Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Good and the Bad

probably more truth to this than anyone would care to admit

with my youngest professor, who is technically an assistant professor

Good and bad can be found in virtually all aspects of one's life, and this current chapter of my life in medical school is no exception.

One good thing is that my cast has been removed. There was a possibility that I might need to transition into a fracture boot, but that turned out not to be the case. It took me two days to walk normally, but those two days have passed, and I'm no longer a poster child for some crippling disease. (God bless those who actually are afflicted with such maladies.) The cast was stylish, but even the best of casts will begin to smell at least a bit after a couple of months of daily wear. I mitigated the perspiration damage with liberal use of Febreeze, but I still noticed the smell even if everyone else was kind enough to insist they didn't notice it. In another ten days or so I expect to be given the clearance to begin running again.

Another good thing in my life now is that school is going well. I haven't yet been hit with any material that  has been beyond my ability  to comprehend or to memorize, nor has it been beyond my ability to make it understandable to my brother. A large part of my life has been about explaining things in a language my brother would understand. My brother is smart, but he has to hear things in the right way to understand them. My mom could not teach him to play the piano. I had to do it. I didn't really have to, but it's the only likely way he would have learned to play the piano, and I knew my mom really wanted him to play the piano. The guitar he was able to pick up on his own with some help from my dad, but the foundation in piano helped him to make sense of what he encountered in learning guitar.

When my brother and I were in our early years of high school, it was a tough decision as to whether or not to help him with academic subjects. Our relationship wasn't at its best, and anytime we had the same course section, or even different periods of the same course with the same instructor, I had to do better than he did just as a matter of principle, but it was typically a foregone conclusion that my scores would be higher. In the end, I would always help him. The twin bond is stronger than any rivalry in which we may have been participants. 

If I sound cutthroat and mean in never allowing Matthew to outscore me on tests, assignments, or total points or averages leading to grades, keep in mind that he has excelled in areas in which I didn't. While  we're both athletes in our own rights, he is superior overall with regard to gross motor skills. I can catch and can even hit a fast-pitched ball (baseball or softball -- I'm not afraid of either ball) as long as it's pitched fast; with a slow-pitch format, I lack the strength and timing to generate my own power in an effective way. I also throw "like a girl," so to speak. I recognize that it's considered a sexist thing to stay, and that there are very feminine women in society who are in possession of natural and skilled throwing motions, but one of my professors -- a woman -- said that it's an evolutionary biological adaptation that most males throw more naturally than do most [though not not all] females. Males, as part of their historic gender roles, have been throwing rocks and other objects  at potential threats and at prey since prehistoric times. Such has been offered as an explanation as to why males typically [though not in every case] throw with greater power and fluidity than do most females. I run fast, but Matthew, with his longer and more muscled legs, runs faster. He doesn't hurdle with the ease that I do, but that's primarily because he has not put in the practice time on hurdles that I have. His gymnastics and tumbling skills are practically nonexistent, but he has neither the build nor the interest to succeed in the sport of gymnastics.

Further, Matthew was given or somehow developed a personality that I will never acquire however hard I may strive to develop my interpersonal skills. I'm not a total social misfit, but Matthew can be comfortable in any setting and is liked almost wherever he goes. i'm not disliked, but neither am I the life of the party or the person a host thinks absolutely must be in attendance for a gathering to be a successful event. I have to be content with treating everyone with kindness and hoping they treat me kindly in return. Matthew is kind to others, but people would still like him even if he were not.  

Teachers in middle school and high school used to try to tell us that we were all essentially the same . Some of us were stronger in particular areas, while others were weak in those areas, but stronger in different areas. It all evens out, they would tell us. I've found that not to be the case. I've met people who are highly gifted in every area that I've been able to observe, and I've met others who are weak in every area that I was able to observe. (most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes.) Sometimes life isn't fair. All a person can do is to make the very most of his own innate abilities and to attempt to develop those abilities that are not inherent strengths if the person requires those abilities in order to succeed  at  his or her desired goal or goals, or the person cares enough to want those abilities for whatever reason.

Class is more good than bad, and is usually interesting, but there's no way such long lectures can be even 90% entertaining. Medical Practice has thus far been roughly  40% lecture and 60% practicum, but Human Health and Disease is almost entirely lecture. (A lab task is occasionally assigned, but it usually is to be completed outside of class time.) I've taken to wearing dark glasses and saying that I have eye issues so that in the event that I ever really cannot remain conscious, the instructor will be accustomed to seeing me in dark glasses. If any professor ever chooses to make an issue of it, I can get one of the many doctors to whom I am related to cover for me with a note explaining some nonexistent [in me, anyway] ophthalmological condition.  Someone sitting near me may have to awaken me quickly and whisper the question I was asked, but I'm confident in the people sitting near me to wake me and  in my ability to answer any fair question that is thrown my way.  My professors so far have asked only reasonable questions. 

I'm told that the time will come when we will face questions concerning material about which we haven't been taught and which hasn't been covered in assigned readings. Our only hope of knowing the answers will be having been in the right place at the right time when a related case was discussed, having read about it on our own, or somehow having come into contact with it in our lives. For this reason, I'm  spending what little spare time I have reading articles from pertinent journals. Some of the material is available for free online, but not all of it is. I've subscribed to the online editions of  three journals. Everything else I hope to access through the generosity of  my dad, my aunts and uncles, and my former shrink, with whom I'm still in regular contact.

Another negative but expected aspect of life for me now is that I'm still dealing in a major way with missing Claire. The shock over her death has mostly passed, but there are still times when I reach for my cell phone with the intent of calling her before I pause to realize that she's no longer available by phone. I need to spend at least a bit of time with her family this summer.

