Friday, November 8, 2013

The Journey Continues

Referring to the old adage, "Time flies when you're having..." well, "fun." 

Time has certainly flown and I am now deep into my second year of Med School. It has certainly been a wild ride and like any adventure, it has had its ups and its downs. But overall, it's been a blast!

At this very moment, I am sitting in a study room perusing over the endocrine system (Taking a break only to update my severely neglected blog). This probably seems like a poor choice for a Friday evening and I can imagine that most people my age would prefer to be doing something much more interesting. My response to this; It is all par for the course. 

Now that I am well into my second year, I have reached the marathon phase. With less than six months until I have to take the first part of the Medical Licensing board exams, you could probably say that I am around mile marker 13 or so. 

Don't let this fool you though. Medical School has been so much more than simply studying. I have been able to get involved in some really great organizations during my time here. One, for example, has allowed me to travel to conferences to interact with other medical students across the country and to learn how they do things in their respective schools. It is really quite interesting to see how other parts of the country view and handle medical education. Some schools still have the old curriculum where it is cutthroat and competitive while others have group based learning in which they work through case studies. I personally favor my own curriculum where we still have lecture based content with a healthy spattering of case studies. 

Well, unfortunately, the endocrine system calls. This was probably not my most robust posting, but on my schedule, it will have to do for now. I would say I promise to update soon, but I have made this promise so many times before and much like my bank account, it has been an empty one. Until next time...


"We often hear of people breaking down from overwork, but in nine out of ten they are really suffering from worry or anxiety."
-John Lubbock

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Patient Can Have as Many Diseases as He Damn Well Pleases

Well... I once again have dropped the ball. This time I have gone a good few months without posting much of anything. At this point, trying to fill everyone in about what has happened in the past few month would take a novel rather than a single post. So, the abbreviated version is that medical school is going really well! I have successfully completed my first semester and now I can officially say that I am one eighth of a doctor!

My schedule has been pretty hectic and trying fit everything in has definitely been a challenge. Fortunately, I like to be busy. Medical school has not let me down in that regard. I have classes everyday and right now my main class is my anatomy and physiology course. Of course, Umass feels that "anatomy and physiology"is too simple of a name so they call it "Development, Structure, and Function." Basically, this course provides the foundation of the human body and teaches us what "normal" and "healthy" structures are supposed to look like. We have to wait until next year to really start learning the hundreds of diseases and disorders that we are expected to learn for the board exams. 

What we have learned about diseases, is that patients can and will have many of them and that it is our job to sort things out. With patients that have many ailments, we are supposed to find a diagnosis that can explain all of them in one whack. For this, we use the concept of Occam's Razor, "When you hear hoof-beats think horses not zebras." That is to say, we should find the simplest and most concise diagnosis that explains everything and not try use several and far-fetched diagnoses to accomplish the same task. However, if this is not possible, then we may be required to fall back on the slightly modified Hickam's Dictum that states that, "A patient can have as many diseases as he damn well pleases."

Well I am out of time and I must go read up about the skull and the gazillion bones that go with it. 


"We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes."
-Sir Isaac Newton

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Beginning of a Journey

I know that it has been a while since I last posted anything here, but things have been really busy! For the past few months I have been trying to get everything in order to start medical school. Now that I am settled, I am going to try my best to keep up with this blog.  

So, let me get you up to speed!

The last time I posted, I had just gotten in to medical school. Now, I am in the middle of my first full week! 

So far, it has been a really great experience and I have met really awesome people.

I must say however, it is an entirely different culture than my undergraduate years. The atmosphere is lighter in a way and I believe it is because everyone truly wants to be here and everyone has the same goal. Umass is a great place. I know in other medical schools there is a large amount of competition. Umass has adopted a pass/fail system for the first two years and there is no public ranking. This is a great system because it eliminates the competition associated with medical school. No one is out to beat anyone and it really makes for a great system.

One question that I seem to get a lot is about the work. The material isn't necessarily more difficult, but there is a lot more of it all at once. I believe the analogy that seems to be circulating is that of trying to drink from a fire hose.

I promise to try and keep posting, but for now I have to go study!


Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it's always your choice.
-Wayne Dyer

Friday, April 20, 2012


Well here is the big news that everyone has been waiting for... I have been accepted into the University of Massachusetts Medical School Class of 2016! 

It has been a long road and a 10 month process, but patience has finally paid off.

This news means that this blog will stay healthy and alive throughout my education. I hope to write at least weekly to share my experiences with family, friends, and anyone who is thinking or interested about medical school.

Thank you for all of the support that I have received!


A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.
-George Savile

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are You A Cyberchondriac?

We have all met hypochondriacs and we have all probably been guilty of being one at some point in our lives. We can easily recognize the signs of someone who constantly claims that there is something wrong with them. Week after week they claim to suffer from one ailment or another. Usually, we ignore them and brush off their symptoms because let's face it, nine times out of ten there is nothing really wrong. 

