Sunday, January 31, 2016

What Medical School Looks Like XXVII


Upper left: organic chemistry. Upper right: physiology and genetics. Bottom: amino acids.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

My Medical Grand Tour, Part 4 of 4

Wealthy graduates of American medical schools from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century often traveled to Europe to amplify their training in the medical and clinical sciences. I am sure they partook of the local culture, as well. Current fourth-year students have the opportunity to do something similar when they visit hospitals to interview for residency positions. Some applicants try to do something fun or unique in each city. I was not that ambitious; instead, these are the small moments I captured during the weeks I spent at my parents' or in-laws' houses, the apartments of friends and acquaintances, Air BnB digs, or the occasional hotel. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Still in Baltimore, I helped My Awesome Parents (MAP) decorate for Christmas. Because they were traveling, they did not get a tree this year, but we did buy a plain wreath that I decorated with swag left over from previous Christmases and hung on the front door (above). My father wove cut branches from fir trees  (free from the nursery!) into the rails of the staircase, from which I hung red beaded garland and straw ornaments (right). It was very festive and made the front hall smell fantastic.

Between holidays I popped up to Cleveland, OH, for 24 hours. I stayed at an Air BnB across the street from the hospital and unfortunately had no occasion to take any pictures. But I will always remember that the house was a pretty shade of lavender with white trim.

Back in Pittsburgh, PA, for the third time this interview season, I snapped a shot of the sapphire and diamond earrings I wore for my interview. They were a gift from my father, and unfortunately, the necklace didn't work with my collared shirt, or I would have worn that, too. The traveling jewelry case was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.

















I also enjoyed some of the art at the children's hospital in the Steel City, such as "Hat-trick Hero," a statue celebrating the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup wins in 1991, 1992, and 2008. After spending a month in Madison, WI, where University Hospital has fantastic local art decorating its hallways, I decided that if this medicine gig doesn't work out, I would want to become the person who makes the art selections for a hospital.

In Cincinnati, OH, I had three days of interviews plus one day of shadowing but somehow neglected to pack enough black knee-high stockings. One of the pairs that did make it into my bag was actually two unmatched rejects. I borrowed extra from my MIL for the next two days.

My very last residency interview was at my home institution in Urbana, IL. There is a picture of my playing ping-pong with one of the other applicants in between interviews; unfortunately, I can't get it off the internal memory card of my camera without the cord that I lost while traveling. You'll just have to take my word for it.

And there you have it, a photo essay of my residency interview travels. If I stayed with you or we met up along the way, I'm so glad. And if we didn't, maybe next time. For now, I'm happy to be home with Dear Husband, sleeping in my own bed and wearing not-a-suit every day!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Schmeckt nach Illinois, riecht nach Deutschland


Leider haben wir das Lezte des Currypulvers auf den gebakenen Fisch verwendet. Ich habe es vor sechs Jahren in Dresden gekauft, um indianischen Blumenkohl mit Reis und Kirchererbsen zu kochen. Das Kräutersalz war damals mein gewöhnlicheres Gewürz, besonders auf Kartoffeln. Jetzt bestreue ich es auf gekochte Eier. Ich habe es sogar nach Madison, Wisconsin, mitgebracht, als ich letzten September das ganze Monat da studierte, um unter einer fremden Umgebung das Geschmack von zu Hause zu geniessen. Das Vanille-Aroma habe ich auch in Dresden gekauft, um amerikanische Gebäck zu backen ("cookies"). In den USA schreiben Rezepte flussige Vanille vor, so ich dieses Gewürz ab und zu mit Jogurt und Früchte vermische.

Als wir Juni von Illinois nach wer-weiss-wo? umziehen, werden wir den Geschmack von Illinois mitbringen. Ich habe letztes Jahr zwei grosse Glaskrüge Ahornsirup gekauft. Vor kurzem musste ich das Übrigen von der kleinen Flasche ausgiessen, da ich die Mahnung "Im Kuhlschrank aufbewahren" nicht geahnt habe, und der Sirup hat verschimmelt. Erst letztens habe ich auch ein Glas Lokalhonig gekauft, den ich noch nicht gekostet habe. Irgendwo wir uns finden, dürfen wir uns an Deutschland und an Illinois erinnern, weil das Essen danach schmecken und riechen wird.

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Unfortunately we used the last of the curry powder on the baked fish. I bought it six years ago in Dresden to make Indian cauliflower with rice and chickpeas. Herbed salt was my more usual flavoring then, especially on potatoes. Now I use it on boiled eggs. I even brought it with me to Madison, Wisconsin, when I studied there for a whole month last September, so that I could enjoy the taste of home among foreign surroundings. I also bought the artificial vanilla in Dresden, in order to bake American-style cookies. In the USA, recipes call for liquid vanilla, so now I will sometimes mix it with yogurt and fruit.