Part of the good in my life is this year's summer vacation. It's my last real summer vacation until I graduate from medical school, at which time I will have a break between graduation time and July 1, when I will begin my internship. I was scheduled to teach calculus at a summer school near my parents' home, but I sent a registered letter to the principal and to the governing board giving my regrets and apologies that i would not be able to fulfill the duties associate with the teaching job. The money would be nice, but I have a respectable savings account balance.  The time is worth ore to me than the money that I would have earned would be. In addition to spending time with my Godchild and with his mother, who is due to deliver this summer, i can spend time shadowing doctors in the hope of gaining that esoteric information that will eventually be most valuable when I least expect to need to draw upon it.

After year two of medical school, I'll have no more than a week off in summer. I may get an interval off during the scheduling of clerkships, and if I do, I'll use the time both to recharge my figurative battery and to vacation, but summer vacation as I have always known it will be history after this summer. It was difficult to say no to the teaching position, but the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt that I would be earning money but little else. At this point in my educational career, there are things more important than money.

So as I approach my final summer vacation, I  would like to make the very most of the two months plus change.  I need to bond with my Godchild and his soon-to-be-born little sister. I probably won't be asked to be her Godmother, but she's still a cousin and a child to the aunt and uncle to which I feel closer than to any adults other than my parents.

I hope this summer doesn't pass by me before I accomplish all I've set out to accomplish. I usually meet whatever goals I've set for myself, but my mom tells me that this summer's goals may be too ambitious for an interval slightly under ten weeks. Time alone will tell.

twins from different mothers

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Medical School Interviews

a typically intimidating interview panel

After one of my groups had completed a study session today (the over-achiever group with which I study; which other group would be studying the day after the exam?), the small talk over Chinese food (which wasn't all that authentically Chinese according to the Taiwanese-American student in the group) turned to the medical school application  process through which we all went last year. Except for Matthew (who isn't exactly an overachiever but who gets to study with the group because he can study with any group of which I'm a part and because everyone always likes him anyway), none of us applied to more than ten medical schools, while most prospective medical school students apply to almost fifteen. 
All of us but Matthew had sufficiently high GPAs and MCAT scores that we were virtually guaranteed of getting into one of our top three choices, and it isn't cheap to apply to a medical school, so it seemed like a waste of money and time to apply to the typical at least twelve. 

One interesting thing was that all of us by sheer coincidence had applied to a particular not-incredibly-prestigious though not bad east-coast school as a safety net. Matthew was the only one of us to be admitted to that school. The rest of us were not even granted interviews. We assume the school didn't want to waste our time with the rest of us because they knew we'd get into better schools and wouldn't choose them, but who the hell knows? Perhaps we were not quite as collectively wonderful as we would like to believe.

I applied to six other schools besides the nameless safety net on the east coast. I interviewed and was accepted into all six of the other schools to which I applied. I didn't mess with early decision because a candidate is committing to attend that school if he or she is accepted and is also tying up his or her application until that school has made its decision, thereby reducing one's chances of being admitted elsewhere if the early decision school doesn't pan out. Furthermore, my first choice school doesn't even use the early decision process, so there was no good  reason to hassle with the process. Early decision is worthwhile mainly if a candidate has compelling ties to a particular area in which there is only one medical school. If a candidate is young and unencumbered, he or she can attend medical school virtually anywhere.

Eventually the conversation drifted to the interview process and the types of questions most of us faced. In most interviews we faced panels of questioners, though each of us had at least one interview with a single faculty member.  My interview with the sole interviewer was somewhat odd in that he didn't really ask me any questions. He told me to ask him questions. The questions I asked him must have been at least adequate, as I was accepted into the school. I asked about the backgrounds of the faculty, the specialties chosen by last year's graduates and this year's fourth-year students, the elective courses offered, the expected size of the entering class, the internship and residency programs into which its graduates had recently been accepted, and the rate of successful matches for residencies in recent years. I ended the interview by turning the tables on the non-interviewer and asking him why he went into medicine and why he chose to teach at that particular institution. The idea of the presumed interviewee being the questioner was, nonetheless, something of an awkward situation.

The two of us in the study group who had completed violin performance majors in addition to the standard pre-medical curriculum had been asked to play the violin for the interview panel. Neither of us had taken our violins along to the interviews because that seemed like a brazen thing to do, but the panels had violins ready. I'm not  sure what they had hoped  to accomplish by having us play the violin other than to ensure that we had been bona fide music performance majors and weren't padding our resumes with questionable qualifications from flaky music departments; if the musical qualifications we claimed were shaky, what else on our curricula vitae might otherwise have been  embellished? 

I was asked to play piano at two interviews as well, presumably for the same purpose as I was asked to play violin. In one case the piano was sitting right there when I walked in, so I half-expected to be asked to play. In the other case, the piano was concealed in a closet, and someone wheeled it out at the last minute. 

In a particular interview with a couple of panel members who were familiar with my father, I was cut off in the middle of a Chopin work and asked instead to play something that would demonstrate that I was indeed the child of my father. I quickly transitioned to Night Ranger's "Sister Christian." Then another interviewer told me I could continue to play while I answered questions if I so desired. I don't know if they were truly enamored of my playing or if they were merely testing my ability to multi-task.*

Except for the non-interview at which I was told to ask the questions myself, we all reported that at every interview we were asked either why we wanted to be physicians or surgeons or why we wanted to attend the particular medical school or both. Both questions are relatively standard, so everyone had prefabricated answers which were at least fifty per cent bullshit.  Only Matthew could get away with flashing his million-dollar smile and answering, "Because dentistry doesn't pay enough." He swears he actually gave that answer at one of the schools into which he was accepted.

Matthew and I had back-to-back interviews at the school we attend. I suspect the scheduling  was deliberate because twins could be expected to share interview information with one another. It ended up not mattering all that much, because except for the basic "Why are you here?" questions, we weren't both asked a single identical or even similar question. I wonder about the panel's ability to differentiate between candidates when they don't ask us essentially the same questions, but they must think it works.

