Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - Long Drives

It's been a hectic day - standing by the roadside playing I-spy for the sake of the observational study - can be quite tiring especially when we have to stand under the afternoon sun for up to 3 or 4 hours.

And then when you arrive home, you need to key-in all that data - up to 1800 cars per day - and Excel can sometimes be a pain in the arse. And on top of that, complete the daily log and write a short report for each day.

Learn how to use SPSS, read up for the Physiology quiz - I think my physiology seems to have rusted quite a little (and so the need to go through Guyton - again)

And then there are the articles I need to complete by the end of this month for the July 2014 issue of The PEN - about 4 in total.

My table is starting to look like: A scientist looks up gloomily from a mountain of paperwork

Yeap, but without the coffee mug. I am kicking the coffee habit for the next 3 months - until my new semester begins in September.Till then, I don't wanna smell even a whiff of Nescafe!

So, yeap, my day begins early - at around 5 am - because I need to finish keying-in data for the previous day, and then quickly browse through Google Maps to check out the perfect locations to plant ourselves for the observational study.

And then go for a quick jog.

Then it's the observational study from as early as 8 in the morning right up till 5 or 6 in the evening; and then the day's not over yet because we need to transfer all our 'I-spy intelligence' to Excel. This can take up to 3 hours to key-in and double check 1800 cars and 500 over motorcycles on average per day. We need to reach up to 10,000 vehicles and above in order for the study to be significant.

And the fact that the Klang Valley is about to experience a severe haze is not helping.

At around 9 at night, it is time to begin drafting the research paper - reading up various articles on accident rates, careless drivers, lack of awareness in the usage of restraints and etc. Interesting to note that for a small nation like Malaysia - we have one of the highest mortality rates due to RTAs in the world. I am not surprised, given that nearly half of all the cars I observed weren't wearing their seat belts - and there was a sizeable portion of vehicles which had 'back-seat parties' comprising of unbelted kids dancing to their boom-box unaware of the danger they've placed themselves in.

By 11, I'm already feeling so dead tired - but then again, I need to stay up in case my beloved calls to discuss some matters pertaining to studies. And this can last till late at night. But I don't mind because my beloved is dear to me!

Then, I try to write a few paragraphs for the articles per day - and catch up on my reading because these articles ain't flossy - they're based on papers and all that, so, again reading and more reading.

So, my day ends at (give or take) 2 in the morning, And then sometimes I can't sleep - so I go for a drive. At night - yeap - but it's fun because you get to own the entire road. And I'll just sit by the lake and talk to my beloved. My beloved listens to me, even when I decide to 'call-up' at such an ungodly hour.

But overall, this has got to be one of the most solid summer breaks in my life ever!

Transmission ends.

Signing out.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - 'Blind Pay'

Blind pay - or 'gaji buta' in Malay, is the term we use for someone who has been paid to do his job, but is not taking his work seriously.

Someone who takes 'blind pay' takes their pay for granted, and refuse to render the appropriate services for which they have been paid to do; in fact, some take it a step further and play truant, taking as many leave days as they are permitted to take - and for rather flimsy reasons - using whatever means they can use - such as fake medical chits.

Now, I have an axe to grind against those who are on the 'blind take' - but even more so if it is a teacher or lecturer.

Yes - I have a HUGE axe to grind against lazy lecturers and teachers. Why? Because I have a great respect for those who tirelessly render their services in educating our children - so, to give these lazy braggarts equal recognition together with the hardworking ones is an insult!

You think you're not lazy, then well what do you call this, madam? Let me shove this down your face and let you tell me what this is:

Going to class, gossipping with your favourite pet students instead of teaching Math as stated on the timetable
Spending nearly 15 minutes minimum nagging students for some mistake as big as 'being noisy' - seriously? What did you mama teach you about throwing the baby with the wash water? If you were a learned woman, all you need to do is to single out whoever the chatterbox is, and just give him a stern warning. Oh wait - maybe they are noisy because they don't see what they can learn from you - because all you give are half-hearted lessons, more scolding for even the pettiest things, and your biased tantrums. Hey, we aren't blind to how you can sweetly dote on your pets - and suddenly within earshot of the boy who whistleblew on you, turn into a nasty cold-blooded ogre.

