Monday, December 13, 2010

And so anatomy ends (sortof)

Tomorrow - Monday 12/13 - is my last official day of anatomy lab.  It's been a very long and winding road (for the second exam we had to know 99 muscles, their innervations and blood supplies... good times!)  The exam a week from Tuesday will be by far the hardest of the 3 anatomy exams.

I've truly come to believe the Head and Neck regions (and I'm not even counting the brain...) were designed by God (or evolution, or whatever) for one purpose only: to drive medical students crazy.  I mean... seriously.  Some of the wiring makes no sense.  Why exit the skull (jugular foramen), enter it again (around the ear), and then exit it again (via foramen ovale) to innervate the Parotid gland?! (thank you lesser petrosal nerve... yay for the damn glossopharyngeal cranial nerve).  And on that note... who knew the skull had so many holes in it?!

I know this is more appropriate for the last exam (the Brachial Plexus was part of the second exam - the limbs exam), but the general feeling this picture illustrates is still appropriate:

Having said all that, I don't think I'll ever have another class as amazing as Gross Anatomy.  I'm extremely humbled that people have donated their bodies to science so we can train to become the best doctors we can be.  I wanted to take a moment to thank the people and the families who help make Gross Anatomy possible.  Thank you all so much.  Be assured that our class (and medical school classes around the world) have learned an immense amount from cadaver dissections.  Lessons we couldn't have learned any other way.  Know that any lives we improve and/or save in the future is possible because of the willingness of these selfless people and their families.

Thank you.

As always, I'm writing a blog entry instead of going to sleep.  I need to figure out a better way to fit this into my schedule...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Time marches on

There were a lot of people (that I know) with birthdays this week.  There were 5 within our medical school class!  The older I grow, the more I understand that the passage of time isn't really dictated by the rate at which sand falls through an hour glass.  It's really more about how many great / memorable events happen between t = 0 and t = x.

Better yet, it seems to have a paradoxical effect: on the one hand, when a lot of events are happening (preferably good ones), time seems to speed ahead.  Like the three parties I went to this weekend - I felt like they just started, and every time I looked at the clock, at least a half hour had inexplicably disappeared into the ether.  On the other hand, I look back at all the crazy things that've happened in the past few months, all the new friends I've made, all the new experiences I've... experienced (hey I never said I was a wordsmith) and it's a bit shocking to realize it's been just that - a few months.  I guess I'm not used to having so many events occur so quickly: I feel like a year has passed - but nope; less than 6 months have passed.

I'm not sure I like either effect events have on the passage of time.  But then again, it's not like I can argue with time (I've tried, time is very stubborn).  And I definitely don't have anything to complain about. So I'll just sit back and watch the grains of sand fall.

On a side note (you didn't think I'd end without one of these did you?) - thinking about events that've passed made me reminisce about my undergrad institution.  Mainly, I just think back to the 2 am Mario Kart sessions.  My next thought?  Well, an xkcd cartoon best explains it.  To anyone out there who knows about / plays Mario Kart... you'll definitely understand this one.  For those that don't - drop what you are doing and go play Mario Kart.

Damn blue shells.

Words of wisdom from a friend of mine:"Karma is when you drop a banana peel [in Mario Kart] and slip on it yourself"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Positive attitude

So I should be going to sleep right now (yes, I have a self imposed curfew - when you're done laughing read on!), but I saw this xkcd comic and I just had to post it.

For anyone who knows me - I'm a fountain of positiveness (and hyperness).  I really loved the reverse psychology stick figure #2 uses in the comic.  If only it were this easy to instill positive attitudes in everyone.  There's also the slight issue that this method is probably not too ethical.

We are ramping up material in our Microbiology / Infections Diseases class.  Although all of our classes are useful - they tend to form a foundation that is probably not directly used.  Microbio's different - we actually learn about the various antibiotics used in hospitals and which microorganisms they work well against!  It's a lot to memorize - but it is definitely very cool.  I mean - this is the real stuff - the stuff we'll probably use most frequently!  And it'll probably help us save lives!

Bring on the tables upon tables of antibiotics crossed with microbes they work/don't work against!  Although, I'm told they already "brought it"; I'm just behind in keeping up with lectures.  Doh.

