Sunday, April 13, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - The Fuel of Life

I'm a workaholic. But I didn't know that until I was in Form 4.

I enjoy my work. Or rather, my studies. I may loathe it at some points in time, especially when I am in the midst of a nearly 3-hour revision lecture, or when I encounter some group of absurd scientists who soem years ago, decided to come up with the intricacies of the NYHA system, drew up various split-hair methods of classifying B lymphomas and drafted logic-defying cephalosporin names which torment us with variants of cefo- and cepha- (for heaven's sake, could they just stick to one prefix?). 

But still I enjoy my work: I was, after all, literally paid to study. With this much of tax-payer's money being invested in me, and with my absolute sacrosanct responsibility to my career, the community and the nation, I cannot afford to be slacking in my studies and become a 'fearsome' doctor that leaves scalpels in somebody's peritoneal cavity. 

Well, but that really doesn't explain why I would prefer studying to sleep.

It really is something that I call passion. I desire and run after Learning. I have a dream I want to achieve, and a vision that I believe is achievable if I do my part and utmost best. 

I believe that if we learn well, and knowing that knowledge is power - will it not, by the grace and will of God, be enough to open doors so that we can make a change in our healthcare system? 

I choose to follow my dreams, and chase after what I delight in - erudition and knowledge - because I believe that to be a change-maker, we must first of all, change our minds and edify it in preparation for such a noble cause as ours.

And on a more practical level, to be honest, this dream can kind of seem daunting to us especially when we seem to have such little time and such boring books to swallow. but hey, think about it: I mean, it is always good to remember that there's always something new in the pages of that boring-looking Infectious Disease textbook, trust me after the first harrowing 3 to 4 pages, you will get a hang of it. Of course, I never start memorizing everything from the word 'go' - that sort of kills any budding interest in any subject - but I like to take my time to read and reflect about new facts. Then perhaps forget about them until I remember them maybe the next day or when they somehow become truly applicable one fine day next time at the wards.

In short, the reason why I am a workaholic when it comes to studies, projects and anything related to learning and academics is really because I believe that Passion is the fuel of life. 

If you really have that innate desire of becoming that competent doctor any patient can trust; if you have that fear of misleading your charge; or if you have that persistent need to perfect what you know - that is real passion. Because if we have it not, then what else can propel us more strongly in our race for excellence? The fear of exams comes only 4 weeks before the real day; the fear of appearing dumb in a class full of students only occurs whenever you have picky lecturers; the fear of shame in a card-signing session only lasts for only a few days and everyone forgets; hence, are these things enough to fuel our need to better ourselves?


But the one thing that can and will remind us time and time again is the cause we fight for.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - IC1 in Retrospect

Today is the [official] last day of Intermediate Cycle 1, and once again, we experience the dawn of the study break's anxiety build-up. 

But today's post isn't about a full description of the tumultous mind of a nervous medical student.

Today's post is a review of Intermediate Cycle in general.

Intermediate Cycle One is not a honey-moon cycle, and is not meant to be one. Yeap, I know we no longer have those fortnightly nightmarish anatomy card-signing sessions to fear anymore, but still, we need to be on our toes for Microbiology, Pathology and Immunology, or else you wouldn't have a clue about the mechanisms behind the histopathology involved in the cardio-respiratory module. 

FMPI [Foundations in Microbiology, Pathology and Immunology] was a mindful subject. No, not mindful as in careful, but mind-FULL as in it really causes your brain to be engorged with facts. By the end of this module, you should be able to recite all the anti-fungals, antivirals and monoclonal antibodies as quickly as one recites the Pater Noster. This semester, I took time off to listen to the microbiology recordings, and I learnt a lot - I mean, apart from ETEC, VTEC, EPEC, EIEC and EAECs and what nots, I also learnt that in everything to do with microbes and their clandestine manifestations, 'QUESTION'. Even if it means spamming the forum. Oh yes, and now we have the new 'in' word - serology. Serologize everything, swabs here, BALs there, pluck out lines and etcetera. Dr Cafferkey really drummed all that into our thick skulls.