You lazy lump of pernicious malaise! Don't think that being an educator means you can teach as and when you like - especially if you are on the Government's payroll.

AND stop hiding behind excuses like 'I have got a family to take care of!' or 'Sorry, I am just too tired to prepare lessons for you' or 'I am not gonna teach this class because they don't want to learn' - because: ONE - YOU ARE PAID TO DO THE JOB, REGARDLESS OF WHAT HAPPENS; Two - you are being paid with the PUBLIC'S money, not just the money of parents of 'good tame kids'. And shamelessly using your family to justify your sloth absolute laziness in school is the worst type of insult you can publicly smear on your family's honour!

Would you like it if another teacher did this to your child? Going to class 10 to 15 minutes late with the consistency of clockwork, taking lots of precious time blasting at students for even minor issues that in my honest opinion, is like firebombing a colony of ants; teaching students how to read form the textbook instead of teaching Biology; not bothering about the welfare of students who have been entrusted into her care because she's just too engrossed making money at her tuition center - oh wait, did I tell you that she really does only the bare minimum in class too?;  telling students that you are taking a rest from talking for that day - and then repeating that same sentence every other day when Aunt Flow supposedly comes to visit you. Oh wait - and then being RACIST and BIASED in your class - children are not blind, madam. If this was America, you might end up in hospital - with a nice shot to your incorrigible, wicked brain.

Madam - where is your dignity? Have you no fear of God above?

You take what is not yours - you eat of what you did not earn! And as surely as the wealth of the corrupt brings no peace to the household of the wicked, your ill-gained income will condemn you, both now and in the hereafter!

And what is worst is you have turned a sacred duty -- the education of young minds - into a profession that is gradually gaining ignominy in Malaysia by the day.

I am angry - because when a person swears the ikrar or oath, upon becoming an educator - she has sworn upon herself the sacred duty to guide children towards the correct paths, and to foster the growth and holistic development of their minds.

Instead, you fail to see the great duty you have taken upon yourself, and instead think of it as 'your iron ricebowl' - 'oh, it's just my dayjob to keep myself alive; nah, I'm just paid to do this, so you know what, I'll make this simple and just do the minimum - after all, I'm just a government servant - oh, and students are so smart nowadays, and rich - they can go for their own private tuition'.

Madam - hellfire waits for those who betray the trust already given to them! And no, not everyone is rich enough to pay for tuition for 8 subjects a month!

Young lives are placed in your care - for you to carefully mold and guide, cherish and encourage; yet you still dare to be calculative with your job! Stop blaming everything on your paperwork and difficult parents - because this COMES WITH THE JOB. PAPERWORK - every government servant is affected, so shut up; also stop saying you don't have enough holidays - you should ask the MOs and HOs about their holidays!

Do you snuff out a flickering candle? Do you break a bruised reed? Do you honour the responsibility of molding young minds into great thinkers and statesmen? Ask yourself, woman!

This I tell you (and your cohorts): Until you realize the enormity of your trespass, you are persona non grata to me. Period.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - Tolle, lege!

On more than one occasion I have been asked questions on what I have done to keep myself alive for the past two years and what I believe has prevented me from stepping over the edge of sanity. 

But before you read what I am going to say, I must remind you that these were written by a mere ordinary student who was not born a genius, neither does he possess any superhuman attributes such as photographic memory. These were written for all students, regardless of their 'starting point'. 

First - Know what you are supposed to do!
Do what you need to do, and finish it up if you have to. Minimize daily 'leftovers' (i.e. unfinished lectures). Tie yourself to your chair if you need to; use Stay Focusd if you have to.

