Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas, Sicko

I was on call on Christmas day and night. Initially I expected it to be a calm night with an empty emergency room, however, I soon realized it was the complete opposite.

The ED was full of people seeking medical attention for what I considered trivial reasons: a sore throat, a wound check, or best of all, a medication refill. It was truly surprising. Were these issues that important that they couldn't wait another day? Did they really find it preferable to be in a sterile, crowded emergency room than at home with their family or friends enjoying a nice Christmas evening?

I do realize that half of these people were likely homeless and were thus looking for a warm place to spend the holiday, but that doesn't explain the other half. To them, I simply wanted to yell at them to go home and leave these minor issues for a later date ... thus giving them, and me, a less hectic Christmas.

Merry Christmas, welcome to the hospital tonight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Halfway There

I almost forgot: today marks precisely the halfway point of this retched year!
Only 26 more weeks of being at the bottom of the ladder. Only 26 more weeks of scutwork and paperwork. And most importantly, only 26 more weeks of pre-rounding.
Not that I'm counting or anything ....

Holiday Dinner, Hospital Style

I had a special holiday dinner here at the hospital tonight, and the food was actually pretty tasty. Even more amusing was having the CEO of the hospital in the cafeteria, serving us food. And to top it off, we all got gifts!
This is my second holiday dinner served by the hospital -- first Thanksgiving, now Christmas. I suppose I could be saddened how my workplace (and not mama) is serving my holiday dinners, but it's ok ... at least it was festive.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Paradigm Shift

One Week Ago
The Caribbean is not enough. This island isn't quite as good as I expected it to be. The beaches are too crowded, there aren't enough beaches, the sun is shining too hard, and I'm getting bored just sitting on the beach reading all day long. I feel I should be more productive with my life.

I am a complete idiot. I would give almost anything to be back on that beach (in fact, I would give almost anything to be anywhere but the hospital). I cannot believe I was unable to fully appreciate a Caribbean island -- any Caribbean island -- when it was filled only with beaches and sun and large an abundance of lazy days. I knew how miserable the hospital was, and I knew I would have to return to that hell within a few days, and I still couldn't fully appreciate it. Now look at me ... I've spent 40 of the last 48 hours in this hospital. Damn.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Doctor Doctor!

Here on vacation, thoughts flow much more freely over drinks. My surgical intern friend and I spent half an hour describing the annoying text pages we get in the middle of the night, all regarding very important -- rather: "important" -- topics. (Note: this is not meant to ridicule or take a swipe at nurses. It is how we amuse ourselves to get through the misery of this year.)
  • Doctor doctor, please change Colace order from tid to bid. (really, this needs to be done at 4am?!)
  • Doctor doctor, FYI: pt's blood sugar is 78, pt asymptomatic. (don't ever again page me to tell me pt is asymptomatic)
  • Doctor doctor, pt's systolic blood pressure is 85, shall I give metoprolol? (no, which is why I wrote parameters to hold if SBP<90)
  • Doctor doctor, pt is nauseous, please write for Zofran. (who are you? what pt is this for? how about a callback number?)
  • Doctor doctor, pt doesn't feel well. please advise! (yup, we've gotten these!)
 Luckily, laughing helps wash away the tears.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hello from the Caribbean

Greetings from the Dutch Caribbean! Believe it or not, I had no clue this island (or most of the others here) was Dutch-owned until I arrived here. Believe it or not again, I also had no clue where this island was (just off the coast of Venezuela). Pretty exotic locale for a simple little intern like me ...
Sitting on the beach with a tropical drink in hand is MUCH preferable to being in the hospital. I don't ever want to step foot in there again, and I am already dreading my return. My friend -- a surgical intern -- feels exactly the same way and more.
Only a few more days until paradise ends ... time to take advantage of it!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving: not having to step foot into the hospital for two weeks. Yes, two weeks! Today marks the beginning of my two-week vacation, and I have no intention of getting near that damn hospital. I plan to take full advantage of this vacation, starting with turning off my pager followed immediately by a one-week trip to the Caribbean.

Driving home from the hospital this morning was also great, as the freeways were completely empty. It was the perfect opportunity to test out my new car's handling ... as well as its 0-100mph time.

OK, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Pager

If it goes off one more time within the next five minutes, I swear I'm
gonna throw it against the wall. I can't put my head down for a few
minutes without this annoying ass little box beeping loudly and
startling me.

Ideally, I'd put my pager AND the patients in a box ... and send them all away.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Random Thoughts 2

  • I am in the CCU these days (cardiac care unit, i.e. ICU for heart patients) and am consistently working 15+ hour days most days of the week. It’s amazing how quickly this sort of schedule can eliminate most of your free time and kill any semblance of a social life.

  • Being in the CCU, I am part of the code blue team and thus have to carry an additional pager … bringing my waistline to a total of two pagers (which also tends to pull my scrubs down). For the first few minutes, wearing both pagers made me feel cool. Then I felt like an ultra-dork. And now all I feel is double the anxiety and terror since I am attached to two leashes that can easily and quickly ruin my night.

  • I hate nurses who useless send "FYI" pages. I often get text pages that say “FYI: pt X has blood sugar 85 and is asymptomatic”. If he’s asymptomatic, why page me?! I swear, if I get another one of these pages, I’m paging them back next time I’m in the bathroom saying “FYI: I'm taking a crap. But asymptomatic.”

  • I bought a new car! New new, not new used. As much as I loved my old car, this new one makes the grieving process much easier.

