Friday, March 30, 2012

Motion Sickness

I've always been lucky to not suffer from motion sickness. I've never felt woozy from the motion of a boat, roller coaster, car, or airplane. My wife is not so lucky. Whenever she gets into a moving vehicle, she inevitably starts to feel nauseated. Back seats in cars are her mortal enemies, as it is worse for some reason if she can't see where she is going. Facing reverse in a station wagon is right out. She does pretty well on roller coasters, but for some reason plane and car rides are the worst. She can't even sit next to the window on a plane without getting sick, which suits me just fine because pressing my face to the window of a plane is like a compulsion for me, especially during take-off and landing. It is ridiculous how excited I get when I fly, which is probably why I wouldn't make the best pilot. Nobody wants to be flown to Europe by some guy who can't stop freaking out about how high we are, how tiny the cars look, how ice crystals are forming on the window, the relative speeds of the plane to the ground versus airspeed due to the earth's curvature, the motion of wing flaps outside the window... You get the picture. Flight is fascinating to me, even if for nothing so much as all the forces and laws involved in keeping everything up in the air, traveling at such speeds... Yeah, there is a reason one of my majors was Physics, and it wasn't just so I could have one of the pea-green Physics Club t-shirts (I was vice-president, by the way... There were six of us.) with yellow print showing Schroedinger's wave equation on the front and the catch-phrase "Have you collapsed your wave function today?" on the back. Granted, I love that shirt (and wore it three days ago), but there was definitely more to it than the easy access to awesome fashion statements. Anyway, planes and cars are the worst for my wife, and while we haven't been on many wavy boat rides together, I can't imagine she would fare well.

Because of her finicky system, whenever we go for long car rides, she loads up on the Dramamine and breaks out her sea bands. Side note: I am VERY skeptical about how something like sea bands could possibly work. Even with all that extra help, we almost always have to pull the car over so she can stand outside for a while, possibly holding onto something solid like a small rock until the uncontrollable urge to void her stomach becomes controllable. That is how it has always been - until this past trip to Tennessee over Spring Break.

When we set out, I was a little worried about how she would do on such a long car ride. She got all set up with her stuff, took the Dramamine, and we were off. After a little while, she was feeling as sick as ever, and it was only about an hour into an 8-hour drive. I encouraged her to try to go to sleep, so she tilted her seat back a bit and was out in under five minutes.

When she woke back up after forty minutes, she was perfectly fine! She had no issues for the rest of the trip, even through some really twisty roads going through Kentucky. This started me thinking - what if going to sleep while experiencing the rocking and bumping motion of the car acclimated her to it so that it didn't bother her once she woke up? Sort of like calibrating her inner ear sensitivity to have a higher tolerance for motion.

On the return trip, I recommended that she just go to sleep right off the bat, wanting to test out my theory. She slept for about an hour and a half, and then was perfectly fine throughout the rest of the long drive back to Michigan, never experiencing any carsickness at all. There has got to be some sort of reason for this. Ideas? Theories?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happier than a Bird with a French Fry

"Today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry."
I saw this in a shop window as I walked to my apartment downtown a few days ago, and just thought of it. I'm tempted to say that I will apply this phrase to my day tomorrow, as that is when I will be facing the weekend after taking a Biochem quiz, but I don't think that's the way it's supposed to be used. No, I think it should be used no matter what is going on today. No matter how annoying parts of today have been, this phrase is intended to be used today, not put off until tomorrow.

And so, despite getting jerked around by the Craigslist guy who agreed to sell me something and then then bailed at the last moment, despite not being able to spend time with my coolawesome wife because she's such a responsible and studious student, despite working a crazy work day when I'd rather be studying, and despite studying when I'd rather be sleeping, I need to apply this phrase to today.

And so, I vow that for the rest of the day today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blood Pressure, Urination, and Syncope

A while back I wrote a post about some of the questions that I hope to have answered by the time I finish my medical education. This morning, I thought of a new one as I took my dog out to go to the bathroom. When your bladder is full, it takes up a bunch more space than when it is empty. However, my abdomen doesn't look any different after I urinate than it did before. How is this possible? Does the space around the bladder fill with interstitial fluid as the bladder empties? Also, it seems that as the bladder voids, even if the space around it fills up with interstitial fluid (and especially if it doesn't), this would cause a slight decrease in blood pressure. Does the heart beat faster or does the brain initiate vasoconstriction to fend off a fainting spell similar to that caused by defecation syncope? So many questions running through my head...