In other news: partying thursday night, friday night and saturday night.  I wonder why I'm behind?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy tofurkey day(s) and BABIES

Happy thanksgiving everyone!  Hope everyone's holiday was awesome and the travels weren't too painfully long.

Before I left for my holiday, I had the chance to watch some babies being born through the Watch-a-Birth program at HUP (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania).  Of course, I did not actually help any of the health professionals - I just stood out of their way and watched.  But the first thing I did when I got home was to call my mom and say "Thanks for going through everything you went through mom, you are really amazing" - because damn was it amazing!  It's amazing to me that both the baby and mother can survive the whole ordeal!  Not only that... apparently it's a normal part of life.  Yowza.  I still don't think I want to go into gynecology/OB, but what they do is pretty freaking awesome!

For some reason, this experience reminded me of an old quote: "When you are born - you cry, and the world is happy.  When you die, you are happy, and the world cries".  

 On a tangent: the best way to survive medical school and learn all the insanely long names for various body parts is to rely on acronyms and mnemonics.  Historically, the raunchier / crazier the mnemonics, the easier they are to remember.  I was trying to figure out how to explain and convey the sillyness of some of these memory aids... and then a friend of mine showed me this comic:

Yup.  That's one of the ways we survive med school!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

37 hours

I've got an Immunology exam Monday afternoon, and then an Epidemiology exam Tuesday morning.  I started studying early for these exams (well, one of these exams anyway).  The only problem with doing that?  I feel extremely unproductive the day before the exam (i.e. today)... since I don't really have much left to study.

Then again - if that's all I've got to complain about - that's a pretty good thing eh?

The stuff happening after the exams is going to be great though!  After the epi exam, I'll be at the hospital watching babies being born.  Partying later that evening, and then on a plane to Michigan Wednesday morning.

The rest of the week is going to be awesome!

Taking exams in monkey suits one day, and being a salesman on another day

Medical school is an... interesting experience.

Penn Med tradition dictates that for the second anatomy exam (a team exam) the teams have to dress up in various costumes.  Most tend to wear costumes somewhat related to the anatomy class.  My learning team dressed up as the League of Lesions - i.e. the symptoms of the most common nerve lesions in our limbs.

I dressed up as an ape (representing the ape / simian hand that happens due to median nerve / median & ulnar nerve lesions).

... and then I proceeded to take the exam.  On a side note - my Penn Med class now holds two records for our anatomy class: we had the lowest average in the history of the new Penn Med curriculum (which is ~ 12-14 years old) on an anatomy exam (the first anatomy exam)... but we also got the highest average ever on an anatomy exam (first time it was over 90).  Go Penn Med 2014ers!

This, oddly enough, is one of the reasons I chose Penn and boy am I happy I did.  You always have to remember that life is more than just "doing your job" - be it an actual job in a cubicle, or being a professional student and studying your ass off.  It's about enjoying what you do, and remembering to stop and do the other things you enjoy doing while not losing sight of your primary "job".  And this sense really permeates into Penn Med's philosophy - which is really nice!

Makes my life easier... and I don't seem like (as much of) a slacker.

Switching gears:

We go through Doctor-patient courses.  These are (usually) with actors who play patients, and we are put in... interesting situations so we can improve our interviewing skills.  One of my recent Dr-Pt interactions was pretty hilarious.  My "patient" was non-compliant with her diabetes medications (i.e. she wasn't taking them properly).  She was pursuing more homeopathic remedies (lots peanuts apparently) because she didn't like the side effects from the medication.  I guess this is when my corporate world training kicked in and I tried to convince her that it's in her best interest to continue her diabetes medication.  Of course I start off with "our main goal is to make you feel better - and if you are feeling side effects from the medication - we should definitely see what we can do about that!  We want you to want to take your medications because it genuinely makes you feel better."

But the kicker was "I really think we can work with your homeopathic remedies - I don't see why we can't try both at the same time, especially if you feel better on those remedies.  I don't see why western medicine needs to be at odds with homeopathic remedies Would you like to give it a try, and see how it goes?"

At the end of the session, first thing the actor says?  "Used car salesman!"  But I took that as a compliment!  Especially since she kinda caved and accepted my suggestion.

