Archive | December, 2010

alternative career

30 Dec

One night in December 2007, I was studying for my organic chemistry final in the dilapidated library at Goucher (I wouldn’t be surprised if the water-stained carpets were over 50 years old), when I got a phone call from my sister.  “You’ve seen Stranger than Fiction, right?”–not such an unusual conversational habit for Sarah, forgoing the traditional greeting and shooting straight into the reason for contact.  “Remember Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character?  She flunked out of Harvard Law and opened up her own bakery.  I think you should do that.  You know, like what you planned when you were a kid: you wanted to marry me, and we would open up a bakery together.”  Tempting….particularly in the middle of soul-sucking premed finals, very tempting.  And, while we’re on the topic, can I just express how grateful I am that I have a sister who, eight years my senior, always thought it was more cute  than perverted when four-year-old Anna declared regularly that she wanted to marry her first-degree relative.  (Sarah also let our mother dress us up periodically in matching outfits, which I’m sure, when I was four and she was 12, must have looked incredibly cool to a seventh-grader.)

Sass reminds me of this option once a year or so, often when we come together around some holiday and find ourselves hunched over the same mixing bowl, “sampling” the frosting off spatulas, discussing whether or not we’ve added enough booze.  Alas, I do think I’ve found my calling in the medical profession, so Sarah lets me indulge in the fantasy instead by reading about food, preferably books that she’s already owns and is willing to give and/or lend me…which really doesn’t leave out many halfway decent food books.  A few days before Christmas, I emailed to ask if she had a copy of Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  “Uh…yeah, I think it’s somewhere buried in my car.  It was disappointing…but you might like it.”  Yes, I am decidedly less discriminating than my sister when it comes to food memoirs…or I just put up with sappy writing better.

Well, it’s definitely no Cooking for Mr. Latte (Sass’s x-mas 2008 gift and arguably the most enjoyable book I’ve read since), but I’ve totally relished the easy-read chapters, curled up in a fleece blanket by the Christmas tree.  A description of Wizenberg’s father:

He could be pouty, of course, and a real huffer-and-puffer.  His favorite weapon was the silent treatment, and he wielded it with impressive skill.  But he had more love, and more passion, and more enthusiasm for pretty much everything than you and me combined.  He loved being a doctor.  He loved Dixieland jazz.  He loved the old Alfa Romeo Spider that sat in the driveway and never ran.  He loved crossword puzzles, Dylan Thomas, and Gene Krupa banging on a drum kit on the stereo upstairs.  He loved omelets and olives; murder mysteries and short stories; and a hideously ugly ceramic wild boar that sat on his bathroom counter.  He loved his children, even while he forgot our birthdays; loved a cold beer on Saturday at noon; loved lamb shanks, smelly cheese, and my mother in high heels; loved mayonnaise, and me.

I like it when stories include physicians as side characters…that and mayonnaise.  John’s Portuguese grandmother made homemade mayonnaise for Christmas.  As she was laying out the ingredients, she asked me in broken English if I was menstruating, because then she would need to shoo me out of the kitchen.  Funny, I very rarely mind discussing my bodily functions, but this barely 5-foot grandma caught me entirely off guard.

The progression of this post entertains me.



26 Dec

The week before finals, I enjoyed a pretty unique kind of study break.  Whereas I normally like to let my brain vegetate to the latest youtube craze (like the Maccabeats, ridiculously adorable children, and ninja cats) or–do I dare admit it?–old Grey’s Anatomy shows on Hulu, the Ob/Gyn Interest Group-sponsored “Watch-A-Birth” was kind of the antithesis of mind-numbing. 

