28 March 2006

Exhibit A

Lord Melvyn Bragg has written a book entitled Twelve Books that Changed the World and the BBC now was a forum asking readers what their selections would have been. The criteria loosely translates to: books that changed the world to that in which we now live. He included selections from Charles Darwin, George Orwell, and Adam Smith, among others.

Many of the public responded with the Bible, a few with Albert Camus, several with Ann Rand, and many concurred with Orwell, but one notable member of the public, Mark Keen from Swindon, submitted the DaVinci Code. He has got to be kidding. I mean seriously. I like my insubstantial fiction now and then just as much as the next person, but what exactly is true about the post-DaVinci Code world that was not true of the pre-DaVinci Code world? Upsetting the religous community and constantly being in the press are not world changing qualities, or else we would have to include TomKat and Lindsay Lohan as world-altering figures. Please.

On the American side of the pond the New York Times magazine has an interview this week with Bonnie Fuller, the editorial director of American Media. I won't even go into the appalling book she's recently written titled The Joys of Much too Much but instead will mention the transcribed statement "I guess I am registered as a Democrat. I guess, because you have to register?" How exactly did this woman become editor of some of the most widely read women's magazines? Granted, Glamour isn't exactly a hot bed of political debate, but even they put "register to vote" as a "Do!" And shame on the New York Times for called Ms. Fuller "a symbol of female accomplishment." We can do so much better.

27 March 2006

Hosptial Training III

All I can say is... brilliant fun! There is a team in the hospital responsible for transporting inpatients between their rooms and various tests (ie xray, ultrasound) and back or discharging them. For my last five hours of training I shadowed this team and ended up spending lots of time with several really interesting patients.

Easily the most interesting was a man who had heart problems and a severe buildup of fluid in his legs (preventing him from voluntary movement). He was a very nice man and we chatted for nearly two hours while we got him to xray and had four chest films taken ( they blew the tube in the xray machine due to the high dose of radiation) - he told me all about his godsons, whom apparently I would quite like as they are footballers (read: soccer) and are 6'3'' and 6'4'' and very handsome ;) After we finished he wanted to stand up and re-adjust his gown and his placement on the bed so we helped him stand up (he farted) and as soon as he was up ... "did you bring the bedpan? I really need to pee!" Of course, we hadn't brought the bedpan. By the time we made is out of xray this man had three radiologic nurses and three transporters attending to him.

The first transport of the day was a woman who had come in through the ER and needed an ultrasound. We arrive with a stretcher and the doctor stopped us in the hallway, "she's not going to fit on that." Apparently there are oversized beds we can use for, well, oversize patients, but they are a huge pain in the butt because finding one in the hospital is tough and you have to dissassemble the arms to get them through doorways. "you can try, she must have been on one in the ER, but... good luck." Try we did, and managed it too. Luckily she was mobile and could walk over to it herself (it would have taken a 4 horse team to lift her) - this woman was EASILY the largest human I've ever seen in person. Her boobs were at her belly button, her arms were bigger than my hips and her ankles were the size of my head.

The whole experience has made me quite excited for my time there. Maybe after the summer (I'm registered for far more courses than is advisable) I'll see if I can get a job in the hospital. One that pays.

26 March 2006

Dissection V: Fetal Pig & Rat

This dissection was the toughest yet: finding the neck glands of the pig was next to impossible. It was also slightly disturbing to crack the ribs when we folded the sternum back to poke around the pericardial space. The anatomy was incredibky similar to what we learn in human physiology though, so it was also intensely interesting.

The liver was noticably less fatty than in the shark, but most of the organs were the same colour in the pig, making it harder to differentiate. There were also many more peritoneal membranes so the dissection technique was understandably more prolonged, involved, and cautious. In fact, my partner and I were the last ones to finish and we didn't quite get our eye done correctly, but we'll be doing another eye later in the semester, so I'm not worried. I will say, that what we did manage to complete was quite well done (if I may say so myself) and we destroyed none of the organs in the process. We were even able to differentiate some of the major musculature in the pectoral region.

We had an exam and a lab quiz immediately prior to dissection, both of which went well. I think I managed to keep my special connective tissues and my stratified squamous epithelia straight :)

19 March 2006

Dissection IV: Dogfish Shark

Without a doubt the coolest dissection yet, especially because our TA returned (there was a sub last time) and there was no lab quiz. We dissected the dogfish shark, right down to cutting open the skull and stomach. The stench was, well, it was powerfull and there was definately some projectile sperm while examining the male reproductive organs, but for the first time you could really see the homology between the dissection subject and well, our future patients.