Kal Penn (not the real Kal Penn, obviously) was asked to sing his undergraduate school's fight song, which was possibly the single oddest request or question I've heard --  although my brother was asked if he could juggle and then asked to do so, which he had not put on his curriculum vitae, as one wouldn't ordinarily put that on a resume even if he or she had the ability unless one was trying to separate himself or herself from the pack by being funny. 

Matthew was able to juggle, and Kal Penn knew Ohio State's fight song. He sang the alma mater for them as well. Ohio State's alma mater is probably second only to Cornell's in popularity. Even I know it. Perhaps the panels were trying to decide whether Kal Penn had been a hermit student or had actually emerged from the library to attend an athletic event or two. Then again, the panel may have been playing games with his mind. As far as Matthew went, perhaps the panel assumed because he had been a left-handed pitcher that he automatically should have the ability to juggle. I don't know about other left-handed pitchers and juggling, but Matthew's fourth-grade teacher had taught the entire fourth-grade class to juggle. Matthew was asked at another school to throw a dart at a dartboard. He says hit the bull's eye from fifteen feet, but then again, memory is often a most self-serving pseudo-organ.

Raoul was asked what his last meal would be if he could choose. He said he was tempted to ask the panel if they were profiling racially because they thought a Latino was more likely to be on Death Row, but he kept the thought to himself. He said he described a typical WASP indulgence of filet mignon and trimmings, and left fajitas and burritos and chicken mole entirely off his imaginary last meal menu. He said the panel seemed disappointed in his choices.

Taiwanese-American girl was asked what fruit or vegetable best typified her personality. She said she decided right then that she would not attend that medical school even if it was the only school to accept her. She said her answer was kiwi fruit. When the questioner asked the follow-up question of why, she said she didn't know and stared pointedly at the questioner.

I was asked if being left handed was an advantage in learning the piano. It actually is an advantage in my opinion, as virtually everyone who studies the piano other than those who take lessons for four months or less when they are six years old in addition to many musicians who have never studied the piano come out of it with the ability to play the right hand and treble clef of a fairly simple composition. The ability to play with the left hand, to master the bass clef, and to use both hands simultaneously is what differentiates those who master the piano from those whose parents essentially threw the money their lessons cost into a black hole. Lefties are also forced to do things with our non-preferred hands because we all live in a right-handed world, making us typically closer to ambidextrous or at least ambi-lateral than our right-handed peers. Lefties may also typically be more right-brained by nature, but I'm not sure that's an advantage in the note-reading aspect of producing music. I'm relatively balanced between left and right brain hemispheres, anyway. Regardless, it wasn't a stupid question; it was merely a peculiar one for a medical school interview.

All of us emerged from the conversation convinced that if we're ever on interview panels for prospective medical school candidates, we will be able to do much better jobs at vetting out qualified and unqualified candidates than did our interviewers.

* Current research suggests that the  ability to multi-task is a myth. People who appear to have the ability to multi-task are likely just really good at switching from any given single task to another seamlessly as well as very rapidly.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Cohort Mates: The Slightly-to-Extremely Odd Characters Surrounding Me

Orin from Parks and Rec

I obviously can't provide a picture of the real Cool Guy, but this man captures the overall essence.

She beams radiantly  in comparison to our Stare-down Queen.
I'm grouped with just over one hundred other first-year students at my medical school. We take all courses together until we get to choose between a few electives next year. The room in which we have our longest course is large enough that we're not totally packed in like sardines and even have room to take up extra seats with our belongings, but we're still entirely too familiar with one another for my comfort and probably for anyone else's. I know more than I really want to know about virtually everyone in the room, and I assume most of them would say the same about me

My medical school has an extremely low acceptance rate 
(somewhere around 1.4 %). This would indicate that most of the people around me are achievers.  I don't think I've shared my MCAT scores on this blog. They were considered quite high, but I've been told three people had scores higher than mine. I have not been told who those three people are, but I have it narrowed down to five people, all of whom I make it a habit to collaborate with on a regular basis. I collaborate with others as well, though. I'm not an intellectual snob.

When you spend as much time together as a group as we do, the quirks of others begin to stand out in most salient ways. I shall share a bit about some of the quirkier people with whom i spend my weekdays.

You may have seen the TV sitcom Parks and Recreation. I don't love sitcoms in general, but Parks and Recreation is classic with regard to its characters. One very minor but memorable character was April's friend Orin - a tall, Gothic vampire-like entity. A guy in my cohort bears such an uncanny physical and psychological resemblance to the character of Orin that it's as if he steps out of the TV into the auditorium for class, then steps back into the TV for Parks and Rec reruns. He leaves his cape in the TV, but dresses in black pants and a black turtleneck every day as far as I've noticed. I don't know if it's the same pants and turtleneck or if he has a closet full of identical garments. He talks as little as possible. You'd expect someone as anti-social and outrightly odd to be a bit of a misfit socially, but there are actually girls in the cohort who hit on him. Vampirism is apparently trending now. If I find out that Orin (not his real name, obviously) is considering hematology as a specialty I will have a serious case of the willies. All I know is that when we arrive at the time in pre-clerkship that we have to practice inserting IVs into each other to master the skill, I will make it a point to be as far from him as possible. No one will want to practice on me anyway, as they'll risk looking really bad when they can't locate my tiny veins.

I've briefly discussed  Cool Guy -- the one who first used the name "Cutthroat Bitch" in reference to me.  I wonder if he has Addison's Disease, which is an adrenal condition, suffered by the late JFK,  one symptom of which is a year-round tan with no sun exposure. I haven't seen  Cool Guy's  parents, but his sister has been here, and she's every bit as white as I am. Ethnically speaking, he's supposedly not Italian or anything Mediterranean, although one never knows when the Maytag repairman was involved in someone's genesis. His surname is Scandinavian.  It's most likely that he either visits a tanning salon or gets fake tans on a regular basis. We're in The Golden State, but we're in northern California, where we don't have summer weather and endless sun all year long, and the nearest beaches aren't all that great considering what I've grown accustomed to since living and attending school on the southern tip of the central coast. He puts enough gel in his rapidly-thinning hair (at twenty-six, he's a couple of  years older than the average first-year med student; our mean age was 22 years, seven months at the start of the year) to render a brick establishment impenetrable to an 8.0 earthquake.  I suspect he'll be getting hair plugs before he gets his medical doctorate. He'll want to find a way to do it on the down-low, though, as he's so vain about his appearance that he'd die if anyone knew he got hair implants. Vanity notwithstanding, Cool Guy is reasonably sharp. Any spare time he's not spending looking at his reflection, he's probably studying. He's not an altogether unpleasant person, either. He was one of the first people to come to my aid when the third-year student leveled me on the steps outside of our building.

