Sunday, July 31, 2011

Being a Patient is No Fun Pt.1

I miss the simpler days when I only ever had to go to a pediatrician when I was sick. All I had to do was sit on the bed, let him examine my throat and ears and I was done and out the door with a nifty sticker.

I went to the ER today for a dislocated shoulder...As someone who is interested in becoming a doctor, I thought I should blog about it, even if it's only a reminder to my future self that hey, being a patient for any reason can be scary and frustrating. Before I explain the whole ER trip, here's some back-story on my recurring injury:

Due to being on the wrestling team, I tore my left labrum which I vaguely recall my doctor referring to as a Bankart Lesion. The first doctor I went to assumed I was just loose-jointed and needed time to grow out of it. We sought a second opinion. Dr. M informed us that I had a torn labrum and he recommended surgery.

My parents weren't too thrilled. They grew up with the mentality that surgery isn't always a solution and harbored the hope that I could live with the injury. They kept hoping (wrongly) that the tear would heal itself, or if we pursued alternative methods, we could strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the shoulder joint. I grew up in a very bicultural home, so I learned about the merits of Eastern Medicine, but I didn't think anything could be done for my shoulder short of surgery.

We argued about it constantly. When I turned 18, I chose not to pursue the surgery option behind their back. It seemed wrong to go behind my parents like that and I wanted their support (or my own job and my own insurance plan).

Finally, years years later, I found Dr. A who is an orthopedic surgeon and specializes in shoulders. I'm not sure why my parents finally made the turn may have been that they finally realized my shoulder wasn't getting any better. In the years between meeting Dr. M and Dr. A, my shoulder would dislocated at the worst times, always when I'm doing something ridiculous and have my guard down: like taking off my jacket/closing the door with my left hand/ sleeping and unconsciously moving into a bad position.

I'm scheduled for surgery on Sept 7 at long last. Dr. A uses some type of plastic anchors instead of stainless steel (which my parents disliked). She's been very kind to explain AND diagram for me and my parents how the procedure would go.

Unfortunately, my shoulder couldn't wait another month and it dislocated itself today...ironically as I was taking my coat off. My next post on this topic will be about my adventures in and out of the ER :(

Friday, July 29, 2011


Recently, I came across this paragraph when reading an MCAT Update from my school's pre-health listserv:

"We have recently been seeing a large number of composite MCAT scores for...students/alumni in the mid-20s and below, which means they are probably taking the MCAT prematurely. Not only is this a problem for those applicants, but it also reflects negatively on [campus] applicants in general because medical schools often use mean institutional MCAT scores to determine how competitive an undergraduate school is. So study hard, use the practice exams to monitor your progress—and only take the MCAT when you are ready. You can do it!"

While I agree that people shouldn't take the MCAT prematurely, I found this e-mail incredibly condescending - using concern for the students to mask the message of "don't screw up this institution's reputation." I wish the listserv coordinator left it at "This reflects negatively on those applicants." I don't think stressed out pre-meds should be worrying about damaging their institution's reputation on top of the already nerve-wracking process of applying.

The same person in charge of this listserv also said to a friend, "I don't think you will get into pharmacy school, maybe you should look at something else." Regardless of his PCAT scores/GPA, I don't think students should be openly discouraged from pursuing a dream, even if the odds are not in their favor. Failures can become positive learning experiences, but no one can grow if the only trait that is being nurtured is low self-esteem because some aspect isn't "good enough."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


As mentioned previously, I've been visiting friends in the southern part of New Mexico in a town called Las Cruces.  I pretty much wasted the first week hanging around the house, playing with the cats, and playing countless hours of Xbox because lethargy is an important part of relaxing, hehe.  I have a mixed impression of the town.  Depending on where you are, it's part college-town, part suburbia, part retirement destination and part agricultural center.  I set out to explore during the second week of my stay, focusing on the natural and historical aspects, which included museums.  I liked taking pictures of the Organ Mountains from different angles and at different times of day.  The landscapes were unexpectedly breathtaking at times.  Rather than say 'I went here and saw this,' I decided to post a few pictures below to show things that I liked about the area in and around Las Cruces.  Most pictures were either taken on my friend's digital cam (not sure what) or by my itouch using the generic camera app or the Hipstamatic app.

Bill, the blacksmith demo volunteer from the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.  He showed us how blacksmiths back in the olden days, before America began building their own steel mills, recycled metal items such as horse shoes into practical items like knives.  It was a pretty cool demonstration overall.

