Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 1289: What is wrong with this weather?

Please tell me why my windshield looks like this.

Doesn't it look pretty?

Too bad it was colder than frozen tilapia.

I didn't even know my car could read temperatures this low.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 1288: Semi-rested, semi-rejuvenated

I am back in Wisconsin after a glorious five days in (generally) sunny California. It was absolutely marvelous to be home and see my family and friends.

I didn't sleep as well or as much as I wanted, but it worked out okay. I napped. A lot. Usually while studying biochem, but that's to be expected.

Highlights of my trip:
  • One morning, I decided to do the dishes. I made quite a bit of noise -- running the garbage disposal, dropping bowls, etc -- and my mom comes running down the stairs telling me to stop. She felt bad that I was doing dishes on vacation. She said I was on vacation and that I should be resting and not doing dishes. (collective awwwww) I mean how cute is that?
  • Hanging out with my sister, whom I often forget, is very critical (in the best way possible...maybe) but very refreshing in her upfrontness.
  • Seeing my pals! Shopping. Eating. Hanging out. Falling asleep while studying. All in the grand company of my closest pals.
Now I am back at school, semi-hitting the ground running. My sleep schedule has been off since I arrived yesterday morning but I plan on sleeping early tonight and getting my life semi-back on track. Next post? A fun biochem information about mixing food with drugs!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 1280: Hello, I am a medical student.

I want to tell you about my sleeping tactics. Before most of my block exams (I can't remember, have I described what block exams are? In case I haven't, here it is. Unlike normal undergraduate semesters/quarters, with midterms and quizzes and final exams, we have blocks. Blocks usually range about 3-4 weeks in length. We learn so much information that unless you are in medical school it's hard for me to describe and have you understand fully. The depth and detail with which we are required to regurgitate information is flabbergasting. Anyway, at the end of each block, we have an exam. So, depending on when the professor chooses to end that block, we have exams roughly every three weeks. No, this is not a quiz. This is an exam. That usually runs for three hours. This is no joke.) ... anyway, where was I? Oh yes, sleep.

Before most of my block exams, I am doing one of two things. 1) I am studying in bed and eventually fall asleep with the light on, or 2) I actually choose to sleep the days leading up to the exam instead of learning things late into the night.

I am praying for sleep tonight (before my human development and anatomy exams tomorrow). I studied from, no joke, 11am yesterday (Sunday) to about 2:30? 2:50am(?) this morning. I took one nap from noon to 12:40pm. I went to the anatomy lab to look over some last structures today (/last night) from 12:15am to 1:40am. I came back and got ready for the night (brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on pajamas) and got back into studying. I kept falling asleep on my couch until who-knows-when and decided to actually lie down, take a quick nap and then wake up again to finish drilling this information into my head. I opened my eyes to see it was light outside, which means I fell asleep with the living room light on. I woke up, turned off the light, checked the time (7:49am) and have been awake studying ever since. My desired late-night/all-semi-nighter became Jessica's 5-hour sleep and now I am back into it until I take my lab practical at 1pm today. After that? More learning until my 9am exam tomorrow (AND THEN HOME).

It's official. I am finally a professional student. I have begun to have late nights. Not because I have a deadline (like my parents who have real jobs), but because I have exams (which is sort of like a deadline). I used to sleep on a normal schedule. Now, I just get sleep when I can.

My living room/bedroom/current place of studying-residence

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 1277: So many obstacles to home

I leave for beautiful California on Tuesday. I am SO close! And yet, I have to take an anatomy lab practical on Monday and then I have my half-human-development-half-anatomy written exam Tuesday morning. WHY MUST MY BRAIN BE ON CONSTANT OVERDRIVE?

For future reference: I want to make this blog a) more fun (it might be time to post pictures about my life since my lack of Facebook bothers some people), b) more science-for-normal-people (to break down what I'm learning for you all since it's fun to learn things).

Day 1276: United Community Center

Courtesy of UCC

Today, I went to the United Community Center for a semi-required school...thing. Basically, I am trying to find something I can do within the community that relates to my topic of choice (global health) and can help out the local community.

What really impressed me about UCC was how impressive they are. They absorbed a parochial school a few decades ago and are now teaching children from K-3 (kindergarteners at 3 years of age) through eighth grade. These kids are learning skills to succeed not only in high school (in the broader Milwaukee area) but later in life. They offer a senior "day care" center which has Latin American architectural influences (instead of the sterile white walls of a hospice center or a hospital) to make the environment more hospitable and social. (See the image below!)

Courtesy of UCC

They offer the children (I believe it begins in fifth grade) a financial learning "class". They have a "kids bank" where the kids are the managers, bankers, tellers, etc. And the children who participate save real money and that money is handled by US Bank. But the money management et cetera is all done by the children. I could go on and on, but it was very inspiring to be some place where the surrounding community was actually benefiting from their work.

I would really like to work this place into my global health pathway so that I can a) work on my Spanish and b) feel like I'm doing something (for once).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 1273: Best friends are the best.

Probably to my mother's chagrin, I went to Indianapolis this weekend to visit my best friend in the entire universe. It was perfect. A quick five hour drive through Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and there we were. In her beautiful house with her adorable pups and her significantly-thinner husband. It was a low-key weekend of her working and me studying, with movies and meals-out in between. I forget how much I a) love this woman, b) miss this woman and c) need her in my life more regularly.