  • It is Saturday night, and I am home alone. Granted I'm on call tomorrow and need to get sleep tonight, but still ... could I be a bigger loser?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Life Sucks

It's 3:35am and I'm admitting my third rule out MI patient tonight. This morning. Whatever.
This is why, when med students ask me what field to go into, I say "business".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Clinic Inefficiency

Another clinic day, another day of incompetence. We residents each have one afternoon a week devoted to our own continuity clinic -- in other words, our own primary care clinic where we have our own panel of patients. They are my patients, and I am their doctor.

More precisely, I am their slow doctor. Starting my very first clinic day, I quickly realized that I am very inefficient. We are typically assigned three to four patients an afternoon, and since these patients are all new for us we are allotted one hour per patient -- as opposed to the 30 minutes we get once they are return patients. Despite all this time we get, I still am extremely pressed for time trying to see the patients, presenting them to our attending, returning to finish up with the patient, and then typing up my note ... or at least the first half of it.

No matter how much I struggle to quicken our encounter, I cannot finish in time. Their endless complaining and my endless attempts to “briefly” touch on each of their complaints makes the clock jump forward faster than I believe. I try to rush things, but I still finish at least 15 minutes late each time. Add to this the fact that many patients arrive late, and you can easily see why I leave clinic around 7pm, even though my last patient is scheduled for 4pm.

This situation is both discouraging because I feel so incompetent, and also irritating because I try hard to be efficient ... only to end up failing.

So, all you practicing doctors, I reach out to you ... how do you do it? How are you able to handle your schedules with so many patients, and on a daily basis too? How do you deal with so many patients? the patients with 10+ problems? the patients who don’t stop talking? How do you see them in the 15-30 minutes of a typical clinic office visit? I can barely keep up with my schedule of 3-4 patients, despite the fact that I’m given over twice as much time as most practicing clinicians.

More importantly, how do you not get tired seeing patient after patient, all immediately after one another? Does it get easier? I really hope so, because at this rate I definitely will not be able to see enough patients to remain financially solvent in the future ... student loans aren’t paid back at four patients a day, you know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Continuing to Sicken Our Veterans

For those who are not familiar, the VA (or Veterans Administration) hospital is the government-provided healthcare system for US military veterans. Considering it is a governmental organization, it actually provides great healthcare. Residents in my program rotate frequently through the local VA.

Anyway, today I saw a sign in the VA cafeteria that said “Continuing to Serve Our Veterans” next to a photo of a discounted meal combination consisting of a greasy hamburger, fries, and soda.

Continuing to serve veterans? Ha! First the government fucked up our veterans’ lungs by packing cigarettes into their lunches, and now they’re continuing to ruin their cardiovascular system by only serving nasty, greasy hamburgers and fries in the cafeteria.

I love it. Thankfully the veterans don’t have to pay for their bypass surgeries.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Eating My Words

You should never challenge the higher powers ...

Remember how I said in my previous post that "there are very few ways" to have this golden weekend of mine ruined? Well "very few" is a bigger amount than I thought.

I walked out of the hospital -- post-call, again -- into the parking lot, only to find my car gone. As in, not in the spot I had parked it in the day before. Not in that spot or any spot for that matter. It is a weird feeling walking into a parking lot expecting your car to be in a very specific spot (since I park in the exact same spot every day), and another car is in its place.

I walked around, stunned, for about 15 minutes, before I realized it had probably been stolen. This was the last thing I needed on a post-call day. Come to think of it, this was the last thing I needed ever.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Anatomy of a Lousy Labor Day Call

Nothing like a black weekend to ruin a holiday weekend. Read on:

Saturday, 7am.
I arrived at the hospital. The radio started playing a song I really like so when I got out of my car in the parking lot, I kept the keys in the ignition to keep listening to the song as I got my belongings together. But then I slammed the door shut ... with the keys still in the ignition. After ten minutes of prying at every car door and worrying about how this could ruin my morning, I remembered I had a spare key in my wallet. Potential bombshell averted.

Saturday, 7am – Sunday, 3pm.
I endured a grueling night of overnight call. On top of getting slammed with patient admissions – apparently Labor Day weekend drives people to the emergency room in hordes – I had to cross-cover 21 other medicine patients. Nothing more enjoyable than being kept awake all night by a patient going into respiratory failure with no urine output, especially when the sign-out reported "Nothing to do". While that patient didn't die, my cell phone did.

Sunday, 3pm.
Done with my night of call! I walked to my car, turned the key, and heard nothing. No engine sounds, no nothing. In that effort to rescue my locked-in keys the previous morning, I had forgotten to turn off my headlights. With a dead cell phone and no other car in sight to help me, I trudged back to the hospital in order to call AAA.

Sunday, 3pm – 5pm.
I waited alongside my car, with nothing to eat or read, wearing goofy green scrubs, for two hours. Just as I was about to return to the hospital to call AAA again -- what a day to have my cell phone battery drained -- they showed up. One new battery and $120 later, I was on my way back home.

Talk about a comedy of misfortunes ... at least I have this upcoming golden weekend to look forward to. There are very few ways to have those ruined.

Friday, August 31, 2007


It's ten weeks into internship, and I feel surprisingly down, bored, and unmotivated. I can barely get through my long days, which consist of pre-rounding on a bunch of patients whose exams and complaints don’t change from one day to the next, ordering a handful of tests on the computer, rounding for at least an hour, trying to track down all those test results, and then dealing with the pleasure of figuring out my patients’ social situations and dispositions since half of them have nowhere to return to upon discharge – except the street, of course. My day is capped off by going home and having no energy to do anything -- read, socialize, or enjoy previous hobbies -- but sleep.