I've already shared enough about Bimbo and Olivia to last a lifetime. I don't want to expend much more energy on their drama. Suffice it to say that their somewhat sick symbiotic relationship continues.

There's a particular female from an Asian nation who sits in the second row of the auditorium near the center. I can say this because several Asian girls sit there, and if i don't give descriptions too specific, none of them will know specifically to whom I'm referring should they come across this blog except in an if-the-shoe-fits-wear-it sort of sense.  Anyway, this person rarely looks at or even faces the lecturer. Instead, it's as though she singles out a different individual and mean- mugs the person for the entire session of lecture. I haven't yet been on the receiving end of her glares, but I assume my turn will come. The woman must be listening to the lecture because she types as though she's taking notes, and her test scores I've seen have been relatively high. On one test she wouldn't show her paper. I don't think she would have the social sense to withhold a test paper because the score was embarrassingly high, so I would guess that her score on the particular test didn't please her. She probably has high standards, though, so her reluctance to show the paper wouldn't necessarily indicate she was anywhere near Bimbo's league.

Another guy has what I would guess to be chronic motor tic disorder bordering on full-scale Tourette Syndrome. Contrary to pop culture portrayals, most Tourette sufferers don't blurt random obscenities, and neither does he. his prominent manifestation is an unusual squirm and shifting of his spine. I suppose musculoskeletal disorder is not out of the question, but it looks a lot more like Tourette to me. He's a bit quiet but not entirely antisocial. The squirm used to make me uncomfortable, but I've somewhat grown accustomed to it and barely notice it at this point.

There's one woman in our group who seems to consider herself something of a runway model, though I don't think she's impressing any of us with her rather bizarre wardrobe choices. Her nails are elaborately done each day to complement whatever outfit she is wearing. She seems to look at the rest of us as though we are utterly pathetic in our rather casual attire. Only  Cool Guy appears to meet her standards of dress. He doesn't really dress any more fashionably than do the rest of us, but he's so cool that his coolness transcends any wardrobe inadequacies.  The only time La Fashionista has ever paid the slightest notice of me was the first day after Jared's cousin and my friend  Alyssa visited and had done my nails with a piano keyboard motif, at which time she actually approached me and complimented me on my nails. The next day she appeared rather dismissive of me, however, as I had the slovenly audacity to sport the  same nail motif two days in a row.  I'm curious as to how she will handle medical and surgical clerkship rotations, not to mention an internship. when a person is lucky to get six hours of sleep at one stretch, when she places such a high premium on fingernail art. Most 3rd-year students bite their nails to keep them in check.

My brother is relatively popular with the group as a whole. I've been somewhat anonymous, though someone must have noticed something about me for me to have earned my nickname. People still call out "Cutthroat Bitch" in a friendly way when I enter the room. I continue to act as though it's  a compliment.

We had a rather intense exam today, but I felt like i was adequately prepared. I dread receiving the papers back only to the extent that it may further cement my relationship as a cutthroat botch if I scored especially high. Nonetheless, it's a hell of a lot better than being afraid of having failed the exam.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bimbo, Olivia, Cheating My Life as Cutthroat Bitch, and the Cast

typical auditorium med school class, though not my class; I do not wish to make any of my classmates famous by publishing their photos

Yesterday (Tuesday) morning as I walked into the auditorium for the start of class, I noticed Olivia and Bimbo huddling together. They were speaking in hushed tones but rather intensely to one another as was evident from their facial expressions. Their usual seats in the auditorium are not even close to the area where I normally sit, and I didn't wish to sit in a different spot simply to eavesdrop on their conversation. Instead, I suggested to the guy who looks like Kal Penn, who is even nosier than I am, that it might be interesting to know what might possibly have them so up in arms.

Kal Penn (obviously not the REAL Kal Penn) took the bait and left his seat to find a perch in the row directly in front of the two magpies.  In university classes held in  regular classrooms, students typically within the first two weeks of a quarter or term settle into a particular seating formation, and sitting in someone else's seat is considered an unspoken semi-breach of etiquette.  With our auditorium-setting classes, we haven't lodged ourselves into particular chairs, but instead tend to sit in certain general areas of the auditorium. 

The auditorium in which we meet for the Cardio/Pulmonary segment of Health and Disease has something like twenty-two rows of seats, most of which consist of twenty seats across. Five seats are on the outside of each aisle, and ten seats are between the two aisles in most rows. I usually sit in stage left of the aisle seating, five or six rows from the front, typically one or two seats in from the aisle. I don't claim de facto ownership of any particular seat. I just take whatever seat is available in my general area of preference. If every seat were taken, I would sit elsewhere.

In any event, no one appeared to think much about it when Kal Penn moved from the area where he usually sits, which is in my section, and moved one row ahead of Bimbo and Olivia, directly in front of them. He would have been in roughly row fifteen, dead center. I didn't suggest that my brother sit near them because A) I didn't want my brother to be distracted from the lecture; Kal Penn can multi-task well enough to monitor the magpies' conversation while taking in the lecture; and B) my brother sits in the center section near the stage right aisle, so I would have had to walk all the way across the auditorium to speak with him even had I wanted him to play Harriet the Spy for me.

