Friday, December 14, 2012

1/8th of an MD

I have officially completed 1/8th of an MD degree! WHOOP WHOOP! 

As my sister-in-law put it, I am now an M1.5, hahaha. I must say, it feels GOOD. I am writing this post at noon-thirty on 12/13/12, just after grading my last Genetics exam (they post the key within hours and let you write your answers down so you can grade yourself later). However, I will be post-dating this entry so that it doesn't appear until 11am tomorrow, Friday, December 14th. Why, you ask?

Out of respect for Wife. You see, she won't be free (and therefore able to share in the joy that it is to be truly free for Christmas break) until after she takes her Topics in Nursing exam on Friday morning. Which, you guessed it, gets out at 11am.

Anyway, the Genetics exam went well, though I was more nervous about this exam than any I'd had so far. I foolishly calculated the lowest grade I could get on it and still pass the class. This "low-end" margin for success turned out to be about 28% lower than my lowest exam score of the semester. For most people, this would provide a sense of security going into the final. That's what I thought it would do for me. And then I got sick and ended up studying a whole lot less for the final than I would have done normally.

Enter truckloads of foreboding and boatloads of angst, and you get where I was at 9am this morning during the five minutes of hushed silence as we waited for our exam to start.

(Quick aside here - we are allowed in the room up to fifteen minutes early, after picking up our numbered card that shows where our assigned seat is for that exam. After sitting down, we can fill out our Scantron sheet with our name, student ID number, and the info for the specific test (Genetics Exam 3, etc.). And then we sit there. And wait. And wait wait wait. They have a huge clock blown up on the projector screen at the front of the room showing the seconds ticking down. We're supposed to be silent this entire time, but it's not really enforced until the last five minutes when they start reading the same instructions that they read at the beginning of every test. I swear, most of the class has probably memorized that spiel by now. Only after that last second ticks off the clock at the front of the room are we allowed to flip the exams and get to work.)

But now that's all over for this semester, and I couldn't be happier!

For you newbies to the blog, I am somewhat of a numbers / statistics / time lapse nerd. Not in the research / statistics class classroom sense, but in the I-like-to-observe-long-term-change-and-trends-in-stuff-that-doesn't-really-matter sense. For example, I get a huge kick out of a time lapse that shows someone every day for eight years. In college, I tracked my frisbee golf scores over the entire four years, and at the end plotted it out and saw how much I had improved - which, luckily, was a lot, otherwise it would've been incredibly depressing.

Almost as depressing as this next bit will probably seem to most of you, actually. This semester, I got a free program on my computer called Stone Hill Time Card. Sorry PC users, it's only for Macs. Throughout the semester, every time I sat down at my computer to do something (attend/watch lecture, study in the Medbunker, etc.) I entered in what I was doing. I did this consistently, and I don't think I ever missed anything. With the program, it was easy to do, so wasn't much of a hassle.
And now, I have a semester's data on how much time I spent doing different things. I only really tracked the time I spent studying / in lecture. So you won't see the time I spent in committee meetings, hanging out with Wife, walking, or sleeping/eating. Yes, I eat in bed before falling asleep. Sue me.


So here you have it: From August 27th to December 13th, a total of 109 days, here's how my study time played out:



In column form (yes, I know this is absurd / ridiculous / insane):



Keep in mind, this doesn't include just time spent in each of these locations, but time spent actively studying in each of these locations. In other words, if I had to get up to use the bathroom or move to another room or answer a phone call from Wife, I stopped the timer on my computer, then restarted it when I got back to work.

That's a grand total of 1,022.55 hours spent studying or in lecture during my first semester of med school at MSU CHM. This equals 42 days and 36 minutes, or roughly 40% of my total time this semester. That averages to about 9.4 hours/day, seven days a week, not counting breaks or meals. And honestly, I'd say this sounds about right for the average medical student. So, if you're a premed wondering how you're going to spend your time once you get to med school, this is pretty much the reality of it. It's totally doable, but definitely takes some adjustment.