I am depressed that I don’t get to do anything hands-on for any of these patients to help them get well (unlike the surgeons and emergency room doctors who do lots of procedures), and I am completely uninterested in dealing with all the patients’ medical problems (as opposed to just the one acute issue bringing them to the hospital).

I hate spending hours on rounds. I want more doing and less discussing. I don’t care anymore about patients’ social issues. I actually don’t care much for patients anymore either. I don’t want to be shat on by other services. And most of all, I can’t stand to be around the few of my co-interns who are “having a blast” this year.

Although I hope not, I wonder if this entire "journey" is a mistake. Hopefully this is simply the plight of the intern, and not me having chosen the wrong specialty (internal medicine) ... or, the wrong field entirely (medicine).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I Should Have Gone Into Surgery

Title says it all. But in case you want additional details, here are a few:

They focus on just one problem
While medicine doctors focus on the acute problem during patient hospitalizations and clinic visits, they also have to address ALL other problems (hypertension, diabetes, lower back pain, anemia, etc.) Surgeons, on the other hand, address only their body part of expertise and that’s it. No more optimizing a cardiac patient's complex problems ... and then having to deal with their random bowel incontinence they get once a year.

Their history and physical are focused.
This is the best part. Based on your specialty, you can focus your questions and exam to just that one organ system. Examining the body head to toe gets to be quite tedious and rarely do you uncover a hidden physical finding that changes your management plan. I would love to just examine the abdomen and then be done.

If not altogether unnecessary.
Given how dependent the medical field has become on imaging these days, who cares what the patient complains about. You don’t care as much about chest pain when the echo shows aortic stenosis, and you definitely don’t care if a patient can’t move their arm when an x-ray shows a huge spiral fracture.

They know how long their patients will be hospitalized.
OK, THIS is the best part. Surgical patients fall into one of three categories: pre-op, intra-op, or post-op, and each period usually lasts several days. This is great for morale -- the physician’s morale, that is -- and patient turnover. No more rocks on your service!

They wear scrubs everyday.
I am not as passionate about this reason, but if I could bring my dressing time in the mornings from 15 minutes down to 1, that would be great. Although, I do look pretty good in shirt and tie ... .

Their notes are brief.
No, THIS is the best part, and it's a by-product of the “they focus on just one problem” reason. I would love not to be bogged down by writing notes, which often takes close to an hour with a full load of patients. Surgeon notes are often overly terse, but they convey their message well; on the other hand, medicine notes document every piece of information ever tied to the patient, whether they’re lab values, antibiotic histories, or elementary school grades.

I know some of this might be overly simplified, but it does capture the essence of how I presently see things.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

No Longer a Medical Student

While I know that I'm now an intern, I often forget it. In other words I sometimes forget I am no longer a medical student. I am no longer just a tag-along member of the team that needs to feign non-stop enthusiasm and over-eagerness. I am now the intern, and so I'm one of the "real" team members. I can now behave how I want instead of the way that I think will earn me good evaluations.

As a med student, I would only speak when spoken to, cling to the team like glue during rounds, and make sure not to do anything that wasn't directly related to patient care. Now, I speak whenever I want, I walk away from the team at any time during rounds, and say I receive a text message during rounds ... that's right, I whip out my phone right there and reply back.

I realize I probably sound unprofessional -- and perhaps even assholic -- but whatever, I have earned my new position, I am working hard, and so I enjoy taking these little liberties. It's all I have to get me through the day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

First Night of Call as Intern

What did I get myself into? It is 6pm and I just got home from my first night of overnight call at the hospital. Yesterday was the first day of this rotation -- inpatient wards, which will be the bulk of my internal medicine training -- which means I was on call my first day. I guess I spoke too soon earlier when I said they hit you fast and they hit you hard.

Starting off the horrible day/night continuum was the fact that I took over the five patients the previous intern had. Taking on patients that you do not know is always difficult, especially medicine patients who have many problems to manage. Then throughout the night I picked up four new patients, each of whom takes awhile to admit because of admission H&P’s (history and physical exams) and admission orders. On top of this was the difficult task of cross-covering every other teams’ patients, which means getting paged randomly throughout the night by nurses about patient X’s tachycardia or patient Y’s diarrhea or patient Z’s itchiness. Itchiness? Come on, just scratch it yourself! When your team is being slammed with patients, prescribing Immodium is hard to take seriously.

On top of all that, add the grueling struggle of trying to keep my eyes open since it had been months since I was last on call -- last November, precisely, in medical school.

And then, post-call, dead tired, and zombie-like, I had to churn out notes for all my patients, none of whom I knew too well. It took me quite late into the day ... so much for the ACMGE mandated 30-hour limitation.

Again, what did I get myself into?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Patient Surprises

Patients never seem to amaze or shock me. Every time I think I have seen and heard it all -- and I admit I have few clinical experiences to draw upon compared to others -- a patient will come and stun me with his response.

Recently, I was in clinic interviewing a very drunk man who presented with a benign complaint. He reported that he had been experiencing this complaint for several months, so I naturally asked him why he waited so long to present. In very slurred speech he replied that he couldn't return to the state ... because of the federal warrant against him!

I have had many jail patients in the past, but at least they were in restraints because of their crimes. This patient, though, was apparently still on the loose for his deeds ... and I don't know much about the law, but I feel a federal warrant seems fairly serious.

So immediately I distanced myself a few inches from him and made sure to keep a clear path between me and the door. I tried to probe a little and get some details on his warrant, but he really couldn't stay awake long enough. Plus, I quickly deemed he was not much of a threat after all, given that he kept nearly falling off the exam table.

