October 26, 2010


It has not been a good week for me.  I blew my chances at honors or high pass in Gross Anatomy and I think I might have just failed an exam for the first time in Developmental Anatomy.  And I'm not even sure why.  Well, I bombed because I didn't know the material half as well as I thought I did.  What I'm not clear on is why I didn't know it.  Or, more to the point, why I didn't even want to know it.  I've yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.  It's not like I'm not capable.  I dislike this class immensely but I've conquered classes I hated before.  It's almost like I wanted to see how far I could push the envelope of complacency and still do well.  See, my whole academic life I was always at the top.  At some point in my life, I guess I no longer wanted to compete for those accolades.  Then when I got into med school suddenly I was average since everybody there was in the top of their class.  But it didn't make me feel insecure.  It made me feel like not wanting to compete for grades.  I'm not sure why.  And so I guess I swung the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction towards 'not giving a damn'. 

October 23, 2010


I was the first one into gross anatomy lab the other day and so raised up the cadaver out of the tank.  After peeling back the towel, I was struck by how little it resembled a human anymore.  The brain has been removed, as have the heart and lungs.  The ear, both inner and outer, is dissected, the voice box is exposed, and one eye has been removed.  The skull little resembles anything anymore.  The face is gone as are many of the bones that would form the scaffolding causing it to look like a face anymore.  We've chipped, sawed, and cut everything away leaving little but a shell of tissue, muscle and bone, at least from the chest up.

October 18, 2010

present tense

The first question I usually get from people is, "how's med school going?"  After giving an impression of the struggle that it is, their response inevitably rides along the lines of, "it will all be worth it in the end."  I can understand why they say that.  It's a measure of reassurance, of hope, maybe blind faith.  Myself, I certainly plan on it being worth it in the end.  But below the surface, that misses the bigger point.  I was never willing to sacrifice this much of my life for something down the road.  The journey itself has to be worth it.  The older I get, the more I refuse to live in the future or for what lies down the road.  Living in the present tense makes more sense.  It's a concept concept to more eastern philosophies.  I'm not sure how it got lost along the way in the west.  After all, when Moses asks God his name, his response?  I am.  Not, I am this or I am that.  Simply, I am.  This breath, this step, this moment, this all encompassing trip is as much a part of me as when I am all done.

October 9, 2010


Here are some random and unrelated thoughts from my first block.
  1. The hand is enormously complex.  There are tendons, nerves, muscles, vessels running everywhere.  I have a whole new respect for hand surgeons.
  2. Always tell a patient what you are about to do and why, especially if it's a woman and whatever you're doing is near her breasts.
    1. As a corollary, if you need to elevate a woman's breast in order to listen to her heart, use the BACK of your hand.  If you use the palm, it qualifies as a caress.  That tends to cause lawsuits.
  3. Holding the lungs in your hand is cool.
  4. Holding the human heart in your hand is even cooler.
  5. How did med students learn before google?  Seriously.  I use it nearly as much as my texts.
  6. MUCH of med school is self taught.  The profs are there and they provide the material but in the end, it's just you and the material.
  7. On the other hand, I'm impressed at how helpful and caring the faculty across the board have been.
  8. When you can eat breakfast while watching the video on how to do the gross anatomy dissection for the afternoon, you are pretty much desensitized.  Of course, I ate during the Miracle of Life video during our birthing classes many moons ago so I've been desensitized for awhile now.
  9. With the exception of the gunners, the large majority of students are just trying to survive, much less excel.
  10. When I take a step back and look at it all, this is soooooo cool.  I love it.

October 6, 2010

time stand still

With the exception of my wife and son, much of my family is perplexed at my nearly obsessive insistence on attending every Rush concert possible whenever they decide to tour.  They deem it out of character for me and just plain odd.  This round, they came at the perfect time - the weekend after my first round of exams.  Houston was Saturday night and my brother's family got me tickets to the Dallas one Sunday night.  Like I said, perfect timing.  (The only downside was I wasn't able to go to San Antonio's concert since it was the night before an exam.)  So I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a way of demonstrating why Rush is a necessity for me.  I could describe that they are arguably one of the most influential bands of modern history; or, that any chance to see arguably one of the best living drummers in the world is not an opportunity to be missed; or, any rock concert where one gets literary allusions ranging from Hemingway to Twain to McCullers to Shakespeare is rare and impressive; or, how upon when asked what my rather reserved nephew thought of the first set at his first Rush concert responded with a grin and a hoarse voice from all the screaming, "I'm deaf and I can't talk."

But in the end as is often the case, my muse (my wife) answered it for me.  She's rather a late-comer to Rush and probably likes watching me watch the concert as much as the concert itself.  Or, so she says.  But I saw her tear and choke up with their second song of the night.  It's a song that she's not seen them play before and has desperately wanted to hear for several years now.  It's also one of those songs that personally, I can't listen to very frequently.  With familiarity, it begins to lose its raw power in its melancholic and ephemeral appreciation of all that is life.  So maybe after reading the lyrics to this song, my family will perhaps understand my obsession a bit better.  As someone who just finished the first round of exams and with no immediate trips to MD Anderson is ready for a break, who's laid it all on the line by changing careers midstream, who's dealing with a teenage son growing up way too quickly, who's dealing with a brother and cancer, whose life seems to be speeding past inexorably, this song epitomizes why Rush is Rush to me and could not have been a better theme song for my weekend.
I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if every step was the end

Time stand still
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
Time stand still
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Time Stands still

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away
I turn my face to the sun
I Close my eyes
Let my defences down
All those wounds that I can't get unwound

I let my past go too fast
No time to pause
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain, whose ship runs aground
I can wait until the tide comes around

Time stand still
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
Time stand still
See more of the people and the places that surround me now

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Make each impression, a little bit stronger
Freeze this motion a little bit longer

The innocence slips away

The innocence slips away...

Time stands still

Summer's going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away...
The innocence slips away.

October 1, 2010

opportunity cost

It was about 11 o'clock at night and I was done studying.  Well, let me clarify that.  You're never really done studying.  There's always more material that could be reviewed or another concept that could be learned in greater detail.  There's just too much information possible.  You just reach a point where you've had enough and say, "I'm comfortable getting whatever grade I've earned at this point."  So I grabbed a giant glass of that elegant box wine and headed outside to listen to the toads.  On my vitex tree, I noticed quite a few moths dining on the nectar.  Then a small branch moved and a moth escaped with its life.  Peering in for a closer look, I saw a big ol' praying mantis with its forearms ready to do battle with a moth that strays too closely.  Just plain cool.

After watching it for a few minutes, a part of me was saddened.  A not-so-insignificant part of me has the heart of a field biologist and by opting for medicine, that in a very real sense closed the door on other opportunities.  I don't regret choosing medicine but that doesn't lessen that part of me that yearns for other possibilities.  Such is life.  So I enjoyed the brief bittersweet moment for what it was and saw what else I could find with my camera.

An anole sleeping amongst the leaves of my Mexican buckeye.