Monthly Archive for February, 2007

my husband is going to school and it’s killing me

Yes, that’s right.  I am more tired now than I was when I was studying for quals.  Probably doesn’t come close to my med school days, but hell, I can’t remember what those days were like now.  In fact, they seem rather pleasant compared to these days.

Why am I so tired even though I’m not the one in school?  Well, because I now take care of all of the household chores because my husband pretty much needs to spend every minute of his free time studying.  On top of that, I’m perpetually on-call for whenever he needs help with anything.  Mind you, I took the classes that he’s taking now a good eight years ago, so it’s safe to say that I don’t really remember anything from them.  I just happen to be very good at figuring things out based on the information I’m given.  I’m beginning to think that the reason why he’s even able to pursue this foolhardy dream of his is because I’m able to help him.  Because, frankly, how many people can actually help him as much as I am now with his classes?  Certainly not anybody I know.  And then, to top it all off, I’m a light sleeper.  So even though I don’t stay by his side into the wee hours of the night, I can hear him in the next room the entire time he stays up and he wakes me up when he finally crawls into bed.  Not only that, but he absolutely cannot wake up in the morning for his 7am class without an alarm.  And me and alarms just don’t mix.  Being woken up by an alarm just screws me over like nothing else.  Even if I go back to sleep after being woken up by one and wake up naturally later.  Just the fact that I was woken up by one at any point in the morning just does me in.

I swear he didn’t suffer this much when I was taking my grad school classes or studying for my quals.  Because I still took care of my normal chores.  Because I never needed help (and even if I did, he couldn’t help me anyway).  Because I didn’t have to stay up so late.  And because he sleeps like a log.

I just hope I can live in this perpetual hangover state until he (a) finishes up his prereqs or (b) realizes that med school just isn’t worth it.

i call it cheating…

…they call it leveling the playing field.  I’m talking about certain premeds who by hook or by crook get their hands on old exams.  Which not everyone has access to.  Naive me didn’t even know that such a thing was even happening until I was told about the practice by others years later.  Suffice it to say, I never partook in such a thing unless it was legit (i.e., the professor himself gave us access to old exams).

And, yes, I think it’s cheating.  If everyone doesn’t have the same access to such information, then you’re gaining an unfair advantage.  And that’s cheating.  If the rest of us have to use our brains and walk into these exams having no idea what to expect, then you should too.  What makes you so special?  What makes you think you should be treated differently?  We all want to get into med school just as badly as you.  So why do you think you’re entitled to pull such stunts?

I’ve always thought this way until my husband called me tonight overjoyed at the fact that he had gotten his hands on some old exams for his chemistry class.  Because I’ve sat here for endless hours every night and every weekend ever since he went back to school watching him struggle at things that I take for granted as easy, I realized that it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if these people have old exams because they need them.  They have them and yet they still can’t come close to attaining my level even though I had no such help.  Even with these old exams, the playing field isn’t level.  The rest of us who don’t need such things are still far above them.  That doesn’t make it okay, of course.  But I don’t get quite as angry.  Because I know I got where I am without having to stoop to such levels.  And I’m thankful that I was born with this gifted brain of mine.

grand rounds 3.23

Don’t forget to check it out today at Musings of a Dinosaur.

how to get into medical school: the personal statement

I’ll be interviewing another victim applicant soon.  And this time, they’ve given me someone who’s less than perfect.  Mwahahaha.  They were pretty impressive until I read their personal statement.  Which was nothing more than a long and winding treatise on the state of medicine and what can be changed and how great it’ll be when things do change.  So here’s a tip: the personal statement is your one chance to convey your story to the admissions people, so don’t waste it waxing idealistic.  Frankly, we know that it’s all drivel anyway.  Who doesn’t want to change medicine?  What we want to know is what you’ve done to prove that you’re interested in medicine as something more than a large paycheck with the added bonus of instant attractiveness to the ladies.  We want to know what you’ve done to show that you have the potential to contribute to the attainment of the lofty ideals you’re shoving down our throats.  We’ve been here long enough to know what those ideals are and that they’re virtually unattainable.  So please don’t tell us what they are without some hope that you’ll somehow contribute to their attainment.  It’s really annoying.  Oh, and I can’t stress enough correct grammar and spelling.  And there’s no better way to torpedo your personal statement in my eyes than to use contractions.  Is it really so hard to spell out the two words or have you just merely forgotten what they are?


