Tuesday, December 29, 2009

International, Poverty, Justice, and Health Student Elective: Medical Schools Still Care

Two weeks for Christmas Break and we will be back to school. I thought I would take an opportunity to explain what the International, Poverty, Justice, and Health Elective (IPJH) is all about. The elective is a way for students at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to continue pursuing justice among the impoverished and medically underserved populations domestically and abroad. Our main focus throughout the year is to be involved with the people in and around Cincinnati. There a four sub groups within the elective for homelessness, women's health, Latino population, and childhood obesity. I currently serve on the homelessness committee.

In the homeless committee we sort of contain the category of "other" and we take care of anything that does not quite fit into the mold of the other three. Currently, we have random activities throughout the year, and because we are relatively new to the UC campus we are trying gain a presence by becoming involved in a variety of different areas. There are many opportunities to serve the homeless and there is a lot of space  for new ideas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Block 3 Closes: No Time, No Time, No Time, I've got No TIme

Block 3 ends in a few hours. So before I do some last minute cramming and my pretest rituals of singing songs about the end of the world, I though I would post this link that was given to me by a friend of mine.

The catch line is: "We have mapped all the genes for cancer."
In reality, all the possible mutations have been mapped for the two most common forms of cancer. This is no small achievement and has taken literally thousands of hours and years of work to accomplish.

This is not a cure, and currently is only really good for diagnostic testing of patients and matching each patients condition to the best form of chemotherapy.

Scientists crack 'entire genetic code' of cancer

Thanks Kyle for the link.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Generic 'What I did after my bachelors' Essay

Many medical schools will ask a question such as if you are not completing you undergraduate training this year or enrolled as a full time student briefly describe what you have been doing.

Although this a sort of list the things you have been doing type of essay it is important not to overlook. What most medical schools are looking for is continuation of a medical education or movement to make yourself a more desirable applicant for the coming application cycle. They do not want you to say I worked in a bank and partied with my friends. They want to see medical experience, initiative, research, or graduate school. Here is a sample of what I wrote for them:

I completed my undergraduate work in August 2006. From August to December of 2006 I participated in an Intercultural Studies Internship to Southeast Asia. Upon returning to the USA I began work as a laboratory and surgical assistant at the University of Minnesota Lions Eye Bank from February 2007 to July 2008. After working as a lab assistant I completed a masters in cell and molecular biology at Tulane University with research in cellular neuroscience as it relates to brain health and exercise in ovariectomized rats.

Now is not the time to show them your creativity and/or writing ability. Make brief and the to the point. Give approximate dates and above all be honest. If you did research for one month do not say I did research for two or three months. Here simplicity and easy to understand is key, giving them an accurate picture of what you have accomplished; the details of which may come out in other essays or a sent in Curriculum Vitae.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oldest Player Piano Shop in Cincinnati

I stumbled on this fine establishment one day and a got a few good photos from the experience. Please enjoy

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learning by Doing: Medvouc and the ER

Learning in the classroom gets boring, but listening to a lecturer drone on about the creatinine levels in the urine and plasma is a lot more enjoyable after I have seen the application. Knowledge has been sinking in and while I still know next to nothing connections are being made for the reasons to learn about the minute details of any number of physiological concepts.

I was given the pleasure of being able to shadow in the ER and although I worked in the Emergency Department at Fairview hospital it was nice to see things from the perspective of a doctor. I experienced a small piece of the end goal of medical school that is the practice of medicine and caring for patients.

Last night I participated in Medvouc once again and this time I not only was able to present my patients in a clear and concise manner but I was also to make a few diagnosis, with the help of the doctor, and devise my own treatment plan for each patient. One patient in particular was especially interesting to me. After having just finished the cardio block I was able to diagnose a Mitral valve prolapse/Mitral valve regurgitation through auscultation, patient history, and vital signs.

I did not realize when I started that I would be able to diagnose and treat minor patients this quickly. I still have a lot to learn, but the little clinical experiences along the way help me to plow through the mundane reactions of biochemistry.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Music of the Heart: The Finale of Block II

Music, besides its round about connections with similar principles of study and discipline, would help me decipher heart sounds. Arrhythmias come in all different tones and qualities form a grand Chopin Waltz to a smooth jazz and every rhythm in between. I think I even heard Dave Brubeck's "Take 5" in split s1 and s2 with a systolic murmur thrown. After dissecting and analyzing of all different types of music listening for qualities like tone, pitch and rhythm are second nature.  It is too bad that they were not tested on the recognition of the sounds in a practical exam format. That will come next year.

This block was all about Cardiovascular System. So far it has been the most clinically oriented section this year. The skills and knowledge are directly applicable to the practice of cardiology many of the techniques and knowledge gained are in use on a daily basis and not just the necessary background information.

