Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for September 2009

Definitely part of Generation Y, or, Generation "So as I was- ooh shiny!"

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I admit, I have a really hard time reading textbooks. I have an anatomy exam coming up on Monday, and I just finally gave up trying to read our main textbook, Moore’s Clinical Anatomy, in favor of just going over my atlas (I’m using Netter’s Illustrated Anatomy). I really wish I had done this sooner, because I feel like I’m learning a lot more than I was by trying, and failing, to read.

Yesterday, I and a few classmates were talking about whether our generation simply has a shorter attention span than previous generations. Maybe we do. Maybe you could hand Moore’s to someone twenty years older than me and they could sit down and read and comprehend for at least an hour, whereas I can focus for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes.

There have to be studies on this by now, right? I’ve seen and heard this theory – that our generation has much shorter attention spans – thrown around so much that by now people must have formally studied it.

Well here’s one abstract:

“Research in information-seeking behavior, motivation, critical thinking, and learning theory was explored and compared in a search for possible motivating factors behind students’ dependence on television and the Internet for their information needs. The research indicates that only a very small percentage of the general population prefer to learn by reading.”

And you know, as much as I love to read fiction, I have such a hard time learning by reading (unless it’s fun, and I’m having a hard time nailing down the difference between fun information and tedious information). I get sleepy. I get antsy and want to do other things. And you know? This “problem” isn’t going away and future generations are only going to become more and more exaggerated in this trait. I didn’t have internet till I was ten or eleven (and only had one tv channel till around the same time), I didn’t have a cell phone till I was sixteen or seventeen, my own laptop till seventeen/eighteen, or a smart phone till I was twenty-two. What are the kids who grow up texting and IMing as soon as they can read going to be like? How are they going to want to learn? How are they going to learn most effectively?

I’m still struggling a little with understanding how I learn. I attended a suturing/knot tying workshop bright and early this morning, and for both techniques, I struggled in the beginning. I couldn’t see the demonstration and/or I was sitting across from it so my movements would need to be mirrored. The verbal instructions were  not helpful either. “Outside in, then inside out” did not make sense to me immediately. I needed to do the motion, and then ah-ha! Yes, I am moving the needle from the outside in and then from the inside out. Okay. I got it.

Dance class (once a week; currently east coast swing) is interesting when it comes to this too. The instructions are nice and simple, and I already know the basic steps. So I don’t need to be told “Ok, so move your right foot, then your left, then your right again, and at the same time, you need to move a bit to your right, while dropping your hand hand and turning.” No. Would not compute. Instead, I know I’m doing triple steps the entire time so I can focus on the larger movement.

But how does this tie back to learning Anatomy? To learning biochem and physiology and histology and statistics? I’m still lost. Textbooks don’t work well for me. I never learned to take notes and I’m skeptical of their worth (invariably, I’ll space out and the gaps in my notes makes me reluctant to use them; however, I am finding watching the videos to be a great help for this, because if I space out, I can rewind and re-watch).

Maybe I should be spending more time in lab, following structures and holding them. Talking about them with other people. More doing. Less passive, ineffective absorption. I feel self-conscious not knowing enough though, so I don’t put myself out there to study with my classmates. I’m worried that they’ll be somehow put off by the fact that I’m behind and need to use them to learn, whereas they are already reviewing.

I think I need to just get over it.

Written by Aba

September 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

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The Privilege of Anatomy Lab

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Anatomy lab is a privilege.  Our cadavers are our first patients, and we see more of their bodies than we will probably ever see of any other  human being’s, alive or dead. The only way to repeat this is actually to repeat this. To become an Anatomy Lab Teaching Assistant or teacher.

Some people need to distance their cadaver from the live human being they once were, but I am ever conscious of the fact that ours, (we’ve named him Frank), was once a person, a person who died not too much older than my parents. That what is inside him is an interesting variation of what is inside me and keeping me alive. I made the first incision through his thick, preserved skin. I have cracked one of his ribs. Sawed through his clavicle. Probed through his nerves and lymph nodes to better see his arteries and veins. Layers of skin, fat, connective tissue and muscles have been carefully dissected apart from each other to reveal many major organs: lungs, heart, stomach, liver, gall bladder, and intestines.

What we are doing is illegal in most places other than medical school anatomy labs.  Surgery, let alone exploring a dead body, used to be thought of as a low profession. As I trace the path of Frank’ s gut, I can understand why. No matter how respectfully you try to treat your cadaver, it is hard, essentially impossible, to give them nearly the same regard you give a live person. You simply cannot do to a live person what you do to a cadaver.