When we move from Illinois to who-knows-where? in June, we will bring the taste of Illinois with us. Last year I bought two large glass jugs of maple syrup. Recently I had to pour out what was left in the small bottle, because I had not heeded the warning "Store in refrigerator," and the sirup developed mold. I also just bought a jar of local honey, which I have not tried yet. Wherever we find ourselves, we can remember Germany and Illinois, because our food will taste and smell like them.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why I Didn't Get Any Writing Done Today



Yesterday I diagnosed our refrigerator as too wet and our toilet as too dry. Six hours, five trips to two hardware stores, two new parts, one new $20-tool, and a union lunch break later, Dear Husband, a friend, and I had investigated a leak in the refrigerator, completely replaced the innards of our toilet, and cleaned the outsides of both appliances thoroughly (yuck!). I'll do some reading tonight, but this is why I didn't get any writing done today. At least the toilet flushes now. Surely there's a line for that on a C.V.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chocolate Shortage


I hear there's a chocolate shortage in the world. I'm sorry. I am apparently hoarding the world's supply of chocolate in my kitchen: two boxes of bonbons, five boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Fannie May miniature chocolate-covered pretzels, a bag of dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate peanut butter brittle, Hershey's kisses, mint M&Ms, assorted Halloween candy, two baggies of fancy chocolate-covered nuts, and a bag of Lindor chocolates. This is why I forbid Dear Husband from baking between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Valentine's Day should be easy this year: he just needs to pick something out of the cupboard and regift it to me--I'm sure I wouldn't notice!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Final Four


Editor's Note: I reviewed audiobooks I listened to in the car while driving to and from residency interviews. You can find other installments hereherehere, and here. A combined review can be found on the IPRH Reading Matters blog.

This is the final installment of my roadtrip audiobook review series, with two hits and two (near) misses.


First up is Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003), which promised 10.5 hours of dystopia while I criss-crossed the eastern United States. I think I made it through one disc. I was disappointed not to like this book more, since I remember Atwood's rewritten fairy tales to have been formational to my feminist education in college. But the narrative simply did not capture my attention, and finally I could not stand to hear any more about the main character, Jimmy, a name that grates my nerves (yes, really; it's petty but true). I don't think I liked the voice actor, either.


Second is Wishful Drinking (2008), written and read by actress Carrie Fisher. She is honest about the struggles she's had with substance abuse and mental health (which I am too young to remember from the tabloids), and her biting wit can be quite funny in an I'm-a-mature-woman-and-I-no-longer-give-a-damn kind of way. This is the book form of Fisher's one-woman show, and while I found it highly entertaining, the level of detail she went into about her relationships with her daughter and with ex-husband Paul Simon, or about other people's faults and relationships, unsettled me. 



Third is Ava's Man (2001), a biography of author Rick Bragg's maternal grandfather to go with his first book, All over but the Shoutin' (1998), a biography of his maternal grandmother. Set in rural Appalachia in the first half of the 20th century, this one describes the rough-and-tumble, nigh-legendary life of one Charlie Budrum, a scrappy moonshiner, roofer, and storyteller who carted his family back and forth across the Alabama-Georgia border looking for work and running from the law and jilted landlords. One might accuse Bragg of romanticizing the Depression-era rural South, but he strives to include both the violent code of honor in a time and place before consistent civil services and the boom-bust of wartime industries that lured men out of the woods to the cities with their families, only to leave them without income or safety net afterward. Bragg's subtle Southern drawl and colloquialisms accentuate this tapestry of Americana.

Fourth is a short story audiobook I highly recommend: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds (2014), written and voiced by Neil Gaiman. Way back in high school I read the first volume of The Sandman (as one did in high school in the 1990s), and I'm sorry to say I've never gotten around to any of Gaiman's other works, although Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, which Gaiman co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, is now on my radar. So I was intrigued to find this short (1 hour, 22 min.s) audiobook on the shelves of our local libraryThe (R-rated) story--set in what I assumed was the British isles in the 18th century--takes the perspective of a leprechaun, a mercenary and a father, on a personal quest. The dark and haunting mood is heightened by the accompaniment of the FourPlay Quartet. I can't say much more without giving it all away. I will say that I was surprised to discover the book's subtitle while writing this review, and the previews on Amazon make me want to check the book out of our local library to enjoy Eddie Campbell's illustrations.

What are you reading (listening to) this summer?

Monday, January 4, 2016

What Medical School Looks Like XXVI


When you travel for exams, away rotations, and residency interviews during the first semester of the fourth year of medical school, you might come home for the winter holidays only to discover that no one has watered your outdoor plants or winterized the back deck. File this under Too Busy in Medical School, along with folding clothes and cooking, sometimes.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Rememberlutions, Part 2 of 2

At the start of last year, our Bible Study group decided to make "rememberlutions" rather than resolutions for the new year. We promised ourselves to write down the good things that happened during the year and put the pieces of paper in a decorated jar. Today, the first day of 2016, is the day of reckoning: what good things do I get to remember? I sat on the couch and pulled out the slips randomly, then went back and found photos I haven't already shared with you as illustrations.

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On top were two tickets from April. First, I enjoyed a "MOMIX: Alchemia" modern dance recital with an acquaintance from medical school. A week and a half later, I went to my first-ever production of "Into the Woods" with performers from the music school. I'm amazed to remember that I had the time to do that while finishing my ob/gyn rotation and starting surgery.