Well, Another Block is finally over and time is continually increasing its speed. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was scrambling to move all my things down to Cincinnati and looking for a place to live. Opportunities have been piling up and filtering through the different group involvements has been challenging. Coming from undergraduate when it was feasible to participate in every extracurricular known to man to medical school where one must make tough decisions of involvement.

I have narrowed things down to a select few that do not conflict with each other. They are as follows:

  • IPJH Vulnerable Populations Student Elective -  this ties into my work with the homeless and will enable me to have a heightened involved with the medically undeserved.
  • Neuroscience Elective Scholars Program - will allow me to continue in a limited capacity with research and help me gain clinical experience in neurology and neurosurgery.
  • Medvouc - which I have discussed in previous posts. This will tie into the IPJH elective.
  • American Medical Association - a form of student leadership in a national medical organization.
  • Medical Wilderness Club - this one is just for fun.

Writing these down seems like there is a lot of extra work on top of classes, but most of these are a long term commitments which only has about 3-4 hours per month or less, and working with these organizations comes in spurts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MedWar 2009: The Great Medical Race of Wilderness Warriors

All scenarios although seemingly real were all controlled situations, and no endangered species were actually killed during the race.

Aaron, the Nate, and I woke on a cold October morning with the sharp air piercing our lungs. We shivered either with excitement of the upcoming race or because of the 20 degree night we spent in our tents. We scarfed down the oatmeal random day old bagels and headed off to register for the race.

Team name: The Mounties
Destination: the world
Goal: Save as many as we could and make it home safely

The Rules were simple. Finish, save as many patients (mannequins) as you can, and DO NOT BECOME A REAL PATIENT. The scenario was a ten plus mile race around the world. It begin promptly, give or take fifteen minutes, at 9:15 AM.

It began in the USA with a mass canoe start. Thirty teams  of three people set off east across the lake to our first destination. As we landed at the shore somewhere in East Asia we ran to our first disaster. A bombing raid had just been carried out and civilian casualties were everywhere. We raced to the closest three bodies, assessed the scene and went to work. Aaron performed a Cricothyrotomy complete with fake blood, the Nate stopped the blood gushing from the wounded body, and I went to work on a motionless baby.

Well ahead of most of the teams we set out for our next destination, a dream of mine for a long time, Everest. When we got there we found that Aaron had come down with a severe case of High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) a common pathological state in high altitude zones. In addition to that he had sustained an isolated mid shaft femur fracture as well as a severe neck injury. The cure: splint the leg, dexamethosone, and getting him down off the mountain.

Just as we got down the mountain we were instructed to board a plane (AKA walk) to Antarctica, where I was found with a severe hypothermia. Aaron instinctively got me off the ground, the Nate selflessly through his own coat on to of me and they began to build a fire. After burning through the pencil we were provided with the Nate and I came down with snow blindness in the form of goggles that were blotted out.

As we continued our journey we met with a kidnapping in South America, a man with a fishhook in his lip in Wyoming, neurotoxin poisoning in France, a safari in Africa, and finally finishing with basic survival skills in Australia. Finishing 23rd place we were tired, cold, and hungry. Ready for sleep and a hot shower.

For full details about Medwar click on the link.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pictures of University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Children's Hospital

Medical Sciences Building

The atrium of MSB

Other Side Atrium

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Special Training or Education

I am away this weekend so I am posting another secondary application essay for all the premeds out there. Others may find this amusing as well.

When presented with this question it is necessary to answer it. DO NOT LEAVE IT BLANK. Many applicants will not know what to put down here that would be seen as unique. You may see answers about EMT training, various cross cultural trips, or foreign language education, but I encourage you to think further into the past and remember what brought you to this point. There are many answers to this question, but here is the one I most often used:

As physicians we seek to do justice in the community and to treat others with compassion, but these goals are often inhibited by the separation of culture. The ability to bridge the gap between cultures is not a natural pursuit, but it is a skill that must be obtained in order to thrive in today’s increasingly multicultural world. My father gave me two very important things as I grew up: an early exposure to people of different backgrounds and a strong desire to learn how to work cross-culturally. However, the most important thing he taught me was to be a life-long learner through interaction with people from diverse backgrounds.
Throughout my childhood, I remember our house being a second home for international students studying at nearby universities. I fondly recall playing Jenga with Russian engineering students from Cleveland State University one Thanksgiving, and I clearly remember seeing our kitchen taken over by Korean music students from Oberlin Conservatory. While in college, I continued to learn how to relate to people from many backgrounds through Streetlight, a mission to the inner city of Minneapolis, and through an intercultural studies internship in 2006. Through the internship I was able to connect with people from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. I found that humility and a genuine desire to learn about someone else’s customs, traditions, language, and background opened doors to relationships that would have otherwise remained closed.
My friendships with the people of Asia began with knowledge, but knowing someone else’s language, customs, or cultural nuances alone will not break the walls between conflicting societies. These barriers are broken down through humility and the commitment to learn about another’s life. Knowledge is the beginning, but it must be guided by wisdom, driven by humility, accompanied by perseverance, and exercised with patience if we are to cross the cultural gaps and do justice among humanity.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Medvouc Update 2

Since my first time at Medvouc I can tell a large difference not only in my patient interview but also in my diagnostic and treatment ability. While there is always a doctor looking over my shoulder, I give the physician my diagnosis and treatment plan of the patient.