At 6pm on a Sunday, I showed up to the HUP delivery unit in scrubs and with my hospital ID (it’s amazing how much access that thing gives me), and was promptly greeted by a hurried nurse: “You’re here to watch a birth?  Get in room 2.”  I probably could have just followed the piercing screams.  Within twenty minutes, I was rushed into room 10 to see a second birth.  Although both were relatively uneventful vaginal deliveries, the climates in the two rooms were markedly different.  Room 2 made me feel like I was walking into a party: first birth; mothers, sisters, cousins all in the room cheering (for both the new mother and their respective football teams playing that evening); lots and lots of noise.  Room 10 was the mother’s fourth child; no one other than hospital staff and me was in the room; she didn’t make a sound throughout the entire delivery.  I held her hand and felt a little sheepish when, at the end, she turned to me and whispered, “thank you,” the only thing I heard her say in the 15-20 minutes I spent with her.

a duet with swedish chef

25 Dec

I swear, this s*@& (somehow it feels wrong to curse in writing on Christmas) never gets old.

So…I worry that I’ve become someone who feels perpetually anxious around Christmas, in probably the best way.  John and I are so lucky in that, since his father moved back to the states from London, both that side of the family and my dad live within about 25 minutes of each other.  Therefore, we get to do this dance between the two families and, as a result, likely consume about 8,000 calories/day in the name of Christmas cheer.  And then there’s the y’s & co. (my fabulous TJ cohort) and a handful of beloved wahoos, much of whom descends upon Northern VA around this time of year to their respective parental units.  I wish I could make the minutes stretch, or maybe have Hermione’s time turner, so I don’t feel this constant nervousness that I’m missing it.  Of course, it probably doesn’t help that I have a body that just shuts off, regardless of location, when it decides it’s had enough.  During the y’s gift exchange on the 23rd, I spent most of the evening passed out of Leo’s couch…pretty typical Anna behavior that this group, after over a decade, knows well enough to ignore.  Basically, I acknowledge that I’m probably the luckiest girl in the world, but, come on, can’t I just get a turbo-charge body for Christmas one year so that I can see more of all the people I love??

With that, I should be getting back.  Updates have been light or nonexistent recently, but I have a feeling a megapost is in the works to tie up the end of the semester.  Merry Christmas!


without computer

24 Dec

Hello friends! Will post again soon, but am frustratingly without a real keyboard at the moment. A few quick notes:

1) I successfully passed my first semester of medical school! I am thrilled…and nothing felt better than exclaiming this feat to my NYC brother over the phone, while stumbling home late Tuesday night, and having him so genuinely tell me that he was proud of me. Sigh.

2) I’m somewhat sick as a dog and wondering whether or not I might be infected by an enveloped virus because then, theoretically, it might respond to ethanol, or so our microbiology exam suggested.

3) I hope you and your families have a very merry Christmas! I LOVE this holiday, and I LOVE watching “A Muppet Family Christmas” with some of my nieces and nephews…it literally makes me laugh to the point of tears. If you haven’t seen this gem, buy a bootleg edition. Best Christmas movie of all times!

In all seriousness, happy holidays!

while visions of ganglia danced in their heads

20 Dec

It’s astounding how well friendships can develop after studying across the table from each other (the same table) in Van Pelt three days in a row, with a shared fear of failure strengthening our camaraderie all the more.  Julia and Duncan, thanks for not getting sick of me yet.  13 hours, 21 minutes until freedom!

a haiku

19 Dec

for my micro test

gotta bring in the big guns:

Miss Diagnosis.


17 Dec

Sometimes I succeed as a human being/wife/daughter/sister/aunt.  Like this morning, when 95% of Christmas gifts have been purchased and those that need to mailed to places across the country are wrapped and ready (to be there by Christmas!), in boxes that once contained our wedding gifts that John thought I was crazy to hang on to.  Not crazy, just resourceful.  Sometimes I succeed as a student.  I just really really wish those two weren’t mutually exclusive.  Sure would love to be able to have these bugs memorized by end of day today (or Saturday, or Sunday)…Santa, please?

microbiology, the musical

16 Dec

When an adorable 85-year-old woman, who has racked up an inspiring/intimidating amount of “firsts” in the fields of microbiology and medicine, stands up to give the last lecture of Mod 1, dammit, you better listen.  Her take home message after describing a multi-state salmonella outbreak in the 1980s in which marijuana exposure was found to be a commonality among the victims: “Know your dealer.”