But still, despite the amusement afterwards, it was for a moment one of my more frightening patient encounters.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I think my index finger spent more time inside rectums today than it did outside of them. Not really, but I sure performed a lot of digital rectal exams (DRE) ... in fact, I did more today than I did during my entire medical school career. In fact again, I was such an eager intern that I even gave one of my patients not one, but two rectals. Aren't you proud of me?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cross Cover

Shit, they hit you hard and they hit you fast.

It's yesterday. I got back from clinic around 6pm. Although I was pretty tired, I had just enough energy and time to go on a short run. I returned moderately refreshed from the run and prepared a nice dinner for myself ... fresh fish, fresh vegetables, the works. I was eating this dinner and watching a favorite DVD when my pager went off.

The page was from one of our chief residents requesting that I "help out" at the hospital for the night. I was still hoping for the best, but unfortunately upon calling her back I found out a fellow intern had an unexpected emergency. So "helping out" meant "taking overnight call in the hospital for the night."

Oh no you didn't.

Panic set in, as I my mind raced to figure out what to do, both at home (getting rid of my dinner, changing into scrubs, and trying to remember to turn off the stove [which I have a tendency to leave on]) and at the hospital ... after all, it had been 3 months since I'd dealt with patients and 7 months since I had done any inpatient hospital work. I was in no shape to admit new patients at 3am.

The night was demanding but luckily not at all as stressful and intense as it could have been. I managed about two hours of sleep, and since the team had capped (admitted the maximum number of patients) by the time I arrived, there were no new admissions for me. Thankfully.

This was, however, a rude awakening for my system, and quickly made it concrete in my mind that I was an intern. I suppose I should expect much more of this ... just please, not in the middle of dinner.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Internship Day One

The first day of internship was today. Actually internship began yesterday (Sunday), but I am starting with an outpatient rotation and thus began work today. My hours are set, and I work everyday from 8am to 7pm, mostly in an urgent care clinic. That itself makes my day tiring (there's never a shortage of urgent care patients), on top of the fact that I am now working 11 hour days ... up from zero for the past 5 months!

To top it off, I am also this month's "backup" intern, meaning I have to be available at all times via pager in case another intern gets sick or cannot show up work for any reason. They definitely waste no time making me a slave to my pager.

I am tired so I now have to turn in for the night. More updates to follow ... but I have survived. One day down, 1094 to go.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Medicine Orientation and Overload

Taking a sip from a fire hydrant -- that's what this week has been like. The orientation for our department was today, and we were bombarded with even more information, and this time it affects us in a very real way (as opposed to the fluffy rules and regulations presented in the hospital orientation, such as effective teamwork, etc.).

We were each handed a heavy packet of items, and quickly the realities of internship started to face us. First, of course, was the pager. Everyone immediately began playing with it, causing a roomful of pagers to start beeping. We haven't even started internship and I already hate that little black box, though I know it gets even worse.

Next was our schedule, which is something we have all been waiting for desperately. Right away the next 12 months of our lives were determined, as were our call nights and holidays (or lack thereof). And I am happy to tell you that I will be on call both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Finally, the most awakening part of the packet was a prescription pad. Yes, a prescription pad. I'm barely out of medical school, and I'm being given a prescription pad. My impulse reaction was to think "no, those are for doctors", and then I realized that technically I too am now a doctor.

So with that one packet our futures were rudely whipped into shape. It was definitely an informative, if not overwhelming, day. And it will definitely be a busy, if not painful, year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hospital Orientation

Orientation began yesterday, and it is extremely boring. Mind-numblingly boring. As if 3 hours of welcome from the hospital chiefs wasn't enough, we had to sit through 9 -- yes, nine! -- hours of computer training. Overwhelming doesn't even begin to explain it, as every two hours a new topic or computer system would be covered. By the end of the night, we had learned about four different systems and I remembered zero.

The day was even more challenging as I could barely keep my eyes open, since for some reason I was unable to fall asleep the night before. I had no reason to be nervous, I kept telling myself as I tossed and turned in bed until 3:30am! Not helpful considering I had to wake up at 5:30am. Luckily I slept well the next night.

This week was also the first time the incoming interns were able to meet each other. While the lecture hall format of the day made it difficult to spend significant time with anyone, we mingled some and no one jumped out as being overly annoying or weird. I'm hopeful they will be cool, as this is a group that will be working very closely together the next few years.

Time to give my eyes a rest now ... 9 hours in front of a screen is no small feat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Waiting Anxiously for Internship

Life is pretty easy these days as I wait for the start of internship, although the more accurate word might be lazy. My days are filled with watching TV and my DVDs. A large portion of time is also devoted to browsing the web, but I get so bored at times that even the almighty internet cannot entertain me (it is these days that I feel I've visited every site on the internet.) In addition, the dog probably isn't used to me being home this much and so she is slightly confused; I spend a good portion of my day pleading with her not to stare at me.

But as the big day looms closer, I am also starting to get a little anxious. If given the choice I would definitely say I'm excited to start internship -- as opposed to the many people who are dreading it -- but I would also like to delay it almost as long as possible. All of a sudden I am realizing what is expected of me in terms of the responsibilities of patient care.

I keep thinking back to my many interns during medical school and wonder if I can handle those sorts of duties and expectations. I had no problem uncovering problems and communicating them to the intern, but attempting to solve those problems was an entirely different matter ... who knows if I'll even know where to begin. My only comforting thought is that thousands of people have gone through this in the past, and so I too should be able to cope.

