannot begin to fathom how you could explain to a newly-diagnosed cancer patient the difference between small cell and non-small cell lung cancer when they may barely understand what DNA is let alone mitosis, genetic variation, and natural selection/genetic evolution. These are words and understandings I gained with a college education, which seems so far in the past at this point of my training, but it is humbling to acknowledge that many patients I will see in the time of my practice who were never granted such an opportunity. The art of conveying "doctorese" in "crap-the-everyone-else-can-understandese" can take a career to perfect. And as not even in the "career" part of my life yet, I know I suck at it.

My how far we haven't come.

If the previous page I found was a testament to how much you can learn over the years, this one is a testament to all the crap you forget. Little bugs like Rickettsia and Salmonella and "Stephylococcus" (yeah I noticed that) were words I crammed into my noggin back in the day... and then subsequently completely forgot about. When I came across this page, I was honestly surprised, because the information had completely and utterly slipped out of my brain, namely because I never had to use it again in the remainder of my college career. After a thorough spanking in micro my MS1, these words are now common parts of my daily vernacular, but it points to what you forget so readily, even after learning something, if you never use it or apply it to your knowledge the rest of your life.

That's the frustrating part about the first two years of medical school, especially first year. You pound all these useless facts into your brain, in order to pass your next test, and in sacrifice to the almighty Step I, only to know you will lose the majority of it in the remainder of your career unless you use it in your daily practice. It seems utterly inefficient, and for all intents and purposes, it is.

I leave you with a page that isn't my own, but is a piece of looseleaf left in my undergrad biochem book from the previous owner to myself:

Wellspring of life
Superfluous as self
I am none than a
pH of 7.4 balanced
by paying the bills
and filling
up the car with gas.
Unleaded's already $2.09.
We're drinking up
commercialism in a tank
of thick black wine.
Drunk with the soldiers
pressed in the huddle
east where the sun rises
to another lonely day.
Seeing only the tops of our
heads. No one basks in the sun.
We bask in our lower office.
No one looks up into
the asky anymore, face greeting the rays.
Only the very young and even
their baby faces are
turned to the luminescent screen.
(They play virtual tag.)

Ah, undergrad bio majors. Gas for $2.09 a gallon? You got to be f*cking me. Black wine? More like black franzia.