For 45 minutes, we sang some of her favorite arrangements as micro review, including “Leprosy” (set to the tune of “Yesterday”):

Bits and pieces falling off of me
But it isn’t the toxicity
It’s just neglect of injury.
I’m not half the man I used to be
Can’t feel anything peripherally
From swollen nerves, hypersensitivity
Why don’t leprae grow in vitro we cannot say
In vivo they grow very slow, once in 12 da-ay-ay-ays
Hard to get,
But the stigma hasn’t faded yet,
Don’t keep an armadillo as a pet,
Clofazimine and Dapsone, Don’t forget.


On that note, I should get back to it.  My day’s been pretty well eaten up by an obnoxiously long dental appointment and trying to help John get out the door for the airport after the snow severely delayed his drive back to Philly from an interview.  Last night, a handful of MS1 kindred spirits met us out for drinks at Doobie’s (which I think is becoming my favorite Philly dive bar–thanks Mallorie for introducing us!), and they seemed to approve.  The silver lining of living in a separate city from John is that I have almost a year with these kids before they really start to get to know him…he has a horrible habit of friend swiping!  No really.  I find the good ones, bring ’em in, and then John snatches them up.  Friends far and wide are powerless against his charms.  Well, at least when John moves to Philly he’ll be moving in with me, so the med school peeps will be forced to see me when they come over to visit him.

In all seriousness, as we were leaving Doobie’s, beginning the walk down Pine before we surrendered to the cold and got in a cab, I asked John what he thought.  “Well, it’s a gang of movers and shakers, real world changers.  I like them, a lot.”  Pretty heavy for a two-hour gathering of MS1 hooligans, sipping on $4 beers and $3 vodka gimlets.

the crackpots and these women, music and microbiology

14 Dec

One of my favorite West Wing moments.

Feeling a tad overwhelmed at the moment.  Between memorizing the branches, paths, and functions of the cranial nerves and the millions of bugs that are sure to kill us all, I fear I won’t have a chance to update very much until the end of exams, which saddens me particularly because there’s a ton about which I would love to write.  For instance, in my attempt to get caught up in microbio, I’m reading this stack of notes that is turning out to be a page-turner, a real-life horror story.  In middle school, I went through a Stephen King phase, but somehow tales of a car or hotel with a gruesome mind of its own don’t freak me out as much as the bacteria and virus that are becoming progressively more drug-resistant.

Check out Josh’s take above…I don’t know, Josh, I only have a vague idea of the pathogens out there, and I think you might want to reconsider hanging on to that card.

anatomy role play

13 Dec

“When was the last time you saw a uterus with glasses?”  Spoken by our very own Dr. White about two months ago as he demonstrated how the broad ligament formed a double layer of peritoneum, which suspends the uterine tubes, the ovaries, and most of the uterus.  Imagine my disappointment when I recalled this moment of comic relief to John only to have him interrupt, “Let me guess, he draped a clear shower curtain over his head and outstretched arms?  Anna, all med schools use that demonstration.”  Dammit!  Foiled again! And here I thought that act was a Dr. W original that only we at PennMed had the rare privilege to observe!

Okay, John, I’ll do you one better.  How many of your anatomy professors let you act out the part of the arytenoid cartilage?  Eh??  I had vocal ligaments  and a  thyroarytenoid muscle attached to my vocal process (a.k.a. hand of my outstretched right arm) and cricoarytenoid muscles attached to my muscular process (left hand), enabling me to relax and tense the vocal ligaments.  And they are tiny little suckers (in reality, that is).  Dr. R said that John would be proud, and then he quoted Albus Dumbledore: “Eternal glory awaits those who get to be arytenoid cartilages.”  Well, I’d settle for a passing grade on our last two exams next week, but eternal glory sounds good.

Hmmm, a few days ago I mentioned that I would be spending the next several days musing over music.  I’m not sure I should ever make plans on this blog, but maybe talking about the mechanics behind voice production counts.

Finally, if you want to see the master of the muscles associated with the larynx, check out Bobby.  And he’s even more amazing in person, so humble, and barefoot.