Thursday Born

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

Archive for January 2011

Ignorance is Frustrating

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I’ve been following the responses to Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” excerpt with much interest, which is what made me finally get around to writing this post. My parents have always pushed me quite hard, and it’s had a net positive effect on my life. While I think that Amy Chua was excessive in her methods, I believe in the idea that it is okay to push your kids. To know that they can do better and to tell them so. Honestly, I just wish I’d had slightly more emphasis on work ethic versus innate intelligence. That when you “work smart, not hard,” you still have to work. Still, my complaining about that is a bit like complaining about getting a 98% on a test.

From first to ninth grade, I knew my class rank. I knew if I was first, second, tenth or fifteenth or whatever in my class (and continuing to have cable or internet was contingent upon my maintaining an approximate rank; I never found out if my mother actually would have canceled either subscription, because that was incredibly strong motivation for me!). Even though the lists weren’t posted anywhere, people weren’t so shy about it so you knew approximately where everyone else in your class was (roughly 90-100 of us in each grade). You also found out who was at the top of each subject. One year a new guy won all but one of the prizes; we were all very relieved when he skipped a grade the next year.

High school, in the US, was a bit different. No more exact ranks, but at the end of every semester, there was a list posted of the students who made Honors (GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5) and High Honors (3.5 and above). I can’t imagine that this is at all common in the US, but I liked it. Unlike in Ghana, I wasn’t taking the exact same classes as everyone in my grade. Here, there were Advanced classes and AP classes and people were pretty stratified academically, so this allowed me to get a sense of how the people I was taking classes with were doing compared to me.

College was a bit of a grab bag. Some classes I had no idea where I fell, and in others it was very clear. For various reasons, college was my least favorite educational experience. Moving on to medical school. The first year was all Pass/Fail, which I loved, but our professors were fairly generous with the statistics of how people did.

There has been none of that this year, now that we have grades (Honors, High Pass, Pass and Fail). Not a single course has given us even the mean. We had a class meeting in November, and the official stance is that it’s up to the Course Masters to decide to release that information or not, which is fair. What surprised me is that someone else then stated that they don’t want that this information released, because they worry that it will change the friendly atmosphere of our class.

Really? … Really?! That was my immediate mental response. That’s still my response. We’re not graded on a curve and everyone can get honors if everyone does well. Why would knowing, roughly, where everyone else is, suddenly turn us into monsters? It’s not like we’re asking for a list to be posted with everyone’s exam score.

Knowing where I fall in my class has never been a bad thing. It’s either an ego boost, or needed motivation. Are our self esteems so fragile that we can’t handle knowing that almost everyone got Honors but we only got a High Pass?

Any thoughts on this matter? Do I feel this way only because of how I was raised by my parents and because of my educational background?

Written by Aba

January 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

Posted in Medical School

Here’s some pictures!

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I’ve always wanted to do a 365 project, like a “take a picture every day” project. Not sure I can quite commit to that, but I’m still trying to do a better job of documenting life and I’ve been taking pictures at least weekly. These pictures were meant to just be minor parts of more interesting posts, but I’ve been too tired+busy to write the posts I’ve really wanted to write, so you get a bunch of pictures. It’s like getting the human interest portion of the news without the actual news portion.

This is my mother’s “tro tro” station back in Ghana, in the dining/sun room. I love these models. They look a lot like the real things. What is a tro tro? For an explanation, go here. If you read around the page, you’ll also be treated to one of my favorite phrases-turned-nouns, “I’m aware,” once used to describe low-rise pants.

I used to be a Brownie. No, not a girl scout. The British version. When you turn 10 you’re supposed to go on to Girl Guides, but there was no Girl Guide’s program in Ghana, so when I turned 10 I was asked to leave Brownies and that was that…  Anyway, I guess my mother was cleaning out some of the drawers in my room because I found this on top of one of my bed side dressers when I went home in December.

Most adorable (possibly only) custom Christmas card I have ever received, from my best friend. It’s her french bulldog, Sencha. Not the prettiest dog in the world, but she makes for a Christmas card that really cheered me up for a bit. :) In the background, you can see the 2011 edition of First Aid, which I’ve been trying to make a first pass through. 10 pgs a day every weekday. Started last week and it went well, though I’m not sure how much I retained from the biochem pages I read, and I still need to finish Friday’s set.

What did not cheer me up, was breaking my Kindle. I have no idea how. I got it back from my boyfriend and it was working fine. Put it in my backpack, flew home, a few days later decided that I’d been productive and really wanted to read a little before I went to bed, turned it on, and this is what greeted me. Only that little bit on the right displaying text works. I’m getting a refund for it through Square Trade though, so that’s good. The only cost to me will be purchasing a new warranty on the one I’ll buy to replace it.

And this is what I did today. Consolidated two small bookshelves into one, moved the other bookshelf out of my room, and moved a new cage into my bedroom for my parrot. That’s him on my desk, chewing on one of his own feathers that I just clipped off his wing (he has enough feathers so that he can glide a bit, but he can’t sustain flight for long). I am amazed at how much excess paper and other junk I’ve accumulated. I thought I’d been doing a better job at keeping the clutter out but it seems that I need to be slightly more vigilant. I’m used to moving out once a year and I really don’t want stuff to keep accumulating, which would make my next big move (post med school for residency) a huge pain.

Oh, and on the left of my desk, you can see the notecards I bought! So far so good, except I forgot to make one for today… But I think I’ve stuck to today’s plan pretty well so far anyway. Left to do are finishing watching a lecture, then reading some First Aid, and then off to a chili & ice-cream fundraiser party!

