September 28, 2009

Block I

Block I is done and gone. The semester is essentially divided up into three blocks. At the end is a test. Combine it with a final and you have 4 tests each worth a quarter of your grade. All or nothing. The histo/cell bio exam wasn't too bad. Unofficially, I think I got an 87 which falls into the High Pass range. 2.5 more points and I would've been Honors. Oh well. Biochem was a bit more challenging. Whereas I finished the histo in ~30-35 minutes, the biochem took about an hour and 20 minutes. When I left, probably 80% of the lecture hall was still full. Lucky me, they decided to change the test format this year so it was much more involved. They wanted to make it more like the board exams which I can appreciate. But when you studied 10 years worth of previous tests that were all in an identical format, you can imagine the "oh shit" feeling when you start to read the questions and realize they don't look anything like before. Still, I did better than I hoped. An 84. One point away from High Pass. So I proved to myself that I can actually take and pass these things. I'm still struggling a bit with being 'average' but.....when you're average in a pool of students where 8,000 applied for 220ish spots, suddenly average ain't so bad. Stupid societal labels. On to Block II with slightly more confidence.

September 23, 2009

Another study break

Last day before the last test of block I. The weather was a bit cool and it had rained so that meant one thing....
It's kayaking time. It's a swamp up in The Woodlands that I like to go to but the as it's been so dry of late, the water level was too low. You gotta love REI. Where else can you go deck out a honda civic to carry kayaks?

It's kinda hard to take pictures and kayak at the same time. That and I don't have a waterproof camera so I'm using our old rinky dink Olympus from way back when. Went looking for alligators but I have yet to see any. I did see a decent number of birds - great blue heron, cormorants, a hawk (not sure what he was but had a reddish belly), some unidentifiable ducks that never let me get close enough.

As far as swamps go, it's pretty cool.

I did come across one cool plant. It's a cardinal flower. While going back to see it, I also came across a racoon.

End of the line. The way was blocked by water lotus. Sure, you can paddle through them but they up the resistance and then keep snagging up your paddle. I don't mind going through small sections but I couldn't see the end of this batch.

September 20, 2009

Study Break

I've had enough studying for today. It's Sunday right before the first block exams and on the old tests, I'm up to 80s for both classes. I'd like to do better but not enough to study even more hours. I'd rather take a study break with my son and pick our first pomegranate - first of the season and ever. I planted it at the request of my wife and I'm glad I did. He's wanted to pick it for that past week. I needed a break.
Look at that hair. And that's AFTER it's been cut. It used to be even more unruly before school started. He used to be in Boy Scouts but I still had to tell him to move his fingers. I've bandaged his fingers before. I didn't feel like it today.

For those of you who aren't familiar with pomegranates, here is what they look like inside. They take a bit of effort to get at but they are good. No bugs inside so that was a good sign.

He liked them a lot. He said that they were even better than store bought ones. A good break. The satsumas and lemons should be ready in about a month or so.

September 19, 2009

Block I

I haven't posted lately because I'm coming up on my first round of tests. The structure of the semester is actually pretty straightforward. There are three blocks with a test at the end of each one and then a comprehensive final at the end of the semester. That's it. Simple, huh? At this point, I'm taking old tests which in theory, "do not exist" but everyone knows that they exist. The profs just won't answer any questions about them. It's basically the med school's version of "don't ask, don't tell". For me, it helps enormously. I learn by questioning, not by rote memorization. I would wager a guess that studies on how to learn would confirm that retention and understanding is probably better across the board for most people when they engage in a more Socratic method, rather than the what I like to call, the foie gras method. Force feed as much as possible. I'm feeling a bit better now about the tests. The first practice test I took in biochem was a whopping 67. It would be passing but just barely. I'm not looking to be top of my class but I ain't looking to be at the botttom either. So after the ones today, I'm up to the 80s for both histo and biochem. To the extent that these tests will be similar to the ones I take next week, that's good. The biochem prof said that the average for the first test is usually 79-82. So if I hit lower to mid 80s, I'll be happy with that. At least I tell myself that. Deep down, I'd like to get an A but that's not too realistic for me. I'm still not used to competing at this level. But then again, I'm not burning the candle at both ends either. I heard some students today saying that they were in the gross anatomy lab until 2:30am. Why???? At that point, I don't care so long as a I pass. I'm sane (that's debatable), I've gone to everyone of my son's football games (even ref'd one when the refs neglected to show up) and I get to see my wife. That's a trade I'm willing to make. I just tell the competitive part of me to shut the hell up. I'm just not a Type A personality.