The first bridge that I had to cross was the lack of confidence in my decision. There is a mental block that seems to be in my mind that I am not allowed to make major treatment calls or a diagnosis from my days as an EMT in the emergency room. The last physician who was with us wanted us to be able to present the patient very systematically. The patient's name, age, chief complaint, physical exam findings, diagnosis, and treatment all needed to be ready. And after all that work done he expected to tell us, "No, here is what we will do instead."

One of the things I have appreciated about UC is the opportunities they provide to get to know the medical profession from many different aspects. From shadowing doctors in the ER to working at Medvouc, they give you ample time to crossing the gap that separates the textbooks from the clinic.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh the Horror of Block One Exams

We sat waiting to enter the exam as R.E.M.'s "...It's the end of the world as we know it... And I feel fine..." Blared from my computer. Just a little something to the ominous atmosphere in front of the auditorium.

Medical school exams were very different in contrast to undergrad. Not only do you need to remember the information presented in class but also proper exam procedures. And the kicker is each exam has different rules, rooms, and times. No two exams are a like, but they are finally over. Some went better than others, but on the whole I am still a medical student which is the important thing. They did a really good job of spreading them out so to ease us into the exam process of medical school so that we had at least one day off in between exams.

We hit the ground running on monday with Block 2: Cardiac and Respiratory systems. The way the curriculum is set up at UC is in a block system, but instead of class blocks like histology and anatomy, we have organ or system blocks. So we learn all about the heart i.e. anatomy, embryology, physiology, histology, and clinical aspects of heart and blood vessel diseases. This is one of the reasons I chose to apply to UC is their curriculum which very few schools in the US use.

One aspect of medical school I did not anticipate was the need to adjust quickly to new instructors. I found with each new instructor I have had to adjust my note taking or use the powerpoint slides versus textbooks or just listening to the recordings. I have to be more attentive and observant with each professors teaching styles.

All in all school is going very well. I am enjoying every aspect of it including taking exams. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Middle of Exams

I am in the middle of the first block exams so It will be a while before I get another post up.
Exam schedule

  • Biochem: completed this morning
  • Histology: Monday
  • Physiology: wednesday
  • Anatomy: Friday
Good luck to all those who are interviewing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Multiple Mini Interview: Interview Speed Dating

I Apologize in advance for the typos and general poor writing, but I wanted to get this post out for some of you who are  interviewing in a few weeks.

So many people are curious about the MMI. DO NOT FEAR THE MMI. This was the most enjoyable interview experience I had from four different schools. If you like talking and acting this is the interview system for you.

The Do's...
  • Be yourself
  • speak clearly and authoritatively
  • Generally state answers in the positive and use the sandwich criticism paradigm
  • use the lower register of your voice ( not as important)
  • have fun with it
  • make eye contact
  • speak slowly
  • stick to your story
  • Stay calm
  • speak with authority and confidence
  • humble and ready to learn
The Don'ts...

  • do not fear, interviewers can smell fear
  • mumbling
  • Studying current event news articles (almost completely useless)
  • stress
  • to absolute in your statements
How to prepare...
It is important to note again do not stress over this, stay calm at all times, and speak clearly. To practice the formulation of ideas get together with some of your premed friends, find an article that is interesting and controversial, and discuss it together without previously researching or thinking about the ideas presented. This is to help you think quickly and efficiently and to help you formulate ideas clearly and efficiently. I know this sounds stupid but an improv acting class would be your best benefit.

The knowledge of the case or situation is not important and your position on issues matters very little. What is important is articulation of ideas. A good idea poorly articulated will be recognized by no one, but a mediocre idea presented with confidence will general be accepted. Remember this is to be an indicator of your third and fourth year scores which is not only based on test performance but patient interactions and clinical abilities.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Livin' It Up in Cincinnati

Recently I have been getting a few questions about what to do in Cincinnati. So here is a simple post of some listings of what the first and second years do. It is mostly catered to what I do. I have also provided links to various resources in the list. Please enjoy.