Frank made the decision to donate his body to some idea of me and my classmates that he had in his head, and now we are the reality and he is some idea in my head of a generous, older man donating his not-yet-a-cadaver body. I wonder if he knew how much he would see. I wonder if he was aware of what we would see (did he know about the extra adhesions that happen after surgery?).

I greatly value this experience. Anatomy is by far my favorite class and the only thing I wish was different about lab would be being able to shower in the locker room or lab being at the end of the day so I could always head straight home.

I just hope that Frank knew what he was getting into, and that I am doing this all with his consent. Some people would rather learn anatomy second hand, through books and videos, but I am happy that I get to re-discover and touch and see it all.

Written by Aba

September 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm

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Passing's not enough anymore

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I passed! I haven’t actually gotten my quiz back, but based on my group’s consensus on what the right answers were, I definitely passed the quiz.

But I don’t understand the material well enough yet, and I need to go back over that portion  we were tested on. Passing is important because it keeps me in school, but I really need to understand all of this.

It is incredibly intimidating being in medical school without a biology degree of some sort, especially when you have classmates who can honestly say, “That lecture yesterday? I could’ve done a much better job with that material.” My science background in general is rather limited (I didn’t even take high school bio, and then I just took a few classes in college). I have several classmates in my position, but I believe we are in the minority.

I started off biochemistry on the wrong foot, and I need to fix that. No prior foundation means that it takes me longer to get through the readings. I need to really focus and think about everything or it all goes straight over my head. Studying on Wednesday it all finally started to click, because I was forcing myself to understand. Before I would open the course packet, start to read,  then quickly get lost and unwilling to push on. I can’t let myself do that anymore. The material isn’t actually difficult, it’s just dense and there’s a lot of memorizing.

And there are no shortcuts. I think that’s an important concept to enter medical school with. If you did biology or something similar, you might know this already. I knew in theory, but it’s so different experiencing it. There is an incredible volume of information that I need to learn and retain.

How did I study for the quiz? I went through all the lecture notes (which is more like lecture text), and I would have re-watched the lectures except this is the one class that isn’t available online (which really, really bothers me because it’s the class that I’m struggling with the most and would love to be able to watch more than once). I made myself pay attention while I read, by making flash cards and by going through the list of concepts she wanted us to know and making sure I actually understood them before I moved on.

This is something I need to do earlier. I think doing this before each lecture would be the optimal situation. And then even better would be to go over the material after lecture (same day!). That would provide me with a good base from which to study from before the quizzes and the exams.

I am incredibly grateful that my first year is Pass/Fail, giving me the opportunity to finally learn how to study without worrying about grades.

Written by Aba

September 11, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Past time to buckle down

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I have a Molecular Foundations of Medicine, ie Biochemistry, quiz on Thursday, and I’m realizing that it’s time to buckle down and really dedicate myself to this class. There is no short cut around memorizing and I’m not sure how I thought I’d find one. I guess it’s not that I was looking for a short cut around memorizing, but rather was hoping I didn’t really need to.

But no. I must know the 20 (naturally occurring) amino acids. I must know their structures, and what their structures imply. I need to know all these pathways. And I need to know them by Thursday.

More detailed post on Thursday about exactly how I pull this off (and if I actually do pull this off). I’m starting from the beginning and making flash cards, which I may or may not have time to actually use as flashcards, but they keep me awake while I’m trying to do the reading.

Written by Aba

September 9, 2009 at 12:52 am

Need a new phone

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I need a new phone. I own two, but on one, the eight key doesn’t work, and the other likes to turn itself off every now and then.

I also really, really want something that does internet and email and all that good stuff. I had a blackberry for a few months, which converted me from a “I just need a phone to be a phone! Calls and text. Nothing else!” to  “I need to be connected 24/7. What if I get lost? What if I need to look up something? What if I get a new email and can’t check it for another half hour?!?!” My brothers offered to buy me an iPhone for my birthday when they first came out, and I actually refused! If only I knew what I was missing.

Anyway, there’s many options, and I’m a bit bewildered. I’m currently on AT&T but my last contract ran out nearly a year ago.  Do I want an iphone 3GS? A Palm Pre? An HTC Hero (Sprint), G1 or myTouch (both Tmobile)? Should I go for a blackberry again? What do I do?!