If you've got any answers, hunches, or thoughtful meanderings you'd like to share, please do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back in Action

Note: Click here for original photo source.
This seems like an appropriate picture to symbolize my current moment. Spring break had been great (The Calm), having no class and taking an ENTIRE FIVE DAYS off from work, but they both start back up tomorrow (The Storm). I can't complain, given that I am really only in one class this semester, and let's face it - even with working full-time, once class really doesn't compare to a full-time class schedule, especially if working part-time. Note: this is what my wife currently does, only she does TWO part-time jobs and is currently in Nursing clinicals. Yes, she has my respect.

Regardless, things will be starting quickly in Biochem with a quiz on Friday and an exam a week later. I'm feeling a bit unprepared, as I did what I had secretly vowed not to and took an uninterrupted hiatus from studying. For me, this is unheard of. Guess I will be reviewing quite a bit over the next few days.

Given that I didn't get any answers in my recent MSG question, I did a little digging and apparently no researchers have found any definitive links between consumption of MSG and consistent, negative side effects to health. Short-term side effects have been observed in a small percentage of people, but it seems to me that a large part of the stigma surrounding monosodium glutamate might be unnecessary. Sure, if it is not necessary in food then avoid it, but fear it? Consider it dangerous? Unless I somehow learn otherwise, I say no. Now that I've said that, I'm suddenly in the mood for some Chinese food...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Present in the Mail!

So, the wife and I were gone all week taking pictures and traveling in Tennessee for spring break. When we got back this evening, lo and behold there was a present in the mail! A friend of mine from college who has since finished med school (and who read a recent post about getting a suture kit and starting to learn technique in preparation for med school / for the fun of it) decided to be awesome and send me the above package in the mail. Below is a breakdown of the contents:
Included in the package were two packs of chromic cat gut, five suture needles with attached thread, and six or seven pairs of sterile (not sterile anymore) latex gloves.
Apparently the sutures are not intended for skin, as I was instructed to use them on a sponge or thicker material when practicing:
Looking forward to trying this out. To the friend that sent me this, thanks a ton! To the rest of you that might know something about suturing, any tips? As for the sterile gloves, the wife is planning on teaching me "sterile glove technique," which as far as I can tell is just a fancy way of saying "putting gloves on without getting germs on them..."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MSG - Dangerous?

So, the wife and friends and I were discussing the topic of MSG the other day, and the question came up, "How is MSG bad for you, and is it only bad if you have a lot of it?"

I had no clue. This is a topic that has not yet been discussed in any of my premed classes. Somehow, everyone knows that this is bad for you, yet it seems that not everyone knows why. Any med students or knowledgeable people out there willing to help me/us out?

Opryland, TN "Beach," and Peter's Thai & Sushi

Yesterday we hit up Opryland, which gave me a great chance to try out Panorama 360, an app I have that stitches together interactive 360-degree panoramic images in just a few seconds of automated photo-taking. The images are uploaded to an online directory and can be embedded like the one below or simply shared in link form.
This panorama of The Falls was taken using my iPad 2, resulting in a less-than-optimal image quality. Next time, I'll use the iPhone 4S and its superior camera.
In short, Opryland was way more than I expected. Far larger and more impressive / beautiful than I had imagined. I had always heard of it, but never really knew what Opryland was. Best of all, it was free to go in and walk around! Check out some cool photos from the day, followed by some from our trip to a local Tennessee beach and dinner at Peter's Thai & Sushi. Note: the tiny dog in the beach photos belongs to the friends with whom we are staying, and though I normally wouldn't willingly call something so small a "dog," Sasha is growing on me...
Photos from the rather rocky (but still very nice and breezy) TN beach, the sun at which burned me rather terribly. Coincidentally, does anyone know why your skin produces so much heat when you get a sunburn? Does this have anything to do with uncoupling protein in mitochondria using extra ATP in the production of extra heat? In other words, could it be that a sunburn might in any way be beneficial when on a diet? :)
And now, photos from Peter's Thai & Sushi - a place I would highly recommend if you're in the area. We splurged - two main dishes and five sushi plates for four people... It was awesome.
"The Green Dragon"
"The Volcano"
"The Dragon"
"Husband and Wife"
"Spicy Crunchy Shrimp"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vacation in Nashville - NOT Memphis... Photos!

Wife and I are now in Nashville, TN, despite the fact that my gassy brain caused me to tell friends and coworkers all week that we would be going to Memphis, for some reason. Anyway, we went to the above breakfast hot-spot this morning, where I ordered the below:
Blitntzes, orange juice, and bacon - SO GOOD!
After breakfast, we walked around Vanderbuilt's campus for a bit, and I've gotta say, I was definitely impressed. My undergraduate school has a pretty campus, but it was nothing compared to this - though as I write this and look at my pictures I realize that I didn't take nearly enough overview shots (or individual buildings and pretty stuff) to accurately show this. I only took a few photos,but I'll share them below.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Osprey Momentum 34 - My Backpack - Review

I used my last backpack for more than five years, and it served me well, but at the beginning of this semester I realized that it was time for something new. As I contemplated getting ready for med school this fall, I realized I wanted something that will take me through residency, if at all possible, but would be unique and convenient as I plan on biking as much as possible throughout this experience. I searched long and hard to find the best (in my price range) all-around backpack out there, and it is most definitely the Osprey Momentum 34-Liter Commuter Pack. It was originally geared toward bikers, but I firmly believe that it could work for anyone who carries a variety of stuff with them to work or school.