I've got a long way to go, a lot to learn, and quite a bit more growing up to do (although, I'm pretty sure that last part will never happen...); but I am really glad to see that my experiences in the corporate world aren't completely useless.

P.S. - I really do want to get into blogging now.  I feel like putting my thoughts down somewhere can a. help me sort them out and b. be awesome to look back on (and laugh at).  Also - Anna inspired me to get back into it.  So if my bad grammar and sentence structure hurts your head, blame her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Medical school - it starts

So here I am in medical school.  Penn Med is awesome - mainly because my class (of 2014) are a really fun bunch to hang out with.  Life is more than just what you do for a living (which in our case is being professional students).  And there's also that whole thing about "Life is what happens when you are planning for the future". 

Definitely happy to be here; counting my blessings.  And partying hard.

(Don't worry mom, I'm studying hard too).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm back! And I'm going to medical school!

So apparently I missed my monthly blog posts... for May and June.  Go me.

And I'm surprised I didn't post this in my march update... but I'm off to med school!  It's been an extremely long road - I got into medical school back in Nov '09, but I hadn't quite decided where I was going till mid March (and I finalized it in mid May).  I'm off to the University of Pennsylvania! 

Go Penn MedI can't believe my luck... really didn't expect I'd get in.  When I started the Columbia Post Bacc program ~ 2.5 years ago, I definitely did not expect I'd get into PennMed, much less medical school at all.  Less than 48% of med school applicants get in - and I wasn't really that special or anything.  So going into the Post Bacc program, I had my sights set relatively low.  I wanted to link into my state school and be done with it.

Then I met a really good friend at my post bacc program.   Let's call her Callie.  Over time we became really close and best friends.  Eventually, she convinced me that aiming low (in her words) "is stupid, and you have to aim a lot higher".  My response to that being "wth? That's just going to be a waste of time I won't get in"; but her response was even better "Well too bad, you are doing it anyway".  She convinced me to not link to my state school and go through the normal application process.  This ended up being a really good thing... I will now be going to a school that is ranked #2 for research and #7 for primary care.  It's one of only 3 schools which is ranked in the top 10 for both categories.

The best part about all this?  Sure, Penn's a well ranked school and the prestige is there etc... but what really matters (and I guess I didn't realize this till after I interviewed @ Penn) is that I feel like Penn's the medical school for me.  The faculty, the opportunities, the teaching styles are all amazing.  But what really shines are the students.  They seem like a fun batch - extremely diverse backgrounds (and I'm not just talking about skin color).  And they actually genuinely appreciated my unique (aka odd) background. 

I guess the point of this post was to say - thanks Callie.  Life works in mysterious ways - people always come into your life for one reason or another; you usually never know why till much later.  I'm lucky enough to know it right now.  Wouldn't be starting at Penn if you didn't nudge me just a tad bit there.  Sure she's in my life for a variety of reasons, and has influenced my growth in a myriad of ways like many of my other close friends; but this is by far the biggest impact she's had on my life.  And boy, I'm pretty sure it's a doozy of an impact.  So - thank you.  You are awesome :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has an article about fidgeting.  Apparently, it can have a massive effect on your metabolic rate.  Energy expenditure while sitting motionless --> fidgeting = ~50% increase... while standing motionless --> fidgeting = ~94% increase!  If you actually take a close look at the article though, you'll see it isn't a great way to actually try and lose weight, since the overall burn rate is nowhere close to actual weight loss activities (like exercise).  But what it does do though is to stabilize your weight and prevent gain.  Fidgeting is a simple enough activity to do (since it comes naturally to me anyway) - and if it helps stave off gaining weight - I'll take it!  It's not the magic bullet for weight loss (that's exercise), but still.

So... apparently now it's good to fidget?  Awesome!  I guess not listening to my parents/family when it came to fidgeting worked out for me!

Now if only they could prove that procrastinating is awesome too, I'll be all set!