Night out sort of thing

If you are like me and don't really enjoy making small talk and dancing at clubs here are some outdoor type things
Sporting Events
  • Bearcats
  • Bengals
  • Reds (student nights and cheap tickets available)
  • In addition to these at UC there are numerous intramural sports that students can participate in
This is just the basics. There are tons of other events that go on throughout the year and there are also several other close cities to visit such as Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington, Dayton, and Louisville. Also D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland are not too far either.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My first Dose of Medvouc: Medicine for the Homeless

"This is real third world medicine." the doctor with us explained. "We've got no money, we live off donations, and these people have no transportation or viable way to pay for healthcare. It is just like practicing in the third world."

Tuesday night was my first healthy dose of the medical practice. I saw patients, gave and received a flu shot, and even made a diagnosis or two. Mostly I was able to practice conducting a thorough medical history, obtaining vitals, and completing a physical exam. It was fantastic. I left the clinic really feeling like I was on my way to becoming a doctor with a strong desire to learn more. More over it was fun, and in the midst of medicine being muddled with the hard sciences of biochemistry and physiology during the first year, I was taken back to the beginning, the source of my desire to become a physician.

The smell of the homeless shelter brought back more memories than I can count from my days with the Marie Sandvick Center in Minneapolis. I recall being a helpless sophomore in college on the cold windy streets trying to explain to a man that he needed to get to a shelter. I just wished and hoped I could do more, and for the first time since I have been involved with the homeless I feel as though I made a physical difference in their lives. I was able to do more than just a coat or a bowl of soup, but even as I write this I realize more and more than I am still just a band-aid with a glimmer of home for the future.

above is a picture of the fountain square fountain in downtown Cincinnati

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Last Lesson: First Impressions of Cadaver Dissection

There are as many career paths in medicine as there are careers in the US, but all medical professionals from dermatologists to neurosurgeons have one thing in common, cadaver dissection. Cadaver dissection is viewed as a rite of passage for medical students, an experience that we all have or will share. While there have been many attempts by computer programs to simulate the experience, the dissection process, the smell that just won't seem to wash, and the looks of disgust on crowded elevators cannot be duplicated in its fullest by any other means. There is not substitute.

For many we go through life teaching others whether it be one's children, students, co-workers, we have all taught in life and I am no exception. One of the things that attracted me to medicine was the ability to continuing learning and teaching. Even the hippocratic oath states:
"... To give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken the oath according to medical law, but to no one else..."
We have all taught in life and now some have chosen to teach in death, and their final instruction is to the next generation of medical students, to carry on a tradition that is thousands of years old. It is not only our privilege but also our responsibility to learn as much as we can from these special instructors. Each day I go into dissection, I have the words of my professors ringing in my ears: "The Cadaver is always right."

And so, I want to extend my deepest thanks to all those who have allowed a family member to be one of our teachers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MCAT Review: Which One Works

A friend of mine asked how I prepared for the MCAT and how I think he should prepare. This led me to write this new blog about the different review tools I have used.

I have taken the MCAT three times and have used three different book series to study. The first time I took the exam on paper I was at the testing center from 6:30 AM to 5:00 PM and the next two were both on the computer.

Princeton Review: This was okay. It contains all necessary information, but it is extremely wordy. It also includes a lot of information that is unecessary and is not ideal for the non-science major or those with limited study time. The method used in the writing and verbal portions of the exam are awful and are conducive to wither a paper or a computer exam. I used this the first time and I got a 26O, which was a little below national average at the time.

Kaplan: This is not even worth my time to explain the good points. The tests that are provided are more difficult than the real MCAT. Some people like this. I think it is always better to go with the most similar questions to the actual test, and taking these test will reduce self confidence which is the most important tool you have in the MCAT. If you decide to use their exams, use them at the beginning of your study schedule as a way to practice test taking skills and not as a diagnostic. I used these books the second time and did a little better at a 28S. I do not recommend these prep books.

EXAM KRACKERS! is the best and most concise review on the market and I do not get paid to say that. There are some typos, but they are easily detected. Just make sure you read the answer explanations to make sure it matches the key in the back of each test. I found that to be a small problem. Their writing and verbal strategies were the best I worked with. They also feature questions throughout the chapters and tons of questions. I also found these test to be most similar to the real MCAT. Using these the last time I took the MCAT I got a 31R, but with these on the MCAT practice exams provided by AMCAS I did not test below a 33 and sometimes saw a 36. Follow Jonathan Orsey's directions in the books to the letter. It took me a month into my study to find out they worked.

No matter which you decided to use I strongly recommend buying all the exams offered by AMCAS online. They give an exhaustive diagnostic of your testing ability and knowledge after each one.

Amount of time to study should really be up to you. I find that it is good not to draw out the study time for the sciences. About two or three months should do it if you are not in school. The verbal reasoning on the other hand will only get better with practice so beginning 14 weeks or more before the exam is not a bad idea. Just make sure you are reading and answering questions.