The liver was stunning. Not because it was elegant, but because it was huge and so luxuriously slimy. Since it's largely lipids it has this sleek sheeny texture. The kidneys were unusual since they are on the abdominal wall surface and run the length of the shark. Even more interesting is that the vas deferns (sperm transport ducts) are on the surface of the kidneys. Sperm travels though the kidneys and then the vas deferns to the seminal vesicles which leave the shark throught he cloaca (think: anus) and travel into the female on one of the two claspers.

Ah... and here's the good bit. The male shark has TWO claspers. What do they do? Well, one of them penetrates the female cloaca, hooks itself in there, delivers the sperm, and then releases. What this means is... the shark has TWO penises. Call me 15, but I think that is... unusually well endowed?

The brain was also the most developed we've seen to date... in three distinct sections. Carving off the skull piece by piece was quite the task though - it took us about 20 mins, but we managed to keep the brain in tact, including all the olfactory bulbs. I did finish the afternoon with rather a long shower though because formaline is such a cloying perfume.

16 March 2006

PPD tests

PPD tests are those little bubbles they put in your arm and check two days later to see if you have been exposed to Tuberculosis (TB). Most people in the US test negative, that is, nothing happens to your arm. Well, here's a positive PPD result:

Unfortunately the photo doesn't do it justice. Essentially it's a red, swollen mass of significant diameter (the above is 15mm) that may be within a larger red area (as the above is). If you were to see the arm in profile, you would see that the mass is raised about 5mm from the normal skin surface and they can be sore and sensitive to touch. If you're positive, you'll have a bump like this within 48-72 hours of your skin test placement. Most likely you'll need a chest x-ray.

Just a little medical factoid for everyone.

Hosptial Training II

My two hours today were spent learning my way around the hospital (please don't ask me directions!) - thank god it's colour coded. Then we went over proper wheelchair technique (this involved some highly frowned upon racing), discharge procedures (including mock senarios involving lost dentures), and using the cell phone system (which is linked to the patient management software). It's absolutely mind-boggling to think of the logistics of running a hospital and just as mind-boggling to realise just how much I don't know about medicene. Put another way, I can't believe it's only four years of school before you get the initials M.D. But man, I can't wait for the white coat (volunteers wear navy).

Today's trainer was really cool (read: competent) and the remaining 5 hours under her care are spent actually working alongside hospital staff transporters (people employeed by the hospital who manage and execute the movement of patients around the facility). Someone even mistook me for a nurse today - at least I look medical!

I'm also officially signed up to work 12 hours a week in ER research - yes! This means (for those keeping track) I'm now up to 16 hours a week in the hospital (beginning May 15).

14 March 2006

Hosptial Training I

I had my first day of training to be a pre-med volunteer in the hospital. This is supposedly different from being an "adult volunteer" in that after the first 12 weeks we might get to shadow a doctor (resident) or observe surgery. It doesn't matter what the program consists of, I'm just excited to be doing something medical, or close to medical, or at least in the presense of things medical.

Training consisted of 4 hours of: paperwork, learning how to wash my hands, learning to read signs, and learning the topics to be covered in the next three training sessions. The businesswoman in me thinks this could have been accomplished more efficiently.

Thursday I will spend 2 hours learning to use a wheelchair. It should be noted I have worked in two hospitals already. Can't I test out of this? Liability insurance says no. Oh well, it's only another 7-9 hours. Just please, please don't let me end up on maternity. I am one of the few women who wants nothing to do with ob/gyn, pediatrics, or maternity. Unless maybe it was pediatric brain surgery. Or pediatric oncolocy.

13 March 2006

Spring break wrap up

Spring break was last week and I spent the first half studying and the latter half in NYC. Lots of good food and good company and now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

On a different note, I've been tagged by TWM (I'm flattered)...

My nicknames: Most recently Little Doktor (in Thailand), most affectionately Mouse.

My hometown: ... in what year? I do love NYC...

My teams: Go Broncos, go Collingwood, go Arsenal.

My theme song: Bigger than my Body by John Mayer & Geek in the Pink by Jason Mraz

My drinks: Vodka cranberry or a good cup of tea

My occupations: Currently: student (again). Was: a banker. Will Be: a doctor. And in the off-season... scuba instructor.

Spare time: Reading, writing, running, goofing off and netflixing (oh yes, it's a verb now).