On Sunday evening, take a close look (NOT a glance!) at your weekly calendar and see what lectures are in store - print them out and start with Monday's lectures: Flip through them, and print/download relevant reading materials pertaining to that lecture. For example, I used to print out pages of Kumar and Clark's Clinical Medicine ebook relevant to the lectures I would be having for that week, preferably before attending the lecture. You may read through it before the lecture if you have the time - the keypoint is to prepare your materials and get a rough overview of what is to come. So that you don't waste your study time printing stuff during the week days. 

Know what you need to do - every medical student should, by the second semester, realize that EVERY day is study day. By now you should know that you MUST and NEED to study consistently. You have new lectures each day - so try to get into the habit of completing your notes for/finish studying that lecture on the same day it was delivered. Of course, do not hang yourself if you can't do it all, but definitely try accomplishing them on the same day because lectures tend to pile up really quickly when untouched. Or else get them done the next day and not later!

For that, it's best to keep a diary - keep a daily list of the lectures or stuff you're supposed to read up on. Once you know what you're supposed to do, act on it! No point keeping a beautiful list if you're just going to laze off. In med school, there is no such thing as 'lazing' or else you shall be acing your way to that event everyone hates called 'Last-Minute Hell'.

Know why you are doing it
Many of us would have literally sung the 'Lazy Song' - the anthem of all procrastinators - at some point in our lives, especially in med school. We kick off our shoes, fling ourselves on the bed, ignore our school files, and just daydream on Youtube, Facebook or some other place where we choose to tell ourselves  the all-too sugary fatal advice that 'that lecture' can wait another hour. 

Maybe the reason why you think there is no urgency in picking up your notes and reading them intelligently is because you don't know why you need to do it.

The most powerful motivator is this: You are not doing this for your lecturer - no, not Dr Skantha, Reddy or Kamalan -  neither are you doing this to please anyone else - you are doing this for yourself, to be a competent medical doctor, to be a houseman who can stand on his own two feet without hiding behind someone else's skirt. If you feel you can't push yourself to study, then maybe you ain't cut out for medicine because you can't see the fact that the life of a future MI patient depends very much on whether you studied the therapeutics of MI when you were in med school. Yes, it can be a boring, dry and meaningless bunch of powerpoints - but if that is going to stop you from becoming the good doctor you wanted to be, then maybe you weren't doctor material to begin with. 

Study - NOT read
Test your understanding. Don't just read it like how you read a newspaper or a novel - like 'Oh, I've read this so yea, I kinda know something like that' - big mistake. I've done this error many times, but I've learnt the really hard way that this 'tactic' is NOT good for you, so remind yourself that there is no harm burning the midnight oil testing yourself over and over again while studying. Don't rush like a rambler through your lectures; while reading through them ask yourself questions, make notations on your lecture notes or make mindmaps along the way. Just plain reading and colouring your lecture notes with highlighter ink is NOT going to be of great help. Watch videos for OSCEs and rape that search button while looking up Google Images for anatomy. It really helps. Go all out in involving as many modes of learning - be it visual, audio or kinesthetic. Nobody said you can't use Google. And nobody said you could use Wiki (just don't tell my lecturers that).

Scribble (legibly)on your lecture notes - no point keeping clean notes because it's the amount of knowledge you obtain that counts! Add in whatever you think you've found useful from your extra reading or from Google! Because lecture points are just the gist; you need to further your understanding by reading up elsewhere! Which brings us to the next point.

Understand - not memorize
If you are just gonna stick to your lecture notes, you will NEVER fully understand what you are studying, I guarantee you! Books, Google, Youtube - use any of these while studying! All three are equally good, trust me. If there is anything you don't understand whilst reading your lecture notes for the first time - Google it immediately! No point memorizing that Koplik spots is pathognomonic for measles if you don't even know what it means if somebody said that you had the pathognomonic feature of blind-memorizer's-disease of not understanding what you're saying yourself. 

Want to know if you have understood something yourself? It's when you are able to picture a logical and systematic outline of what you've studied in your head without gray areas. And knowing the WHYs and the HOWs and the IFs. 