My first month was by far the worst / hardest period of adjustment. It was filled with the constant wondering of, "Is this going to be too hard / stressful / demanding for me to complete?" Having finished the first semester though, I now know that I will be able to handle this. There will be no sitting back and coasting - at least not until 4th year, if this awesome video can be believed:


Of all the things I've learned this semester, I'd say the most important is that I really can do this. It's not just a "think" or "probably can" or "hope I can" anymore; it's now a know. Which is cool.

Special thanks to all those who have been sending me messages along the way this semester by using the Contact Me at the top of the page. It has been really cool to hear people that don't even know me having positive experiences while following along with the blog. It's fun to hear that people like reading.

In that light, I welcome input and questions. If you're a premed or a medrent (med student parent) or another med student and you've got a question, just let me know and I'll give you my take on things. If you're an MD or DO and you've got some fly wisdom to share with me, that's always welcome too.

And now, I am going to eat some chili made and frozen lovingly moths ago by Wife, kick back, and watch some television.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sick AGAIN

What I'm like when it's the day before my last med school exam of the semester and I realize I'm sick:



I know I'm about to base a trend on only two data points - a real "no-no" in statistics and trend modeling - but I don't care. I have had two breaks this semester - Thanksgiving and Christmas (now), and it seems like each time, just as I get close enough to smell my freedom from studying/exams, I get sick. Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem to just be me.

SICK.

It started for me yesterday. It's like my body knew that in 48 hours, it would be free to sleep, so it decided to start taking it easy. Here's what I envision the inner dialogue of my immune system to have been:

Oh, we have a break coming up? Hey that's cool; I've been staving off all these infections for so long, this is very welcome! Hmm... Now that it's so close, I don't think anyone would notice if I just started break a little early... *Settles back onto metaphorical overstuffed couch and grabs a bag of Cheetos* There now, that's much better... *Picks up phone.* "Hey, B Lymph! Yeah! It's break time! Nah, we can start now, it's all good. Come on over and we'll hang! What? You wanna bring T Lymph. Aw man, I know he's your cousin, but... Well... All right, but if he starts showing me pictures of all his newest receptors, I swear I'll kick him out. Cool. Later bro.

Little did my lazy, jumping-at-the-chance-for-a-break immune system know, while he was dozing on the couch through an episode of CHIPs just like I did when I was sick as a child, this nasty virus / cold / whatever was sneaking into my blood to wreck havoc with my sinuses, throat, and digestive tract. Way to go, lymphocytes. Failure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phys - CHECK.

They haven't posted the exam key yet, but this morning I took the 3-hour, cumulative exam for Phys. I think the grand total of practice problems I did in the past 24 hours was somewhere around 350, and let me tell you, I am GLAD that I did. It felt to me like the majority of the questions were  either directly off of the problem sets, or at least very closely related. It didn't seem easy by any stretch of imagining, but I felt it was a fair test. And now, the waiting game begins...

The good news is that Genetics isn't until two days from now, so that leaves me at least a couple hours of down-time right now before I start studying for that beast. I might take a nap... Maybe play a computer game... Eat stuff.

*SIGH*


Good feelings.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Perfect Christmas Gift for a Med Student - Bose QuietComfort 15 Headphones

I present to you the Perfect Christmas Gift for a Medical Student: 

In case you're wondering, I am NOT getting paid to write this review; I just think they're THAT good, and I figure there are a lot of proud parents/spouses/generous friends out there with med students in mind this Christmas. Wife got me these for our third anniversary (the "leather" gift year; the earcups are an amazingly soft and comfortable black leather).