I was playing around with the black and white filter for the itouch Hipstamatic app and I really liked how this one turned out.  The Farm and Ranch Heritage museum had a lot of animals as well as a docent-led tour of the farm portion.  Mainly the tour talks about a lot of all the different breeds of cattle that are used in agriculture.  Unfortunately, you can't pet any of the animals :/  

White Sands National Monument:  This part of the desert is composed entirely of gypsum, a soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate.  Part of it is a national park, while the remainder is military land.  The sand is suuuuper soft...softer than the sand on beaches.  Because the sand is also pure white, it reflects heat so you could actually walk barefoot comfortably during peak hours in the afternoon.  We also used copious amounts of sunblock...similar to how snow can reflect the sun's UV rays, gypsum sand can too.  I think this was the highlight of my trip.  The place is gorgeous.  The little pink thing in the middle is a little plush tofu toy...I usually bring it around on trips and take pictures with it, in lieu of taking a picture of myself.

The Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, New Mexico.  I liked the architecture, although the original structure was made of adobe instead of brick.  This church is located in the historic part of Mesilla, which is composed of buildings that were preserved (or rebuilt with preservation in mind) of the village as it grew from a colony to part of U.S. territory in 1854.  Overlooking the bloody history of how the U.S. became the U.S., the buildings are nonetheless cool and it was a quaint plaza for an afternoon stroll and souvenir shopping.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Those Darn Letters of Rec

My AmeriCorps contract has finally terminated and I am spending my first few weeks of unemployment on a mini-vacation that I saved up my preciously scant AmeriCorps money to enjoy: visiting friends in New Mexico.  We've been hiding from the southwest heat playing video games in between their jobs and cooking meals together.  

Now, I have to focus on the dreaded process of stalking asking professors for letters of recommendation for my applications.  It's a very nerve-wracking process - there is always that general fear of rejection.  I dislike requesting letters via e-mail since feels impersonal, but I don't have the option of being on campus.  Even as an undergrad, it was hard to catch a professor outside of office hours without a hoard of eager undergrads.  I also never felt like I stood out as a great student that deserved a great letter of rec - I wasn't the Smart Student who asked well-thought questions, but I was never the Annoying Student who asked random questions.  My "small" classes were almost always packed with 60+ more eager pre-meds.

In the process, I learned (the hard way) not to ask professors who never respond to student e-mails.  Although I prefer meeting with professors face-to-face, I also need someone who can respond to an e-mail even if it takes 3-4 weeks.  Since I won't be applying until next June, I can afford to wait 3-4 weeks for an e-mail.

I have one more professor to ask for a letter and hopefully that will be the last one to ask.  I'm excited that my Developmental Bio/Embryology professor agreed to write a letter for me since I LOVED the class.  Although, all I remember from that class is "ectoderm," "endoderm" and using my AWESOME Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens to re-draw/write all my notes from class.  The lab was fun too...I like being able to physically see most of what I was studying with a plain old light microscope, as opposed to globs of fluorescent markers. 

For now, I'll focus on compiling my unofficial transcripts and CVs for my current letter-writers and hope for the best on the last one.  Maybe I'll take a walk today and try to watch the sunset too.  Southwest sunsets are pretty, especially when there are a few clouds in the sky.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Brain Fart

I need to write my thank you e-mail to the non-profit staff and board of directors, as well as personalized thank you cards to specific individuals who helped me the most.  I don't know how to start.  Sigh.  I wish I was the type of person who could write eloquently like Michelle Au but unfortunately, I have always been rather colloquial even in my writing.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I decided to take the scenic route along the coast the other day to avoid any potential traffic as the result of construction on a new freeway exit.  I like living in San Francisco because sometimes, despite all the fog on the coast, you get sunny days like this where the sun and fog mix to create something really awesome.

The unfortunate thing about living in SF is that anything above 70F feels like a heatwave and I start melting -which is how I feel being only an hour north and an hour away from the coast.

New summertime goal is to run the Golden Gate Bridge, which is only about 2 miles to run across and back.  At the other end of this snapshot, there's a trail that winds around the coast for hikers, bikers and joggers.  I'd like to explore it now that I've discovered my interest in trail running.  There are also a number of marathons in the city, so it would be a fun diversion from MCAT-studying over the next few months.

Things stay relatively green in San Francisco year-round because the sun never feels hot enough to fry the grass.  Where I am living now, the regional parks only stayed emerald green for about a month after the rainy season.