Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Skittles and an Iced Tea vs a 9mm

In Rants on March 19, 2012 at 1:42 am

My goodness. Lately, I’ve been pretty much locked away in my Step 1 bubble/cave. When I peak out, what awaits me but this?  I’ve been wanting to write something on this topic for a little while, but I’ll let a fellow blogger’s well-written letter speak for me on this one (or at least for now).  Granted, I’m not a Black male, so I can’t 100% identify, but let’s just say as a Black female, my feelings don’t diverge much.

Trayvon Martin

Additional disturbances (in no particular order):

1) The dispatcher’s questioning if the suspect was Black or Latino – how does that change the “suspiciousness” of his activity?!?

2) Zimmerman…and the cops The cops involved in this heinous crime…Zimmerman’s past with the cops.  We all know how differently Zimmerman would have been treated (re: locked up with key tossed) if he were Black in America.  And he still hasn’t been arrested or charged.  He wasn’t tested for drugs and alcohol that fretful night (standard procedure).

3) Martin’s cries for help had me in tears.  Listen at your own risk – they are haunting.

4) The fact that he was visiting a friend in a gated community – a place he should have been safest – and yet was gunned down…tears yall

To be honest, none of this surprises me. It’s just a vivid reminder of where we are. Blacks are still getting gunned down (by cops, by racists, by both). Apparently, birth control is still being debated, as well as other women’s rights that I (mistakenly?) thought had been settled decades ago. I swear, I poke my head out for just one moment and I feel like I’ve time warped back to the 1940s.

Back into hiding I go…

Our Food…smh

In health, Rants on June 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Confession: I’ve been bingeing on food-related documentaries.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve watched Food, Inc., Super Size Me, Food Matters, and Fed Up!, all thanks to the wonderful Netflix.  Seriously, if you haven’t invested in Netflix, it’s well worth it.  I believe I was on the later side of joining the revolution (joined in Jan of this year) and absolutely love it.  Plus, I’m a documentary junkie, so it satiates my video hunger rather well.  I know these documentaries have been out for a few years, but I kept putting them off.  Needless to say, I am happy I finally came around.

A little background from my life. Coming from a single mother home, I didn’t grow up with the healthiest foods stocked in our kitchen – we were always on the go, so “quick” was emphasized over “quality”.  Not to say we ate junk food…actually, in retrospect, I think we did pretty well considering our circumstances and the general level of nutrition knowledge in America during the 80s and 90s…I mean really, who was talking about organic back then?  We’d pick up fast food after games or practices, but we basically only drank water and milk, and had home-cooked meals whenever possible (never fried!).  Comparing my home’s food stock now to then is like night and day.  Now, we’re stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, organic everything (grass-fed if at all possible)…accompanied with much larger grocery store bills (thank you, Whole Foods).  But, my mom has made the choice that she’d rather sacrifice certain luxuries (say an extra vacation) than her health, and has thus chosen to spend more to eat better.  In sum, we did the best with what we had, and now we’re doing better.  Anywho, all this to say I’ve been blindly eating organic for a while, not really cognizant of the depths of why it is so important to do so.  Until I watched these docs…

I was truly at a loss for words after watching Food, Inc. and Super Size Me.  All I could say was “Wow!” and “Yikes!” and pull a smh.  I’m not even sure where to begin in this analysis.  I guess I’ll just word vomit points that stood out to me and highly recommend you checking these documentaries out if you haven’t already.  The entire experiment of Super Size Me was fascinating in and of itself.  I was simultaneously repulsed and spellbound by this healthy man’s 30 day transformation into a disgusting, bloated, lethargic, food-controlled mess with a dysfunctional liver!  He really made quite the sacrifice to make a point.  Granted, the man ate McDonald’s 3x/day for 30 days, but who would’ve thought it would 1) substantially increase his risk for developing Gout! (Whaat?) and 2) his liver would turn fatty that quickly from food and mirror that of an alcoholic’s.  Sad thing is the amount of people who rely substantially on fast food for most of their meals…yikes!