I tried something new with this post, creating the below list of topics that link to each respective section that I'll be touching on. Click the post title or the "Read more..." link below to activate the links in the content list and view the whole review. I know not everyone will be interested in this, but the photos look cool, and if you're in the market for a new pack, you just found a good one. Enjoy!
One side note before I get going: I've been using this pack heavily on my daily commute to and from both work and school, and I didn't clean it up for this post. It hardly seems to get dirty (minus the inside of the shoulder strap key compartment, where some oil from my bike lock transferred from the key to the fabric), and simply feels like the sturdiest bag you could imagine. It's also backed by a lifetime warranty so that if anything EVER breaks on it, all I have to do is send it in and they'll fix it. Simple! So here we go with the Osprey Momentum 34 review...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Write a Winning Personal Statement - Book Review



A while back I wrote a post on tips for writing a medical school personal statement. This morning I received an email from the Contact Me form with a question that I think is worth answering publicly:


In your posts about writing a personal statement, you mention reading other people's successful personal statements. Can you tell me how I can have access to these? Are there any specific books or any other resources with sample essays that you would recommend?
Sincerely, A.T.


To answer this question, I went to my school's library and looked this book up. I took the above pictures and sat down with a coffee to write this post. Back when I was figuring out how to apply to med schools and write the essays, I was lucky enough to have a couple of great advisors, one of which led me to this book. I was glad he did, because the style of writing used in composing a personal statement is very different than that to which most people are accustomed, especially science majors. Most premeds are used to writing dry, informative lab reports or research articles. They're not used to figuring out how to grab and hold their readers' attention. For the first time ever, premeds have to blatantly write about why they want to, should, and can become doctors without making it seem like they're full of themselves. That is not easy to do well.


My advisor recommended this book to me, and I can confidently pass along his recommendation.The book is called "How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School," by Richard J. Stelzer. For those interested, the ISBN number is 1-56079-855-6 and can be found on Amazon.com here. It may seem a little dated (published 15 years ago), but I assure you that the content is golden.


The book takes you though a structured process on how to go about composing your story, then gives you examples of both good and bad personal statements. I can't tell you how important this is, as doing web searches will not always result in trustworthy examples. The book also tells you specifically what types of words and errors to avoid in your writing - things that admissions committee members will probably be sick of seeing all the time, and thus will ignore. It helps you figure out how to make your personal statement stand out without doing so in a bad way.


In the last section of the book, it gives advice from "representatives of leading graduate and professional schools," separating the schools out by discipline. The medical school representatives included members from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, Yale University School of Medicine, and UCLA School of Medicine. It even supplies a questionnaire to pass around to friends and family members. At just $0.04 for a used copy from Amazon, you really can't go wrong. I found this book to be an incredibly valuable resource.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Orange Wasabi Sauce

Ok, so I've been sick lately. I think it's been a mild strain of the flu, mostly because it started off with weakness and chills on Sunday night. Monday morning, I woke up with a headache, stuffy nose, and sore throat that lasted all day. Tuesday, everything was ten times worse and I could barely drag myself out of bed. It got so bad that I started wondering if it's possible to have sinus pressure high enough burst something inside your skull. Is that sort of thing possible? I attempted to shrug it off and hoped for the best while drinking exorbitant amounts of Lemon Lift tea, popping cough drops like Reese's Pieces (I LOVE Reese's Pieces), and drinking orange juice like a Floridian farmer.

This morning, I was feeling much much better. Night and DAY better. I could breathe through a nostril, and I didn't feel as though a small miner was trying to bash his way out through the inside of my forehead. In short, I was on the mend. I went to class, went home, went to work, worked, and headed home to dinner ready to celebrate feeling better.

On my way out of the office, the security guard had some sushi from the market down the street. Oooh, that looks good, I thought. She told me it tasted great and, best of all, it was CHEAP. Since my wife has been incredibly busy with classes and work recently and I knew I'd be eating alone tonight, I stopped by on my way back to my apartment. That's right, while my wife's life is insanely hectic, my life is great (sorry Nicole!) - I live close enough to the office that I can ride my bike home to eat dinner AND stop by the sushi market on the way. To be fair, I've been doing a TON of chores around the house the past couple of days. Pretty much everything, including all of the dog responsibilities, so that she can really buckle down and do well on all her stuff. I'm not a total slacker just because I only have one class. Oh, and I had a Biochem exam on Monday morning, which may not have gone that well...