During lunch break, Kal Penn told me that the conversation was largely quite boring, but that most of their talk concerned the Cool Guy in class (the one who allegedly first referred to me as Cutthroat Bitch) and whether or not he had noticed Bimbo and reciprocated her feelings of lust. (Those were his actual words.) They also allegedly expressed concern about the content of a test in Cardio/Pulmonary to be held on Friday. They would have been better off, if they're really so concerned about the upcoming test, to hold off on their discussion of Bimbo's carnal desires for Cool Guy until after the lecture was over, but that's just my opinion. Perhaps I'm the one who needs to be paying more attention and taking better notes. 

We receive grades for tests, and everyone who wishes to be accepted as part of the group shows his or her returned test paper to others. Our final course grades for the first two years, however, are pass/fail, and we have no class rankings for the first two years, as it's impossible to maintain official rankings with a pass/fail system. Nevertheless, everyone knows what the grades are. It's common knowledge as to who's sailing who is floundering, and who is keeping his or her head above water if barely.  The pass/fail and no-ranking system is designed to promote a spirit of camaraderie and to prevent cutthroat behaviors. for the most part, however, most of us attained the academic stature to be admitted to this school in the first place by being competitive, and it's not a trait that any of us can give up easily.

Bimbo doesn't show her test papers. I would assume her scores have been in the cellar. The only possible way such would not be the case would be if she really was a plant for some reason and was merely playing stupid as opposed to actually being stupid. I would not entirely rule out that possibility. Once there was supposedly a cheating ring at a nearby medical school, and the administration put a non-medical school student in as a plant to infiltrate the cheating ring. I find it unlikely though not beyond possibility that Bimbo is part of such an operation, as she's not tight enough with anyone other than Olivia to  gain access to the inside scoop. If anyone were a plant, it would be someone like Kal Penn or the Cool Guy. I wouldn't care anyway because I have absolutely nothing to do  with any form of cheating that may be happening around me. 

I doubt it would be all that easy to cheat in this program, anyway. For tests, we have assigned seats in the auditorium, and there are roughly eight different versions of the test in order to make copying more difficult. The testing periods are heavily proctored. One has to be essentially admitted to a hospital in order to be given the test at any time other than when everyone else takes it. The main form of cheating that might be possible is that someone could have access to information as to what is likely to be on tests from a second or third-year med school student. That sort of thing cannot entirely be prevented, and professors are stupid if they float the same exams year after year without changing things up a bit. 

When I entered the auditorium both Monday and Tuesday, a few guys hollered out "Cutthroat Bitch" semi-enthusiastically, sort of the way the people in "Cheers" call out Norm's name when he comes into the bar,  in the form of a greeting. I half-heartedly slapped hands (I don't do fist-bumps) with those seated near my aisle and acted very casual. 

I didn't get my cast of. I need  it for maybe another two weeks. I was disappointed, but I will survive. I'm spending a fortune on the Febreze I have to buy to spray in it every morning so the scent of the cast won't asphyxiate everyone around me.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I AM the new Cutthroat Bitch.

I enjoyed the story line that had Cutthroat Bitch haunting House from the grave via his dreams.

Upon the advice of others both online and in real life, and after careful consideration, I have decided to totally embrace the entire Cutthroat Bitch concept.  I doubt my behavior or demeanor will change dramatically, but  as far as the name itself goes, I'm totally owning the whole thing until either I or those who have chosen to refer to me as such grow weary of the ludicrosity of it all. 

If one simply goes with the flow, those who somehow find the time to devote to such foolishness as inventing new names for people because the name one's parents chose apparently isn't good enough sometimes tire of the silliness and/or grow up. On the other hand, there are people from my high school who have no idea who Alexis is but can instantly conjure a mental picture of me if the're reminded of the lovely nickname Anorexis. Sometimes nicknames stick. 

Will this one stick? Only time will tell.

It's my new identity, though I shouldn't necessarily officially make it such, as I do enjoy the semi-anonymity this blog has afforded me. If my peers became my readers, I would lose, to some extent at least, the freedom of candor that the situation presently affords me.  If anyone from school is reading here (no one from school other than my brother has  made the reading of the blog known to me thus far, incidentally), read away and try not to fall asleep while doing so. Some aspects of my life comprise a wide-open but incredibly boring book.

I wish everyone peace and love as well as a nice weekend.

Cutthroat Bitch II

I don't yet have the "bedroom eyes" thing down pat. I probably need to practice in front of a mirror.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

They've been calling me Cutthroat Bitch behind My back for months.

See the resemblance? I don't, either.

another picture of my supposed doppelganger; I'd say, objectively, that we were not exactly switched at birth

I now have a nickname that many members of my cohort call me -- allegedly in good fun -- behind my back.  On Facebook and elsewhere that  I'm not present, I'm known as "Cutthroat Bitch."  They lifted the name from House, MD. In one of the series' more shark-jumping plot lines, House held a competition between a group of MD applicants*, sort of like Survivor, to assemble his new team of flunkies. 

The character of "Cutthroat Bitch" was actually a woman named Amber. The character "House" gave her character the infamous nickname. (Some sources say "Kutner," the Kal Penn character, actually gave Amber the name. I believe it was House who actually called her by that name first, but Kutner, in a later conversation, told her it was her official nickname. How utterly ironic that the classmate who looks like Kutner told me that's what I'm being called.) She was a somewhat cutthroat competitor and was probably something of a bitch. House cut her from the competition in the final cut even though she had the correct diagnosis because her motives were questionable. Later she started to date his best friend, Wilson. Then she was killed in a bus accident in which House was seriously injured and lost his memory but recovered it just in time to remember that Amber, AKA Cutthroat Bitch, had been on the bus with him and was much more gravely wounded. 

I can't even remember the injury or medical condition she had, but Wilson had the option of letting her die in peace, or of bringing her back to consciousness for a short time to allow her to say good-bye to everyone. I must watch that episode again to see if the injury or medical condition that would allow a person to be brought back out of a non-medically-induced coma briefly before expiring even exists now that I have slightly more knowledge than I had when I saw it originally. My dad wasn't there at the time so I couldn't ask him, but he would neither have watched the show with me nor wanted to hear anything about it because he says the show is stupider than anything he's ever seen on Fox News and that watching even a few minutes of House, MD makes him physically ill.

