Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rationed Time


The long days that never seem to end are certainly anticipated experiences. Only in the beginning of the whole process, I am learning to ration my time to the many tasks that demand my attention.

New Home

We finally closed on our new home and moved in last week (hence the missed post). It took our mortgage broker a long time to finalize the transactions and was more than a headache with a new problem or delay every day. Being first time home buyers has been quite the hassle and I know many medical students wrestle with the decision to become home buyers or simply rent.

In making our decision we had learned that renting a unit in Las Vegas would cost nearly the same as a mortgage. Our struggle was mostly with the mortgage lenders being flexible once we found the house we wanted. We waited until the very last minute before making the deal official.

All I can say is that if you are entertaining the thought of home buying, start well before matriculating. We ended up staying with family for almost a month. It was great to spend time with them, and we will forever be grateful for their hospitality. We just hate to have out-stayed our welcome. Renting sure sounded tempting on occasion, but our new home was worth the effort.

Student Loan

Reimbursement for the expenses of medical school cannot come too soon. With all the costs of living increasing and becoming more abundant, staying financially afloat is a rather fancy dance. I can come up with a lengthy list of debts, but if you are reading this you could name them just as well.

My financial institution is finally funding my tuition and reimbursement checks. It is a huge relief to know we will be able to buy groceries next month and have a roof over our heads. Visit the past post for more student loan info.

Exams

I knew medical school would move quick, but I had no idea we would cover an entire book in less than a couple months. Midterms were only one month in and next week will be our first week of exams. "Block week" as they call it, occurs three times a semester, testing our memory and endurance skills. With 24 credits this semester, I should start having nightmares any night now.

Somehow I managed to make it through my first couple tests despite the late...late nights of studying. This method is not recommended for two reasons: 1)Taking a test while fatigued makes information recall ineffective and 2)It's bad for your physical health. Of course I would like to have performed better, but the information was spilling out of my head by the time I took the test. I think I need to reformat my cerebral hard drive and free up a little space.

Student Organizations

I have been blown away and slightly annoyed by all the organizations vying for my money. Who knew there were so many student medical associations? Each one asks for membership money but none really have a significant impact that seems evident. The benefits they have expressed usually include free meals, discount suture clinics, and the ever popular screen printed tee-shirt.

I may be new to this medical school thing, but I'm not an idiot. My intention is to pass and earn a degree. If that means I cannot join an organization my first week of school, please support me in that decision. Perhaps down the road I will share a portion of my student loan with you so I can say I belong to your club. Maybe in the meantime you could come up with better reasons than a free lunch to be a member of your organization.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pathways Galore


You may not fully understand it (like myself), but it is happening right now inside your body. The breakdown of sugar into usable energy or glycolysis is one of the many biochemical pathways our bodies use to function.

Biochemistry

Once again, the week has been occupied with many hours of in and out of class biochemistry. Only two weeks into the semester, we have finished three quizzes and a significant portion of the textbook's material. It is comforting to know that I am not the only student in the class that has a difficult time following every lecture. My routine has become a state of confusion during lecture that is cleared when I read the book to clear up the details. It takes a lot of time, but the material is making sense that way.

It has become clear that there is a lot of memorization to be done. Once the amino acids are crammed in my head, it is time to learn the pathways: glycolysis, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, and the list is going to keep growing. We usually chuckle when the professors say there is no need to memorize the pathway, but know the starting materials, products, and enzymes involved. Adding it all up, we really do need to know the pathway in detail. When was the last time your doctor broke it all down in the exam room?

Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine

OMM as it is called is one of those classes that is unique to schools of osteopathy. In fact it is, at this point, one of the more enjoyable courses. We will be learning how to find problematic points of the body, manipulate them, and ultimately seek healing as a result. We take turns acting as patient and provider while learning the body and manipulations. I have a feeling this will be my family's favorite part of medical school as I have to practice on someone in order to study. As we are not too far into the curriculum, it ends up being more of a massage than a corrective technique. Over time, I imagine that will change.

In order to be considered an osteopathic physician, we have to be enrolled in OMM during each semester of school. Hence, this is a long term course that will build from semester to semester as we progress in our techniques. It is unfortunate that many osteopathic physicians do not employ these skills and perhaps do so because their practice does not incorporate them explicitly. Many people are convinced after only one treatment that OMM has significant healing results. Fortunately, or else osteopathic schools would not exist.

Anatomy

No relief in the anatomy department. We have explored the chest, shoulders and arms in great detail. Thankfully, my undergraduate education provided a strong foundation for most of these anatomical anomalies. We have yet to be tested on anything, which will be quite an eye opener I am sure. Just when you feel secure in your understanding and memorization, you have to be humbled by the intellectual development of your professors' years of experience and training. Needless to say, our memorization skills are improving at a rapid rate...or maybe I am just being hopeful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back to School


Would you believe I made it through the second day of medical school and still had a smile on my face?! So, I had to force it a little. The first week is behind me and classes are under way.

Orientation

Touro University has chosen to start the school year with a two day orientation that gives the new medical students an opportunity to meet administrators, professors, and the other students. We worked out technological kinks, signed a lot of paperwork, and learned a little about the background of our new school.

As TUNCOM is still rather young, there has been a lot of change from year to year. Each professor has been assigned four or five students whom they mentor. Mine happens to be one of our biochemistry professors. A large portion of our teachers have foreign backgrounds; my mentor hails from Russia.

What did I take away from orientation you may wonder? Medical school is going to be really...really hard and keep us extremely busy. However, they want us to succeed and will help us get there (I wish I could say, "or my money back.") I really believe they are looking out for our best interest. On top of all that, we received our ID badges and multiple kosher meals. When was the last time you had kosher pizza?

First Day of School

Bright and early, we all filed into our lecture hall (for the next year), turned the room into what looked like a laptop convention, and received a two hour orientation to anatomy procedures. As creepy as it may seem, a room with 40 cadaveric patients is an awesome sight. It was soon time for our first lecture...biochemistry.

Anyone who has taken a course in biochemistry knows that there is a lot of information to absorb learn in an hours time. Fortunately, we only have a little more than a month of biochemistry, and I am sure they will cover everything. That being the case, they sure have started us on the right foot. After six hours of biochemistry, I think we were all ready to go home and catch up.

All the Rest

We had full days of school from 8 in the morning until 5 at night. A break for lunch and dinner were followed by more intellectual feedings. I don't know about my counterparts, but I was studying until 11:00 or later each night and trying to get up early enough to exercise before classes. The days are full; what else could I have expected?

Our first quiz was this week and we have already started dissecting our cadavers quite extensively. They want us to finish anatomy early on so we have a good understanding of human geography for the remainder of our education.

Murphy's Law

You know, 'if anything can go wrong, it will.' These are not problems with the school, but issues none the less. I am reconsidering my decision to save $400 by not purchasing a laptop protection plan. The girl next to me spilled her soda on her laptop only two days into the year. At least it wasn't a month later, but she still had to purchase a new one and this time she bought the protection plan. This warranty will usually cover everything from spills to running over your computer with a car. Unfortunately, you still run the risk of losing stored information.

When I chose my lender, I thought I was getting a great deal and saving quite a bit in the long run. Perhaps I should have gone with a well known lender. Only a few days into the year and they called to let me know they were changing their company organization and would not be able to guarantee when my loan would be available. That is bad news when your bank account cannot afford a $40,000 tuition cost. With my new lender, I think things are now moving in the right direction.

And with that I would say to anyone who has gotten this far, enjoy your free time. At least do it for those of us who don't get much.

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