As for Food, Inc., it’s atrocious how our nation’s farmers are treated like modern-day slaves.  It’s ridiculous that in a country that prizes freedom above all else, politics and greed are depriving us of the knowledge needed for consumers to make truly informed decisions on our purchases that are supposed to drive supply.  Supply and demand – we all know about it.  But what’s happening is that supply is perversely dictating demand through a huge coverup.  Someone, tell me how current US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (one of my least favorite Americans) used to be an attorney for Monsanto Company (a company that basically became a monopoly in genetically engineered soy beans…enslaving and bullying soy bean farmers around the US with its ridiculous patent) and then as a Supreme Court Judge wrote the majority opinion in a case brought against Monsanto that basically supported the legal rights and entrepreneurship of soy bean farmers? What type of logic is this? What kind of “justice” are we seeing?!?  We talk a lot about minority groups such as Blacks, Latinos, and homosexuals, and their fight for equality, but if ever there was a disenfranchised group in America it’s our modern-day farmers (ok, and Native Americans), and it truly breaks my heart.

After watching these films, especially Food, Inc., I am so uncertain as to what to put into my mouth.  I’m not a meat-heavy person by any means, but I do consider it a good source of protein, and as such have included it in my diet…until now.  I honestly am not quite sure what to eat now, in good faith and out of social justice.  This documentary highlighted how mega-corporations, especially McDonald’s, own such a ridiculously large portion of all meat produced in America that even if we’re not going to MickeyD’s to eat, the meat we buy in the supermarket is subject to the same processes as MickeyD’s – Shame! Unfair!  As a consumer, where is my control? Where is my say?  Answer: eat organic, buy local, remember that every scan at the grocery counter is a vote for what you want.  Still, I feel disempowered 😦 Same goes for fruits and veggies – buy in-season produce (or else you’re supporting imports from China, etc), buy local, yadda yadda yadda.  My city is currently having an “Eat Local Challenge”.  Granted, I’m away for half of the month, but I fully intend on joining in the effort upon my return.  It’s doable.  Sure, it requires a bit more time, a little more money, and quite a bit more thought and energy, but it’s worth it – to our bodies, to our farmers, to what this great nation was built upon.

Admittedly, this is a bit tangential to what I usually post, but I feel as (future) physicians, (and this is the public health in me coming out) it is imperative we inform our patients on the nutritional component of their health that we can affect change on a larger level.  Ideally, we inform them, they take it in and make better choices, and their new purchasing patterns change the food supply in this nation.  But how do we inform others if we aren’t ourselves informed? Among this epic food documentary viewing of mine, I watched Food Matters, which was an interesting looking at the medical aspect of nutrition and fall-outs from our nutrient deficient food system.  While I don’t fully buy into all their claims about high dose vitamins in curing many ails (and this could be the skepticism of a medical education rearing its ugly head), I think they made some strong points on the lack of adequate training in nutrition during med school.  It’s interesting that as fundamental as nutrition is to building a healthy, fully operating human body, it is given so little (if any) attention in medical training.  Granted, we have nutritionists (whom we should be incorporated more into our delivery of health care…especially primary care…but that’s for another day), but physicians shouldn’t rely on them to deliver the message.  The producers of this film made some good points as to the unfounded opposition to vitamin therapy (I say unfounded because there have been research studies on the effectiveness of such treatments that the government has deliberately chosen not to archive, which flies in the face of the pharmaceutical companies) and how such treatments, originally discovered by doctors, would decrease the need for certain types of doctors and for a plethora of drugs.  Hmmm, very very interesting.  I’m not going to lie, while they were presenting their case, the thought of well, what does this mean for me as an aspiring physician??  flashed through my mind…as I’m sure it has for decades in the minds of many doctors and others involved in our nations health care system.  In all these documentaries the common thread of deliberate cover-ups and keeping people in the closet on a multitude of issues was evident.  It seems to me that our government, which is supposed to be protecting its citizens, has been protecting a minority of citizens that have a lot of $$$ and spend it to harm the majority…

I could easily keep bringing up points I found particularly interesting or disturbing, but this is getting lengthy and turning into a rambling.  I’ll just leave you to consider checking out some of these documentaries when you get the chance – the dollar or two you’ll spend on these are well worth the payoff you’ll receive in increased knowledge.