And maybe that is why I am engrossed daily in such brainless, non-medical activities ... in addition to passing the time, perhaps I am trying to distract myself from various frightening realities about internship. With that said, time to get back to Boomshine. Watch out, it's pretty addictive!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


They certainly don't waste any time piling on the paperwork onto new doctors.

Just a few days after my graduation I received in the mail a large envelope from the hospital where I will be doing residency, filled with a thick stack of papers that dealt with anything and everything related to my upcoming employment with them. Moreover, most of them were important forms that I feel I should be an "adult" to deal with ... this includes forms such as W-2, W-4, I-9, and many other boring federal and state government papers. They weren't just for show, either -- I had to read and sign each of them!

Most amusing was one of the forms I had to sign where I swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States [...] against all enemies, foreign and domestic." I suppose this is because technically I will be employed by the state university system -- aka, the government.

Luckily there also were a few forms that dealt with more fun and exciting issues, as there were some papers detailing my salary (money, finally!) and vacation request forms (4 weeks per year!). I also got to specify how I want my name to appear on my business cards.

Time to get crackin' with these worksheets.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Say hello to Dr. Axis Deviation!

That's right ... I am now done with medical school. The feeling has not quite set in yet, and it probably won't for some time -- I am guessing it will be around the time internship begins -- but it fun to think of myself as a "doctor". Fun and weird, especially since I still consider myself the same goofy kid as before.

With graduation this past weekend, I have also now advanced past the ranks of medical student to doctor. "Doctor". In the morning I was a lowly student, and then all of a sudden I became a doctor, one of the most prestigious professions in the world. Quite a big jump in social status for one day. Let's see if I can handle it!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Back From Traveling

Yes, it's true. My two months of international travel, sadly, is over. I got a great glimpse of South America (hot beaches and arctic weather) and central Europe (lots of beer and great food), and I hope to return to both places in the future. And unfortunately, no more extensive vacations ... well, ever, probably.

I now have to transition quickly from travel mode to graduation mode, as the next few days will be a whirlwind of graduation related activities, from a pre-graduation banquest and award ceremony to graduation rehearsals and finally the ceremony itself.

Stay tuned for some possibly interesting entries about graduation.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hello from Central Europe

(I'd translate "hello" to the local language, but it's way too difficult!)

The travelling continues. I am now -- and have been for the past two weeks -- in Central Europe (Middle Europe? Eastern Europe?) visiting several countries. All these countries are post-Communt, so it is interesting to see how they are trying to reshape their image to more, Western ways. Luckily one is famous for its beer and one for its wine, so already they're fine in my book.

I will soon be returning back home to the states, only to deal with med school graduation and all that is necessary for my relocation for residency. Till then, ahoj!

Monday, April 23, 2007

So What Do You Do?

I have just returned from nearly three weeks of travel, touring several countries in South America. It was a great trip and I regret not being able to travel longer.

While I still have no medical anecdotes to report, some interesting moments did occur during my trip as a result of me being in medical school. Because I am essentially done with medical school -- graduation is next month, but my classes/clerkships ended last month -- when people asked me what I did, I simply told people I was a doctor. My responses weren't far from the truth at all ... I said I had just finished with medical school and I would be starting internship very soon.

(Interestingly, Americans were intrigued by newly-minted doctors, while foreigners were not.)

Inevitably they would start asking follow-up questions such as what specialty I had chosen, why I went into medicine, and other related topics. These conversations were amusing and enjoyable at first, however, I quickly grew tired of them. After the first few of these conversations I knew exactly what question(s) people would ask next, and all my answers were canned.

I therefore came up with an alternative response to the question "What do you do?" I just told people I was in "healthcare". That usually elicited a response similar to "Oh that's a good field" ... and then the conversation usually ended.

It was great. With this wise choice of words, I evaded that repetitive conversation. It worked great the rest of the trip ... although one woman pried a little by asking "What do you do in healthcare?" to which I responded "I work in a hospital."

It is funny how certain things in medicine are so exciting initially, but whose novelty wears off quickly. Other examples include wearing my white coat (I was so excited the first time I wore it but now I can't stand wearing that short white coat) and having a pager (my first page was exciting, while every single one thereafter was annoying). I can only assume more of these situations will arise in the future, and so I should just accept them now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hello from Argentina

Hola again!
I am writing you all from near the bottom of the earth. While I entered Argentina through Buenos Aires -- which is a great and lively city -- we then flew further down south, to the Patagonia region of this country ... which, if you refer to a map, approaches the bottom of the globe. I am probably upside down compared to most of you (at least those in the US)!
Patagonia offers LOTS of amazing scenery and some of the planet´s greatest outdoor sites. Mountains, glaciers, towers of granite, fjords, it has it all. It is also quite cold here, which is unfortunate since I wasn´t expecting to take this excursion and thus only packed beach clothing. Not wise, but a little 0.4 degree Celsius never killed anyone, right? (OK, it probably does.)
Until next time, chau!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Greetings from South America

Buenos dias!
I am writing from the nice beaches of Uruguay. This particular city is where many people in South America -- as well as some Americans -- flock to when it gets hot. It is actually fall here (we are in the southern hemisphere) so the masses of people are no longer here, but with Easter weekend approaching there should be a ton of people visiting for the next few days.
Uruguay is an impressively modern country, with great internet connections, fancy stores, and drinkable water. If it weren´t so far from America, I might consider buying a second home here ... and with prices starting in the $80s for a small apartment, you gotta consider it!
Anyway, we´ll be here for a few more days and then move on to another country. Till then, adios!
P.S. I wish I had taken Spanish in high school. French, unfortunately, is a totally useless language for journeys such as this (as well as practicing medicine in California!)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

No More Medical School

My rotations finished two weeks ago, meaning I am done with medical school. Since graduation is still months away (end of May) that also means I have nothing to do until then. Unfortunately, this weblog will probably suffer temporarily as I have nothing medically-related to report. Fortunately for me, though, this means I have almost three months to play around.