The guy who looks like Kal Penn -- my former running partner before I was sidelined by the broken foot --   is the one who told me.  I always question the motives of anyone who tells a person something of such a nature, as am I really better off knowing? The way he told me, though, by asking my brother, "Are you going to tell her, or you do you want me to?" led me to believe that his motives probably were pure and that he thought it might hurt my feelings more if I found out elsewhere. 

The odd thing is that my feelings are not hurt. At least the others think about me enough to have given me a nickname, albeit a somewhat insulting one. I'm really neither cutthroat nor a bitch in classroom or clinical settings. I usually help anyone who asks if the person is in seriously dire enough straits to benefit from my assistance. 

This morning before class as I was walking down an aisle in the auditorium to the area where I usually sit, the guy who allegedly gave me the nickname called out, "Alexis, did you read the eleventh chapter yet?"

I stopped, looked directly at him, and said, "Why don't you just call me what you call me when I'm not around?"

He turned crimson -- I've never seen a 23-year-old guy with relatively olive skin blush to the degree that he did. He had no  idea what to say. The auditorium grew so quiet that you could hear practically the guy's heartbeat. I don't know if he thought I was planning to charge him with sexual harassment or what. He was stammering and saying he only called me that because I look  like the character. Seriously. She's something like 40 years old, she's voluptuous, and she's 5'10", for crying out loud. I'm supposed to believe I earned the nickname by looking like her. The only physical attributes we share are blonde-blue-eyed caucasian coloring. She looks more like that crazy Ann Coulter (minus the Adam's apple) than she looks like me. (I'm a bit blonder than the original cutthroat bitch is simply because Alyssa puts a lighter shade of coloring product on my hair than Cutthroat bitch puts on her own hair. I'm naturally blonde, but not so blonde as my hair is now. Unless a person practically has albino tendencies, hair darkens as one gets older. By the time I'm approaching forty, any hair that isn't gray will be probably nowhere near blonde except for the fact that I'll probably still be coloring it.)

Anyway, I let the guy stutter for a few minutes, then put him out of his misery by responding , "Hell, I don't care. Call me whatever you want when I'm not around. Yes, I did read chapter eleven. What part did you want to discuss?"

He told opened his book and pointed to a section of the chapter. I looked at it and told him what I thought. The rest of the gawkers went back to their sheep-like noise-making.

Everything would then have been fine except that the lecturing prof started her lecture with, "We're going to review the principles of CPR. The problem is that the nursing department is using all the CPR Annies. We're going to need to use a live body for practice. Alexis, we'll use you." The entire auditorium erupted in laughter. I didn't turn horribly red, though. I have greater ability to hide humiliation than most fair-skinned people do. Claire did, too. It's a trait that served us well in our high school days when we tried to look innocent in the face of questioning teachers and school administrators.

It seems that my brother told someone about my dream who told someone else, who told someone else until everyone including the professors knew about it. The professor who made the joke at my expense wasn't even the professor who appeared in my dream. 

So now I'm both a cutthroat bitch and a person who has stupid and paranoid dreams. It would serve them all right if I really did turn into a cutthroat bitch, but I won't, in part because I don't care. No one would be calling me that if at least one person were not just a bit intimidated by me. I like the idea of it. Does that make me a cutthroat bitch? Maybe.

*One of the longest-lasting applicants was actually a really knowledgeable older guy who actually wasn't an MD but was merely pretending to be one.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Olivia and Bimbo: The Blind Leading the Pathologically Stupid

She looks about as perplexed as I feel most days.

Matthew and I traveled back to school late last night and arrived at 1:00 a.m., but it was well worth it to avoid the urban traffic. We've found a strategy that works, and we're sticking with it, though we won't be traveling that way again for something like seven weeks.

The professor about whom I dreamed did not lecture today, so I didn't have to relive my nightmare in the light of day.

We came back to find a small bit of drama not directly harming us in any way, and more of a curiosity than anything else. do you remember that two women were being very unprofessional in their meanness to me, and one of them, the prettier but more vapid of the two, flunked out after 1st quarter exams? The second one survived the cut, but basically no one would talk to her other than single-word answers.

Then Bimbo, another attractive but stupid pre-clerkship student, got bounced back to Second Quarter because of severe ineptitude, though no one can discern how she was ever allow passage through first quarter status. The woman doesn't even know what blood types are and is thoroughly stumped by the concept of an Rh factor existing in blood. 
God help any baby of  Rh-negative mother who happens to be Rh-positive if this brain-cadaver is involved in the care of either one.

For practical purposes, Bimbo shall simply be heretofore known simply as Bimbo with no further explanation. I can't keep giving the other female a long drawn out description, so she shall be known as Olivia. That's not her actual name of course, as I have no desire to be sued before I even touch my first real patient. Her name is about as common as is Olivia, so it works.

Olivia and Bimbo have reached the ultimate realization that no one else in the cohort particularly desires to study with either of them, though they were both placed in study groups and no one was being openly hostile. Lack of hostility notwithstanding, they've seceded from their respective prior study groups and have formed a study group consisting just of the two of them. Great brain trust that they are, they plan to join forces to kick the rest of our butts on exams. 

I'm a part of the original study group to which I was assigned, another one consisting of Raoul, the guy who looks like Kal Penn, a chines-American girl, and a guy from Taiwan, and I study additionally with Matthew's group, as there are a few smart people in that group as well. I choose to take advantage of the brains of as many smart people as are available to me.  I will likewise share any knowledge or tips I have. I have no problem with others tying with me as long as we tie with perfect scores.

I'm mildly amused that Bimbo and Olivia think that a certified idiot and a person of slightly sub-average intellect can break away from their groups and work exclusively with each other and even remain in the program.  It's a blessing for their  future patients, because they'll both be lucky to make it to finals, much less through them.  