New Year’s Review

In Blessings, Rants on December 31, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Here comes the necessary year-in-review post.  I think this post will be short – I had an exceedingly blessed 2010.  I recall the near depression I was in at the end of 2009, thinking that there was very little life could throw at me to make me feel lower.  I knew that 2010 had to be better to me than 2009 had been, or else I probably would have started doubting the existence of God…yes, it was that bad.  And 2010 swept through with more blessings than I can probably even attempt to name.  First and foremost, I started med school.  That alone would have been enough, but God kept blessing me every month.  For that, amongst other things, I thank Him.

Looking back at 2009 – rough.  It did end on a pretty nice note (i.e. a few acceptances), but the path to get there was arduous, to say the least.  I wonder how appreciative I would have been of 2010 had I not lived through my 2009.  I am of the firm belief that trials and tribulations not only produce patience, but also empathy.  Had I coasted through these past few years, or even life, I would have run the risk of being colder. Of falling prey to the mentality of “Hey, I made it – why shouldn’t you? Why should I feel sorry for you? Why should I help you? Pull yourself up.”  I am truly grateful that I am not that person.  So, I guess I owe some thanks after all to 2009, R.I.P.

Now, 2010.  I thank you for the myriad of memories I have formed in my new, wonderful home in (arguably) the most gorgeous city in the nation.  I am happy to say that I am (finally) officially on the way to becoming a doctor.  I thank you for the many doors that have opened in my newfound field for me to pursue my curiosities.  I thank you for rebuilding my confidence – both in myself and in my fellow-man.  I thank you for the wonderful people I have met on this year-long journey and for allowing me to open up and disclose.  For learning to trust and take risks.  For daily pushing of myself to explore new things.  For assuring me I am exactly where I need to be.  I have laughed. I have cried. I won more than I lost. In sum, I survived and am a better person because of every last experience.  I take nothing back.  There are no mistakes – it all happens for a reason.

And now, for 2011. I am excited for what is in store for me.  There are a few doors starting to peek open right now and I am excited to see what lies behind each. 2011, I am ready for you! So, as they say down here, Laissez les bons temps rouler!

A growing fear…

In medicine, Rants on November 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Hello, my internet readers!  Hope all is going well out there.  It’s been a while, but I’ve learned a lot of interesting stuff since we’ve last interacted.  All-in-all, now that everyone’s coming out of their shells, opening up, and putting false pretenses and facades aside, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY CLASS!!! I really do!  We had a few bumps in the road the first month or so of school, but I think people are starting to venture out of their comfort zones – all for the better.  I am all smiles.  Don’t get me wrong, at times I absolutely see how we can revert to high school (actually, middle school might be a more accurate analogy), but overall, life.is.great.! 🙂

Recently, we had to submit an introspective reflection on a major fear we have pertaining to our future careers.  Though rushed and not fully expounded, I thought I’d share one of mine…

As a tenderfoot on the path to full-fledged medical doctor status, I already find myself with drastically less free time.  And as leisure time diminishes, there is less time to devote to nonacademic activities, generating a growing fear that I will disconnect permanently from the nonmedical community – the very people I am training hard to one day serve.  Associated with this fear is the potential to transform into a physician that loses sight of her patients as unique individuals and who sees them for their condition, not for who they are, and consequently decreases the quality of care delivered to them.

My fear stems from various interactions with physicians – from personal interactions on the patient side of the medical relationship to listening to guest lecturers who had lost touch with their patients.  I have interacted with physicians that view their patients as little more than inanimate words on a page – age, gender, ethnicity, chief complaint – and have pondered as to how they came to this state-of-being.  Is coldness an inherent part of the training process?  Is it a probable fate that as I train and find myself insulated with medical professionals that my vision will narrow and I will lose sight of all that is outside of the hospital affecting my patients on a daily basis? These are the questions I ask myself, for this is the antithesis of the physician I aspire to become.