As I write this, I am listening to Lights (Bassnectar Remix) by Ellie Goulding on these headphones, and It. Sounds. Amazing. Granted, these headphones could make anything sound good, so when you start off with a great song with high, dynamic ranges, you're in for an experience. Honestly, they play anything well, and my tastes in music range from metal to classical to electro-hip-hop to acoustic guitar to dubstep to indie rock to latin jazz to ska and punk. Pretty much the only thing I don't like is country. *Shudder.*

Anyway, it's generally understood that every med student has his/her own very specific study environment preferences. If you've known a med student while they're studying, or if you've ever talked with one about how they study, you know what I'm talking about. They're almost as particular about how/where/with whom they study as they are about their pens. Special side-note thanks to Albinoblackbear for that tip almost a year ago now; that's the only pen I use now, whenever I'm not taking notes on my iPad. The best thing is, Wife just texted me this picture the other day along with the message: "Finished the red pen... time for a refill... Good thing I ordered those a few weeks ago!"


But back to the headphones. They come standard with two different cords - one with an in-line remote that works with all Apple devices (hooray!) and one without. They're powered by ONE AAA battery, and they last about 30-35 hours per charge depending on how loud you have the volume. Probably the best feature is that you don't have to use them with music. You can simply unplug the cord from the headset and choose to only use the noise-cancelling feature. Oh, did I not mention? They're noise-cancelling headphones, and they work WONDERS.

You see, not everyone likes to study with music all the time. Sometimes, a med student just wants some peace and quiet. For example, I like music most of the time, but when I am taking practice tests, I just want it to be as quiet as possible. Sometimes I just get tired of music, too. So I load up on caffeine (music helps me stay awake) and enjoy some smooth, calm silence.

The Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones are so comfortable, I regularly wear them for hours on end without even noticing them. Sometimes if I'm too warm, like if I just got out of the shower or just ran a few miles, it can be a little warm to have the phones cover my ears, but that's true of any over-the-ear headphone. This isn't a big deal to me, but for those for whom it would be, they have another, more expensive model.

They especially come in handy with my current living situation. I live in the basement of Wife's sister's and brother-in-law's house. They have three kids, ages 6, 4, and 2. Sometimes, there's a bit of whining, a bit of crying, and a bit of coffee table flipping general commotion from upstairs. With these things on and a little bit of music playing, I can't hear a thing. NADA. It's study haven BLISS.

Remember this picture? Well, about six inches to the right of my table is the hot water heater that BLURBLES every time someone runs the hot water. Two feet to the right of THAT is the furnace that kicks on every twenty minutes when it's extra cold out. With these headphones on, those noises cease to exist.

But what about getting tossed around in a backpack all the time? Won't they get broken? you ask. Hah! They come with a deluxe, foam-padded zippered case that keeps them perfectly safe from drops and crushings:


It even has a special zippered compartment inside for storing extra cables / batteries. I always keep a spare, charged, rechargeable AAA for that inevitable moment (about once a week, with my extremely heavy usage) when the one I'm using conks out:


As for how the noise-cancelling works, I don't know the specifics. If I did, I'd be in the wrong field. All I know is that they have microphones in each headphone that sample ambient noise, selecting for low-frequency things like whooshing air, motor noises, that sort of thing. The headphones then emit a wave into the earcups that actively cancels out the ambient noise sensed by the microphones, so that all you hear is your music. It's amazing.

Plus, they just look awesome, and they're not overly big, in my opinion:



If you get these for that beloved med student in your life, he/she will NOT be disappointed.

Phys, Genetics, then VACATION

With Anatomy out of the way, the next exam on the docket is Cell Biology and Physiology I on Tuesday, better known simply as Phys. The name of the game for the next three days is going to be flashcard creation / review and practice problems. As the MSU CHM faculty put it in their email announcing the practice problems, "We strongly urge you to make good use of these batches as well as previous practice exam questions (batches for Exam 1-4). The time you spend on these questions will be amply rewarded!"

Translation: "Seriously, do these practice problems. We're pretty much going to jumble them up and give them to you in test format on Tuesday, so if you can do these you can ace the test."

If you need me, I'll be busy making flashcards on the nine most recent exams, then reviewing the 1K+ phys flashcards from the semester (this is a cumulative exam, folks), then cracking down on practice problems... It's going to be a fun- caffeine-filled three days.

And after that comes Genetics.