Also - and this is a tangent - I get really annoyed at those stupid ads on the side that keep saying "lose 10000 pounds by just following this one simple/old/odd rule! OBEY!" and they show a picture of 2 women (usually) - one who's chunky and one who is really (really) skinny and expect us to believe they are the same person (even though an 8 year old could say they aren't actually the same person).  And they expect us to believe this mythical (and fake) tranformation happened by following this "1 rule".  Yea well I've got a rule of my own (that actually has a good chance of working):

Go exercise (for real - getting up to go to the bathroom and back doesn't count).  Regularly.

That's the only real rule that's going to work.  The others are probably hocus pocus (if it wasn't, wouldn't everybody be super hot, skinny and fit?)

Ok I'm done with the rant part of this blog.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What matters in life

The first couple of paragraphs are a primer on where my mind started with this post... it's only after that do I actually get to the point of the post.  Feel free to skip the first two paragraphs!

I watched Food Inc a while ago, and just finished watching The Beautiful Truth.  The former is about how large conglomerates are taking over food production, and casts them in a light similar to "Big Pharma".  And it casts them in a pretty negative light.  Whether they deserve it or not... that's the subject for another blog post.  But it did make a good point: we have to be careful about what we eat.

The Beautiful Truth explores the discoveries of Dr. Max Gerson - who in the early 1900s claimed to have a cure for cancer (and various other maladies) through unconventional treatments (translation: a good, mostly vegan, diet).  Although the documentary is catalyzed by Dr. Gerson's theories, it really focuses more on how important it is that we eat the right foods and how processed food is really (really) bad for us.  Again, whether Dr. Gerson's theories are right or wrong is the subject for another blog post.  And I'm pretty sure I don't even have the knowledge (at this point) to even hazard an opinion worth posting.  So I'm definitely staying neutral on the topic, especially since I don't have a balanced (and scientific) view of the issue, and haven't done the research etc. to figure it out.

This blog post really, is more about what the narrator in The Beautiful Truth says at the end of the movie.  These comments really resonated within me.  Maybe that's because I understand effervescence of the human condition - we aren't around for very long... and yet we try to be these really fancy big shots for some reason - as if that actually matters.  So many people forget that it's about having a bit of fun and enjoyment for yourself, while at the same time making a difference for someone other than just yourself.  Here's a snippet of what the narrator says at the end of the movie - here is what really matters from your life:

"Not what you bought, but what you built
Not what you got, but what you gave
Not your successes, but your significance
Not what you learned, but what you taught
Not your competence, but your character
Not how many people you knew, but how many will feel your loss when you are gone

Every act of integrity, courage and sacrifice that empowered others to emulate your example"

I don't think I could've put it any better.  I don't care if you agree with the movie or not (I don't even know if I agree with it yet)... but I do hope that you agree with that paraphrased quote.  And more importantly, I hope that more people live by these "guidelines".  Because really; this is the stuff that matters.  Not the other stuff.

Does that mean that one of my goals shouldn't be to drive around in a Ferrari?  No.  Actually, I want to own and pilot my own helicopter.  My point is - that's the "having fun" part of life.  Life is equal parts having fun, and doing something that matters.  I just wish more people would see the second part - for what it actually means.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Experimenting in the Kitchen

I like to cook.  The problem is the overhead - groceries, dishes, etc.  Usually the overhead is too much of a hassle compared to the pay off if you are just cooking for 1 (i.e. me cooking for myself).  But these days, I'm more conscious about the stuff that I eat.

They aren't unhealthy per say (it's not like I eat pizza every day), it's that the way it is prepared/stored isn't exactly ideal.  Most of what I ate was frozen food that was heated in the microwave.  That's fine for stuff like frozen rotis etc., but I started worrying about the frozen curries etc.  Those come in (a) flimsy plastic containers which (now apparently) are notorious for leeching plastics into the food and (b) contained more oil/salt than I really need in that curry.  Now clearly (a) is bad (especially since plastics stick around for almost forever)... but how bad does matter.  Either way, I figure cutting that part out can only help me.  And clearly for (b) - no doubt if I could reduce that I could be a bit healthier.

So, now I've started cooking more religiously.  It's a fusion of north and south indian cooking - which means the south indian tastes and flavors I prefer, combined with the resilience of north indian preparation (i.e. they last longer in the fridge).

My top recipe is definitely the Chana Masala (which has a slight south indian twist to it... although I plan to make it a bit more north indian when I add a clove or two of garlic to it).