September 7, 2009

Does this get any easier? Shit, I didn't think so. As I get older, I don't think things get any easier, I just get more used to it. Due to some genetic glitch, I am prone to fits of deep introspection, ie, I can't stand to be around anyone. So I sat in my room, looking out the window, drinking beer and listening to melancholy music while my wife worries if I'm going off the deep end. My UT mug is great. I figured out a trick today that I dubbed "shotgunning". Basically, I pop open two beers and pour both into the mug simulatneously. It holds two beers while accomodating the corresponding head easily. My mom is great for buying it for me. She figured I'd use it for coffee or some caffeine type drink. Alcohol is more to my liking.

I watched the bees working the vine on my window while creating an alcohol induced relaxed state. In watching their ceaseless effort, I thought, I probably should be studying........ but I just don't have their tireless work ethic. I go in too many directions. At that point, I began to consider that I need to start figuring out how to do this my way. A younger me would have tried to compete with these kids and ego would be at the front. At this point in my life, that doesn't seem quite fitting. I have nothing to prove to anyone, except myself.

Ol' Will was right - to thine own self be true. So I sit and take knowledge in the fact that I will be a good doctor, despite not being the best student in the world. So life lessons will help my patients more than knowing what fuckin' amino acid is mutated at what position to cause sickle cell anemia. That was an actual friggin' question on my biochem BRS (Board Review Series to prepare for the licensing exams). Who cares? The patient has anemia and pain in their extremities. Treat the patient and their pain. Knowing that it goes from glutamate to valine at the 6th position won't matter. I don't know how to treat the anemia, though a transfusion sounds plausible. What scares me is that I'm remembering the damned amino acid substitution that doesn't matter. It's from a polar amino acid to a hydrophobic amino acid in the beta strand and that drastically changes the tertiary structure. AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!! Now you see why I'm throwing back beers? It shuts off the grey matter (nerve bodies, white matter is the myelinated axons - oligodendrocytes in the CNS (small fried egg appearance), Schwann cells in the PNS). Damn it! I kid you not. I'm touching my wife and thinking it's the Meissner's corpuscles that are responsible for the sensations, not to be confused with the Meissner's plexus (also a mechanoreceptor) in the submucosal layer which is not to be confused with the Auerbach's plexus (also a mechanoreceptor) which is also in the gut but in between the two muscle layers (I can't remember their names and that makes me feel good! I just remember that they're perpendicular to each other and smooth muscle) which is not to be confused with the Pacinian plexus which senses deep sensations. Ever wonder why doctors are such know-it-all assholes? They have to be to get through this process. Shit. I'm going to go throw back another beer and watch The Simpsons before studying some more.

September 1, 2009


In my previous life, I would oftentimes workout during my lunch break. It would help to break up the day, refocus, and then let me sleep better that evening. Now at school, I don't have that luxury. So I'm trying to figure out what to do with my lunch break. There are tons of lectures that offer free food but there's only so much cheap pizza one can eat and I got my fill during college. And do I really want to sit in more lectures? Not really. You can see that I'm not a Type A driven persona typical of your doctor types. It often makes me wonder how I fit into this profession at all. Not likely that I'll socialize so I go outside and enjoy the towering live oaks near the school. I thought to read but I forgot my book in my car. I was pressed for time to blog, so this seemed like the perfect time to do it. It amazes me how often ideas come to me when I'm bored. Hell, that's how the idea to go back to med school arose. I was bored. Kinda stupid, in a way but there it is, nonetheless. And I'll have to find another time to exercise.