Pathology was a really interesting subject, and is equally as entertaining as Microbiology. Contrary to popular belief, Robbins is actually the best book to generate your interest in the subject, but of course, it is always best to read this right after any pathology lecture. Listening to something introductory [i.e. the lecture]is always advisable before taking a deeper plunge into the books. But of course, there's always the caveat - read if you have the time; if you don't, just make sure you covered the lecture material. And do the Webpath MCQs. 

And this semester's immunology really blew my mind away. We had this rather cool, composed and deep lecturer - I'll call him Dr Mystic - who always has this air of mystical stately wisdom especially when he speaks about antibodies and antigens. And his pronunciation is unique too, especially when he says 'viruses', with his 'v's mainly sounding like 'wh's. Vexed me at first, but then over time, he won us over with his clear explanations of immunological concepts. He really made all the immunology lectures pleasant to the ear, and for the first time, sensible to the mind, and this helped me to rid myself of the traumatic experience of the first semester when I formed the perception that the teaching of immunology was really the teaching of sleep medicine. Everything is fine, except, well, on those days when we have Immunology revision lectures when things start running in the hours. But that's normal I guess.

CPCs are perhaps one of those things which holds Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology together, and they're really awesome cases, which if done properly, will not cause people to doze in class. I'm hinting, of course. But yea, if you were to read them alongside Davidson's or some clinical medicine book, things will make sense trust me. 

And we had the CBLs - Case Based Learning sessions.

Loads of fun, with the Dean always trying to be the Chief Cross Examiner and Devil's Advocate. I mean, it is also equally fun to be able to rebut the panel with scientific facts and journals, and to prove that we know our stuff too. We basically enjoy the academic debates among the staff and students especially the time when everyone was so preoccupied with Klebsiella pneumoniae, Strep pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae in that case of the suspected CA-pneumonia. Turned out to be an MRSA in the end, but well, it was a rare hare in the first place.

Yeah, sure we had to work our arses off this semester with so much to read and so much more ot remember. But looking back, I've formed many new memories, and I have learned a few huge lessons in the past 13 weeks. I reconciled with old friends - and learnt who my true friends were, learned much more about real friendships, returned to see loved ones, appreciated Life more, understood the brevity of life and the importance of maintaining effective communication. 

In short, it has been a semester filled with its share of joys and tears - but I am glad I could attend CF more frequently this semester. I am glad that I can once again be part of the 2014 Summer Research Programme. I am glad that I've met so many awesome lecturers - like Dr Hurley and Dr Meagher all the way from Dublin. I'm glad that this year was the year of the selfie - with so many memories captured in a particularly interesting self-directed angle.

In short - it has been an awesome IC1, and now we shall focus our attentions on the up and coming summatives. 

May God be with us all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - Madness

Beneath the veneer of sweet niceties and gentle smiles lurks the real world of calculated hate and built-up spite.

That was what I learnt nearly a fortnight ago, and I still reel from it - the stench of the hypocrisy of it all would have been unbearable if I had not held on to my guns.

Yes, I still hold on - barely - to my guns, but now am ever ready to pull the trigger at the first sign of the next attack or when there arises an opportune moment of weakness in the enemies' chainmail of faked innocence.

How does it feel like to be double-crossed by a friend?

White hot pain. Blinding pain. Heart-rending pain. You can literally feel your sternum being wrenched apart and your heart dangling out of your rib cage by the pulmonary veins.

I am now a more cautious man. Never will I let anyone come too close into my confidence.

In the depths of my sorrow, I realized that my friends were right all along.

I must make a stand so strong, and a decision of my own, insurmountable, undeniable and devoid of external enticement, before the light of truth, in the spirit of Justice, both to myself, to the ones I have loved from the beginning, to those who have vested their trust in me and to those I have solemnly vowed from days past - so terrible and solemn will that decision be that only one person deserves to be that arbiter. God Himself.

Interdicts on nations, and anathemas on men. But all men err, so shall we interdict the world entire?

