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Psych tidbit

20 Mar

Interesting thing I learned from my psych rotation: both when people sink into depression, and when people come out of depression, the person is the last person to feel the change in their mood.

I have a patient who is a 100% example of this. I really like working with him. He has gone from total catatonic to talking and expressing his feelings, his worries and even sometimes thinking he might be getting better. Today we did a crossword puzzle about fruits together. He laughed for the first time in months ( not while doing the crossword, but later when I was testing his memory and asked him to repeat something I had told him a while earlier. Because he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it) I feel really fondly toward this patient, really rooting for him. I feel sad that I will be finishing my rotation soon and won’t see him again most likely. I hope the next med student treats him well.


19 Aug

Day one of clerkship tomorrow. Surgery. I feel ill but that may be my flying and little eating today. Excited, open, tired, unprepared, bit nervous. I say 5:30am start isn’t so bad. At least I won’t be jumping into a frigid pool. Good luck to me and all the other new 3rd years.

The Chinese say

27 Jul

I’ve learned a few new Chinese sayings on this trip.

“Do gooders attract trouble.” Sums up the mentality of not rocking the boat. Keep your eyes down and just go on your way. I’m not sure if it’s an accurate generalization, but there are quite a few people in my own family do tend toward the attitude that “things just won’t change” or worse, that “causing a big ruckus can bring unwanted attention and trouble”.

电灯泡 = Electric light bulb. Last night, my mom and I went to sit on some beach chairs by the pool to look up at the stars. Beside us was a canopy with the curtains drawn down. My mom thought there might be someone inside and asked if we should find some other chairs because she didn’t want to be a “ding dang dam” or an electric light bulb. This is basically Chinese for a cockblock. The idea is that two lovers (or as my mom put it, “two people who are not just dating but courting”)would want to kiss in the dark. To be an electric light bulb would be to spoil their romantic fun (or sexy shenanigans, as people like to say!)

Quote: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

20 Jul

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is the … creator? inventor? discover-er? suggester? of the 5 stages of grief. You know: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

I often picture people who create these models or who are the eponym of anything clinical as being really dry and without personality. But most of the time they have pretty interesting stories! And in this case, a nice quote.

Science: It’s a Girl Thing!

25 Jun

“The commission said that the video had to ‘speak their language to get their attention’…”

This video brought tears of offense to my eyes.

Finished Year 2

10 May

Whelp, that’s that.

Finished the Pharm exam, headed to Charter for a slide show and champagne. Then a jump off the cliff behind the library.

Now my mom and brother are coming to visit, landing in just a few hours! Frond’s parents are coming in too – on the same flight. Yowzas.

Leah and I went up to visit another roommate from first year before heading home, and as we exited the elevator, on the other side was the Pathophys prof and a tutor! The tutor with the bump on his head, the tutor who i felt was giving me such a hard time, and at the time it shook my confidence up. I thought it was because I was the only girl in my small group. It was the start of a term that wasn’t as academically challenging as last term, but somehow it was one of the more challenging, emotionally, mentally. I had moments where I felt so full of anxiety and stretched-too-thin, that I felt something in my chest was going to burst. There were moments I felt so jaded about this career path, asking: why do I care?

Now it’s finished and there’s a new feeling settling in. Something about reaching the end. Days can seem so similar, and trudging along, it’s hard to see where things are going. But moments like these are a chance to breathe and soak it in. It’s a turning point, people!

When I saw the tutor during Pathophys quizzes, he always gave me a smile, which I thought at first was a smirk. But the more sessions I had with him, the more I saw he was really teaching me something new I hadn’t learned yet in school. Out to get me? I think he was out to push me to be a better student, clinician, and better me. He lit up when he saw us leaving the elevator and asked us how the last exam went. Good! we told him. Best of luck on the step and in your careers! he told us, genuinely.


93-year old powerhouse

12 Apr

From The Lancet, original article here.