To remember, repeat - and repeat - and repeat
This applies to all subjects - for Juniors, this is called for in Biochemistry and Anatomy; for the older ones, Microbiology, Immunology, Pathology and Therapeutics. Yes, sci-fi sounding drugs names and their mechanisms of action need time to digest - and the same thing goes to anatomy and microbiology. Repeat them to yourself or to a study buddy/friend as frequently as possible - and don't wait till it's study week to do that!

You think you can remember it all or get a hang of it by just reading once? Then you don't know what you're talking about, boy. And when the exam's round the corner, you'll be sorry. 

Say no to procrastination
Stay Focusd is one of the greatest miracles ever! If you have a soft spot for Facebook, why not use the 'nuclear option' of Stay Focusd to block Facebook out of your study life for good? And yea, I know books and googling for medical stuff is boring, but you know, it surely pays when you can stand up to Dr Kamalan and confidently answer his questions without cooking up half-truths in public. Stop putting of for tomorrow what you can do today! Today's lectures should be studied (preferably) by today. This includes the extra reading for that chapter too. I know, sometimes the lecture touches on concepts that are totally new - and having about 3 to 4 of those in a single day can put somebody off - but running away will only cause subjects like Biochemistry to finally take her bloody revenge for your negligence just before the summatives!

Start early
Unless you want to die of stress and despair. Even for those who start early, study week burnout is still a VERY real thing, so if you still think you can play the 'last minute' card for JC3 onwards, then try doing that for all 12 cranial nerves and triangles and foramina and ganglia and fasciae and whats not. Without starting to say 'I'm so screwed I'm gonna die'. 

Find your outlet
Stress is a real thing, but if you know where to release all that pent-up pressure (apart from smoking and going on a one-way no-strings-attached 'bungee-like jump' off KLCC), you should be able to maintain your sanity.

Go for an hour's jog - sweat it out! Attend CF or whatever recreational activities you can be part of. Don't just study all day! And - going on FB or jacking off to porn is NOT a solution. Might as well do something more constructive during that time then such as exercise, reading novels or blogging. 

Pray and believe
Although I have placed this last on the list, it is actually the MOST important. I believe that I am not here by coincidence, and I believe that the true purpose of life (in all its aspects, including medical school) is to do the will of God. Praying works for me - it helps to assure you that there is Somebody above who knows what you are going through and is in total control of the situation no matter how hopeless it is. Med school can be a lonely place at times, and sometimes we feel lost amidst the mad-hatter race of studying-sleeping-nasty-lecturers-kiasuness-boring-lectures-that-make-you-feel-WTH, but knowing that there is Someone you can turn to in your darkest hour can be a rather comforting thought, and even a source of inspiration if you are starting to feel that insidious bit of despair creeping in. It was in med school that I began to believe the truth behind 'I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength'. 

Now, doing all the above DOES NOT guarantee that you will be totally free of medical school (or summative exam) stress - many of us will still feel the tight tension. But these steps WILL ensure that you will have a better life in medical school - less sleepless nights, less heart-pounding moments, less air-in-the-brain days. 

You are in med school - your main and most important priority is to study to save lives - and because it deals with lives, it is natural that it be demanding in scope and extent; it is not so much about you enjoying college life, because if that is what you really want, then well, you need to think about that.

That's all.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - SUMMER 2014

My real summer break began today - after I received my IC1 results. I passed, by the grace of God.

I am really looking forward to the next 12 weeks of summer - it is going to be jam-packed with fantastic activities. I never expected it to be this packed, but nevertheless, it is still going to be kick-ass awesome!

This is the long-awaited line-up of activities for this summer:

1. Complete The PEN's articles line-up
2. Summer Research 2014
3. Kolkata mission trip
4. IMSPQ 2014
5. Brush up on my Latin and guitar
6. Learn Bengali

The PEN is PU-RCSI's very own newsletter - by students for students. I used to dream of being part of an editorial board of a magazine back in secondary school - but that dream never came to pass. However, in PU-RCSI, everything just changed - no more politicking, no more screwed-up vengeful teachers, no more racial bias, no more discrimination by malicious cliques - just a bunch of matured people all eager to raise the banner of PU-RCSI, all united with one voice and one single vision to make Perdana's name known. It was a really unexpected twist of events for me, because back in the dark days of my past, I had been surpassed and sidelined in many major school projects due to scheming teachers and their pets. But here, my talents were recognized and I am now part of my university's editorial board - being placed in charge of penning scientific articles and sneak previews of research updates. And we have just released the pilot issue of The PEN.