But in my defense, and as a fellow human being, who has done nothing wrong except to listen to one's anguish, dried one's tears, comfort one who sat in pain; I speak as one who gave up my personal time  and the wee hours of the night, including the opportunity to attain glory, to help raise someone from the depths of mirth to the heights of erudition. Yet I asked for nothing, but I wrongly assumed that one would know how to be grateful. For in my time of need, nothing was done for me, and not even a single defense was raised. I had to be my own spokesman, and you made me the criminal in your case.

I shall speak no more. For it is finished.

I had better friends in days past. The fireplaces built in the warmth of friendship in secure fortresses of trust have grown cold; I must return to rekindle those fires. It is tomfoolery to remain at a crumbling bridge that has nothing but empty lip service to buoy it up.

To every man let his deeds be weighed. I was not a perfect man and I am not without my share of mistakes. But let every man see and judge for himself what he chooses to believe.

Tomorrow will be a new day. For the madness of today is gone, and tomorrow a fresh slate is yet to be written.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What His Actions Might Really Mean - Leslie Becker-Phelps

Being a friend is one thing - being a TRUE friend is another. Some people try too hard but forget it is not a status earned, but a status bestowed in mutual kindly understanding. Also, some people play the real hypocrite by claiming they know things when they seriously don't. The worst hypocrites are those who claim they know human nature, or worse, they 'think' and even 'boastfully boast' that know how their friends think. True, you can claim you know SOME bits or a rough idea of how your friend thinks or the types of decisions he is likely to make, but you don't know him inside out unless you're his mother [and sometimes, even his mother might not know certain matters which are clicking in his mind]. The worst part is when some people play the emotional sucker and don't know they're doing it - or claim not to know they're doing it. So, for those self-proclaimed 'I know what you're thinking gurus' who love to think they know it all about men especially, here's a post for you and just shut that gap and read quietly.
When your boyfriend/guy friend/ male classmate starts doing this:
Action: Changing the subject 
Translation: “I don’t want to talk about this.”
Yes, he is changing the subject because he’d rather not discuss the topic. And it might occasionally work, but mostly it aggravates you. So, what can you do about it? First, try to understand the issue from his perspective. Once you’re about to imagine yourself in his shoes, you can call him out on changing the subject by addressing his reasoning for doing it. This might mean asking him why he does it. “I noticed that every time I mention _____, you change the subject. I’m wondering why.” Or, you might be able to address the reason more directly. “I notice that every time I mention going out with Kathy and Bob, you change the subject. I’m guessing that you do this because you’re not crazy about spending time with Bob. I get it. He can be a pain. But can we talk about how we can make it work because I’d really like us to get together again?”
Action: Agreeing, but with no follow through 
Translation: “I disagree.”
Same problem. He doesn’t want to discuss the topic, and mostly wants to avoid an argument. The best way to address this is to find a way for the two of you to disagree without drawing blood. Acknowledge that he might have a different perspective. Explain that you want to find a way for you both to feel heard and respected. This might mean finding a compromise or one of you being willing to “give” in this situation.
Action: Avoidance; crankiness; indirectly expressed anger 
Translation: “I am angry.”
Again, having a fight is no fun. So, rather than directly saying that he’s angry with you, he might stomp around, toss some verbal daggers under his breath, or be particularly persnickety. When this happens, let him know that you get that he’s upset. Say that you care about how he feels and want him to tell you more directly about what’s wrong. Then be prepared to talk maturely about the situation.
Action: Puts air in your car tires; shovels the walkway 
Translation: “I care.”
He might not have the eloquence of Shakespeare: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Nor might he be the type to simply say, “I love you.” But pay attention. He might show you his love by directing his attention and energy into making your life better in some ordinary ways. Take the time to appreciate actions; they are true gifts. And, if you really want some other special effort – like an evening out at a particular concert – simply ask.
Action: Says, “You can solve this by…”     
Translation: “I want to take away your pain.”
Sometimes you just want a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Instead, he focuses on solving your problem. It’s frustrating. But remember that this is his way of saying that seeing you struggle hurts him. So, be happy that he wants to take your pain away. But, to get the response you want, ask for it. Before you vent, explain that what you want is for him to just listen. Reassure him that this really will help; and then let it flow.
No matter what language people speak, they want to love and be loved. You just have to know how to bridge the language gap.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Med School Report - The Passing of a Great Teacher

Today, Perdana has lost yet another great educator, a man dedicated to the service of advancing the art of medicine, a champion of public health, and a lecturer loved by all his students.