Anyway, as I perused the sushi that they had available, I realized they didn't have my "normal" (I get sushi maybe twice a year) order of spicy tuna rolls. When I get spicy tuna, it's not really that spicy - maybe a 5 or 6 out of 10. But, like I said, they didn't have any. Time to try something new, I thought. Hah! If only I knew! I looked through the ingredients on the available sushi variants, discarding the salmon roll, the california roll, and the spicy shrimp roll, finally settling on the Hawaiian roll pictured above. I thought it looked nice and tangy, maybe like a barbecue flavor with a bit of a kick or something. This is what I read from the label:

Ingredients: Cooked rice (white rice, water), tuna (treated with carbon monoxide to promote color retention), cucumber, avocado, vinegar (high fructose corn syrup, grain vinegar, rice vinegar, salt, brown sugar)...

And on and on it went. Little did I know that if I had read just one ingredient longer, I would have read wasabi sauce. But I didn't. I thought, Oooh, brown sugar, that looks great! and trundled on my merry, unsuspecting way home.

Here is where I have to tell you something about myself. I don't spend money easily, but when I do I tend to go all in, and to the extremes of stubbornness. It's worth it to me to save up for something, and when I finally purchase that thing, I am going to ENJOY IT NO MATTER WHAT. So, when I decided to spend eight bucks of my thirty-dollar-per-month self-allotted allowance on this sushi, I was GOING to enjoy it.

On the bike ride home, the plastic package had gotten dented a bit, smearing some of the sauce on the lid. As I opened it, some of the sauce got on my thumb. I absentmindedly licked it off. My mouth lit up like a dragon's. It was so hot, I expected my breath to ripple like the air over sun-baked asphalt, or my ears to start smoking like in a cartoon. I can handle normal spicy, but man, this was hot.

When I recovered, I looked down at my plate of fifteen Hawaiian sushi rolls. I looked back over the ingredients, and realized that all of that orange sauce soaking my vinegar and brown sugar-encrusted tuna rolls was actually orange wasabi - every bit as spicy as the regular green wasabi that I have always avoided, or at least diluted with soy sauce by a factor of ten before even approaching. That stubborn streak within me reared its grunty head, and I tucked in.

I finished all fifteen rolls, washing each one down with some lemonade. I chose to abstain from milk out of a desire to not increase my mucus production. I needn't have worried though; the Hawaiian rolls were so spicy my sinuses were squeaky clean by the time I was finished. I may have also blistered my tongue.

And that's the story of the Orange Wasabi Sauce. On an only slightly related note, I have a question that some of you might be able to answer. You know the saying about how "Doctors never get sick," or something like that? When does that actually start? I have regularly lowered my immune system by working and studying long hours to the point that I've gotten sick, and I can't really imagine this trend changing by much during med school and residency, especially with the prolonged exposure to disease as brought on by hoards of, well, other sick people. How do doctors stay healthy, or when does that superhuman health kick in? Graduation and receipt of the coveted M.D., or is it reserved for the elusive License to Practice? If doctors DO get sick, what is the limit to what they're expected to endure on the job before it's professionally acceptable to take a sick day??

Lots of questions a-buzzin' right now...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Two Posts for Premeds

It's that time again - premeds are gearing up for the MCAT, and some even gathering letters of recommendation and starting that beast better known as the Personal Statement. I've written several posts outlining some helpful things that I learned when going through sits process a year ago, two posts of which I've deemed worthy of bumping in this post. The links are below, just to make it a bit easier to find them. The last thing you need to be doing is sifting through my blog trying to sort the dross from the gold when you're looking for quick help. So, here they are:

How to Study for the MCAT
- I'm currently reworking all of the notecards that I made for MCAT prep so as to have them available online in ultra-high quality. They worked well for me, and I'm hoping to offer them for an affordable price at a store based right here out of my blog. The thing is, probably half of the handwritten notecards containing chemical reactions, pathways, and cellular structures were done hastily and in low quality to expediate the process, and I don't want to charge students money for that. So, I am going back and redrawing figures, reactions, and diagrams to produce something of quality, and that takes a while...

Tips for Writing your Medical School Personal Statement
- This was actually featured a while back on the Student Doctor Network. While I can't guarantee that this approach will yield a golden PS, it worked great for me, and I have gotten a lot of good feedback from it.

Pleases feel free to let me know if this has helped you out, or if you have any questions whatsoever regarding the testing, application, or interview process. You can comment below, or use the "Contact Me" tab at the top of the blog. I promise to respond within 24 hours, though I usually reply within the hour. Good luck, and hope this helps!

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