I’ve decided to take weekends off from blogging and will now post only during the work week.  I need some time to relax!

contrary to popular belief

Becoming a med student doesn’t suddenly make you a better person.  Nor does it make you a person with impeccable ethics.  Yet we, as med students, are trusted as such.  We have other people’s lives placed in our hands.  Not so much literally as figuratively.  Namely, we get to interview med school applicants.  And surprisingly enough, what we say about these applicants carries a good amount of weight.  We get no training at all.  No guidance.  We’re just handed files and told where to be.  How can we be trusted to be impartial when we were not so long ago super-competitive-willing-to-do-many-ethically-questionable-things premeds?  It’s obvious that we don’t so easily shed that identity once we enter med school.  Just ask any gunner.  So how can we be sure that med students are mature enough to interview and evaluate med school applicants?  Even I can’t help but be tempted to do to others as was done to me when I was interviewed.  But I don’t because I don’t want anyone to be treated unfairly as I was.  But are we all going to come to that conclusion and be fair?  I doubt it when most of us already have questionable ethics when it comes to such simple things as attending required class.  Sorry, premeds, but that’s the way it works.  All you can do is hope that you get a morally upstanding student interviewer.  Like me, of course.

inspirational music for the medical student 1.13

So I’ve been just a tad negligent in my inspirational music posts for the last few weeks.  But not to fear.  The music is back.

Med students work hard.  Really hard.  So it’s only logical that for all that working hard, we party just as hard.  I would say we party even harder than we work.  I personally don’t since I’m a big lame-o, but my classmates sure do.  And it just shocks me sometimes how wild we get.  Almost shameful, really.  But, hey, we deserve it.   In honor of our work hard, party hard ethic, my song for this week is the classic Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  Because med students just want to have fun.

Help prevent another lapse in my inspirational music series and submit song suggestions here.

sometimes i REALLY wonder why i’m doing this md/phd thing

Note the emphasis on “really.” Because I wonder why I’m doing this every day. No. Every waking moment of everyday. No. Even in my sleep. I want to be done with this so badly that I dream about being on rotations and how great that is (which it isn’t, or so I hear). I kid you not.

And nothing reminds me more of why I hate this whole PhD thing than having to give a talk about all of the progress that I failed to make since the last time we all got together (which led to this brilliant post about my lack of progress) to rub our fellow MD/PhDers’ faces in just how much more brilliant we are than them. I’m sure I’m such an easy target now that it’s not even any fun anymore. I’d love to talk about something besides my experiments not working. In fact, I’d even settle for something I actually believed in even if it doesn’t work. Because back during my un-jaded days as an undergrad in my major professor’s lab, I actually believed in his work. I don’t today. The only thing I’ve learned from him is how not to do research and how not to be a mentor. I guess I’ve also learned how to bluff and pretend that I’ve done a lot more work than I really have. How else do you explain the fact that I haven’t yet been reprimanded by the powers-that-be for my complete and utter lack of progress even though I brazenly admitted my failures and issues with my major professor on more than one occasion? Because it obviously can’t be because they’re so disorganized and clueless that they haven’t noticed one of their huge investments (med school $50,000/year X 4 years + grad school $30,000/year X 3+ years = $300,000?! Maybe my numbers are wrong, but you get my point) tanking.

So in honor of my sheer brilliance at (unintentionally) avoiding getting in trouble for getting nowhere, I present you with my tips for pretending that you’ve done way more work than you really have when you have to talk about your work.* Use these tips wisely to slack your way through your PhD or to ensure that no one cares to save you even if you jump up and down screaming, “please save me from crappy major professor hell.”

1. Graphs. I love graphs. Such minimal effort yet it looks like so much more. Be sure to label the axes and use large enough fonts. Pretty colors help too. So does real data.

2. Pictures. Thankfully, my research involves visualizing something people have never seen before. So when all else fails, my pictures really do say a thousand words.

3. Tables. Tables are good too. Nobody has enough time to actually read them before you move onto your next slide, especially if your research is like mine and involves measuring 20 different variables in 6 experimental groups at 5 different timepoints, and the sheer size will make it look like an awful lot of work was done.

4. Summarize old work that is related to your current work. Because everybody needs to be on the same page before you pontificate on the finer points of your new brilliant research, right? Depending on how much detail you go into, this could make up 75% of your talk if need be (though I’ve never tried it before, so beware).

5. When you have to finally admit that you’ve only done your experiments on one animal in each experimental group, make sure to liberally use the word “preliminary” and the phrase “continuing experiments to confirm results” to avoid being beaten down by power analysis freaks.

6. Include your cool-sounding funding sources in your acknowledgements. Nobody funded by the Super Cool University’s Department of Super Cool Stuff MD/PhD Student Research Award could possibly get away with not accomplishing anything, right?

7. And if you really have no substance to your talk even after these tips, be sure to wear something really outrageous or draw a mustache on your face or something on your forehead so that your audience will be so distracted by your appearance the entire time that they will not be able to form a coherent question by the time you finish your sad song and dance.

So there you have it.  If you’ll now excuse me, I need to go put some of these tips into action for that talk I have to give tomorrow.

*Disclaimer: These tips will only work for casual talks given to your peers and, apparently, your MD/PhD program directors. Don’t try this for your quals or your dissertation or at a real conference as these are untested waters and results may vary drastically.