Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kevin observes "John" preying on unsuspecting women at orientation

School has finally started for me and David, ending a glorious summer of groundbreaking research and lifesaving. Like most med schools, we started off with 3 days of mindnumbing orientation during the day and barhopping in the evening. In order to foster greater school unity, the 1st (Hi Robin, our first real fan) and 2nd year classes often go on these bar excursions together. Now perhaps we simply didn't notice this last year or maybe its only come up this year, but many of my fellow second years actively pursue any and all female underclassmen at these events. Let's take a hypothetical character, say... "John", and follow his foray into the 1st year herd.

Unlike most guys who are excited to see old classmates again, "John" is on a mission. A race against his biological clock to lock down the elusive Single Female Medical Student.


Unlike 30 years ago, female are the majority in medical schools today. Unfortunately, the majority of those women are in long term relationships, a fact that's not readily apparently upon initial contact. This is bad news for our friend "John", since he must slog through as much as 10 minutes of conversation (although could be as quick as 10 seconds) before finding out that important nugget of information. The conversation is always benign, an inquiry into where the girl is from, what college she went to, if she took anytime off. The usual. But somewhere along the way it comes out that she has a boyfriend, is engaged or worse yet, married. At those moments, one could see J's smile start to sag, his enthusiasm wane, having failed once again failed to find his soulmate.

Ladies, be on the look for "John" at a class orientation near you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

David thinks Michael Phelps is disproportionately Olympified

Since the Olympic Games began about a week ago, I, like nearly every other world citizen with a television, radio, or internet connection, have been following the aquatic pursuits of Michael Phelps. Phelps, in case you didn’t know, is on the precipice of heretofore unrealized Olympic greatness. Having already won more career gold medals than any other competitor in history, he is only three events away from breaking Mark Spitz’s mark of seven golds in a single Games. Along the way he has dominated nearly every event, setting world records in each and running away with all but one – a relay in which he was only one-fourth of the team. If Michael Jordan married a dolphin and the pair had a child with a slight underbite, that dolpho-Jordan would be Michael Phelps.

Yet despite MP's greatness, his medal count affords him acclaim disproportionate to his actual accomplishments. Sure, he wins a crap-load of gold medals, but is it really that impressive that he does a bunch of arbitrary variations of the same thing? Breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, dog paddle, splashy-splashy…isn’t that just ‘swimming?’ What reason is there for him to earn a different gold for each one? Each stroke may utilize a unique skill set, but that doesn’t mean it deserves its own event. They wouldn’t give Tyson Gay another gold for running 100m with one arm tied behind his back, a third if he skipped every other step, or a fourth if he ran with a pirate patch over his right eye, so why do swimmers get a veritable medal buffet for doing more or less the same thing?

When the Olympics started in 776 BC, there were probably only a few events – wrasslin’ in oil, pissing off Zeus, epic poetry, etc. As the Games progressed, they probably added additional distances and disciplines in descending order of significance just to flesh out the schedule. But at what point did they start piling on really slight permutations of the same events?

But can he piss off Zeus?

I always thought the beauty of the games was the opportunity to see the superlative competitors in action. Who’s the fastest? Who jumps the highest? Can someone unseat Homer at writing poems that never end? These are challenges with practical applications in real life. If you’re running away from a bear, you better sprint like the wind. If you’re swimming away from a shark, you need to make it rain freestyle. Any other stroke would end in tears.

Time for backstroke?

Sure, Michael Phelps is awesome. If he was a physician, he’d make Paul Farmer look like Dr. Nick. And yes, swimming isn’t the only offender – several other sports have way too many medals for what are essentially meaningless variations of the same basic challenge. Yet swimming is the biggest offender, making Phelps the most obvious medal baron. He may be the greatest swimmer ever – or at least the best without a kick-ass mustache – but until he oil wrassles like a champ, I will remain only moderately impressed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

David appreciates med school

Most of the time, when a new acquaintance or old friend learns that I’m a med student, his or her initial reaction is two-fold – “Wait, you’re going to be a doctor? Weren’t you always a bit…slow? (Note: they say more, but it just gets meaner from here)” and “Wow, I’ve heard that’s really stressful. Are you just working non-stop, 24/7?”

The answer, at least to the latter question, is thankfully, “No.”

Kevin has discussed this issue, at least tangentially, in previous posts about how smart and/or dedicated one needs to be to cut it on the other side of the pre-med tracks. Depending on one’s educational background, med school is likely to involve significantly more work and a far larger volume of material to toss in the ole’ rote memorization machine. Still, any additional stress stems mostly from the fact that students are one step closer to their ultimate professional path, and thus each accomplishment and setback resonates more permanently in one’s future career, rather than from anything inherently stressful about the content of the basic science curriculum. Sure, there are new and quite-significant responsibilities in the clinical arena – patient interviews, preceptorships that may involve a wide variety of “doin’ stuff,” etc. – that can be a big jump from many students’ pre-med activities. Yet for the most part, med school isn’t nearly as taxing, time-consuming, or “bad” as it is often cracked up to be.

The other day, I came across the story (read: stalked via his blog) of an old college classmate that shed further, wonderful light on how not-bad med school actually is. He graduated in 2006 and blazed a previously-unheard-of trail from my undergrad into the world of high finance (fuh-nance, not figh-nance), landing at a top bulge bracket bank in the city. There, he filled the high-paying, high-prestige, high-stress position of an investment banking analyst, a job almost universally associated with lots of work and never-ending hours. What makes his example more interesting than any other banker’s is that he managed to track his working hours rather meticulously throughout his two-year stint in IBD. So, rather than vague notions of “Duuude, I worked 120 hours last week,” he has hard data to back up his 671 day journey.

Well, that data shows that he worked over 11 hours everysinglefreakin’ day averaged across that two-year span. Not 11 hours per work day, mind you, with some weekends/holidays off, but 11+ hours every day including his much-needed time off for Christmas, vacationing, etc. (which, incidentally, ended up being less than one day off every two weeks). Including time for lunch/talking oneself out of quitting, that averages to a 9am-to-9pm gig every day, without fail, for two straight years. And this doesn’t account for the fact that this guy is one of the smartest people I know, and thus probably far more efficient at banking in an investment-y manner than the average analyst. So, whenever pre-med/med school life gets you down, dear reader, remember this anecdote for some wonderful perspective.

Damn, it feels good to (not) be a banker…

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

David and Kevin are scientists

As some of you know, we are both currently completing summer research projects within our medical school’s Dept. of Surgery. Our studies surround two different surgical procedures and both involve, at least in part, retrospective assessments of patient pain and/or quality of life following the respective operations.

These positions have put us in a very science-y mood, providing the impetus for our own groundbreaking experiment. Standing on the shoulders of previous scientific giants – Mendel, Pascal, this dude – we have decided to explore the relationship between the quality of our own lives and the consumption of one of their primary staples: beef stew.

Typical subjective assessments like visual analog scales or “numbers” clearly will not suffice for science of this magnitude. As such, we will employ a modified instrument using real-life QoL markers that everyone can understand. The upper bound is defined as “post-baby-saving euphoria,” while the lower bound is set at “really, really sad clown.” If those aren’t intuitive, can’t-miss distinctions, then I’m going to quit science right now.

Will unspeakable amounts of beef stew lead to a glorious potato, beef, and sodium-induced stupor or a cesspool of potato, beef, and sodium-induced self-loathing and despair? Only time will tell.

One thing is certain – alert Stockholm. They’ll want to know about this one…