That is unless Bimbo is something like a direct descendant of Leland himself.  We've long suspected she had connections, but most of us were of the belief that she was merely sleeping with someone important and not actually related to someone important.  Important people who are related to people so cognitively challenged usually try to keep the challenged relatives hidden in closets. They don't typically parade their family's embarrassing secrets through the halls of academia. I think I mentioned that Bimbo is seriously stacked, as in I could get a $15,000 boob job and butt implants as well and still not even be close to her league of stacked-ness.  Someone around here with at least a moderate amount of clout must be banging her.  That sort of thing can only get a person so far through medical school without a working brain or (ideally and) a pronounced work ethic.

None of it matters to me in the least. I didn't have to study with either one before, and I don't have to now. I have no dog in this fight. It's simply a matter of curiosity, the unfolding of which will be most interesting to observe.

I Dream of Being a CPR Dummy

the Godchild of all Godchildren  (Is he adorable or what?)

I stayed at pseudoaunt's house until 3:10 a.m. because the baby, my Godchild, was awake  until then, and I was enjoying  my time with him. He's five months old now. Five-month-old babies are crazy fun. He remembers me from last week because I spent a lot of time with him when I was on spring break. He conked out at about 3:10, so I headed home. He had been asleep from 8:00 until midnight, but then woke up and was ready for more action than just a bottle. I hadn't planned to stay so late, but I have to enjoy any time I can get with him. I'm going back to school tomorrow, which is now today, and I probably won't come home again until Memorial Day weekend.

It seemed sensible enough to go right to sleep when I got home, and I didn't have any trouble falling asleep, but I woke up shortly thereafter in the middle of another of my bizarre dreams. At least this dream wasn't about Mitt Romney, but it featured one of my cardio-pulmonary class professors. Who is worse to dream about: a crazed Mitt Romney, or a person or persons from one's real life?

This dream was a bit stupid, as the professor was going over CPR, which is not in the content of the class. We attended clinic/seminar format short-term classes fairly early in first quarter to go over the very basics of CPR, in which everyone in our cohort had current certification, anyway. I don't even think it was a prerequisite, but does not enroll in medical school without having bothered to learn basic first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. It's just one of those things you don't even have to be told.

The probability of any first-year medical student actually using CPR  in any sort of clinical setting is about as great as that of a flight attendant taking over the controls of a 747 and landing the plane. A whole lot of people, including LVNs, student nurses,  and CNAs (and most likely even janitors when it gets right down to it) would need to be incapacitated or dead before one of us first-year students got anywhere near a patient legitimately in crisis. 

The only real patients we ever touch (I'm obviously not counting the Berkeley Repertory Theatre wanna-be actors with whom we deal in Practice of Medicine, as how could we kill them off on such a regular basis just by ordering the wrong tests if we were not allowed even to touch them?) in the clinic or E.R.  are patients the triage staff is reasonably certain are just drug-seekers, even though someone legally qualified re-takes the vital signs immediately after we do them because we're such losers. I haven't screwed up a single pulse, blood pressure reading, temperature, or anything of the ilk,  and even can hook up an EKG accurately, but I'm not trusted any more than the next third-quarter med student is.

I asked The Powers That Be why  student nurses are higher on the pecking order and should be entrusted with more responsibility than we are, since the one's odds of being accepted into their program are roughly one-point-five-thousand times greater than being accepted into our program. The answer I received is that because they have less to learn, they're further along in their training than we are, and therefore somehow more qualified not to kill a patient merely by touching him or her than we are.  In other words if this makes any sense at all, which it probably doesn't because the time is now 4:57 a.m. and I've had a grand total of eighteen minutes of sleep for the night, because they're at least marginally stupider than we are in the first place, the nursing students are expected to learn less. Hence, at this juncture of their collective educational experience, they've mastered a greater proportion of the less that they'll learn than we have of the more that we'll theoretically learn, somehow magically granting them greater healing powers than those possessed, in theory, by us. (In practice, they're possibly all possessed as in The Exorcist kind of possessed.)

It's a really weird dynamic, because they know that we or our counterparts from other medical schools will eventually outrank them in a major way, but the student nurses and nurses hold their greater authority over med school students and extremely green interns for as long as they possibly can. But for now it's all entirely academic anyway, as in truth, they, too, rank below the janitors, and neither group is getting anywhere near a patient who genuinely needs any sort of medical care barring any natural or man-created disaster not at least one hundred times the magnitude of Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina combined.

Anyway, getting back to the original topic of this post, which was to be my dream, before I was so rudely sidetracked by the necessity of explaining just how extraneous we, the third quarter students, are in the grand scheme of medicine . . .

i dreamed that we actually were being taught basic cardio-pulmonary techniques in our cardio-pulmonary course. I dreamed that the dummies ordinarily used for practice and testing of students for CPR certification purposes were unavailable because the student nursing program was using them. It only makes sense that even in my dream the needs of their program would outrank ours.Because the CPR mannequins were unavailable for our use and it was imperative that we practice cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, right then, someone in our class would have to be the dummy.  With my basic sense of paranoia being what it usually is, of course I was the one chosen to serve as the CPR dummy. 

I may not be Dr. Oz or his female equivalent, but even I know that one does not perform CPR on a person who is breathing and whose heart is beating. (I actually had an argument with one of the nursing students about this, but, for the record, if a patient is bona fide  breathing, it is a safe assumption that his or her heart is beating. The intern physician who mediated our quarrel so diplomatically settled it by saying, "Let's face it. You're both idiots, but in this particular case. you're the bigger of the two idiots," gesturing with her hand at the student nurse. "If the guy's breathing, his heart is beating. Period."