A few nights ago, I got bored of making the same thing over and over and wanted to try something different.  Specifically... I wanted to make a form of broccoli curry.  Greens (dark greens especially) are important.  Even though Chana Masala is very healthy (chick peas are loaded with protein and fiber)... I don't get as many greens in my diet as I'd like (apart from the Tabouli in my falafel pitas for lunch).  Besides, broccoli in particular has an awesome mix of healthy stuff (I am so scientific in my definitions) that I was really interested in.

Problem is, south indians (well all indians really) don't use broccoli in our (traditional) cooking.  So I had to come up with some random recipe to make it work.  I'm sure recipes exist (probably similar to the one I came up with; and you'll see why in a second)... but where's the fun in that?

So I decided to go with the same "base" as my chana masala recipe, tweak it a tad, and replace the chick peas with broccoli.  Should work right?  Well it did! I have to tweak the recipe a tad to get the flavor just right... but over all - it worked out great!  I always feel like broccoli has a weird (but strong) taste to it (some people call it a "healthy vegetable taste" which to me translates as... ick).  Overpowering that taste is a little difficult.  But, my preparation should (theoretically) keep things healthy, while still overpowering the flavor just enough so I will actually eat my vegetables!

For those out there who are curious... here's the recipe + method.

3 "stalks" of broccoli
2 onions
2 tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
3-4 medium green chillis
1.5 teaspoons of Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of Red chilli powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
~ 1 table spoon oil (I prefer canola oil) 
A little bit of Asafoetida

Coriander leaves

*a few notes: try to keep the concoction covered as much as possible.  Helps lock in a lot of the flavor (and keeps the seeds from popping up and out of the oil into your eye)

0. Chop the stuff that can be chopped (don't try to chop the mustard seeds, it's very hard and doesn't work well)
1. Put the oil in.  Let it heat (use a non stick pan)
2. Drop in the mustard seeds, wait for them to pop (flame should be on medium)
3. Put in the green chillis, then the cumin seeds.
4. When the green chillis start to turn white, puff in a little bit of asafoetida (about 1/2 tsp worth)
** Do NOT let the green chillis turn completely black!  This adds an overpowering "burnt" taste to the curry (which you don't want).
5. Add the onions, cloves of garlic and red chilli powder.  Let them cook for a bit.  This part is tricky, but don't let them cook all the way, only part of the way.
*It is very important to keep stirring after this point.  You definitely do not want pockets of spice since water isn't added to mix stuff up till much later
6. Add in the tomatoes.  Now they can cook together (till the tomatoes start to get squishier - don't wait till they get COMPLETELY squishy)
7. Put in the turmeric powder.  Cook for another 30 seconds.
8. Finally add in the broccoli.  Let it sit in the heat for a while, and then pour in ~1 cup of water (mainly to help the flavor get everywhere)
9. Cook for a bit, then add WASHED and STRIPPED coriander leaves.
*Stripped = tear the leaves from the stalks and try to tear the leaves in half before putting them in.  This forces the flavor out of the leaves and into the mixture.  And the more coriander leaves the better - lots of B12!
*Adding the coriander leaves later keeps the leaves' flavor from mellowing out.  I prefer it that way.
10. Cook under low heat - keep covered.  (Keep stirring once in a while).  
*The onions tend to sit on the bottom and the broccoli on top - don't let that happen, keep stirring.

Whatever you do, don't try to "taste" the broth to see if it came out right.  It gets really hot apparently and I found out the hard way.  Trust in your cooking abilities!  (Or if you are like me, don't trust them, and taste it anyway and be prepared for the consequences!)

You can add salt if you like, but you don't really need to.

After a few minutes (once the broccoli is a bit soft), you are done.  It takes at least a 1/2 hour for the curry to cool down before you can eat it.  Waiting a few hours is even better - it gives the broth enough time to seep into the broccoli.  Do NOT put it in the fridge till much later, you want the broth to be warm so it penetrates the broccoli.

Serve with whole wheat roti/naan to get a nice healthy and mostly balanced meal!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Odd people on the train

I've been in NYC long enough to have seen quite a few weird events and people (thank you subway system).  But something happened a few weeks ago that I thought was extremely funny (and therefore should be blogged!)