Which reminds me ... I should start packing soon for my trip to South America tomorrow.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Post-Match Day Thoughts

Now that Match Day is well in the past, I thought I would share some thoughts regarding that entire experience.

When I think about it, that was truly the worst experience I have ever experienced -- at least the worse experience I have participated in voluntarily. Not the overall residency application process, but just Match Day itself.

There is something unusually stressful about this day ... whether it is knowing about Match Day from the very day you enter medical school, or realizing that Match Day is a more significant event than graduation, or just realizing that the envelope you are holding in your hand, once opened, will declare where you will be forced to stay for the next several years of your life (for better or worse) ... whatever the reason, it is enough to turn the sane insane.

What the contents of the envelope reveal is an entirely different story. It is difficult enough waiting for Match Day to arrive, but finding out where on your rank list you were assigned is potentially much more difficult. Unfortunately I tend to set my heart things, and when they don't happen I get demoralized. The same thing occured here -- I was set on my #1 choice and had been planning my short-term future around it; and so when I opened the envelope and saw I was off to #2, I was devastated. It made that day pretty tough when responding to all the people who asked me "Are you happy?"

Anyway, there is a first time for everything ... and luckily this will be its last time too.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


So, 15,252,514 minutes ago ...

or, 10,592 days ago ...

or, 1508 weeks ago ...

or, 29 years ago ...

I guess I was born.


This is the last year of my 20s. Next year I will be 30, and next thing I know I'll have osteoporosis and be going to sleep at 5pm.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Match Day

Matched to my #2 ... not bad, not bad.

Still in southern California (new city, however).

More to come, most likely.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seattle Grace Hospital

So I found myself in Seattle Grace Hospital today. For those who aren't in the know, this hospital is the setting of my favorite TV show Grey's Anatomy.

I was invited to give a talk at a VA hospital in the valley ("the valley" is an area about 30 minutes north of LA), and when I arrived I immediately noticed a motorized golf cart labeled with "Grey's Anatomy" driving around the lot. Once I was inside the hospital, there was one section of the top floor filled with camera crews, lighting, screens, and other filming gear. After looking around a bit, I saw that well-known breezeway seen in almost every episode, the concrete pathway leading up to the hospital, and a lot of SGH signs on windows and floormats! I love getting behind-the-scenes and seeing film sets, so I was pretty excited.

(Hm, considering how much I hate this show, I sure talk about it a lot.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unmatch Day

Today is a moderately important day. It is known as "Unmatch Day", the day when all applicants find out if -- but not where -- they have matched to a residency program. It is particularly important for people applying to competitive residencies since there is a good chance they might go unmatched.

For someone like me, however, who is applying to internal medicine, which isn't as competitive (except at top-ranked institutions), it isn't as much of a big deal. Having said that, I was up all night tossing and turning, having nightmares about the worst-case scenario of not matching and getting the dreaded email in the morning.

Lucky for me I received this lonely little one-liner in my inbox this morning:
Congratulations! You have matched.

It was a nice relief. It is also kind of strange when I think about it actually, because this email essentially indicates a job offer. It confirms that I have a job awaiting me in July ... salary and all, as a doctor, no less! That's a little frightening and intimidating.

Now all I have to do it last until Thursday ... which is easier said than done.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Less than One Week Until Match Day

The big day is quickly approaching. It wasn't until last Thursday -- exactly one week before Match Day -- that I began getting anxious just thinking about the match. I am fine as long as I don't think about it (which is most of the day), however if I think about it my mind quickly works itself up into a state of mild anxiety and stress ... not very pleasant.

I just want Match Day to come and go without having to actually go through it ... in other words, I want to know where I match without having to experience the actual moment where I open the envelope and face what's written inside.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Grand Rounds 3:24 is Up

I don't like tooting my own horn (or, for that matter, using that phrase), but that latest Grand Rounds is up at GruntDoc. I mention this because one of my posts is included ... so go check it out!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scrubs vs. Grey's Anatomy

Abortion. Euthanasia. Stem cells.

These are famous examples of some of medicine's oldest and greatest debates. There is no shortage of passionate people on each side arguing their position, and unfortunately there will likely never be a solution that satisfies both sides.

The times are changing, however, and a new debate is emerging, one that involves medical TV shows. Yes I'm speaking of Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy, both of which have huge and loyal followings. Is it Scrubs, the quirky single-camera show about the life of three residents and a nurse, or is it Grey's Anatomy, the new medical drama about a group of surgical interns?

Never fear, Axis is here to help settle this debate. I will attempt to evaluate this dilemma by using several objective criteria to answer modern medicine's ultimate question once and for all.