Written by Aba

January 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Time Wrangling

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I started this post three days ago but haven’t managed to set the time aside for it. To help with that (more importantly, to help with my grades and future Step 1 score), after once again failing to like computer based planning tools, I was going to buy a planner, but I don’t really like most planners, and then I was thinking of getting a plain spiral bound notebook, but in the bookstore yesterday I remembered that 4×6 index cards exist (I’be been using 3×5 cards which are great but a bit small for more detailed planning) so I’m going to try those.

And I really do need to spend more time planning (except, I need to spend more time legitimately planning, and not doing things like staring at my school calendar for future years and noting that I graduate on May 17th 2013, even though the school year ends on May 5th. Or trying to figure out plane tickets for the two trips I’m making in April, when it really makes more sense to wait at least a few more weeks before I buy). I misread the school schedule for today and thought I needed to be there at 9am for a small group, when really it didn’t start till 10:15 and it wasn’t even a small group. And I didn’t realize my mistake until after I’d already woken up really early to finish studying for my Quiz today because I thought I wouldn’t have much time later. Now I’m slightly sleep deprived, my Quiz isn’t for four and a half more hours, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I think I’m going to finish watching Monday’s lectures and then do some final review.

And might I add that I object to this being called a quiz. Something worth 42% of the grade of a class that is this many credit hours is not a quiz.

So I think I made the right decision to take the Step 1 at 8am, instead of at noon. I don’t do well having several idle hours awake before I need to take a test. I want to wake up, get there, and do it. I don’t need extra time to stress myself out. Also, the idea of taking a test past daylight is distinctly unappealing (it’s about an eight hour test).

In cheerier news, a gift from my lil’ sib! I’m not really a highlighter user (maybe step 1 studying will change that?) but I’m excited about the pens and the fact that they came with a bonus pencil, even if it’s a 0.7mm pencil. It’ll be better for filling in the scantron sheets for exams than my 0.5mm ones! And the peanut butter cookies are really good! I though they were going to be crunchy but they’re still a bit chewy, which I like. I’m starting to run low on jam to give her so I need to make sure to write down her next exam date on my calendar so I can bake her something. Anyone have any vegan recipes they’re fond of?

Written by Aba

January 12, 2011 at 10:19 am

Posted in Medical School, Step 1

Fourth Block – The Brain!

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I finally got all my grades from last block and it was my best set of grades so far! Gradually ramping up the intensity of my studying has been paying off. The difficulty now is going to be keeping up this level of work without burning out, which I came close to at the end of last block.

This block, instead of a separate Pathology course, the pathology is incorporated into the classes themselves. So we have Psychiatry, and we have Diseases of the Nervous System. I’m not too worried about Psychiatry, although there’s a really heavy emphasis on Pharmacology, which is never fun, but I am a little worried about the other class. Although I was a Behavioral Neuroscience major, well, I was a Behavioral Neuroscience major. I didn’t really learn about the nerves, not even the cranial nerves, until med school! The brain gets a whole lot more complicated once you throw in the nerves and the pathways and knowing where tracts cross and what happens, at this vertebral level and not at that one, if you damage this part of the spinal cord but not this part.

And for that reason I am participating in the optional Neuroanatomy review they’re holding for us on Saturday. I love my weekend days in, but learning is a priority right now.

I am exhausted though. I arrived back in the US yesterday morning and my sleep schedule has been discombobulated since I arrived in Ghana. Normally I would take it a bit easy my first few days back but between catching up on classes, studying for the POM quiz next Wednesday, and wanting to start Step 1 studying (picked up my copy of the 2011 First Aid yesterday), there isn’t much room for leniency.

And this may come a surprise to many, and certainly is going to come as a surprise to my self, but I’m going to class today. There are two Patient Presentations and it seems silly to go to just the Presentation but not the lecture beforehand. And then I have a statistics small group after, so I’m going to be at school for 9am to 5:45pm today. Ouch. There is a strong chance I will come back home in the middle and skip the Pharmacology lectures because I really don’t know that I can make it through all the lecture today. Especially since it is 8:22am, I’m not dressed yet, and I haven’t eaten breakfast.

Yeah… I’ll be going now.

Written by Aba

January 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

Posted in Medical School

Medicine Colored Glasses

with 8 comments

Three weeks ago, while studying for our Endocrine exam, my friend Joe starts to tell me about an experience he had online that really drove home the point that as medical students, we’re starting to view the world a bit differently from lay people. He read about this pregnant woman who went through a complicated delivery, and through screenshots of her facebook wall one can trace the sequence of events, and there’s posts like “just found out I’m not getting out of the hospital today. Stuck here for at least another day. Can’t remember being this disappointed in a very long time. Just want to get home to precious Isaac…” and it just gets progressively worse and things aren’t going well and eventually she dies.

And the whole time he’s talking about this I’m wondering “Huh, I wonder what she had? What went wrong?” and I’m thinking that his point about the difference between us and lay-people is going to be something like, I dunno, it was obvious that things were going to go badly but she unfortunately had no idea.

So he concludes with how all the other commentators were talking about how that was so tragic to read, etc, but he says not a single person said anything about what she must have died of, when that was the first thing on his mind.

Oh. Wow. Point.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is at all exclusive to medical professionals. I’m sure there’s lots of non-medical or even non-science people who would have similar reactions. But as medicine becomes more and more a profession and not just another random aspect of my life, my thoughts on things like this are going to diverge more and more from the general public’s.

Written by Aba

January 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Medical School

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