Inherent in our medical training is a certain degree of hardening.  In my opinion, we work with cadavers not only to learn the parts of the human body, but also because it is an exercise in dissociating the flesh from the being or the spirit of the individual.  Depending on what field of medicine is selected, the reality is that a certain amount of detachment is required to be able to perform specific procedures on patients.  At the moment, I am strongly considering a career as a surgeon, and therefore know that in order to take a scalpel to a living human being and perform complex procedures that are “unnatural”, I will need to master this dissociation.  That being said, I must not operate in a world where I neglect to re-associate the two – the presenting problem and the individual.

I can easily see how increased time demands can result in generating cognitive shortcuts that can become crutches on which care is executed.  How I master living in a profession that necessitates temporarily dissociation from my patients, whether to perform a procedure or to deliver bad news, as well as constricts my time to interact with the “real world” while simultaneously living in a world where deep human contact is integral to life is up to me.  It is my responsibility to ensure that over the years I remain the same core person I have always been – that I do not become the physician that transfers the distance required at work to “get the job done” to home life.

I do not believe it is necessary to surmount this fear, for this is a healthy fear to have – one that if kept in-check in the back of my mind, can serve as a positive directing force in my life.  There are two main ways I can avoid succumbing to this fear.  The first is the proactive choice of selecting training programs that emphasize patient-centered medicine.  The second way, which is more prolonged and repetitive, is remaining involved within the nonmedical community.  Not by merely financially contributing to charitable organizations, but by physically putting myself out in the community through service projects will I maintain the connections necessary to remain a physician in-touch with reality – this is what will make the difference in my life.


KFC – Are you Kidding Me?!?

In health, Rants on May 3, 2010 at 10:37 pm

So, I’m sitting here watching the re-run of the Project Runway finale (yes, I love the show!

), and this new, horrid KFC commercial pops up.  They have these guys talking in squeaky, high-pitched voices about how puny regular fast food sandwiches are (because they’re not loaded with calories…) and how they are never full after eating one. Then they transition to their normal, manly voices to talk about the New, KFC Double Down Sandwich.  I guess the notion is cut out the bread and double up on the basics…right. I’m all with the removal of white flour from the American diet, but I’m pretty sure doubling up the amount of greasy, fried food is not the way to go.

Just looking at it makes my stomach churn a bit and my arteries cringe a bit in fear.  Granted, this pic is not the glam shot of the Double Down offered to consumers by KFC marketing, but is more of a raw, butt-naked view of what your money buys you. Here’s the nutritional information straight from it’s homepage: For the “Original Recipe” (re: Fried), 540 Cal, 32g Fat, 1380g Sodium. But have no fear, you can get the “healthier” (re: Grilled) option for 460 Cal, 23g Fat, and 1430g Sodium. I wish there was a smiley for jaw-dropping!

For those of you familiar with the show The Boondocks on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network), at first glimpse, KFC’s sandwich resembles the notorious and comical Luther Burger.  This is a good synopsis from Wiki: “Granddad goes home and prepares some food for his new venture. His first creation is the Luther Burger: “A full pound burger patty covered in cheese. Grilled onions, five strips of bacon, all sandwiched between…two Krispy Kreme donuts.” Huey looks over the menu and informs Granddad that he can’t serve this food to people as it will cause death. Riley tastes the Luther, and falls out of his chair, declaring candidly that “this is what crack must feel like.” He then passes out, waking up briefly a short time later, affirming that the Luther is the “best thing ever.” Granddad leaves him to sleep the itis off and opens the restaurant.”

Something tells me that if I were to ever try to eat the Double Down, I’d find myself in a situation very similar to Riley’s – passed out and near death.  And KFC would do as Granddad did, walk away making money.  I mean, that sandwich has diabetes, HTN, CAD, and a few other things written all over it…just asking for a heart attack!