The PEN - Bringing You News For Muse. 

Next: Summer Research 2014 - this year, I decided to try something different, something non-lab based. And I was excited when Dr Karen told me that this time round, the assignment required lots of driving around the Klang Valley (woots!) This year, the research assignment is centered about the usage of restraints among road-users in the Valley. An observational study. I was thrilled about it! 

But I must admit that the highlight of this summer holiday is the MMF Mission Trip to Kolkata. More on this later.

And then I have the IMPSQ physiology quiz to prepare for. I never quite expected to be selected to form part of the team representing Perdana at this prestigious competition. But that one single email from my physiology lecturer on that fateful morning in February was enough to make my day.

And then I need to brush up on my Latin, my Cicero, my Iliad, my Gallic Wars. And make sure I remember those pesky guitar chords if I want to play any song right. And this year, I have decided to pick up Bengali. Don't ask me why.

So there we have it - the line-up of activities for Summer 2014. It's gonna rock!

The Med School Report - Day 631

Today marks the end of Intermediate Cycle One for me - and also the end of year Two in PU-RCSI.

The past week has been a walk on the edge of the precipice; the past two months - a ride in a rickety roller coaster.

The past two months have seen many tears being shed; my heart was rent in two and pierced through; my soul felt cold; and I felt that God had turned His back upon me. I prayed to the Lord for help nearly every night; my every waking hour was marked by sighs and laments; I cried out to the Lord for help - and I begged Him for vindication.

My life was shaken to the core, and so many things were coming my way that I felt quite lost. Despair swallowed me up and I was on my knees asking God to at least be merciful to me and my family.

And He heard me. After two long months - I am beginning to see the light, albeit dim - at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you, Lord, for being there for my family, and for providing for our needs. I cannot thank you enough for Your grace and mercy. I thought our cause was lost, but now I realize, You had thought of it all, after all.

Quaesivi Dominum et exaudivit me et de omnibus angustiis meis liberavit me

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - Dear God

Dear God, how am I going to live like this, with so much to think and worry about.

You said You will take care of all our needs, and we just need trust you; for me, I know this, but I cannot help but sometimes fall into doubt when the going gets so tough you just feel like crying.

I cry. A lot. Especially in the past few years, where there has been so much upheaval and uncertainty in my life that I just wonder why it is all happening.

It has been years, God. How long more? And at this point in time, will You be with us and lead us through this? Encourage and strengthen us, because there are times when we just wonder whether we have been in Your will all this while.

We can only hope for Your providence.

Confessions of a Workaholic - Crying Out

I saw this, and it reminded me of the difficult times I am now facing together with my loved ones. Sometimes, when I think of our circumstances, my family's problems and the harrowing never-ending roller coaster of events in our lives, I wonder if God is playing with our lives. But after reading that meaningful illustration, I have realized, that all things happen because He has a perfect reason for it do be so.

Every night I beg God for an answer, and I ask for His grace to help my and family through these hard times. Every night I go to bed with tears, and sometimes I raise my fist in desperation and shake it at Him. Sometimes I forget that I should trust Him, and in this challenging season, many times have I felt that I really want to let go. But I choose to believe that God is still in control, and He has His own plans.

So many challenges, so many heart-stopping moments, so many dark stretches along the road - but I choose to tell myself outloud that God is merciful and gracious - He will see to it that we survive this season in life.

Our Lord is our shepherd, we shall not be in want. Be merciful unto us, dear Lord, in accordance to your loving kindness, and in accordance to the multitude of your mercies, forgive us our sins.

Help us.