Saturday, June 30, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I count myself incredibly lucky to have an athletic wife who challenges me to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Thanks Nicole!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Newsflash! I have been graciously informed that the word verification for commenting on my blog is incredibly annoying, especially when commenting from mobile devices. To be honest, I hate having to do word verifications on other peoples' blogs. To show that I listen to (and do not enjoy torturing) my readers, I have eliminated the word verification for commenting on my blog. Enjoy the new hassle-free commenting!
Yep, today I turn 27 years old, an age that for the last three years has signified the age at which I would (fingers crossed) start my first year of med school. Over those three years, everything has fallen into place and I'll be kicking off my first day of class two months from tomorrow. Which means that two months from today will be MSU CHM's White Coat Ceremony, when all the incoming med students will be presented with their short white coats.
That. Is. Crazy. So soon! I've been thinking in terms of years for so long that the concept of just two months seems a bit surreal.
Since I got accepted, I've gotten a lot of questions about how I feel, knowing that I'm going to be older than a lot of the traditional students with whom I will be in class. I've boiled my response down to a few (rather bloated for being boiled down) key points:
1. The age gap isn't as apparent as it might seem to be. There will be a lot of students younger than me, but there will also be quite a few who are older. I think last year, there was a 41-year-old, and I know there were several n their thirties. Regardless, none of us has done this before, so at least everyone starts on a level plane in that respect.
2. I feel like I have a lot of useful experience from the past five years of working as a Human Resources professional. One of the friends I made during these past three years of premed classes put it rather eloquently. "Dude, you've got so much experience. You've worked so much while doing everything else. You're like, an ADULT." What (I think) he was getting at is that my time management skills have definitely been pushed and molded over the past few years. Balancing a 45-hour work week with classes, labs, church, volunteering, studying, applications, interviews, traveling for work, and family time with the wife is a much more delicate act than even a full-time student's schedule. While neither is an easy feat, I definitely feel well-prepared (at least as well as possible) for the rigors of med school.
3. With whatever added maturity that can be gained from five years spent in the "real world," I've learned that fierce competition shouldn't be the most important thing. By working as a member of a cooperative team, I've learned the value of teamwork better than I ever could have by doing a group project or working with a lab partner. I have mentioned this on my blog before, I but I intend to bring this spirit of cooperation with me to med school. For example, I plan to make all of my notes, outlines, study guides, and notecards available for my classmates via Dropbox. By sharing what I'm studying, I hope to help others out in the event that they might need it. There is also the possibility that I've got something jotted down wrong, and a friend who is reading over a study guide I've shared will hopefully take the time to let me know about the error. I this way, everybody wins. Besides, the reason I'm becoming a doctor is focused around a desire to use my skills as much as possible for the betterment of others. Why wait for graduation to start putting that concept into practice?
I hope to be the antithesis of the traditional "gunner," whatever that would be called. Not just out to help myself to succeed, but ready to do what I reasonably can to help anyone and everyone to succeed. Driver? Sighter? Ground Support? Any suggestions?
Saturday, June 23, 2012
When I graduated with my bachelor's degree in Physics and Spanish, all I knew is that I didn't want to go to grad school right away. "Maybe later." For what? Who knew! I just knew I needed a break from school. I had been an intern in a medical interpreter program at the local hospital, and they had promised me a job just as soon as I got back from traveling in Germany. A bit before I came back, I got an email stating that they needed to fill the position earlier than planned, so I would not have a job to come back to.
Also that week, my at-the-time girlfriend dumped me, my car (which I was letting my brother use at the time) broke down, and my luggage got lost when I cut my trip short to go home and deal with everything. I then worked as an interpreter for an OB/GYN office for a few months before getting hired as a Spanish teacher for a local company. Once they learned of my ability with technology and media development (photo and video creation and editing), they hired me on as a full-time member of their HR team.
Two years into that, I was married and turning things upside down. Gone was the desire to "someday" attend graduate school for "something," replaced by a healthy passion for attending med school, fueled by the knowledge that it's actually possible to become a doctor by following a nontraditional path. If you want to know more about my core motivation, you can read a bit from my personal statement here.
Three years later gets us to today, nearly five years into my career as a Human Resources Technician - and the day when I finally cut the cord and made things real. That's right - it's no longer, "Yeah, in a little while I'll be quitting so I can take a break and start med school in the fall."
I just quit my job. There's no going back. I was committed before, but I've now effectively cut off any possibility of a retreat. Well, perhaps that happened when I signed for my loans, but the good news is that I know I won't ever actually WANT to retreat. It's just... There's a difference between knowing that you're going to head down a path and actually taking the first true step of commitment.