Now, however, these hypochondriacs come armed with the power of the internet. Not only do they believe that there is something wrong with them, but they now are also trying to diagnose themselves with websites such as WebMD. This phenomenon has become such a widespread issue that the term cyberchondria has been coined. By definition, a cyberchondriac is someone who consistently tries to diagnose their own conditions through the use of the internet. Getting a sense of what may be ailing you is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a bad thing, however, when you replace an experienced and educated physician with a website. 

In theory, WebMD is a decent resource if you want to look up a condition or to look up some medication that you may be taking. The thing that makes WebMD troublesome is their symptom checker. This tool makes it all too easy for people to type in their symptoms and receive a diagnosis. For example, if I enter in chest pain with a dull achy pain localized to one side WebMD will tell me to seek emergency help before giving me my probable diagnosis. This is great and this is exactly what the website should do, but then it gives me a list of conditions. The first diagnosis is muscle strain and the second is asthma. Neither of these conditions strike me as terribly ominous, especially if I do not have asthma, so why would I seek emergency care? In reality, I could be having a heart attack. WebMD told me to call 911, but then they said it was a muscle pull. Most people, do not want to have a life threatening condition and a lot of people will accept the diagnosis of a muscle pull over the chance that they could be having a heart attack. This, my friends, is where WebMD, in my opinion, is flawed.

I have used WebMD in the past and it has worked okay, but recently, I have found a new website. This healthcare information website is W3Clinic . This website makes no attempt to diagnose your symptoms and honestly, I think it is better that way. It does however provide in depth information for a wide range of conditions, medications, different medical tests, first aid, nutrition, and even a dictionary to look up technical medical jargon. The best part about W3Clinic is that the content is written and moderated by board-certified physicians.

As always, never attempt to diagnose yourself and never take medication without consulting your doctor. Healthcare information websites are meant for informational purposes only and should never be used in place of emergency or standard care. 


The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.
-Caskie Stinnett

Monday, March 26, 2012

Deepest Solo Dive

Yesterday, James Cameron, the director of Avatar and Titanic, completed the world's deepest solo dive into the Mariana Trench. The dive, which was around 30,000 feet marks the first time anyone has visited the trench since the 1960's. 

The goal was for Cameron to collect samples of rocks, sediments, and small marine life. He also was responsible for collecting images of never before seen surroundings. It is expected that his journey will appear on the National Geographic Channel. It is also noteworthy that his images may appear on Google Earth as trenches such as the Mariana Trench are the only regions on earth without Google data.

It is also expected that his experiences will provide inspiration for the next Avatar movie. Coincidentally, the plot of the next movie revolves around an unexplored underwater world. You can be sure that the creatures seen in the movie will have some resemblance to the creatures seen 30,000 feet under. 

Cameron described the Trench as a "completely black world" and said that the marine life are white and have obviously adapted to live under extreme pressure. He went on to describe how completely overwhelming the surroundings are and compared the experience to the Apollo moon landing. In a very real sense, his experience does mark a giant leap for mankind into the watery abyss.

It is hopeful that there will be more dives in the immediate future. The potential for this new terrain is massive. Who knows what kind of new creatures will be found and what kinds of medicinal properties lie hidden. I personally cannot wait to see the images and I am looking forward to the discoveries that arise from this exploration.


Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.
-Christopher Reeve

Monday, March 19, 2012

Frozen Planet

Last night was the season premier of Discovery Channel and the BBC's co-production Frozen Planet. This was a great documentary about both the Arctic and the Antarctic. If you are interested in nature or animal life at all, I highly recommend watching this series. While yesterday was a two hour premier, the normally one hour series will continue on Sunday nights at 8:00 PM Eastern/Pacific Time. 

The series monitors and records various groups of animals, including polar bears, penguins, wolves, whales, and even caterpillars, as they interact in the wild. With the emergence of high definition technology, the footage is unbelievable. It is remarkable how different species interact and have optimized their lifestyles to survive in such a harsh environment. I guarantee that you will learn something interesting and new from watching this series and be absolutely blown away by the quality and clarity of the images. 

Personally, I learned that the Woolly bear caterpillar can live for 14 years before undergoing metamorphosis and turning into a moth. That makes it the oldest living caterpillar species. During the winter months the caterpillar actually is frozen solid and its organs shut down, but a natural antifreeze protects ice crystals from forming inside its cells. When the spring thaw comes, the caterpillar wakes up and continues right where it left off! I find this absolutely amazing and a tribute to the mysterious works of nature. 

For more information and a live penguin cam check out the Frozen Planet page.


This journey is not over. Our education initiatives have so much momentum, and we're committed to sharing even more stories from the Arctic when we return.
-Ann Bancroft