America, I do not understand – why do we keep doing this to ourselves?!? And who is asking for these things?!? Can we get more truly healthier options for on-the-go? I’d love to see that. I know the demand’s there…where is the supply? Look at Chipotle. Healthy, fresh, organic food that you can grab while out.  Every time I’m there, there’s a line out the wazoo!  Sure, you can consume too many calories there as well, but look at the difference. I’d rather see America eating too many calories from natural, organic, farm-raised products than from junk manufactured in some lab…

I was talking to a good friend in the city the other week and the topic of American “nutrition” (or a lack thereof) came up. She was saying how some British guy was visiting their office and was appalled at the way Americans ate. He flat out asked why our government allows this to occur. That’s right, the government. Even he knows the government has the power to reign in the disgusting habits of our fast food chains, and yet, they don’t.  I do appreciate the efforts undertaken in my local major cities (New York and Philadelphia) mandating that all food places post the calories in each menu option. A knowledgeable consumer is a strong first step towards a healthier America. I hope this movement gains momentum and spreads throughout the enter country. For the #1 country in the world, progress sure is slow…


In medical school, Rants on April 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Got back the other day from my last second look and it’s nice to be able to finally say I definitively know where I’ll be attending school for the 2010-2011 school year! Whoop-wooooo! While applicants have until May 15th to decide where they’re going and then a few months left to relax, I find myself already packing and itching to leave.  I’ll be leaving home for the last time the last week or so of May. That’s approximately 5 weeks lefts of freedom.  I’ve never been one to enjoy free time…oddly enough, it gets my antsy.  It’s too much time to sit around and think and plan, and while forming a game plan ahead of time is good, it can lend way to worry.  This is where I am.

First off, I’m tired. But it’s not a physical tiredness, but more like a psychological slash energy of my being fatigue.  It’s hard to explain. I’m tired not in the traditional sense of “Oh, I need rest,” but more in the sense of I need stimulation – a jolt of energy.  In a way, I’m jaded with my situation for the next few weeks. Ever since I’ve been back, I just feel blah, because now, I feel like I’m just sitting and waiting for my real life to pick up again.  I have always hated being bored. I hate it!  Even as an only child, I found many times where I was bored and would do any and everything to entertain myself.  Now, not so much.  Oddly enough, as jittery as I get when I’m bored, I’ve been quitting jobs left and right! Illogical? Slightly. I mean, I still have two jobs left, so it’s not like I’m not generating income, but you’d think that someone who wants to stay occupied would jump at staying busy with work.  Probably has something to do with the mundane jobs I have (the ones I’ve quit)…boring is boring, and I’m cutting as much boredom out my life as possible.  I find myself with ample free time to sit around and think.  And we all know that too much of anything is not a good thing – thought included.

I am starting to panic about what I’ve just signed up for.  After all these years of hard work, the vast amount of money poured into this career path, and time and energy spent working to get in, I find myself not even able to rejoice in this good news.  Shoot, I’ve been accepted since October and every time I tell someone I’m going to med school they respond with “Congrats! Shouldn’t you sound happier about it though?” And a part of me is ecstatic. But that happiness is muted by fears of inadequacy coupled with anticipated years of debt. I’ve talked to many friends throughout the past years who are currently in med school, following their progress and asking for advice along the way. The most common advice I’ve received is, “Run while you can!”  – said half jokingly, but still… We’ve all heard the analogy of the amount of information covered in medical school is akin to trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. I’ve also heard it described as academic bulimia…neither images are particularly appealing. I find myself wandering over to the allopathic threads on SDN, and coming across multiple posts about academic probation or failing or feeling overwhelmed…to be honest, the immediate future does NOT look bright.  I’m starting to fear what awaits me in a few months.  Added to this crazy workload, I am being overly ambitious and pursuing an MD/MPH program to be completed within the traditional four-year medical program.