"Celebrated 10 years of married life to my Liebling [in August]."

"Sitting in the same row on the airplane as another med-peds applicant and talking halfway to Denver." It was a serendipitous moment on an uncrowded Southwest flight that put us together to go over our life stories and hopes and fears about transitioning from medical school to residency and practice. I gave her my business card but got no contact information from her, and I'm sorry we didn't get to stay in touch after meeting on the interview trail.

Ticket to the Morgan State University Choir's Annual Christmas Concert, a fantastic mixture of classical and gospel renditions of holiday tunes in Baltimore. My favorite piece was "Ring De Christmas Bells," a Calypso song by Jester Hairston and orchestrated by Tadd Russo.

Public art at Capitol Square in Madison, WI.
Somehow I managed to score "Interviews at all three peds rehab programs." Now follows the hard decisions about how to rank them.

"Internal Medicine Grand Rounds talk June 16, 2015." [Click to watch the YouTube version I recorded later.]

"Gave a Grand Rounds-style talk to the Carle pediatricians 2/17/2015." [YouTube version hopefully coming soon.]

Ticket to see the Peanuts Movie at the last showing on the last day it was playing in town. [December]

"Lost my promise ring at County Market--and found it! 5/27/2015"

"Helped set a broken leg." That was while on trauma call in the ED during my surgery rotation. It was not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

Me and a friend at the Fall Retreat.
"10th anniversary potluck" Guess it was so nice I wanted to remember it twice! The leftovers were just as good the third or fourth time, too.

"Courage is grace under pressure" ~Little aluminum pin from our visit to the Ernest Hemingway house and museum. It allows us to visit twice in one year.

"Second standard deviation on Step 2 Clinical Knowledge." [In other words, I did well on this big test.]

"Outstanding in Neurology!"

"Dr. Oliphant complimented me on my running subcuticular stitch." He had sent me home after my first surgery with him to practice suturing some more; this means I made progress!

"How beautiful the autumn trees in Central New Jersey were, the waterfront in Boston, the first snowfall in Champaign."

Ticket to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my family over Christmas.

"I want to remember playing catch with [my toddler niece] on Halloween with her light-up bouncy koosh ball."

The happy couple on the logia at the Biltmore Estate on a rainy day.
"Playing double frisbee with [my elementary-age niece and nephew]" over Thanksgiving.

"[A camper's] joy at Hogwarts winning the Quidditch World Cup--twice."

"I think you would make a good surgeon. And I don't say that to everyone." Said a female surgeon to me during a procedure.

"Classical-music 'high' from the tenor arias at the BACH Messiah sing" in December.

"O in Pediatrics."

"I learned how to change my windshield wiper blades."

Winning money for "Breaking the Rule of Twos," the clinical vignette I presented at the College of Medicine Research Day.

Me and my fellow health care
volunteer, a nursing student, on
"Pajama Day" at Camp CAMP.
"Two weeks at Camp CAMP in July, achieving my maximum potential."

"Started my 1st IV (on Labor & Delivery--and the patient didn't hate me for it at her 6-week follow up)!" This was on my ob/gyn rotation.

"1 point for the medical student. ~ Dr. Jarrett, when I asked about Fragile-X genetic testing for a patient we saw together" at the infertility clinic

"I learned to two-hand tie!" a suture while on surgery back in June. I probably can't remember anymore.

That I presented a "conference paper in Philly at the MudPhuD conference" in April. This is why I missed Dear Husband's house concert.

"O for Outstanding in Obstetrics and Gynecology."

"I earned an 'O' in Family Medicine." That was actually a rotation I did in 2014, but it took so long to get the grade back that it fell in 2015.

"Lost my IDs...and found them. 2/7/2015"

"I caught a baby named Lincoln on 4/4/2015."

"Saw my first optic disc with Dr. McNussen 8/5/2015." You know when the doctor shines a light and looks inside your eye? That's really hard to do well. But when a neuro-ophthalmologist dilates the patient's eye, it's a lot easier.

"Got 8 out of 8 on a Med-U differential diagnosis." This refers to quizzes in the pediatrics teaching modules I did back in January and February. To correctly guess all eight possible diagnoses was quite a feat!

Christmas morning breakfast with Dear Husband:
waffles, Cajun scrambled eggs, grapefruit, OJ, tea.
Ticket to see Mr. Holmes with Dear Husband.

Being gifted "6 Sudafed from another applicant and 2 throat lozenges from a cab driver when I was sick during an interview in Denver."

"Outstanding in Surgery."

A Chinese fortune cookie slip: "You are a bundle of energy, always on the go." Who me? Couldn't be!

"Gold star from Dr. Schmitz for reading non-stress tests" on ob/gyn.

"Gold star from Dr. Schmitz for dopplering fetal heart tones" on ob/gyn.

Another Chinese fortune cookie slip: "You will be honored with a prestigious prize or reward." There's no date on it; I wonder if it was predicting the paper award I received in April??

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Well, that's it. Unfortunately, I was not able to put "published my first academic article" in the jar this year. I'm spending the next month working on that manuscript so I can try again. Maybe in 2016...