As we were driving in the car today, Wife said to me, "You realize that you're unemployed now, right?"
Yeah, I realize that.
"And that now, I'M the breadwinner??" She grinned, glee practically pouring from her pores.
She works part-time.Yikes.
Come on, August loans...
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Warning: this post contains a fairly graphic image. If, like my older brother (who couldn't handle the fake blood in an episode of ER) you are at all squeamish about blood, I would recommend not continuing to read.
In other news, Friday is officially my last day at work! With a new laptop and an impending official beginning to my pre-M1 vacation, this week is a big one in a good way.
More later... Right now, I should really get to sleep. Oh wait, I wonder how Portal 2 runs on the new lappy... :)
This should be fun.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Earlier today, amidst all the hubbub of filing an insurance claim, getting an official police report filed from when I called the Manistee Police Dept. yesterday, and taking Naiya to the vet (hooray, she's okay - just not allowed to walk for the next couple days! I just have to carry her to the pee spot out back...), I randomly decided to check in with the rangers' office in Manistee again. I had left a message with them yesterday, but when I called again today they said they had just gotten off the phone with a guy who said he had found our camera!! He positively identified it based on the description I'd left on the rangers' station answering machine yesterday. Apparently, the guy (Dave) had spoken with me and Josh after we got off the trail yesterday, but when he turned around we were gone and the camera was there!
I. Was. ECSTATIC. My mind was completely blown. Someone found my camera, and they were kind enough to go to the great lengths of searching for the right rangers' station to call, just to get my camera back to me?? Amazing. The woman on the phone (Maggie) started laughing along with me at the sheer joy bubbling through the phone. I mean, the acceptance phone call from MSU CHM was incredible, and probably the happiest I've ever been over the phone, but this was a good second. It was so unexpected and unbelievable, I had a hard time even focusing on the conversation.
The receptionist asked if she had my permission to give my information to the guy with the camera so that he could contact me about giving it back. My response? "HECK YEAH!" When I asked where he was located, she said he was from just south of Grand Rapids, which means that he's only about 25 minutes from me. How amazing is THAT?!? Due to scheduling conflicts, I won't be able to pick the camera up until tomorrow morning at 9:45am, but I AM GOING TO GET MY CAMERA BACK! Thanks to all those who sent up prayers on my behalf on this - I got a lot of supportive responses through the comments and Contact portion of my blog, aside from all the well-wishes on Facebook. Seriously, I have some of the most awesome friends and readers in the world.
Things don't always turn out this well; in fact, they almost never do. I am still kind of in shock, I can hardly believe it... Thanks to Dave Who Found My Camera for being an awesome, stand-up example of how a human should behave. When he called me earlier today, he said that he knew exactly what it's like to save and save for a camera when operating off of an allowance. He and his wife actually operate very similarly to how I and Wife do - saving and saving for something that we want, then paying cash and enjoying it. When I told him that I wanted to offer him some sort of reward for being such an exemplary specimen of human morality, he just laughed before rejecting it flat out - again proving how much he deserves one. Unfortunately, at this point it would probably just be insulting to offer him one, so I guess I'll have to let it slide and continue to thank him profusely every time I speak to him.
This whole debacle has been more trying than I would have imagined, mostly due to the thought of losing the memories stored on the camera. In my last post where I confirmed that the camera was gone, I listed three lessons that I learned from this. Well, here's a fourth:
Lesson #4: Back up your photos whenever you can, but if you lose them - have faith. Things won't always turn out to be as bad as they seem. Either you'll get them back, or there'll be an important lesson in there somewhere...
And so, tonight I will rest easily, knowing that upon yonder morn, I will be getting my precious memories back...
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Yup, it's officially 100% lost. Gone is the Nikon D90, iPad charger, iPad camera connector, 16GB and 4GB SDHC cards, Lowepro 45 Slingshot camera case, time lapse remote, and shutter remote. It wasn't by the tree, which means someone got a nice and tidy little present today. Looks like I'll be filing an insurance claim and forking over the deductible - but hey, at least that's an option, right??
Lesson 1 from today: Always include your contact information somewhere in important, expensive bags.
Lesson 2 from today: Having renters' insurance is NEVER a bad thing. You never know when you're going to need it.
Lesson 3 from today: Even if you "never lose stuff," sometimes you lose stuff. That's life.
So my friend Josh and I have been planning this backpacking trip along the Manistee River here in Michigan for quite a while now, and yesterday was the big day. The trip was a blast, minus an unplanned (and UNFORECASTED) torrential downpour from 11pm to somewhere around 4am. Normally, this is the point at which I would be sharing all of my awesome photos with you. Except, I can't.