But after THAT comes this:


That's right - we're going on vacation. Luckily, I paid for it back when I had a job and we had money, so now I absolutely have to go on it. With our current financial situation (which is a complete lack of finances), I'd never be paying for something like this. Which is why I did it this way, because Wife and I need some together time. Also, the above picture is not for sure our actual room, but it's from the resort we'll be going to. Amazingly, we got a free upgrade to our room, which was a great surprise. We most definitely did NOT shell out the cash for the above room, haha.

All right, enough stalling. I've got my coffee, I've got my headphones. It's time to hit the books.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Inter-Exam Limbo Land


I just spend the last 3.5 hours reviewing all 59 pages of lab objectives for the Pelvis, Perineum, and Lower Limb lab exam that I will be taking in... 22 minutes. The lecture exam was this morning, and we have this break in between the two exams that everyone uses to relax and catch a breath cram like we've never crammed before. Except, we have crammed like this before - after every single Anatomy lecture exam. I drew the later exam time this round (there are two), so I got an extra hour to study. I'm still not sure which I prefer, the early or the late slot. Probably the late. Sure, I'm not done as early, but you'd be surprised how having a little extra time to make sure the words are fresh in your head (or calm your nerves by writing a quick blog post) can help.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do after this exam is over with. I'm nowhere near the dangerous 75-mark of the pass-fail system here at MSU CHM, so in a little over an hour I will have officially passed the infamous Gross Anatomy of medical school, which is definitely cause for celebration... However, I have about 1050 pages to review and several hundred practice questions to do in preparation for my cumulative Physiology final next week Tuesday. Add to that the approximately 500-ish pages that will be covered on the half-semester cumulative Genetics final on Thursday, and I could do nothing but study all weekend - and still probably not touch everything...

Maybe I'll go for a run. Hmmm...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ankles, Acetabula, and Aleatory Opportunity

When I moved into the Medbunker, I had no idea what med school was actually going to be like. I thought I had an inkling. I knew it would be hard. I definitely didn't know I would be studying ankles and acetabula using the above setup... Life is hard, but cool in the nerdiest way possible right now.

Some rather exciting news in the works - but first, some background. Oddly enough, there seems to be a trend with how I find / fall into jobs and experiences.

1. On my first day of undergrad classes, I approached a member of the physics faculty and asked about research opportunities. The next day, I became part of a nuclear physics research group. That led to 2.5 years of experience in which I constructed a neutron detector, became the youngest licensed operator of Notre Dame's Van De Graaf particle accelerator at age 19, and eventually led to multiple publications.

2. Later on in undergrad, I asked a local non-profit about any English as a Second Language (ESL) opportunities in the area. That led to a three-year experience in which I taught classes in and became the student director of a program that was eventually incorporated into my undergraduate institution's Spanish curriculum, wherein Spanish students could earn credit by teaching and volunteering in ESL classes taught to adults from the community.

3. During the ESL experience, I approached the multicultural coordinator at the local hospital about starting an internship program shadowing medical interpreters, and that led to an eight-month experience and a job as a medical interpreter.

4. While working as a medical interpreter, I started doing some part-time work as a Spanish instructor at a local manufacturing company. When they found out that I also did multimedia work and had a variety of other experiences, they hired me full-time as a Human Resources technician. That experience lasted five years, all the way until I started medical school.

So. There is a slight trend here, and it appears that it is going to continue. I approached one of my Anatomy professors about whether or not there might be any open positions for this summer, as my wife will be moving here, and I would really like to earn some money working with something I enjoy. In case you haven't picked up on it (or you're new around here), I like Anatomy quite a bit. When I asked my professor about opportunities, she replied, "Now that's funny. I was JUST thinking about where I might be able to find someone who might be able to fill some positions around here this summer!" Today, she sent me an email stating that I have been approved for 250 hours of work over this coming summer, between the end of June and the middle of September! It'll be a mixture of helping augment / improve the curriculum and presentations, working as a TA for a medical anatomy illustration course taught in conjunction with the Kendall School of Art and Design, and working in the cadaver lab to help identify specific lab objectives on various bodies. Fun stuff!