Keep the questions coming send me an email or just reply to the blog, and I will get back to you either in the form of a blog post or a personal email.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Health Professionals Scholarship Program: My Decision

I made the decision to join the military last year when I returned to Cleveland for Christmas break. It happened so quickly that when I told my old roommate I was joining the Military he assumed I would be an officer in the infantry with a gun in my hand and the artillery at my back. I distinctly remembering him ask, "What happened to becoming a Doctor?"

I reassured him and everyone else that was confused about my future that I would still be a doctor, but my patient population would change slightly. Instead of treating civilians I would be treating soldiers, veterans, and their families in addition to civilian patients who use military facilities.

My parents had already been planting the idea of the armed forces in my brain for years. I had already accrued a considerable amount of school debt, and I knew that the average medical student debt is around $250,000. I also considered the state of the economy and the future of the profession. So I began completing my own research on the subject. I spoke with several doctors in specialties that I was interested in, infectious disease, general surgery, cardiology, etc. and was surprised to find that each one had a drastically different experience. My biggest concern was when would I start my carreer. If I was going into the military it would be another four years before I was a real doctor in the civilian sector.

Dr. Endy at SUNY Upstate was particularly convincing without even knowing it. He basically explained how through the military I could have a Curriculum Vitae that was equal to any of my counterparts. I would not only be a doctor but also and officer and a leader. I would be able to travel the world living in many different countries, though not always were I would choose. I was also pleased to find that most of the medical work done during employment is with the local people of the country and relief work was more common than I anticipated all aspects which I look forward to with great anticipation.

Finally I made this decision for the following reasons: A love for my country and those that defend it, a strong desire to practice medicine in a third world setting and disaster relief, and the absence of some of the bureaucracy of healthcare so that I am free to practice medicine.

When I returned home from New Orleans for Christmas break. I called the recruiter and had a complete application in three days, a record time for that particular office. I have posted a link on the right hand side of the blog if you are interested.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

From Storms to Steeples: Finding a Church in Cincinnati

When I moved to New Orleans, I knew no one, had no contacts, or any sort of safety net to rely on. So when I was told I had to evacuate for Hurricane Gustav my plan was to drive north until I was out of the path of the storm. But my parents put me in touch with some doctor friends of theirs in Baton Rouge just a few hours away. While it was still in the path of the Hurricane it was outside of the flood zone of the New Orleans levies. The Hurricane hit for about two days. There was sustained winds of 63 mph and gusts of 90 mph, and was named the worst hurricane to hit Baton Rouge on record.

 These first few weeks in Cincinnati have been a stark contrast to the beginnings of my New Orleans adventure. Not only did I have an old friend already established in the city, but once again the people of the midwest proved to be some of the most welcoming I have experienced. I found it was easy to build friendships with my classmates, doctors, and professors in the area.

In contrast to my first few years in Minnesota, I was able to find a good church almost immediately through my friend. In Minnesota I went to Bethlehem Baptist for one semester and then spent the next two semesters church hopping and never really settling down to build relationships. I was constantly looking for a place that would be a better fit. Not being able to find a comparison to the teaching of the word by John Piper's, I finally settled back at Bethlehem for my remaining years in Minneapolis. In Cincinnati I decided to find a church and stick with it, and after the warm reception I received at Faith Presbyterian, I decided I would make it my home church while I attend medical school.

Faith Pres is an ideal place for me to attend church. There are several doctors from UC that attend there as well as musicians attending the conservatory. I even met a man who was in the 101st Airborne division in the Army during the Korean War and the beginning of Vietnam. There are several generations of people worshipping together, and the affects the gospel are apparent in the lives of the members.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Decision for Medicine: AMCAS Essay

I thought I would take a break from the normal posting and post the essay I used on my AMCAS application it gives a very broad view of my background and may be useful to those applying to medical school as a sample essay. I will also be posting some of my secondary essays as there is a lack of good examples of answers to other questions that medical schools may ask.