So the crazed professor in my dream was proposing to have all my classmates clear my airway, pinch my nose and breathe into my mouth twice, then compress my chest fifteen times. Had this been for real and not a dream, it would have been highly likely than I would have been in need of actual resuscitation by the time my third classmate got to me, and probably would have sustained broken bones as well, in addition to God only knows what kind of contagious mouth germs if they didn't use a shield, and maybe even if they did. I don't know where Matthew was in this dream, by the way, but he was doing absolutely nothing to intercede on my behalf.

I protested to the professor all to no avail. She held me down as my  first classmate approached. As he turned his ear to listen for sounds of my breathing, I screamed "No!!!" in my loudest voice. I scared my poor dog to practically death. He must have noticed my agitation in my dream and was trying to wake me. My scream woke both of my parents and my brother. They're all up now, thanks to me.  Since I've had that grand total of nineteen minutes of sleep for the night, I'm going back to bed. 

Good night, everyone. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Possible Parole for One of the Chowchilla School Bus Kidnappers

the Alview-Dairyland school bus before it was moved from the dry riverbed

Matthew and I finally made it home. We didn't leave until 8:00 and still hit traffic in the area approaching  San Jose. Matthew offered to Internet-access my computer using his cellphone, but I'm sure it's totally illegal, so I told him no. 

I was reading news on my cell phone on the trip, as I almost never have time to do so during the school day. It seems that one of the Chowchilla kidnappers -- James Schoenfeld  -- has passed the initial step toward being granted parole.  I believe he'll have to pass another hearing and ultimately the governor will have to OK his release. Schoenfeld's younger brother Richard, also involved in the kidnapping, has already been paroled.

If you, like me, were not yet born when the Chowchilla kidnapping happened, I'll give you a very brief recap. My mother lived in the country outside of Chowchilla at the time of the kidnapping. She, in fact, lived within the boundaries of the Alview-Dairyland school district, a tiny two-campus rural elementary district,   which was the site of the summer school,  but my mom never attended summer school. She said she vaguely knew some of the children at the time and met more once she got to high school, where the rural and city school district kids  matriculated into the a union high school district, but  most of the children on the bus that day weren't actually kids who attended her elementary school. Children from the nearby town of Chowchilla who were part of the Chowchilla Elementary School District were allowed to attend Alview-Dairyland district's summer school on a space-available basis, as their district did not offer summer school. My mom said most of the children still on the bus when the kidnapping occurred were actually Chowchilla Elementary School District children. Most of the Alview-Dairyland children had already been dropped off at their homes. My mom believes that, as the bus was routed, had she attended summer school -- which she didn't -- she would have been off the bus before the kidnapping took place.

My mom was almost ten at the time of  the bus kidnapping. She says she remembers being very frightened that night even though she was safe in her own home. There was a thunderstorm, which is highly unusual for the San Joaquin Valley in July, which only added to the eeriness of the night. I don't think she knew if the empty bus had been found when she went to bed that night. i'm not even sure if it had been found. Her dad had just begun to fly commercially and wasn't home that night, adding to her sense of alarm.  She was afraid that whoever had taken the bus of children might show up at her house and take her. She says she can only imagine the terror that the children who actually were kidnapped felt, and as a parent now, she thinks the fright the missing children's parents felt was probably even greater than what the children themselves felt.

A school bus about half full of children being delivered home from summer school in a rural part of California was stopped by a van that blocked the roadway. Three gun-carrying men with nylon stockings over their heads commandeered the bus, moved the driver to the back at gunpoint, and drove the bus into a dry river bed known as the Berenda Slough, concealed by plant growth, where the kidnappers had stored an additional van. They moved the driver and children at gunpoint into the two vans and drove them for several hours until they finally reached a rock quarry in Livermore, California, which is in reality only maybe two hours or so away. They probably drove on back roads party of the way and possibly had time to kill so that they could enter the rock quarry undetected. The rock quarry was owned by the family of one of the kidnappers.

Though it was reported that a bus was missing relatively early, my mom believes it was a couple of hours before the bus was discovered in its hiding place, so the kidnappers had a considerable head start at getting to their destination, and were presumably far out of the area before anyone had any idea to look for anything other than the missing bus. My mom said pretty much every family in the country area was called to ask if they'd seen any sign of the bus. 

The children and bus driver were loaded into a truck bed that had been buried underground in the rock quarry. Large batteries had been attached to some sort of fan that pumped air inside, providing some ventilation. The ventilation was barely adequate, and probably wouldn't have lasted much longer, as the batteries weren't sufficient to power the ventilation system for much longer, and the kidnappers couldn't return safely until well into the next night.  

Ironically, it was the insufficient amount of battery power that made the ventilation system light enough for the children and the driver to push the batteries aside and dig their way out,

The kidnappers had planned to phone a ransom demand somewhere in Chowchilla, but the phone lines were so over-loaded that the kidnappers could never get through to make their ransom demand.

Eventually the buried truck bed was traced to one of the kidnappers, the other two were identified, and all three were apprehended. they pled guilty. Their initial sentences were for life without possibility of parole, but the "without parole" portion of the sentences was later overturned.

People have very strong feelings in both directions regarding the release of any of the Chowchilla kidnappers.  Most -- though not all -- of the victims, predictably enough, would like for James Schoenfeld to remain behind bars. Other people say that in the grand scheme of things, the two Chowchilla kidnappers still incarcerated have served longer sentences than have many murderers who deliberately killed their victims. 

The Chowchilla kidnapping was an incredibly stupid and poorly planned  scheme that could easily have resulted in the deaths of some or all of the victims but, through the grace of God and a couple of really resourceful kids, didn't.   I don't know exactly how I feel about parole for the kidnappers. In the case of Richard Schoenfeld, He's out, so the point is moot. In terms of the two kidnappers still behind bars, I suppose their relative youth -- I think they all were in their early twenties at the time, would be a somewhat mitigating circumstance, as would be the fact that it wasn't necessarily their intent to cause bodily harm. On the other hand, their stupidity came perilously close to killing all twenty-seven victims. Furthermore, the psychological damage to all the victims cannot be denied.