Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rosh Hashanah

Shana tova. This traditional Hebrew or Jewish greeting is an expression of the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה).

Rosh Hashanah

Touro University is a smaller branch of the larger Touro College and as such holds true to its Jewish history. As Jewish men and women come together to celebrate this new beginning, I thought it would be appropriate to understand the significance of this important day in Jewish culture. Touro institutions give their students vacation time during this time of Holy Holidays, or
Yamim Noraim, which is considered one of the most important holidays.

Rosh Hashanah is considered as sacred as the Shabbat and is therefore a day of rest. The shofar, a trumpet made from a ram's horn, is sounded to wake those who "slumber" and alert them to their impending judgment. Symbolically, prayers are offered near moving bodies of water where bread or pebbles are thrown to signify one's sins being "cast off." From the first day of Rosh Hashanah, individuals are given ten days to repent and leave their sins behind before the arrival of Yom Kippur when names are written into the book of life or are "blotted out of the book of the living."

Similarly, traditional Jewish foods characterize this sacred holiday. As a "sweet" new year is expected, apples, honey and pomegranates are commonly served. Recipes include meats from the head of animals are used symbolically as Rosh Hashanah is literally translated to mean "head of the year." Challah, a round bread, represents the cycle of the year. Other typically Mediterranean foods are served such as dates, gourds and beans.

Though I am sure many students will use this three day vacation to catch up on their studies, it is great to know why we have the time off in the first place. This respite to a hectic life certainly plays a significant role in global appreciation.

Ketiva ve-chatima tovah,
"May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good Year."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heart of Gold

No longer pumping the fluid of life to the vital organs of its owner, this human heart has been cut out for the purpose of scientific and medical learning from someone with a heart of gold.

Medical Science

In my undergraduate anatomy course I took for granted the skill with which our human cadavers were dissected. Now in medical school we are responsible for learning the anatomical structures by careful use of the scapula and scissors. To preserve important structures and improve the overall appearance takes patience, effort and a careful hand.

This week we were responsible for opening the thoracic cavity. What may seem like a brutal task actually provided numerous learning opportunities. We explored the lungs in the pleural cavity and the heart in its minute detail. After removing the outer protective layer, the chambers of the heart were opened to reveal how a muscle so small could allow mankind to live.

It is a rather awe inspiring task to hold and clean the heart of another individual who likely has children, grandchildren and other family members. They laughed, cried, worked, served and struggled with the stress of life just as we do today. On top of it all they had a desire to donate their bodies to medical science for the purpose of educating medical students. Teaching others long after their hearts have stopped beating. I could never have imagined I would be in this position when I was younger.

There is so much yet to be learned as we deconstruct each part of the body to gain a working knowledge of its importance. Many resources are available for learning and identifying the thousands of structures. Lever soap only scratched the surface when they used the slogan "for all your 2000 body parts." The following is a list of helpful tools when trying to commit the body to memory:

  • Flash Cards - Popular Netter Flash Cards make studying anatomy more portable
  • Cadaver Anatomy - Learn and be quizzed with photographs from real dissections
  • Mnemonics - Make life a little simpler with medical mnemonics
  • Gray's Anatomy - Historically one of the best sources
  • Anatomical Models - Three dimensional models can tell more than a picture
Weekend Getaway

Living in the world's capital of entertainment, I find it hard to get away from the tourist traps occasionally. Las Vegas has a large array of events, shows, and activities available for all crowds and personalities. When it comes to inexpensive shows that deliver, you have to look a little harder. Craigslist is a great place to look when student loans are looming more than ever.

We were able to obtain tickets to a celebration in honor of Giacomo Puccini. For those who may not know, he was a writer of Opera over one hundred years ago. It was nice to leave the scrubs at home, dress up a little, sit back and admire the talent of classical opera. Although Italian is not my forte despite my heritage, the performance still fulfilled a need for something other than textbook culture.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Office Space

The den of a medical student, where learning is bursting at the seams. There are no skeletons in the closet and plenty of books to go around.