While working in the emergency room, in July of 2005, a woman was brought in with a gunshot wound to the left side of her abdomen. After no pulse was found I was given the order to begin compressions. Dr. Treat, the trauma surgeon, slipped in a central line while the nurses attached the rapid infusion set and began administering whole blood. After about ten minutes of CPR and defibrillation her pulse was restored, and she was rushed to the operating room where the emergency team left her.
As I walked away from the emergency room I began to reflect on the people and experiences that influenced my decision to pursue a career in medicine. I remember waiting to play the first note of a Chopin Etude at my freshman piano recital. My heart was pounding and my hands began to sweat. I felt the eyes of the audience staring at me. As the music soared the audience seemed to fade until I finished the last note. I stood the audience rose in a chorus of applause. I felt great joy, pride, and a little relieved when my piece was finished. Following my bow, I rose with a new found confidence in my abilities obtained from years of practice. As a musician, I developed confidence, persistence, discipline, and a unique attention to detail without losing the broader scope of the masterpiece. These skills have complemented my path in biology, and I will use them to accomplish my goal of becoming a doctor.
In college, I used the discipline I learned from years of playing the piano in my study of biology, volunteering in the inner city of Minneapolis, working night security in the dorms, and researching in genetics. Although music was instrumental in developing my aptitude to complete these undertakings, a number of factors helped to direct my decision to pursue medicine as a career. It was the development of three loves in me: my love for science, my love for people in need, and my love for the medical profession.
My freshman biology class taught by Dr. Bruce Simat first inspired my love for science. It opened a world to me where even the simplest carbon based molecules became a source of wonder. I further developed my love for science through research in genetics as an undergraduate and in cellular neuroscience as a graduate student at Tulane University. Research added a new dimension of independent study to my enthusiasm for biology.
Dr. Simat ignited not only my interest in biology but also my love for people in need. He continually challenged his students to contribute and to make a difference in the world. I first contributed to the city of Minneapolis through Streetlight and soon after, by a mission trip to Trinidad in January 2004. On that trip I first experienced direct patient care. Our team excitedly walked into an orphanage, and immediately, I noticed something different and unfamiliar about the strange shabby room and the children that stood along the far wall. These children were all victims the AIDS epidemic. The children were silent; not one dared to be the first to say hello to these strange white-skinned people. I could see they had been starved for more than medical attention; they longed for human touch and compassion. I saw it most in the yellow eyes of Rasha, a skinny black boy, who clasped his arms around my neck within seconds of speaking with him. He was the only one from the group that was suffering from full blown AIDS. Their low living standards and lack of basic medical care was heartbreaking.
My decision to become a doctor finally came from my love for the profession. Working in the emergency room at Fairview Hospital and with mentally and physically disabled men at ACR Homes I experienced patient care first hand. The disabled men I worked with pointed me towards people in great medical need while my work in the emergency room connected me with a career as a physician. My love for the medical profession was deepened the day I spent shadowing Dr. Thelander, a surgeon at the hospital where I worked. I was able to be with him on patient rounds and observe him at work in the operating room. Watching him, I fell in love with patient care. He taught me about dictations, CAT scans, x-rays, and each surgery he did including why it was done. But the best lesson I took away from the experience was his impeccable bedside manner. It appeared as though he loved and respected each of his patients and was interested in treating the entire person not merely the disease.
Working in the emergency room and Dr. Thelander taught me to love and value the patient, while the children in Trinidad opened my eyes to the fragility of life. Through these experiences I became aware that people still would die, children still would be infected with AIDS, men and women still would be murdered, making the world appear to be a hopeless place. This led me to the conclusion that the goal of a doctor is not only to cure disease but also to enter into a position of servant leadership in the community, and to invest in people's lives, whether in research or patient care. As a pianist serves the spirit of mankind through art, I prefer to become a physician to serve the physical and emotional needs of others through my love for science and my love of the patient.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Medvouc and the Beginnings

Last Friday I had the privilege of training to work at the Medvouc clinic. Medvouc is a student run clinic for the homeless at a shelter. I will be able to be an active participant in the diagnosis and treatment of the men and women living on the streets. At the training I learned to give an intramuscular injection (IM) used for vaccinations, an intradermal injection used for the Tuberculosis test, and a refresher on blood pressure and vital signs. More about this clinic will come when I have started actually working there, but I think it is necessary to mention how I was first interested in the homeless. This is not a short story, but I have made it as brief as possible and will split this story into two posts.

People have asked me how a boy from Cleveland ended up at Northwestern College in Roseville, MN. The simplest answer is Streetlight Ministries. When I first visited Northwestern College in November of 2002, it was because an old friend from California went there, and I thought maybe I would like it as well. I went to a practice piano lesson with one of the teachers and was not overwhelmingly pleased. Although later my teacher in Cleveland Mrs. Kwon begged me to reconsider after hearing me play when I came back.

The friday evening of my visit, I stayed with a guy named Steve, an apparent mathematical genius, who really didn't know what to do with me. He gave me two choices: a football game at the Metrodome and Streetlight. I didn't have any money so I took the free option.

November nights in Minnesota are not a walk in the park. It was about 9 degrees that night and windy. I was not dressed for the weather or prepared for the cold which I grew to love, but I toughed out the night, visited two homeless shelters, and a met some men on the street corner. The connection I made with the ministry was instant. It was not a happy or easy time, but it was joyous.

