Tag Archives: Cell Biology

Wrapping It Up

This week concludes Cell Biology, Metabolism, and Genetics. We will take the last exam on Friday. Despite my abysmal performance on the last quiz (and passing Epidemiology and Research by the skin of my teeth), I need to score just a 36% on this final test in order to pass the block and never see any of these subjects again (until Step 1). Tomorrow is given entirely for self study in preparation for the exam, which will be followed by a glorious weekend with NOTHING to study before anatomy begins next Monday.

I’m actually a little bit worried about that. I am comfortable with brute memorization and have fairly good visual skills, so the material isn’t too unsettling. What worries me is this new format. A 10 week course in the past has been re-packaged into 7 weeks. Apparently the amount of dissection has remained unchanged, which is potentially bad news. They reduced the amount of histology and cross section lab work, while adding more clinical applications and emphasizing radiology reading (something we will have to actually use). A few second years told me that it will be much better than their schedule. We start dissection on the back, then switch to the front and work from the head down. Some second years told me that they had passed the course by acing exams until they hit the waist, at which point they slacked off. One girl mentioned she knew almost nothing about the lower legs and feet, since she didn’t really go to class for that part. That’s hilarious, if true, and reminds me of this.

I may fall into that same trap, because Week 5 or 6 of anatomy coincides with the release of about 3 of my favorite video games, as well as my birthday. I plan to do well and study hard, but my scores may decrease slightly after November begins 🙂

Ready for a big reason why I may fail this next exam? Here it is.

This is little Zoe, the newest addition to our family. I had a post in draft describing all of the reasons I wanted a dog, and finally convinced my wife to go to an adoption event last weekend because we saw that cute little pup on Craigslist. Now she is ours. She is part Rottweiler/Doberman, but is pretty small. Her mom is only 35 pounds, and she shouldn’t get bigger than that. She is recovering from pneumonia right now, so her endurance for romping in the yard is about 10 minutes. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING in the world sadder than a 4.5lb puppy with pneumonia. NOTHING.

She’s doing pretty good on housetraining and basic stuff, and is pretty chill for a puppy. In high school and college our family dog was a big yellow lab, 90lbs of love and spastic crazy tail. Our house and yard aren’t great for a dog of that…..girth. I like big dogs, and Zoe is a good compromise.

Despite my prolonged periods of non-posting, I have noticed continued views on posts in my absence. How cool is that? And if you are reading my blog from Australia please email me and tell me how you found it. If you Google “basically useless”, am I on the front page? Should I be excited about that?

In all seriousness, I have a theory I call the Blogger’s Paradox: those with the least time to write blogs often have incredible material to work with, should they decide to write. I have read blogs in the past where posts were frequent and the authors time was obviously plentiful, but the quality just wasn’t there. People who have different experiences on a daily basis can pull from that and write strong blogs, if they have the time. One benefit of medical is taking a daily swim in the pool of weird stuff, whether it’s diseases, classmates, or the strange things professors do and say. I try to make writing a daily habit, and I largely succeed, but the result is not always ready to be published, so I often have drafts and scraps floating around for days on end. Any time a big test looms in the future, however, you can count on posts while I do my best to not study 🙂

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment below or send an email directly to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com


Reality Check

Our first big exam is coming up on Friday. We have already had some smaller quizzes and evaluations, but this will be our first really big one. It really shouldn’t be too bad, but you wouldn’t know it based on the opinions expressed by my classmates last week. When asked how much I was going to study this past Labor Day weekend, I honestly told them “very little, if at all”. I got a lot of wide eyes with that comment.

The things you can find on Google.

I am specifically talking about three or four people in one of my small group activities. They get pretty worked up about everything, and I don’t really see how they learn anything. In lecture a few days ago they would constantly ask each other (and me) annoying questions like:

“What did he say? How do you spell that? How do you know that? Why does it have to be that way? How do you know that? How do you spell that?”

I’m surprised they were able to hear enough of the lecture to ask questions about it, much less learn anything. I do try to learn a few things in lecture, every now and then. In fact, all the way through undergrad, I have been able to sit in lecture, hear what is told to me, and then promptly regurgitate all of that knowledge onto an exam a few weeks later. I think I also have a special kind of laser-like focus, such that I remain completely engrossed in the lecture or totally concentrated on my iPhone.

My class looks something like this, just with a few additional iPads, so no one even notices.

So anyways, we have all kinds of time given to us to study for this exam, so that’s beautiful. We still have to learn things that are most likely pointless knowledge. For example, I spent a good portion of the day re-learning the steps and enzymes in metabolism. Our lecturer today told us we will need to know this stuff exactly twice. Once on Friday for the exam, and again next year for Step 1. After that, we can just look it up on the Interweb.

Anyways, (I’m so good at transitions. I just switch to my new topic and let you catch up). So anyways, lots of crazy stuff happened over the long weekend. I wanted to touch on two things and tie them in with my main point for the night. In case you were distracted while watching for another post from this blog, I’ll help catch you up. First things first, the Slane girl. A few weeks ago a young girl got a little extra friendly with a guy at an Eminem concert in Slane. Over the last few days this has spawned multiple memes and quite the commotion over some social stereotypes (the women is considered a slut, but no one seems to hold the guy accountable here either). Interestingly, she is claiming sexual assault, and I think she may be a minor.

Then there is the slightly more important tension with Syria. The crazy guy who runs Syria is apparently using chemical weapons (WMD’s) to murder his own people, and Obama may or may not do something about it, depending on what Congress says. I’m not even going to bother linking that, since it will continue to develop even as I write this. Needless to say, no one seems to have any idea what’s happening, especially in Washington D.C. I know this because I was stuck in yet another auto store today and forced to watch CNN, where I saw the hearings. There was lots of posturing and nonsense from both sides, and no one was thinking clearly. Interestingly, however, they used the word “reality” a lot.