Bringing women to the forefront of science and medicine

At the beginning of her research career, Okamoto was fortunate enough to work with a male neurophysiologist who understood the challenges women faced, and created many more opportunities for them than were otherwise available at the time. But Okamoto spoke about the long hours she put in the laboratory compared with her male counterparts, and when she moved to Keio University in Shinanomachi in Tokyo, things became even more difficult. One time, she and a female colleague were asked to leave a paediatric conference and were told that research was not a job for women. Okamoto recalled being ridiculed when she presented her research for the first time. “People said unkindly that they wondered if I was going to dance for them!” She experienced further hardship when she became a mother. For example, there were no daycare options on campus so she had to keep the baby in the laboratory with her while she worked.
After the second Sino-Japanese war, her research group began working on blood, specifically on antiplasmins. Her aspiration was to work on something that would benefit humanity globally. Half a century later, the fruits of her scientific labour are turning into benefit for patients. Not only is the real public health impact of tranexamic acid in bleeding becoming apparent, but even more gratifying for Okamoto, it is now being trialled in the WOMAN trial as a treatment for postpartum haemorrhage, which kills about 100 000 women every year mainly in low-income and middle-income countries.
Okamoto’s story is indeed an extraordinary one. But how have opportunities for women to fulfil their potential in careers in science and medicine improved today? In the past few decades there have been dramatic gains in the proportion of women in scientific and medical professions. But studies have shown that not enough women progress to more senior positions, and they are under-represented at the top levels of academia. The last European Commission’s SHE (statistics and indicators on Gender Equality in Science) figures in 2009 showed that in the 27 countries making up the European Union, 59% of university graduates are females but only 18% of full professors are women. Furthermore, only 9% of universities have a woman at the top of the organisation. Failing to take advantage of half the population is believed to be damaging universities.
Similarly in medicine, a recent survey by The Times newspaper found that despite 42% of British doctors being women, less than a quarter of clinical academics and only 14% of clinical professors are women. Worse still, some university-based medical schools have no tenured female professors in their research departments. A welcome proposal to correct this appalling gender imbalance is that future funding to support medical research will only be allocated to those places that show a sizable achievement towards gender equality according to the Athena SWAN Charter. But achieving this goal should not simply be about stamping out traditional forms of discrimination that bias against women in academia, it should also be an opportunity to recognise what women can do for science and medicine. Research has shown teams solve problems and function better when they are gender-diverse. Women can bring different perspectives to research, which can lead to alternative and possibly better outcomes.
My small group this year, with whom I do all my tutorial work in pharm, pathophys, for hospital visits,- was made up of all guys except one – me.  The dynamic was certainly different from what I was used to, and I struggled with it internally in the beginning.  Still, it was interesting to see the flip-side, of how different the group can be when it’s male-dominated.  More competitive, less collaborative, and you had to really jump in there and step in before anyone else did or you could easily be left behind or overlooked.
Being the only female in my group did get a lot of comments from preceptors though, ranging from running the show, to keeping the guys in line, to being safe and protected by all those men.

Gastrointestinal truths

12 Mar

I have female patients who try to convince me that they don’t pass gas.  I tell them, “Well I know you pass gas every day, and I know how much you pass every day!”

– GI Pathophysiology prof

For the record: 7-8 times a day.  Males do it twice as much.

Gems from First Aid

22 Feb

There’s a study book to use for the Step 1 called First Aid, and you’ll see pretty much every med student on campus (and on any campus) carrying it around wherever they go.

Here are some of the gems it has:

How to remember that the nipple is at the level of the T4 dermatome?  T4 for the teat pore.

How to remember that Gardnerella vaginalis is one of the bacteria causing bacterial vaginosis, which produces discharge with a fishy smell and white blood cells covered in bacteria (clue cells)?  I have no clue why there’s a fishy smell in my vagina garden.

Blind mole rats and my first citation

22 Jan

I published part of my MSc research last April. It was my first and only paper, and had taken about an extra year or two after my MSc finished to wrap up all the revisions, run new experiments, write and revise again. I remember being in a hotel room in China during my time on a cleft-lip surgical mission, writing scripts and starting programs on Brian’s computers back at Mac. It passed through three rounds of reviewing and on the final round, one of the reviewers still didn’t agree that the findings made sense but s/he also didn’t seem to understand the experiments. Thankfully, the editor of the journal stepped in and told us it was accepted anyway. It’s tough writing about population genetics and computational biology. It’s like explaining math without using numbers.

So once in a while, I like to look at how many times the paper has been downloaded. Ya, nerdy and kind of self-absorbed, but you’d do it too. After all, many people google themselves (I do that too, but thanks to a Singaporean pop star it doesn’t satisfy my ego), and many others start personal blogs (ahem). Good thing there’s such a fuss about stopping internet censorship because how else would we find out so much stuff about ourselves?

Instead of studying Pharm, I checked on my paper’s views again. And my paper has been cited! The paper citing me is called “Is Evolution of Blind Mole Rats Determined by Climate Oscillations?”. Oh academia. Bonus points for it being a paper about climate change (my paper had nothing to do with climate change).

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