Guilty pleasure: Pop music while running, Ben&Jerrys in the freezer, dancing around my apartment.

Hiding place: Bookstores. My journal. Libraries. Turning off my cell phone.

My books: Oh, there are so many! A Prayer for Owen Meany [J. Irving], Contact [C. Sagan], A Good Man is Hard to Find [F. O'Connor], Veronika Decides to Die [P. Coehlo]...

My hero:: Angelina Jolie because she doesn't apologise for who she is. My dad because I want to be successful like him, my mom because I want to be able to love like her and my brother because I'd love to always know the right words.

My tags: Miss Akay, Chendaddy, Fabrice ... you're it!

09 March 2006

Nostalgia for fall '05

I was sent some more travel photos from my Asia trip by some friends abroad. Two favourites:

06 March 2006

Dissection III: artifical insemination

Rather than complete another dissection, per say, we did embyonic development this week. A large portion of lab was spent peering through microscopes at 4,8,16,32, and 64 cell frog/chick embryos and sketching what we saw (not nearly as cool as it sounds, and it doesn't even sound all that cool).

BUT, we did get to artifically inseminate sea anenomes! This involved injected acid into the male and female sea anenomes to make them release their gametes. We put some eggs on a slide, then added some sperm (which we activated first) and peered down through 100X magnification as those hyperactive little buggers went worming their way in.

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with sea anenome fertilisation, once the sperm manage to fuse their plasma membrane with that of the egg, the cortical reaction takes place (otherwise known as the slow block to polyspermy). This reaction cultimates with the vitalline layer moving away from the plasma membrane (due to osmotic gradients caused by calcium induced vesicle fusion), a process you can actually see happening. Since I cannot photograph through the microscope, here's a drawing (done by someone in Wisconsin) of what happens:

03 March 2006

Am I (are you) a racist?

There is some really interesting research being done on people's unconscious associations between various topics. The most famous is the Harvard race study, but there are lots of them out there (some on less controversial topics). If you want to take any tests that indicate your level of implicit association (racial or otherwise), go here.

The race study involves putting images and words into catagories such as "pleasant" and "unpleasant" as quickly as possible. Much to my chagrin, I found it easier to place positive words into the positive catagory when it was "positive or European American" than when it was "positive or African American". Though, this could also be attributed to that being the last test and so I was getting better at the game itself (but probably more to do with sub-conscious filters). The more interesting question is why do I have these associations? Because I am white? Because of my experiences? Because of some cultural imprint?

It should be noted, however, than humans are the only animal known to be able to override these instinctual responses. My conscious mind can choose not to let these associations govern my interactions or be the basis for my decision making.

02 March 2006

dominance and contempt

Recently I've been listening to Blink, the second book by Malcom Gladwell, on my IPOD. His idea is that the sub-conscious forms some pretty accurate conclusions amazingly quickly and that these surface as our gut instinct, our first reaction. Some of his more specific examples have been fun to meditate on...

Letting people in your room is a bigger step than meeting your parents
The first was that spending 20 minutes in someone's living space tells you more about them on 3 of the 5 personality axes than conversing with them. Those three are measures of conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Generally, I think this is about right. It's the same reason you get that flutter of nervousness the first time you let someone you don't know well into your apartment. Immediately, they will realise things about you that you've been able to conceal in public interaction. Are you slovenly? Are you obsessively neat? Do you have a hidden passion for sci-fi novels? Is your place full of mirrors?

Arguing will predict the future of your relationship
The second was the idea that you can predict the potential success of a relationship (the book deals with marriage, but I think this is somewhat generalisable) based on three emotions: critisism, defensiveness, and contempt. The first two aren't a death sentence, it really depends on the context and the ratio of positive to negative feelings in a given interaction. What kills it is contempt. Because contempt comes from a place of superiority and a state of finality. It's a loss of equality and respect; if your friend/partner/spouse tends to express contempt for you when you're arguing, you're doomed.

Being dominant = being sued
The last example was about doctors (nice and relevant) and which ones are more likely to get sued. It turns out, it's pretty simple: people don't sue doctor's they like. The key to being an insurable doctor, then, is to be an approachable and empathetic one, not a superior and dominant one. In fact, dominance was the single most correlated adjective. They took 40 second samples of doctors talking to their patients and erased the content (removed the high frequencies that signal word differentiation) and noted which doctors utilised a dominant tone. Yup, those were the ones who got sued. So, the lesson is, barring gross negligence, being an affable person will reduce the number of lawsuits on your record.