I think what was great about being with her was how much I love someone who knows me and knows to be honest and real with me. She gave me her honest opinions about my approach to medical school and my stress about school and it was wonderful. It's a short post, but the important thing to know is, I LOVE (BEST) FRIENDS. And I feel very lucky to have her in my life and I am so incredibly excited that we are only five hours apart.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 1269: The first snow

Oh boy. In North Carolina, they had no idea how to deal with snow. Here, this is a slIce of easy pie. Let's hope I don't die driving tO school today. I have a tendency to accelerate too quickly from a stop and brake too quickly toward a stop. I'll be careful. Promise.

Edit: It's snowing harder! (Look. I know it's not big snow. And I've been in snow before. It's just been a while, okay?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 1267: Why is school so hard?

Look. I knew everything there was to know about complex lipids, cholesterol synthesis, cholesterol transport, steroid metabolism, amino acid synthesis and degradation, metabolic syndrome, amino acid genetic defects, urea cycle, and heme metabolism and catabolism. EVERYTHING. And yet, that (biochemistry) exam was still harder than I expected. It was significantly better than the first exam but there were a lot of questions where I narrowed it down to two answers and had to choose. In the end, I need to get things right. Who cares if you have the right answer and the wrong answer as options? If you choose the wrong answer, you still got it wrong.

The exam answers are posted later today. Fingers crossed for right answers!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 1264: Studying and cholesterol

Hello. My name is Jessica. I have a biochemistry exam on Tuesday. I am taking a short break from studying to tell you how much school sucks. For those of you wondering how I am faring lately, I hope every post since August 15th has expressed how dastardly medical school is. It is mind-boggling, soul-crushing and generally not fun. There is way too much detail requested of me. I am, of course, learning it, because I, of course, need to pass so that I may, of course, actually become a doctor. Don't go to medical school. Do something else that will make you the same amount of money (let's be real, doctors make some decent cash) without lives at stake! Lives that are not your own!

Okay, enough boring school talk. Onto more fun science talk.

I want to talk to you about Lipitor.

My dad (hi Dad!) takes Lipitor. Lipitor is a statin. A statin is a thing (very scientific term, I know) that blocks an enzyme (called HMG-CoA reductase). When HMG-CoA reductase is blocked, the rest of the reaction (cholesterol synthesis) no longer occurs. Therefore, to make this painfully simple, Lipitor prevents your body from producing more cholesterol, which is why Lipitor/statins are prescribed to those getting on in years to lower their cholesterol.

While studying with a friend yesterday, we were talking about how doctors today probably know this much about Lipitor. What we know is infinitely more detail than that. I can tell you what steps afterwards are no longer occurring and I can tell you why statins are useful but may not be necessary for every human being on the face of the planet over the age of 50. So, what I'm trying to say is, I know more about cholesterol right now than a practicing MD does! Ha! I am smart! (...for about a day. That will pass. Wait for it.)

So as to make you feel as smart as me (which won't be very hard since my intelligence level is on the same level as that of a peanut), I want to tell you about cholesterol.

Cholesterol is necessary in all of your cell membranes. All this means is, in order for them to not be rocks tumbling all over each other, we have cholesterol in our membranes to make it more fluid...more like a bunch of water balloons together in a bucket. The cholesterol levels that doctors freak out about are LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins).

The main reason this is bad is if this stuff circulates in your blood too long (aka too much LDL floating around), it starts to deposit things into your blood vessels (aka arteries) and they start to form plaques (mainly a pretty science word for "road blockage" or "things that shouldn't be piling up"). Plaques are bad. Just like a pot hole (except invert that (so that it's popping up like a hill and less like a hole, so "pot hill" is better) and that's what you have in your blood vessels), things go awry when blood can't flow properly. Too much LDL floating around in your system is a primary cause of high blood pressure and other bad news bears, as well as essentially putting money into the pockets of Pfizer (the drug company that makes Lipitor).

Look. Let's make this clear. I am not a doctor. I am nowhere near being a physician. What I am is a medical student who has to study this stuff like mad to make sure she aces her exam on Tuesday. So, you should believe most of what I say because I have to know this stuff for the next 72 hours. With that disclaimer, statins are great but not necessarily worth the hype. They prevent your body from making cholesterol, which is the precursor for all these lipoproteins (a fancy science word for cholesterol that flows around in your blood, it includes LDL (bad!) and HDL (good!)). Your body needs cholesterol. And research shows (just check Wikipedia. You know that stuff is real then ;P) that statins may not actually be needed. They just help certain populations. I'm not telling you, Dad, to get off Lipitor. I am just trying to show a) I know things and b) if you maintain a better diet (put down that fifth bowl of 豆浆  and that third serving of 榴莲) you wouldn't need things like Lipitor to lower your blood pressure.

Again. I don't know anything. I just know what my boring Biochem professor(s) has taught me. Granted, they didn't give me (and therefore you) this opinion of statins. This is just what I have managed to figure out on my own.

So. The moral of this awfully long post is: I know things about cholesterol (see the above paragraphs). I dislike medical school (see the first paragraph). Medical school is hard (see the first paragraph). I have a test on Tuesday. I should go.

Before I do. MOM. DAD. I am sick. (subliminal message Send me a care package subliminal message)