They're intact, I'm sure. I even know right where they are. They're in my camera. My camera is in the camera bag that I carried attached to my backpack the whole trip. The problem, as you might have guessed, is that I lost the camera bag and everything in it. At least, I think I lost it... I know where it might be, but it might not be there anymore.
Once we finished hiking back on the trail, we had one last 0.8 mile push to get back to the car. I decided I would rather shirk the heavy pack and leave Naiya (my dog, who went on the hike with us) with Josh while I jogged back to get the car. After I returned with the car, I grabbed Naiya's leash to see if she needed to pee before loading up my gear. I noticed she was limping a bit, so I checked her paws. Both of them had at least one thick black pad dangling by a flap of skin, almost completely torn off. However this had happened, it was a very startling and distracting revelation. I immediately focused on taking care of her and getting her settled in the back of the car before tossing my pack in one of the passenger seats. We hopped in the car took off, never realizing I had left my Nikon D90 (and all the awesome shots from this trip...) beside the parking lot at the tree where Josh had waited for me earlier...
Not good. Even worse, I didn't realize this until over five hours later, after I had gotten home, unpacked, showered, and sat down to go over my photos on my laptop. Feel free to imagine the progress of my panic from, Huh, where did I put the camera? to It's not in the apartment. It's really not in the apartment... to calling Josh and having him frantically scour his car in the hopes that we simply missed it when he dropped me off at the apartment. No. Dice. Also, WIFE had taken the car to Grand Rapids to celebrate Father's Day with her pops, so I was powerless to drive myself the three hours back to the parking lot.
After an hour of trying to call rangers' offices late on a Sunday afternoon (and giving it up after realizing that apparently no rangers work on Sunday afternoons), calling my insurance provider to find out what the deductible would be if all really is lost, and finally talking to someone at the Manistee Police Station to find out if there was anyone else I could call, I remembered that my mom and stepdad had been on a week-long road trip up north with my aunt and uncle. Maybe they are miraculously just passing by there, on their way back! Oh Naive Hope, how kind you are in such fleeting breezes...
I dialed, but again no dice. They had gotten back two nights ago, and were an hour south of me at the moment. However, they OFFERED (and were incredibly gracious in the offering) to drive me three hours back up north to the tree beside the parking lot where I was 99% sure I left that little back of photographic gold. And that brings us to where I am right now - in their car on my way back to the middle of nowhere in the scrabbling-at-the-grass-on-the-cliff's-edge hope that in the past eight hours, nobody has seen that black camera bag sitting next to the tree. Or, if they have, that they left it alone, for in my lack of prescience (I NEVER lose stuff...) I neglected to put any contact information in the case. Aside from denying anyone a way to contact me if they find it, this gives the lucky finder an easy out to say, "Hey! I'd call this guy if he left any contact info, but since he didn't... MINE."
So pray, cross your fingers, wish me luck, wish upon a star - ANYTHING. I just hope I get my stuff back...
Thursday, June 14, 2012
|Image credit: www.barefootted.com|
Conversely, I had no clue that the research that IS out there shows the opposite - that the more cushy and supportive your shoes are, the more likely you are to suffer an injury. The author of Born to Run cites LOADS of research - some of which even found that the more expensive the shoe (which directly correlates to more cushion and arch support), the more likely a running injury will occur with those shoes! The reasons for this are many and - even better - they make sense!
You see, the more comfortable our feet are, the sloppier we run. We worry less about balance if we can just flail all over willy-nilly style and then - BLAMMO - slam our feet down a little harder to get back on track. The less we feel of the road and/or trail, the more likely we are to roll an ankle. Research also shows (sources are given in Born to Run, but Wife is reading it now...) that, because our bodies naturally search for firmness when seeking balance, they naturally come down harder when we wear thick, soft shoes. We instinctively attempt to press down through the cushion to find the firm ground beneath. This results in much greater stress on our bones and joints when we wear running shoes.
Born to Run makes another great point, this time concerning arch support. When you see a bridge built upon an arch, do you see people frantically trying to build supports beneath it? No - when formed correctly, an arch becomes stronger under pressure. The pieces knit together more firmly. When you build up support from beneath, the integrity and strength of the arch is compromised. In foot terms, arch support weakens our feet by making them lazy. Lazy means weak. Weak means injury. 'Nuff said.