I've got a pretty long commute on the train, so I needed something to keep me occupied.  I always forget to recharge my electronics, so it had to be something... old school.  I love puzzles, so I started solving a Rubik's cube (actually I started when I was still living in a cubicle in the corporate world).  After a point, I wanted a bigger challenge, so I started solving the cube with my eyes closed (it took quite a while for me to actually figure it out!)  These days, I tend to solve it with my eyes closed as often as I can - it's a very good challenge, and I really do feel it helps expand my memory capacity.

So a couple of weeks ago, I get on the train, shuffle up the cube, and then start memorizing it.  It takes me about 5 minutes to memorize, and about 2-3 minutes to solve it.  My friends tell me I look like the rain man while I'm at it - and that doesn't surprise me one bit.  As I am memorizing it, I notice a guy sitting across from me acting a little oddly.  Eventually, he started pointing at my cube and saying things to the effect of "it's right there! see it?  You move it this way and you are on your way!"  Basically he was trying to "help" me solve it.  I said (a couple of times) "Yes, thank you; but I think I've got it".  The most annoying part of what he said was "it's so easy!  It's right there!"

I understand the urge for people to try and help others - it's a good urge that I hope more people would have.  But I also think it's important to know when to back off - like when someone really doesn't want your help.

It took me a bit longer to finish memorizing the cube since he kept interrupting and I had to keep saying "yes thanks, I'm pretty sure I know how to do it".  I think he might've been a tad tipsy, so I guess he wasn't trying to be a total douche.

So, finally I finish memorizing.  I take a deep breath and close my eyes.  Then it's just the click-click-clack of my cube as I get started.  I think I heard the guy whisper something along the lines of "what?!" as I started; but I really had to concentrate on the cube.  I do keep my ears out a bit - but only for announcements - I needed the rest of my brain power!

Fast forward a few minutes.  It was a bit pressured since I knew my stop would be coming up (and I was already a little late starting on it).  I speed up near the end and finally I was done!  Well I thought I was done - can't ever be sure till you actually look at it.  The train was just pulling into the station - I started getting up and opened my eyes at the same time; looked down at the cube and I did complete it!

As I stepped towards the door to walk out (the door by the guy), I looked at him, said "good night" and walked out.

I'm not a vengeful person by any stretch of the imagination... but that did feel good.  I remember the look on his face as I stepped off too.

I guess the moral of the story is - please don't ever think you are better than someone else or that you know how to do something better than someone else can.  And most importantly; if someone doesn't want your help - just back off.  Doesn't mean you shouldn't offer it; just know when to stow it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Oh yea

Happy new year!  I forgot to put that up here.  (And while I'm here - merry xmas, and happy thanks giving too)

I'm sure a lot of people heard that during new years eve / new years day we had a Blue Moon.  A blue moon (scientifically speaking) is defined as the second full moon in the same calendar month.  Blue moons occur once every 3 or 4 years because the lunar calendar is out of sync (slightly) with the solar calendar months.  So seeing a blue moon does happen once in a blue moon... but the blue moon on new years was very special.  A blue moon on new years eve/day (by my approximate calculations) happens once in 1400 years

If that's not a herald for the awesomeness that 2010 holds, I don't know what is!  I'm particularly excited since 2010 is when I officially start medical school; so I know 2010 is going to be a very special year for me - wonder if it's the same for other people out there?

Cooking fiasco; part Deux

Well I guess it's happened more than once before - but my misadventures with cooking continued the weekend before new years.  I was frying some Poori and I guess the dough I was using had a bit too much water in it (or had a pocket of water).  So a nice blob of super hot oil jumped out of the pan and... onto my face. 

Anyone who cooks has probably felt the sting of hot oil on their skin.  Usually, it is limited to somewhere on my hands.  But this time the blob landed on my left cheek - ouch.  It's healing up well now; but seriously - I think oil has a personal vendetta against me.  Almost every time I cook with oil - something silly happens.  A mini explosion, blue flames, or searing my face.

I should probably wear my chem lab gear (goggles, gloves and overcoat) while cooking in oil from now on.  Yea, that's not weird at all.