When I arrived at Northwestern College in August 2003 to attend classes as a biology major I looked forward with great anticipation to the first night of Streetlight. For the next three years I was committed. I made the conscience decision that on friday nights I would be working with the homeless. For the first year I primarily worked with the men on the streets, for the next two years I worked as leader with the students coming each weak, and the last year I helped the leaders.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sirens' Song on Isabella

Late on the Sunday before classes began, I was unloading my car after having moved most of my things from Cleveland. At about 10:30 PM a small black car plunged through the darkness and split the night with a hair razing shriek. It sped down the quiet residential street at about 55 mph, hit the curb in front of my house, and was launched 4 to 5 feet in the air. The car came down and totaled the front end into the street when it slammed into the street, skidded, and finally came to rest at least 30 yards from its launching point. I began running to where the car landed yelling to a family that was watching, "SOMEONE CALL 911!" as I raced passed.

I was first to arrive at the car and walked around looking for passengers. Not seeing any I proceeded to open the door. there sat a round man in the driver's seat with airbags flowing from the steering wheel. He still had enough sense left in him to remember to fasten his seat belt. Against my plea for him to stay seated, the intoxicated, barrel shaped man pushed passed me and began yelling at his friend over the phone, "DUDE, SOMEONE STOLE MY CAR! Can you come pick me up!?! I just crashed it but tell them someone stole it!" He was not really cooperative, but also was not seriously injured. He started walking away from the accident, telling those standing around, "Tell the cops that someone stole my car! Just tell them my car was stolen!"

And then enter the hero of our story, a tall, white haired corrections officer came from his house wearing a black muscle shirt. He sat the guy down on some steps, put a coke in his hand, and convinced him to wait for the police. I stayed with them just incase some sort of medical emergency arose, but none did. He just kept saying, "You guys are great, you guys are cool," over and over again. I was amazed that he had no injuries not even a scratch on him. Then came the fire department, followed closely by the police, and finally the curious neighbors mystically drawn from their homes by the siren's repetitive song. After having inspected the accident and verified that no one was hurt the fire department left, and the police took over the investigation.

The sidewalks were filled with curious on lookers out for a nightly stroll around the block, stopping short of their final destinations to talk with eyewitnesses and gawk at the scene unfolding.

When my cell phone said it was nearly 11:00 PM, I asked the police if I needed to make a statement, and after receiving confirmation that I was able to leave, I walked back down the street, continued to unload my car, brushed my teeth, and after a few minute talk with my roommate fell asleep to awaken the next morning. All in all a not so average evening on Isabella Avenue.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oath of Office

I stood in front of the American flag, raised my right hand which was cramped from signing about a thousand forms first, middle, and last name and repeated:
"I, Colin David Brown (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of second lieutenant do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)
It seems as though every other week I am taking another oath. First the oath for medical school and now the oath for the military. As I was saying the oath I felt a little funny. I don't think it was because I did not agree or understand with what I was saying, but because I was now held to higher standard, and questions came through my mind like, "would I be able to fulfill this calling?" or "Defend the constitution, how do they expect me to do that?"

While this oath has not changed my day to day life yet, it does change who I represent and to who I am accountable. Now I am not only accountable to the profession of medicine but also the profession of one in the armed forces of the United States. I have a new found respect for those men and women, including my brother in the navy, who have also taken that oath.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Next Contestant

The surreal feelings experienced immediately after being accepted have all but faded, and now my time is occupied by studying. The first week of classes has ended, and I have already learned an immense amount of information. I am now seeing how the Masters Degree I received from Tulane University has paid off. Previous knowledge in histology and embryology have been especially important. The biggest difference is that classes condensed everything into a few weeks time.

Most days classes begin around 8:30 AM and end around 3:00 PM. Currently, I am currently taking three lecture courses histology, the embryological section of gross anatomy, and biochemistry. In addition to lectures we also have small group learning in biochemistry, Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), Clinical Foundations of Medical Practice (CFMP), and the Medical Interview. Our schedule is extremely sporadic which helps break up the monotony that is normally accompanied with science education.
Medical School is a bit like being on a game show. All the professors ask questions, there are points and prizes for getting things right (medical license), and there is even an option for polling the audience. Pictured to the right is polling device the professors use to pole their audience pretty much exactly like on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" The instructor will post a question on the screen during lecture and we all vote which answer is correct. The computer tallies up all the counts and posts the results. I had never seen a classroom use this before. Now if only there were cash prizes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Whirl Wind of Orientation