So there you have it. I have the beginnings of a plan for how I will spend the "last summer of my life," as Wife's brother-in-law put it. Speaking of Wife, she'll be (hopefully) finding a job in a hospital somewhere in the Grand Rapids area, getting her foot in the door before her last semester.   ;)

All right, it's been a long day studying, so I should hit the hay. I think I made it through something like 150 practice questions and around 250 pages of coursepack reading - all on about 4.5 hours of sleep. I'm exhausted. Tomorrow will be spent largely in the lab and taking practice tests, so wish me luck!

To Crush The Pelvis and Lower Limb


Goodbye, Tuesday. It's now Wednesday.


This is what it looks like if you line it all up, only change "11:00pm" at the bottom to 2:00am on Wednesday morning... I've officially covered half of what I aim to cover by this time Thursday morning.

Suffice it to say, I don't think I'll exactly be feeling guilty when I'm kickin' it on the beach two weeks from now, reading some good ol' science fiction and playing a game of Scramble with Friends on my phone.

I know that time is going to be here and gone before I can even say sacral cornu, but right now it feels like it's eons away...

I think I'm going to go eat something... I'm in that pasty mental haze of sleepy-tired limbo where it takes forever to make a decision. Right now, I'm trying to decide what to eat. Canned fruit? Granola? Milk? Peanut butter with a spoon? Hmmm...

I'm going to need a bowl.






The pelvis has become my arch enemy... But you know what? Sun Tzu had it right. To win, you've got to know your enemy.

Time for 4.5 hours of sleep, and I'm back at it. I will crush the pelvis and lower limb on Friday.


crush
crush
crush
CRUSH. IT.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Congratulations to Wife / Two Weeks and Counting!

First off, another big congratulations to Wife for getting accepted to Sigma Theta Tau, the National Nursing Honor Society! She already posted that there wouldn't be any pictures, but I figured I'd throw the crappy ones that I got using the digital zoom on my phone:



Now that I really look at them (and edit them / spruce them up using Snapseed), these really aren't that bad of photos for having been taken from the back of the room and pinching-to-zoom on a cell phone. Not too shabby...

Anyway, two weeks from now, Wife and I will be at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Knowing that we were going to need a vacation at some point during the first part of med school, especially if we had to end up living separately for a period of time, I've slowly been sacking away money for the past three years. At the beginning of this semester, I booked and paid for this vacation. With all of the expenses out of the way, all we'll have to worry about is relaxing and enjoying each other's company!

Granted, that's after we get through the next two weeks. For me, that means finishing Anatomy Lab and Lecture exams on the Pelvis, Perineum, and Lower Limb, a three-hour cumulative Physiology final exam, and a two-hour cumulative Genetics exam. I also have a paper to write (due Thursday) that I haven't started, a telephone interview for a Medical Spanish one-credit Spring elective, and 22 hours of scheduled lecture/review.

It's going to be a busy bit coming up, that's fo shizzle.

That being said, I have the equivalent of about 15 hours of lecture material to hit a second time, not including the lectures from the coming days, so I should get back to it. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Movember Mustache Time Lapse - Day 30

It has come to an end. November 30th marked the end of Movember. Team MSU CHM ended up raising $495 for prostate cancer research, and we raised a TON of awareness explaining our dirty / creepy looks to people in checkout lines, drive-throughs, and med school professors. All in all, it was a smashing success. Thanks to everyone who donated! We'll see what next year brings. One more thing - a shout-out and BIG congratulations to Wife, who has qualified for induction into Sigma Theta Tau, the National Nursing Honor Society! In case you didn't know, it's a pretty big deal. You have to have impeccable grades, which is not easy, especially in her particular B.S.N. program. That's right - she's that smart. Her induction ceremony is tomorrow - in her words, "Just in time!" She's ready for the 'stache to come off. Alas, it's just not the look for me... I will now be growing a beard.

Anyway, as promised, here's the time lapse of me growing the 'stache:


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