He was my mentor, and he made a huge impact in changing the way I viewed public health. He was instrumental in driving home the message that public health, just like any other branch in medicine, is just as important - if not, even more influential and impactful on the populace in general.

His passing was sudden - the cruel scissors of the Fates acted abruptly today, robbing us of that great role model, teacher and friend.

Dr Hemantha, your passing has left us in a state of sorrow - but your death shall not be in vain - for in your passing, you have entered our memories as a monument of an undying sense of dedication to teaching and to public health.

In memoriam praeceptor magnus - requiescat in pace dona ei, Domine.

Prof Dr Hemantha Wickramatillake - your passing shall see us fight even more courageously in our endeavour to become good doctors.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Independent, Free, Unshackled

I am a single man - why should I be shackled by the burdens of marriage?

No man who puts his hand to the plough and turns back is fit - but not I, for I have not partaken the sweet mead of love

I am a single man, uninterested in the intrigues of courtship - am I to be limited by the sanctified limes of marriage?

I am a single man, with a wild spirit and a zest for unbounded adventure - my feet are quick to explore the unknown, and my eyes roam far beyond the sunset

My freedom is my treasure; my mind is my own - so is my soul

In my heart, there is not yet any room for another - there is, but only for the joy of life

And I think foul scorn that one should presume one's self to be my only friend

I am a free man, single, unshackled, independent - my mind is my own, my words are mine to keep, my promises I make as I think fit and my dignity I alone shall judge

I am a man, single, free - and I desire not any companionship - for I bethink it wise that I should remain free with open eyes to see the world beyond my horizons....

....Before I make a commitment I am not prepared to make

Or a promise I cannot keep and so profane myself.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Med School Report - Day 529

On some days, you just feel that your head could just burst wide open.

You could microbiology till you felt your stomach is teeming with billions of enterobacteria, till your nasopharynx seems to be overcolonized by an excessive inoculum of streptococcus pneumoniae, till you see a microcosm of microbes on every doorknob and lift-button.

This semester's triple whammy module - combining Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology - isn't the only thing we've to worry about - there's still the Cardio-Respiratory Module, and the Hematolymphoid Oncology module in the next half of this semester.

I'm just so exhausted, but I can't give up just yet. I've heard aplenty from my seniors in Year 3. Sometimes I am afraid - am I adequate enough? Am I prepared to hit the wards?

I am overcome by doubt on certain days. But I am learning to rein in my fears and instead try to build up those areas of weakness that I know of.

Some maxims I was forced to memorize never became applicable [or so I thought] to my life until I entered medical school. Then everything made sense.

'With God, all things are possible.'

'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'

'Unless God builds the house, the laborers labor in vain.'

It finally dawned upon me that it was only in the trials of medical school that I truly understood what was meant by the Teacher's words 'Do not worry, ye believe in God; believe also in me.'

I have learnt to admit my ignorance in things I know nothing of. But at the same time I have learnt, that it is not in our current state of knowledge alone that we make ourselves competent doctors - rather it is actually in our willingness to learn that we may, step-by-step, improve ourselves and by extrapolation, the healthcare system.

Pathology might present herself as a thick lumbering textbook - and microbiology might be concealed in hundreds of slides. The lecturers might be rushing past us like bullet trains and the facts might fly over the top of our heads. The lecture hours may be long and sometimes agonizingly slow. We may feel alone in our fears and panic. But I trust in God that He will take interest in the good work that is to be done through us, His handiwork. Grant us strength, Lord, in the work we have set out to do, and help us in our endeavor to learn this art of healing.

Transmission ends.