Medical Accuracy
Let's start with the easy one. The medicine that takes place on Scrubs is nearly dead-on. Internists diagnose and surgeons operate. Classic stereotypes are explained (e.g. surgeons as knife-wielding morons, ob/gyn's as sorority girls, etc.), inside secrets about medicine are revealed, and the emotional aspects of medicine are well conveyed . On the other hand, in Grey's Anatomy surgeons deliver babies and neurosurgeons do abdominal procedures. Most interestingly, the interns have hours of free time on their hands. Point goes to: Scrubs

The Girls
Elliot and Carla on Scrubs are both fairly attractive and well-fed. On Grey's, while Katherine Heigl is hot (albeit whiny), Ellen Pompeo is so skinny she looks like an ashen grey skeleton ... and Sandra Oh looks like a catcher's mitt with eyes. Point: Scrubs

You can't beat Dr. Cox: who else can turn a word with two syllables into six? Who can come up with a new girls name every 10 minutes? In fairness, Dr. McDreamy is unusually popular, both on- and off-screen. Point: tie

Chiefs of Service
This is a tough one. On Scrubs, Dr. Kelso is a scowling money-driven Chief of Medicine who makes everyone's life miserable (especially for Ted, that poor attorney). On Grey's, the chief is Dr. Webber, a big guy who simply plays a generic "stern black man". Point: tie

Scrubs is overflowing with quirky humor (my personal favorite) while Grey's has none (quirky or otherwise). Point: Scrubs

But what Grey's lacks in humor, it more than makes up in drama. Grey's Anatomy is not so much a medical TV show but rather a soap opera that happens to take place in a hospital. Medicine is occasionally practiced, but only if an intern can hook up with an attending in the process. The winner here is clear-cut. Point: Grey's Anatomy.

Characters in Scrubs progress nicely each year, from intern to junior resident to senior resident, etc. In Grey's, the characters apparently are so dumb that they are still interns after three years. Point: Scrubs

And the winner is: Scrubs.

There you have it peoples, objective proof that you may safely avoid watching TV on Wednesday nights. Anyway, it's time to watch Scrubs ... seeing how it's the better show.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Flu

I think I have the flu. I woke up three days ago unable to move a muscle and have since been clinging on to life by a delicate thread. I wish it was just a severe cold, but I guess I have the classic flu symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, headache, and fatigue. I'm a mess. I also don't think I've ever slept as much as I have in the past few days, with that first day setting the record: only 3 hours of the day when I wasn't asleep!

I should just be thankful that I'm on a rotation where I can afford to take a few days off without serious repercussion. Speaking of this ID rotation, I should also be thankful that I only have the flu, and not one of the many nasty infections I've encountered the past few weeks. Would much rather have influenza than salmonella or cryptococcal meningitis. (But then again, with the way I easily scare, I keep fearing that I have the bird flu).

Anyway, back to the grind (meaning get out of bed, drink juice, take temperature, get back into bed.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

1 Month Until Match Day

Title says it all. One month -- exactly 4 weeks -- till we find out where we go for residency. I am really looking forward to Match Day ... except that once the day arrives and it's time to open the envelope, I know that anxiety will overpower me, and I won't be able to do it.

Apparently there is also a big breakfast for us that morning (this is probably common to all schools). I don't know about other people, but I will likely be a little too nervous to keep any food down. We shall see.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rank List

It's in. Today I submitted my rank order list, which is the next step of this residency application process. Even though the deadline to submit our finalized rank order list is February 21, it was recommended that we submit approximately one week early to avoid overloading the apparently frail servers that become unresponsive the night of the deadline.

My rank list consisted of very few programs and thus was fairly easy for me to create, in that it was easy for me to determine which program I liked best, second best, and so on. It did, however, get me thinking about the programs' end and how they need to rank a large number of applicants. The average internal medicine program interviews 200-300 applicants for about 30 available spots. Assuming they rank most of those applicants -- or even if you don't make that assumption -- that is a lot of people to rank.

Furthermore I cannot imagine how they differentiate their applicants, in particular the ones that are similar. I had minor difficulty deciding my #3 and #4 spots; now imagine a program trying to decide which of their 200 applicants gets what rank. Can they fairly or accurately tell the difference between their #56 applicant and their #57? Differentiating that many applicants seems nearly impossible. I haven't a clue how they do it, especially in internal medicine where the interview -- a seemingly important component of their evaluation of us -- is useless. No hard-hitting questions, no difficult questions, no nothing; just casual chatting. (I suppose this weeds out the social idiots, but really, how many people does that eliminate?)

Anyway, the process is now completely out of my hands and controlled only by the magic that is the matching algorithm. Nothing to do but wait.

For a reminder of how the residency application process works, re-read this post.

Happy Valentine's Day (every day is the 14th)!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First Time With a Foley

Read this post by keagirl on her blog, UroStream. It is a great and entertaining description of her first time placing a Foley catheter in a patient. The reason I link to it is because this was exactly what happened to me too the first time I tried placing a Foley. I was obviously very embarassed, and my resident who was with me at the time instructing me, was thankfully being very patient ... although I could tell she was feeling slightly sorry for my girlfriend.

Anyway, I was going to write about this experience myself at one point, but I procrastinated and keagirl unknowingly beat me to it. Maybe it's for the better, as she probably describes it better than I could.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ensuring Professional Behavior

It's late at night right now, and I just got home from hanging out all night with people from school. We were at a bar, and something on everyone's mind was DUI ... or more precisely how to avoid getting one.

See, today we had a (outrageously long and boring) session on medical licensure, and to make sure this topic was properly shoved down our throats, three middlemen representatives from the Medical Board of California made an appearance to talk to us. In addition to describing their mundane job in great detail (i.e. sifting through thousands of applications a year), they spent lots of explaining how we had to make absolutely sure we were being truthful when reporting any prior offenses ... including but not limited to reckless driving, DUI, and running red lights.

Needless to say many students were a little shocked that these offenses, no matter how distant, would have to be reported, lest their application for a license be denied.