I thought that was interesting. One person would express an opinion, and they would then be either reassured or rebuffed by an appeal to “the reality of the situation”. What’s interesting is that reality is the state of things as they actually exist, not the way we perceive them.

And so, of course, my way of viewing reality is the right way. “&$#! no it isn’t,” you think as you reach for your mouse to email me. And you’re right as well. To you, your way of viewing the world is reality, and mine is just a construct. Some people think the girl from Slane is a slut. Some think that everyone there is terrible for even going to an Eminem concert. Others are reading that article, grateful that there were no cell phones at concerts/parties they had attended in the past. I think we should probably get involved in Syria, but my neighbor wants nothing to do with it.

Fact is, both of our views are probably constructs. Since our view of reality is shaped by so many factors, many of which are completely out of our control, it is unlikely we will ever experience enough of the world or life to be able to claim we have a grip on “reality”. I was fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy, middle class American family. I have no knowledge of living paycheck to paycheck, I have never had my utilities turned off, and I have never been in any real danger of becoming broke, as I have a small army of friends and family members that would help me out if I really needed it. That’s reality for me. Others know the flip side, so reality for them is a much grittier experience.

I’m not saying “reality” doesn’t exist. As a concept, it certainly does. It just isn’t a concept we could ever conceivably grasp enough of to ever claim we understand it. Any time you hear someone tell you what the world is actually like, they really are saying something like “This is the way the situation seems to me, based on how I see the world”. Does anyone actually think that John Kerry (and his hair, rumored to be an entirely separate, sentient organism) actually understand what life is like on the ground in Syria now?

See? I don’t think they are attached

So undoubtedly some of my classmates are still at the medical school right now, frantically making flash cards and studying even harder to get 102% on the first exam. Out of 40 exams. Out of one year of medical school. Whatever. That may just be worth it to them.

(I’m also really good at conclusions. I just end the post and go watch Netflix)

Thanks for reading!


One week down. Arguably, this may have been the easiest week of medical school we will yet experience, but I am starting to get a feel for the routine I will need to establish. I have been waking up a few hours before lecture and having breakfast while reviewing material for lecture that day. I then head to class and attend all of the lecture and small group sessions (this is around 6-8hrs a day). After that I have time to go home and get a quick run in before I grab dinner and spend perhaps another hour reviewing what we went over. That gives me plenty of time in the evening to relax and unwind a bit. This will likely change when exams and quizzes come around, but I seem to be getting through the material with pretty recall so far. In two weeks my wife will finally move in and start her new job, forcing me to do things like “clean” and “shower”. Lame. (just kidding, I actually do most of the cleaning because I have a thing about cleaning)

I went to a panel earlier this week. The AMA sponsored several fourth years with high board scores and strong residency applications to come and give us some advice on Step 1, study habits, and other things that they learned during their four years of medical school. The most common theme in their advice was to enjoy the first few years of medical school, make friends, and study enough to pass. There is no need to study for Step 1, try to shadow, or do anything extra, according to the fourth years. Just pass your classes and set yourself up to do well in the coming years.

That’s kind of hard to hear, especially since we are all eager-beaver first year students. Every single student attended training to volunteer at our campus free clinic that offers healthcare for uninsured in the area. Several people in our class are working on getting research spots in labs. Why? Probably because most people in our class are pretty smart.

That’s a generalization, don’t get me wrong. There are several people I have already noticed seem to be a few fries short of a happy meal, but most of the class seems to be generally intelligent. I can tell this by the attitude in the class. In every class I have ever been in that was considered “hard” (organic chemistry, anatomy, even general chemistry for some people), every lecture was followed with something like “How are we supposed to learn all of this? We covered so much material today! There’s no way I am going to learn this!” Even after flying through a lot of Cell Biology in this first section, I have’t heard a single person mention feeling overwhelmed or even the least bit daunted by the volume yet. There is this feeling of grim optimism/determination to get through the material and do well. I like it. It’s contagious.

So there are lots of people that are really good at a huge variety of things. Last week during venipuncture practice I discovered that a new friend of mine has years and years of phlebotomy experience and could probably draw blood from me blindfolded. I managed to get my sticks done in one shot (beginner’s luck) but I felt like a baby giraffe trying to walk for the first time. I got the job done. I was also told repeatedly that I have great friends, and my partner got envious looks from the girl next to me, who had spend quite a while searching desperately for a vein in her partners arm.

I also went to a lecture given by a neurosurgeon at our associated hospital who is a total stud (I go to these lectures for the free food, by the way. I’m not a gunner or anything). What I thought would be a Q+A session for the gunners looking for neurosurgery residency spots ended up being a video demonstration of this guy doing cranial bypasses, stitching vessels together under a microscope with thread so thin that the naked eye can’t even see it.

The AMA panel featured people who had scored “240+” on their Step 1, and I happen to know of a certain first year who sits behind me that scored north of 42 on his/her MCAT. Yikes.

So all of these smart people are currently studying hard for our first exam type thing this Friday, and I’m writing online while waiting for my car to get a new set of tires (and it’s taking forever). Then I realized that I do have some advantages going for me, if I think very hard. I certainly have an advantage in physical endurance. I’m the only triathlete in the class (unless someone is living at home and watching lectures online), and I have stood out at the first few softball/frisbee/football games, so I’ve got that going for me. I also probably drink the most sweet tea of anyone in the class. That’s about it.

Sweet, my car is ready. Thanks for reading.