I really like google. I like Apple but am often put off by its cult of fans. I do actually like Palm too (used to have a PDA that I was quite fond of for reading ebooks). As for networks… AT&T is expensive, but two of my brothers are on it and I”m trying to see if we all get on a family plan, we can bring costs down significantly. I know barely anyone on Sprint, but my boyfriend’s on Tmobile and I could do a family plan with him and at least one of his friends.

As for the phones themselves… The iPhone 3GS is appealing. It’s an easy choice. I know a lot of people who own it (and the 3G) and they all love it. No complaints aside from the cost of the plan. I know one Palm Pre owner and she loves her phone but one person is not enough of a data point.

Android phones are the main contenders. I really like trying new things, especially gadgets. I could get a G1 for under $200 on craigslist, or I could get a myTouch for $200 new + contract, or about $350 to $450 without contract. There will also eventually be the HTC Hero for $180, and I’m sure more phones will be coming out soon-ish (but not soon enough!).

I feel like in a year or so, there will be great Android options, but I can’t wait a year. It also feels weird paying $200 or so now for one of the current options when I think it will be easier to be happy with a 3GS for about the same price.

I’m curious about Android. I think the things you already can do with it are nifty and cool. But will I really make true use of it? I’m not as much of a tinkerer as I want to be, and I feel like maybe I should just go with the easy choice here.

And yet every time I think I’m sold on getting a 3GS, I come across some article speaking well of an Android phone and I feel guilty for turning my back on it, if even only for this round.

Written by Aba

September 5, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Staying well rounded

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Neil Gaiman is not only one of my favorite authors, he’s one of the few “celebrities” whom I find myself deeply interested in. I read his online journal (took a break for a few years but started reading it when I was in high school) and I follow him on twitter.

Today he posted a link to an article on his library. So many books! I really want a library like that someday. I’m in the general habit of buying books because I like owning books, and I want to own lots and lots of books. But… I don’t have time to read that much anymore, do I?

I’ve always been interested in medicine and until 2006, I had many reasons why I wasn’t going to pursue a career in medicine.  It would be too hard, I wouldn’t have time for a family, or (more important to me back then) I wouldn’t have time to write, or to do theater (I do, or rather used to do, technical theater; mainly lights, set building, and stage managing).

And so here I am, in medical school, and those thoughts return every so often. There’s so much I want to do beyond pursuing this medical career and I’m at a loss as to how to prioritize everything.  In fact, I’m bewildered by the concept of prioritizing because it’s still sinking in that I really can’t do everything I want to do. There’s only so many books I can read, new crafts I can learn, languages I can develop a relative grasp of, video games I can play, movies and tv shows I can watch. I refuse to give up on completely on a life beyond medicine, but I need to balance that with a responsible dedication to my education.

So far my classmates and I are all the well rounded yet highly intelligent individuals who were accepted by the admissions committee. It will be interesting to watch us over the year, to see what happens to the ones who drop their hobbies and those who maintain their old (and even pick up some new). I suppose there are those for whom a life swallowed by their career is still a fulfilling one, but I don’t think I’m one of those people. I hope that’s not incompatible with medicine being the right career for me.

Written by Aba

September 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Unexpected dislike of class

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I really thought I would love our Practice of Medicine class, but so far I’ve been seriously underwhelmed. I used to think badly of people who complained about these classes in medical school, and yet now that I’m here, I find myself thinking many of the same thoughts.

It moves too slowly for my liking. Too much talking at us. Too much forcing us to talk when we clearly aren’t wanting to.  We had a nice short lecture by an ER doctor which was great, followed by a fun hands on “here’s how you find a pulse and take blood pressure” small group workshop, and I wish there was more of that. Maybe there will be more of that and the first few classes were an anomaly.

I like the teachers but I’m really not liking the class and I honestly want to figure out why because I do think this stuff is important. I don’t think it’s the actual material that I have a problem with;  something’s wrong with the delivery.

Maybe it’s a problem of our generation. Maybe we just need to accept that learning isn’t fun and it’s a necessary evil and we just need to bear through it and pass our tests. Maybe the reason why all these curriculum reforms aren’t seeming to do much is because there isn’t much to be done.

I’m not convinced yet. I do believe that we’re spoiled, but I also believe that there’s better ways to teach people than pointing at a power point presentation with a laser pointer and droning on about statistical methods (and every now and then making us answer a question with a clicker). I’m just not sure what it is. Teaching isn’t quite my area (and is potentially not quite the area of the people who are teaching me either).

Written by Aba

September 3, 2009 at 12:47 am

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