So whereas before, people were not overly scared to get a DUI (they were, but everyone has had a friend at one point who got one), now everyone was just a little more careful with their drinking and driving ... to make sure their behavior now doesn't jeopardize their future career.

That was a lot of words. To sum up: now we're really afraid to get a DUI.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Working Too Hard

Shoot me now. I just can't do it. I am now back in the hospital for an infectious diseases (ID) rotation, and it is killing me alive. After 2 1/2 months of easy rotations where I never worked past 10am, I now have to work normal hours (aka, a full day). Since these past few rotations were all some version of radiology, I also never had to deal with patients ... it was just me, the radiologist, and a dark room. So not only do I have to work long hours but I have to see patients too. A shame, because I think I've forgotten most of my history-taking and physical exam skills. Luckily the first few patients assigned to me were all intubated, making things much easier.

Furthermore, this is a consult service ... meaning that we get our patients when other services/specialties consult us (i.e. ask for our assistance). This also means that we do not round on our patients until the afternoon -- as opposed to the morning -- which for some reason is the tradition with consultation services.

As a result I have to get to the hospital at 8am, catch up with my patient, which takes less than an hour, and then entertain myself until early afternoon. At that point we proceed to round for about 3-4 hours. Yes, hours. (Rounds could easily be shortened, but our attending is the type who responds to a question with a 10-minute story.) As 5pm approaches I really do want to shoot myself. It is precisely nonsense such as this -- endless rounding, endless talking -- that turns people away from internal medicine.

Relatedly, this is quite reminiscent of my dreadful Neurology days.

At times like this I really wish I were going into surgery, where rounds are brief and focused. Unfortunately I have to look forward to 3 more years of this.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Year Anniversary

I just realized that today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog (you might even call it my one-year bloggiversary). No one is more surprised that myself that this weblog has lasted so long, and I am glad it has. The few blogs I have tried to maintain over the years have all died after a few posts, so for me to write fairly consistently for a year is unprecedented for me.

Anyway, thanks for whoever reads my blog, and I'll try to keep up the posts.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Boards Done, Radiology Done

I took my USMLE Step 2 board exam today. It was much like Step 1 (the board exam that really matters), but more clinically oriented. I dedicated one month of semi-serious studying and that was it. It was a 9-hour test, which is damn long. I haven't sat down and focused all my attention on one thing for a long time (since Step 1, actually) and that made it very tough. More importantly, having taken this test signifies the last test I will take in medical school.

Today also marks the end of my radiology rotation ... more accurately, radiology rotations. After having spent December in neuroradiology and this month in radiology, my "radi-holiday" is now over. I definitely did not learn much over the past 2 months, but I have to admit I'll miss the radiologist lifestyle. Gone are my 1-hour "work" days. The rest of my school year still won't be rigorous, since I only have two more months of rotations, one of which is a research month.

Relatedly, I am also starting to understand part of the reason why internship is so stressful and difficult. After going through the fourth year of medical school, the last half of which is spent mostly doing nothing, it must be a rude awakening to be thrust full-time into the hospital again. Going from slacking to 80-hour work weeks, no free weekends, and a call schedule can't be pleasant for anyone. It is a good thing no one expects much from interns. I hope.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2 Months Until Match Day

I just realized today that Match Day is two months from now. The big day that dictates where I'll work and live for the next few years is no longer in the distant future ... it's just a matter of months now.

Interview season is also winding down, which means the next step in this residency application process is to create and submit the "rank order list", the ranked list of programs you are interested in. (Where did the time go? I swear, I was just a first year med student recently.)

As the big day gets closer and closer, I also get getting lazier and lazier. Fourth year of medical school really is like senior year of high school. I have been on most of my interviews and so I'm tired from all the travelling. I also have lots of free time but can't find motivation to do anything too productive. I am still in Radiology, which is a joke, in terms of time commitment; simultaneously I am trying to study for Step 2 (the next step of the national boards), which I am taking at the end of this month but not having much luck with my attention span. Life is so slow that I watched American Idol last night (making me realize that Seattle is full of freaks ... a shame, since I love that city).

That's it. Not much else going on in this so-called life.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year and I'm Back

Happy new year everyone!

I know it is a little belated, but I've been busy trying to settle down now that I have returned from my trip abroad. I'm glad to be back, although the trip was lots of fun.

My plane rides, however, were not enjoyable. I first flew 5 hours to Frankfurt, Germany, which was not too bad since at the airport I sat and drank a great beer (Licher). Excellent taste while being served at the perfect temperature (not too cold). Ze germans really know how to brew and serve beer. Even better, this beer was for breakfast ... but don't worry, I balanced it out with a healthy bowl of yogurt and muesli (dubbed "The Fitness Breakfast" in their menu). Great combination. Not a bad way to start off the 5am hour.

I should also mention that at Frankfurt's security checkpoint, I was thoroughly "inspected" (felt up). That guy was poking and rubbing his hand in places that even girls haven't visited. Not at all enjoyable, even with a crowd of people watching me squirm with each new body part being examined.

My next flight -- back to California -- was over 11 hours. Think about that. Think about what you typically do in 11 hours. There is only so much sleeping, reading, watching movies (You, Me, and Dupree), and eating you can do when on a plane before you go stir-crazy, or get a PE. Needless to say, I was very excited when we touched ground, especially since I have a new-found appreciation for life.

In any case, I'm back. The plan for this month: radiology. Yes, last month was neuroradiology, and now it's plain old radiology. After one week, I have realized my schedule will be nearly the same as before. Instead of starting at 9am, however, I start at 8am ... which just means my day is done at 9am. Not too shabby!