Archive | June, 2011

100,000 airplanes and doctoring

6 Jun

Over the past half-century, we’ve split the atom, we’ve spliced the gene, and we’ve roamed Tranquility Base.  We’ve reached for the stars, and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp.  New science, new technology is making the difference between life and death, and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility.  And so I announce to you tonight that I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: We will cure cancer by the end of this decade.

~Sam Seaborn

Two somewhat crazy things: 1) that West Wing episode will have aired a decade ago this coming January; and 2) the drug Dr. Abbey Bartlet’s colleagues were discussing at dinner (which led the President to want to announce in the State of the Union address that we were going to find a cure for cancer in the next decade) was none other than Gleevec or, as they referred to it, a Signal Transduction Inhibitor.

So…I’ve had two exceptionally wonderful weekends in a row that, coupled with the summer fever-induced lack of productivity, has led to mild sense of panic.  It’s unfortunate that the first thing I take off my plate  to catch up on the “hard science-y stuff” are the lectures on which we’re not tested, namely those of our Doctoring I course.  The course might appropriately be subtitled “how to not be a jerk,” so I think there is a tendency among most of us, myself certainly included, to assume that it’s not meant for us personally…it’s for all those other gunners.  I didn’t think twice about skipping the talk today.  Then I ran into Jin on the ground floor of John Morgan as he was walking to Reunion Hall and I was clearly not:

Jin: “You’re not going to the lecture?”

Me: “No, I don’t think so, I need to VC.”

Jin: “You really should.  Dr. Shannon is an excellent speaker.”

He didn’t say anything else; he didn’t really try to convince me.  But it’s so rare for a fellow student to share an unsolicited personal opinion about how another student should use his/her “free” time.  I have to admit, I was a little taken aback, and I was much more persuaded by this personal recommendation than by the mass email from Suite 100 encouraging us to attend.

I can’t replicate the force of Dr. Shannon’s talk.  The manner in which he believed in the possibility of the elimination of ALL hospital acquired infections and medication errors, and in which he urged us to not only aim for but actually ACHIEVE similarly audacious goals…well, it was nothing short of Sam Seaborn material.

Yes, Jin, I’m glad I went.  Thank you.


jen’s getting married!

5 Jun

In 13 days!!!

Love love LOVE our sexy little bachelorette!  I’ve been so lucky to know Jen for almost 13 years now.  Although we’d been singing together since my first year in high school, I think it was really Mr. Stuben’s pre-calc class that was responsible for us coming together as friends…the whole misery loves company thing, bonding over a shared torment.  And I’ve been following her lead ever since: first to UVA; then to Boston…now I’m trying to drag her ass down to Philly…the weather’s better here, I promise!

I met Dave about a month into their courtship in the summer of 2006.  Inevitably, when I describe them to others, one of the first sentences out of my mouth is, “It’s really hard to imagine a more perfectly matched couple.”  They’re wonderful on their own, but definitely even better together.  And, they’re one of those rare partnerships with which you can easily enjoy an evening or outing and not feel like a third wheel (they’re both so inclusive and generous in conversation)…which, during John’s first two years of residency in Boston, was a pretty sweet deal for me.

Well…you can probably guess where this post is going…something about Anna crying in public again.  A little over a month ago, in our Doctoring small group, we went around the room and were asked to share how we felt we were maintaining a work-life balance in med school.  Unlike other occasions, this fit of tears came on without warning.  I explained that I felt I did an okay job keeping a life outside of school but that I felt that, especially this past semester, I hadn’t been a particularly good friend to the people I love.  Just the day prior, I had sent Jen a lengthly email explaining that I didn’t think I could be at her wedding, which is in Massachusetts the weekend before our GI final.

I knew when I decided to enter the medical profession that I would miss a lot of important events.  I already have.  But Jen and Dave’s wedding might be first one that gnaws so cripplingly at the bottom of my stomach.  It makes me sick that I’m missing it.  132 people attended our wedding, and I swear that now, and likely for many many years, I could recite every name on the guest list,  and describe some of the intimate moments so fleetingly exchanged as I brushed their hands when my dad and I walked down the aisle, as John and I made the rounds during dinner, as we reveled on the dance floor.  Weddings are important; declaring a union in front of the people you love most in the world is a completely unique experience.  And I so very much wish that I was a responsible, efficient enough student to feel like I could make the trip to watch Jen and Dave get married without compromising my education.  In part, I already regret my decision.

Recently, I’ve been sharing a lot of Jen memories with my close friends at Penn.  It’s felt good to think and reflect about some of the many many things about this woman that make her a tremendous human being, a passionate musician, a dedicated lawyer, a courageous world adventurer, and one of the most caring, generous souls I’ve encountered.  I know you and Dave will have an exceedingly happy marriage.  I’m having a hard time finding the words for my wishes for the two of you, so I’ll leave with the words of Afghani-Turkish poet Mawlânâ Jalâl ad-Dîn Muhammad Balkhî:

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

No one can capture them better than the illustrious Julie Napear Wichern.

five years

4 Jun

Happy Reunions, Class of 2006!!!  Part of my heart will definitely be with you this weekend.  Kathleen, please drink one of your famous mojitos for me, then transition to sangria.  All you other ‘hoos down in ‘hooville, bourbon and coke!