I assume orientation at the UCCOM is similar to any other medical school with a few exceptions. We listened to speakers about financial aid, learned about professionalism, the professors told us what was academically required of us, and almost everyone, at some point, has given us the eleventh and final commandment: "DON'T FALL BEHIND!" I think were my experience differs with most other is on two points: the "Tell Me Your Story" Program and the drafting of our class oath (posted below).
"Tell Me Your Story" is an especially enjoyable program where the medical student talk to our elders in a retirement community about how medicine has changed, dealing with death and dying, and there general experience with medicine. The goal is to attempt to bring back some of the good things that have been lost in medicine and continue practice which are beneficial to the community.
I was had the opportunity to be apart of the drafting of an oath that we took that is in place of the Hippocratic Oath. One person was selected from each Clinical Foundations small group to help draft the document that we would all say at the white coat ceremony. In my small group the professor realizing that no one really wanted to do it for fear of the endless debates on semantics and phrasings. So the professor promptly said, "Who votes that the person who was accepted our class last has to do it." Well, it was unanimous. However there fears were unfounded and I actually had a pretty good time writing and met some really great people too. Even the second year person student helping out said that it went much smoother than she expected.
Well I was caught up in a whirl wind and finally set down again for the first week of classes, but I will save that for later. A copy of our class oath is below if you are interested.
UCCOM Class of 2013 Oath of Professionalism:
In the presence of my family, friends, faculty and staff, I hereby swear to hold myself and my peers accountable to the content and spirit of this oath. As I embark upon my study of medicine at the University of Cincinnati, I will act ethically and with professional integrity toward my peers, my instructors, my patients and the community; I will
Strive to treat all people equally, to create relationships built on trust and to maintain the dignity of all people.
Be an advocate for social justice, regarding the needs of others first.
Commit myself to service as a leader, recognizing that this will require me to exercise patience, listen diligently, communicate effectively, and work cooperatively.
Act not only with confidence but also with humility, acknowledging my limitations and those of medicine, while honestly presenting myself and my abilities.
Seek aid from others in times of need and, through continuous reflection, learn from both my patients and from previous experiences.
Be a lifelong student and teacher, expanding not only my own understanding, but that of my colleagues, patients and community.
Pursue knowledge and wisdom relentlessly, adhering to and building on the contributions of my predecessors to enhance my competence as a physician and advance the field of medicine.
Avoid selfishness and apathy, maintaining my humanity, empathy and concern for quality of life.
As I strive to fulfill this oath, I will remain grounded in my core values and identity. Driven by my passion to practice medicine, I will preserve a balance between my personal and professional endeavors, seeking fulfillment by selflessly caring for others.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How it all came apart and then fell together

For about three years I had been applying to medical school. I had the medical experience, the grades, and I even received a masters degree from Tulane University, but I still did not have the allusive yes. I had recently applied for and received a military scholarship for four years of medical school, which was dependent on a letter of admittance. After July 10th rolled along, I had lost hope. My army scholarship was given away, I still had not received word from any school I was wait-listed with, and I had just finished all of my secondary applications for the coming application cycle. I even studied for and retook the MCAT, hoping a boost in score would give me a boost in chances.
On Friday, August 7, 2009, I received a phone call from the Dean of Admissions at the University of Cincinnati. And the conversation ensued as follows:
Dean: "So Colin, you know how there is always those last minute students admitted to medical school. Well, you are one of them. I tried calling several times and this was my last try. I was ready to move on to the next person on the list."
Me: "You are joking, this cannot be real."
Dean: "Oh No, this is for real, I am serious. Can you be here for orientation on Monday?"
Me: "Can I have twenty minutes to think about it?"
Dean: "Can you make it ten?"
Me: "Sure."
after five minutes of jumping up and down, a cart wheel, and a phone call to my parents, I called him back Immediately and said yes.
So I had approximately 48 hours to pack up what I would need for orientation, buy some new clothes, and get a hair cut. Spent the last bit of my time that night calling everyone in my phone book, spoke with financial aid, and looked for a place to live.
On Sunday, I loaded up my car and left for Cincinnati with $1.87 in my pocket which I promptly used to buy a Dr. Pepper. I did not know if I could get my scholarship back or get the money in time to live in an apartment, but I stepped out in faith, walking faithfully to my destination, Medical School. It finally happened after years of applications, tests, and research I was on my way.
I did not have a particularly good experience in the south. I think it was the transplantation of a cold loving, snow enthusiast to the hot, desolately humid, and oppressive air of the the gulf stream. Combine that with a hurricane evacuation and if the theory of first impressions are true Louisiana an I will not be able to be friends.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, was an amazing first day. I like the city, the people, and I enjoy all of my classmates. Not only did I have a good friend that I hadn't seen in a while put me up for a night on his couch but I also was able to find a good house to live on the first day, get some groceries, and even manage to show up for orientation.
On Tuesday, After a particularly difficult and terrifying financial aid session I received a phone call from my Army recruiter, and he said, "Colin, we are going to give you a four year scholarship." At this point I was only expecting a 3 year or 3 1/2 year at most, but a four year scholarship was unthinkable.
This whole week was better than I could have imagined, and even more, a huge answer to prayer. I know many of you have been praying for a long time for this to happen and this triumph does not just belong to me but all those who have helped read essays, carry the financial burden, helped me study, and the endless amounts of prayer throughout the years. I am now a medical student.