For the past couple weeks, I've slowly been making the transition to barefoot running style. Goodbye heel strikes, bobbing shoulders, and long strides. Hello shorter strides, straight back, and quicker steps (about 180 per minute at a comfortable pace). At first, I couldn't go more than a quarter mile without having my calves screaming indignantly for the next 14 hours. Now, I'm up to a mile, after which I can't even tell I did anything special. I also got the above Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas, which are designed to protect your feet when running either in cities or on the trail. They've got super durable rubber that grips well on a wide variety of terrain without wearing out. I love barefooting on the beach, but when you're on streets with nails, glass, and bits of metal all over the place, you've gotta get some rubber on those duds.
Historically, doctors have been all over the place, but recently more and more doctors who have done their homework are recommending a move away from "traditional" running shoes - though how something that has only been around since the 1970's can be considered "traditional" when humans have been running for thousands and thousands of years is beyond me... Regardless, more docs are recognizing the fact that per-runner injuries have skyrocketed since the advent of the modern running shoe. When done correctly (read: GRADUALLY and INTELLIGENTLY), barefoot running can go a long way toward healthier feet, joints, and body as a whole. If you're less likely to get injured, you're less likely to go to seed on the couch eating potato chips while you wait for that bum knee to heal.
The evidence has convinced me. I will be trying out this barefoot running thing. I hope to be up to around five miles in the next couple months... One last thing - I'll be able to run even once it gets dark, as the new Vibrams have reflective material built right in:
|Click to embiggen.|
Sunday, June 10, 2012
|Click to embiggen.|
Wife and I were heading back from a great morning at the beach the other day when we came across the above
I present to you his thought process as he parked:
Boy, this pavement looks hot... And they could have made the beach closer... Heck, the drive here was far enough... Oh but hey LOOK! There's some nice sand right there by my car! I can't even see the water or hear the waves from here, but who needs a beautiful view, relaxing crashing wave sounds, or fresh air smell? Not me, oh no. I'm just here to work on my tan anyway... Note to self: order a giant-sized sandbox from Amazon when I get home...
Bahaha, BEACH FAIL!!!
Saturday, June 2, 2012
I will use an iPad for medical school.
My iPad has awesome apps.
iPad + Awesome Apps = Greatness.
The Skeleton System Pro III is hands down the best app you could possibly hope for for learning the human bones. It's packed with amazing views, descriptions and explanations, audio pronunciations, videos of different movements, and interactive quizzes. One of the features that I think will be most helpful is the quiz, where you define a region that you want to be quizzed on and all the other parameters, and it gives you thirty seconds to identify several pinned structures by dragging the appropriate bubble to the pin. This is one of the parts of med school that makes me the most... Ill-at-ease. Apparently, they're fairly intense, and it's set up like this - about a million stations, and you have 30 seconds at each station to identify the pins in the cadavers. When the bell dings, you move on. Seems like it might be good to practice, and this way I'll be able to get a little in even when I'm not in the lab.
The Muscle System Pro III is everything that The Skeletal System Pro III is, but for muscles. Whenever I thought about learning human anatomy, the first thing that popped into my mind was all the bones. What I never realized before auditing an anatomy course this past semester was just how many more muscles we have than bones. As hard as it is to memorize all the bones, it's far more difficult to learn the muscles because usually the bones are not layered in three dimensions, yet the muscles are - and oftentimes multple layers deep. This app makes it much easier to visualize the relative locations of layered muscles because it allows you to remove or add layers as you wish. You can even combine layers of muscles, so that if you're constantly switching between deep and superficial layers, it's easier. The pinning and quizzing processes are the same as previously described for the Skeletal app, and will be really helpful this fall. Again, the $19.99 asking price is higher than most apps, but the added complexity of creating a comprehensive app depicting every human muscle in three dimensions more than justifies the price. I would have paid $50.00 for this app, easily. Check out the screenshots below to get a feel for the app, but keep in mind that these are all static images. The app animates to help you understand where the muscles are, how they're oriented, movements, etc.
Medscape does an awesome job of presenting breaking medical news and studies. It's a free app that requires users to create a free account, as many articles are not available without login access. My guess is, this is mostly used for keeping tabs on who and how many people read various articles. Aside from being incredibly interesting and informative, this is a good option for premeds who are looking for solid ways of staying up on recent medical news in preparation for interviews.
Medscape also features a drug interaction tracker and reference look-up for drugs, diseases and conditions, and procedures and protocols. This last has been one of the most interesting features for me. It allows you to look up a procedure based on the field of medicine, then the body region of interest. It offers thousands of images and videos exclusively available to Medscape users. I was able to watch a video of an ingrown toenail removal with descriptions on everything from anesthesia to the tools needed to the technique used. This is just one small example of what this free app contains. Check out the screenshots below.