Some favorites:

trivia: Dr. Seuss got his inspiration for the Grinch from this dude who got rejected from UVA, got rich, and built a rotunda-looking mansion on top of O’Hill so that he could look down on all the wa‘hoos down in ‘hooville

traditions: trick-or-treating on the lawn

course: Ulysses and Modernity (which I suckered two of my music professors into taking with me…while we were students together, I got to call them by their first names)

drinks and eats: St. Maarten’s; Bluegrass Grille; Mas; Arch’s; feast; Mudhouse

garden (there are ten): VI (totally under-appreciated)

study spot: the Sally Brown Reading Room (there’s a fireplace!)

first-year memory: getting “rolled” by the newdos (my apologies to my suite, especially my RA, who I believe came out with a baseball bat)

worst decision: Eucharist power-hour

organizations: Musicians on Call; U-Singers; Newdos; ASB; Sustained Dialogue; the Speakers’ Bureau; SEP

mentors: Michael S; Marcia C; Chris K; Pamela B; Scott P; Anna B; Tico B; Raymond N

secret society: I have to say the Sevens…but I do love the Pumpkins!

outdoor activities: Old Rag Mountain hiking, Carter Mountain Orchards, and James River tubing

concerts: yo-yo ma fo’ free at the paramount, john d’earth with pete spaar at veritas starry nights

road trip: new orleans in a car without AC, heat, and radio, but with three of my favorite women

unexpectedly challenging moment: conducting U-Singers singing “Lux Aurumque” and “Silent Night” to a sea of wahoos during the lighting of the lawn

best piece of advice: “college is not a trade school”–good thing too, since I took a total of one science class, never went to class, and got a C…well, being a C student apparently didn’t stop some man from becoming president :/

unexpectedly life-changing moment: being introduced to my husband at the end of my first semester…by my boyfriend at the time


3 Jun

Wah-hoo-wah, wah-hoo-wah!  Uni-v, Virginia!  

Hoo-rah-ray, hoo-rah-ray, ray, ray–U-V-A!!!

Isn’t she beautiful?  There’s a reason she’s protected by the UN.

Remembering the purple shadows of the lawn,

the majesty of the colonnades,

and the dream of your youth,

you may say in reverence and thankfulness:

“I have worn the honors of Honor, I graduated from Virginia.”

uber talented friends

3 Jun

It’s not everyday you get to attend a by-donation concert with so many of your obscenely talented musician-med student friends, playing and singing alongside physicians, PhDs, professors, and the occasional physician-professor child, either playing a violin concerto for memory while wearing an adorable sequin gold dress (which I kind of wish was made in adult sizes) or plucking a string bass that looked big enough to devour the small child.

Please excuse the pixelation…we’ll just call the photos “artistic.”

my city

3 Jun

Not a particularly historic part of town.  Not a particularly talented photographer.  Pictures taken using a mobile phone and a shaky hand, on an unremarkable Wednesday in June.

Still.  Philadelphia, you so frequently take my breath away.

the problem with great teachers

2 Jun

After a couple flight delays Monday night followed by an early morning train ride (during which I proceeded to fall asleep on the shoulder of the poor, unsuspecting businessman seated next to me, furiously typing away on his laptop…llllllllllllll), I rolled into school just in time for small group on Tuesday morning.  Needless to say, I was not the most eloquent when called upon to answer questions on Barrett’s esophagus (an abnormal change in some of the cells of the lower esophagus to resemble those of the intestines).

During situations like these, I typically don’t get all that much out of small group.  But Tuesday was different…on Tuesday, we had Franz as our preceptor.  He was outstanding.  He kept the small group both lively and efficient, asking specific, well-phrased questions, and bouncing around the class, not allowing students to be mere bystanders to discussion.  He related the cases to what he sees in clinic and made all the murky details make sense and feel relevant to our pursuit of medical understanding.  And, for students like me who couldn’t answer all the questions he directly asked (after the long weekend, there were many students like me), he did nothing to make us feel ashamed or embarrassed…in fact, I got the feeling that he appreciated the transient confusion, using it as a springboard to include some applicable anecdotes that would somehow make everything make sense.  I will always remember the signs and symptoms of cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder) and that, if need be, I can fake my way out of a prison camp by complaining of severe (referred) pain radiating over my right scapula.

But now it’s so so tough to settle for anything less in a preceptor.  Franz, you may have ruined me.

uncle ben

1 Jun

I can’t get over this series of Ben with his niece.  She simply could not stop smiling when in his company (despite the feared stranger anxiety about which we learned in Brain & Behavior, part II).  She was also quite the show-stopper at the wedding, and her godparents (the newlyweds) were all too happy to pass on some of the limelight.

It occurred to me, Ben, that this whole wedding thing…we’ve really experienced a nice variety together:

  • French Catholic–the three-day celebration
  • New Orleans Nouveau Cajun-style, complete with Second Line
  • Moroccan-Israeli “Henna” Wedding
  • Virginian botanical gardens, where it’s acceptable to drink before noon
  • Minnesotan…ironically, my first Jewish wedding in a synagogue, I think

Minneapolis might not draw out the same amount of the party animal as Old Jaffa…

…but, with the company assembled by Matt and Claire, it took us very little time to transition from this:

…to this:

Well played, friend.  Hopefully we didn’t cause too much trouble?