The Office

I am learning to spend the greater part of my home-life in the company of Mr. Bones. The office was on the priority list for completion from the day we moved in. Having the right place to study at home or on the road makes a big difference.

I chose to surround myself with anatomical anomalies which have proven very useful. Gifts from my childhood now line the shelves and fill the room with study aids or tools of the trade. Imagining the structural layout of the human body is just not the same as handling a 3-dimensional model or the real thing. But cadavers tend to carry a rather unpleasant odor that is better left at school.

Study environment has a lot to do with the success achieved. Productivity increases when the setting is just right. Some things to consider:

  • Temperature - Warm temperatures can lead to drowsiness
  • Comfort - Posture and seating, if poor, will reduce attention as the pain worsens
  • Nutrition - Decrease sugary/fatty foods and caffeinated beverages
  • Breaks - Study for an hour or two and then take a break to get a snack, shoot hoops, or get some fresh air - it's important to get up and move around at least a little
  • Groups - Input from others can be extremely beneficial, not to mention it is easier to stay on task when multiple people are sharing valuable time
Exam Week

This weekend has proven a respite from the stress of continual studying. We finished our first week of block exams and are quickly moving forward to the second. The great news is that I passed and will now be able to sleep better at night. One exam each day led to some really long evenings of study. It was certainly not the most difficult obstacle in my life, but being the first set of exams made it an uneasy experience.

With our last exam finished, the weekend was open for a little taste of freedom before starting the new material. Some found there ways to the mountains, others to the lake, and me, well I put up lights. I feel like that was my right of passage into manhood, holding so many electrical wires in my hand at once. Just don't laugh when I tell you the power was turned off first.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week of Wits

It's time to get out my trusty no. 2 pencil and put on my thinking cap. Our first week of block exams is already here.

Test Masters

Test masters know that you must fill in the Scantron test sheet very carefully to avoid mechanical errors. Don't let your mark leave the box or bubble, erase any changes completely, and above all else get your identification number right.

Mastery of the Scantron is crucial if you expect to succeed. More importantly though is the time and effort dedicated to acquiring the knowledge behind the answers. I thought the transition from high school to college was significant. I guess I simply had nothing to measure it by because I was mistaken. Moving up the ladder from college to medical school has been ten times more intense than my last educational leap of faith. We cover more material, in less time, and we are expected to know it well enough to heal the patients we see. You had better believe I am going to be studying more.

Study Time

Just like MCAT preparation, these exams have consumed the greater part of my daily routine. It goes something like this:

  • 8:00 Get to campus
  • Study and review materials
  • 12:00 Partly study, partly eat lunch, and partly get away from it all (thanks Youtube)
  • 1:00 Back to the grind
  • 5:00 Break for dinner
  • 5:30 Plant my nose back into the books
  • 8:30 Prop my head up to avoid falling asleep
  • 11:00 Leave campus
No sooner than I walk in my front door I am already questioning the material I covered 12 hours earlier. At that point it is just better to call it a night, so I can do it again the next day. Fortunately, the anatomy exam is first this week with a different exam each day, some easier than others. The goal is to stay fed, awake and sharp. After this week, we start all over with a new subject or two and more detail in the old ones.

Study Aids

One of the problems I have noticed is that there is so much information it is hard to limit yourself to the study aids. Certainly, if your course is using a text or Power Point presentation those would be the optimal resources. Other helpful ideas include:
  • Computer flash cards - Flashcard Machine or Flashcard Exchange
  • Study group - Two heads are definitely better than one
  • Review sessions - Too many will eat up study time, whereas some will highlight important information
  • Application settings - An example of this would be the cadaver lab for anatomy
  • Websites - Wikipedia is your friend though it may not be perfect, don't get too carried away with the rest
All this studying has its consequences too. My birthday yesterday had to have been one of the most boring as I sat in a room studying for hours. I now have 'Dunlap's disease' (my belly dun-lapped over my belt) as we sit and have limited time to exercise. All the new terms are running around in my head and somehow I have to get them into my fingertips so they can make it onto the Scantron. I just hope I remember my I.D. number when the time comes.

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