I love Dropbox. For those of you that don't know what it is, it's a free cloud-based service that allows you to set up a folder on your computer to be mirrored on Dropbox's servers. It's also a free app for most mobile devices. This means that when you change or add a file to the linked folder on your computer, that change instantaneously happens on the cloud and all your mobile devices. Conversely, if you add a photo or document from your iPad to your dropbox app, it's immediately available on your computer. Period. No hassle, no cords - you don't even need to be on the same network.
I use Dropbox by creating a separate folder for each class within my Dropbox folder. I use it to store presentation PDFs, to backup my lecture notes, and to transfer screenshots from my iPhone and iPad to my computer. In fact, all of the app screenshots that you're seeing were transferred to my computer from my iPad using Dropbox. It also does a great job of allowing you to view a wide variety of file types, including all image formats, all standard Microsoft Office and Apple doc formats, and most video and audio formats.
One of the best features of Dropbox is how easy it makes it to share things with friends. Gone are the days when you had to email files, clogging up multiple inboxes multiple times with each iteration of a presentation or document. Using Dropbox, you can simply select to copy a public link to the clipboard. Email this link to a friend, and they have instant access to the file. You can choose whether or not to let them be a collaborator, or simply download / view the file.
Dropbox starts off with 2GB of free space, but for each person that you invite who starts a Dropbox account you get an additional 500MB of free space. The person you invited will also get an extra 500MB for starting via invitation, giving them 2.5GB right off the bat. You can get up to 8GB of free space using Dropbox. If you want more, I think it's something like $10.00 per year for a total of 15GB, but don't quote me on that... If you're a student with an iPad, there's no good reason to not be using Dropbox. As for screenshots - it's a pretty straightforward app, and I don't feel like showing all my files, and the app page linked above does a fine job of showing the general layout...
Notes Plus is, in my opinion as an official beta tester, hands down the best annotation and digital note taking application available for the iPad. Totally worth the $7.99 asking price. I've mentioned it before, but since about 75% of my daily readers are new (thanks to the 25% of you that keep coming back, by the way!), I'll give a basic description.
Originally it was programmed like all the other note taking apps - though not very well, using traditional inking that blurred out as you zoomed in and plagued with crashes and lost data. Since then, it has been rewritten from the ground up to make a new app. I've had zero crashes and no lost data, and it is the first to use vector graphics for translating strokes, resulting in perfectly smooth lines no matter how much you zoom in. "Vector graphics" also means this is preserved when you export your notes in PDF format. Notes Plus also backs up automatically to Dropbox (mentioned above) as you go, so if you lose your iPad (or someone steals it!) when you link to your new iPad, all your notes automatically redownload to the app. PDF annotation has been perfected. Viet Tran, the developer, is an awesome guy based in Wisconsin who listens intently to feedback from beta testers and users alike, quickly implementing necessary changes. I wrote a detailed review previously, so rather than rewrite everything and create new screenshots I'll just link to it here.
How will I use Notes Plus for medical school? At MSU CHM (and many other schools), they provide students with a "coursepack," both in electronic and printed formats. My understanding is that at CHM, it's basically everything that the professors will be going through in lectures - both the actual lecture presentations and auxiliary information. In PDF form, these will be easy to import into Notes Plus for annotation during lectures. Even if you don't annotate using Notes Plus, just having the coursepack in Dropbox means I can instantly access any lecture slide or article from wherever I am. When I compare this to having to carry around a 4-inch-thick three-ring binder that takes forever to search through, I get that much more eager to be actively implementing this come the fall.
Mental Case is probably one of the top five most versatile and useful apps I have. I'm a big believer in flashcards for rote learning. While I like learning from books and notes, that's not always the most effective way to learn material. A lot of learning the science that allows us to become doctors is rote memorization. Structures, definitions, names of processes, steps, functions, groups - oftentimes, flashcards are the best way to go about learning these. However, it can be a huge pain to make and keep track of paper flashcards. If you have 600 cards that you need to know for the next exam, just keeping them organized enough to effectively study them can be problematic.
Enter Mental Case - a perfectly designed app for creating, organizing, storing, and studying digital flashcards. I wrote up an old post showing how I studied for the MCAT using this software, which pretty much turned into a review of it. It has a bunch of screenshots to check out, so feel free to take a peek. I also offer all the flashcards that I created while studying for the MCAT on My Store.
Popplet Lite is the best free app I've found for creating flowcharts on an iPad. While I haven't yet taken any pathology classes, I've heard that flowcharts can be a saving grace. Popplet Lite allows you to include pictures into flowcharts, as well as format each bubble and export everything to PDF or JPEG files. The full version of Popplet is $4.99. With the free version, the app has all the same features but only lets you make one flowchart at a time. We'll see if I feel like I need to upgrade once fall rolls around... Check out the screenshots below.