At times, I think I just might be a masochist. Maybe I quietly like a little (or a lot of pain).  I look back at my post-bacc experience, and I realize that, on the low, I enjoyed being a bit of a nerd. I liked my strict study schedule I made for myself, and the hours I spent studying for my courses.  Even more so, I enjoyed seeing the fruits (i.e. A’s) of my labor. I like being smart and I like being a hard worker and I like actively putting work into my future. Shoot, I even like rote memorization! Sounds like I might like med school…might.  I find solace in a few things. 1) I had intense course loads for my post-bacc (not quite med school intense, but certainly more so than undergrad) and I excelled with ample free time to enjoy life. 2) I approach this upcoming obstacle with the mentality of Yeah, it’s hard, BUT if just one other person has done it before, surely I can do it too. Other advice I received form some friends was to not concern myself with how or what my classmates were studying, but to stay on my schedule and use my own methods, because whatever I did that was good enough to get me here will carry me on.  While I think there will be room for adjustment in my methods, I firmly believe if I stick to this, I can and will succeed. 3) Finally, and most importantly, since this is what God has called me to be, I will be it, I will not fail.

First Second Look

In Finances, medical school, Rants on March 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

While my state school has had some events for us, I wouldn’t quite call them Second Looks. Now that I’ve officially attended my first Second Look, there are two points I want to discuss.

1) If I so much as hear another whisper about URMs stealing other applicants’ seats I’m going to snap. The Second Look I attended was at one of the largest medical schools in the nation. Do you know how many URMs were there?  Three Black females, maybe 1-2 Latinas, and no Black or Latino men…NONE!!! I kept looking around at my potential future class that was about 50/50 Asian and White, and I couldn’t help but think…really?!? Talk about feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb…  I love Love LOVE how all these schools repeatedly state how much they value diversity in their student body and it’s something they promote, however, physically it’s something I rarely see. Granted, I know race is only one element of a diversified class. I am well aware that diversity comes in many forms, from ethnic to socioeconomic to religious and to ideological diversity, and that all are important in forming a truly well-rounded class. I also know that clearly not every accepted student attended the Second Look. However, if the sample I saw is roughly representative of my possible future class, then that’s ~3% of the class is URM.  Wowsers. That’s incredibly low…especially for a big school in a major Northern city.  Seriously, I never want to hear that annoying argument again. Blows my mind every time. Clearly URM quite literally means underrepresented minority, so hush your mouths…there really aren’t enough people involved to make the effort of debate worthwhile…negligible impact on your chance of admittance, so hush!

2) Exactly what is Financial Aid?!? Giving a brief history, I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with financial aid stuff as an undergrad (someone close to me passed away and had left money for my education…which my undergrad institution gladly ate up).  Needless to say, I am unfamiliar with dealing with these offices.  I sat and listened to the long, depressing, anxiety-inducing financial aid presentation at Second Look. I glanced around the room to see that most of my peers had the same glazed-over look on their faces that read “Please make this stop! Purdy pleeeeease?!?” It’s never fun listening about going into roughly $200K worth of debt (+ interest)…NEVER!

Somewhere in my nervous trance I picked up that it appears that this office awards everyone the same thing – NOTHING.  I mean, they have a bunch of little scholarships that they give out to people ranging from $500-$5000, but that barely puts a dent in ~$36K/year they expect their students to cover with more non-federal loans. Which brings me back to the question of what is financial aid exactly?!? First off, it’s more like abuse than aid. I know I feel slightly beat down every time I discuss the issue, not helped in any manner. Secondly, is their sole role to act as a liaison between the students and the lenders, whether that be the Federal Government or private institutions? I mean, I guess when I always heard of “financial aid packets” I expected money to spring forth magically from these offices to partly subsidize the difference between what the government can cover and the actual, full cost of attendance.  Shoot, the government can’t even fully cover tuition… Once again, I just don’t understand!  How are you aiding me???  Perhaps I just have a strong imagination and hope my desires for minimal financial debt can be dreamt into existence. Or, maybe this school’s financial aid department is not its strong suit.  Maybe I’ll have much better packages from other schools that actually resemble aid…assistance in alleviating the costs.  Lord know that at this point, while I liked this school and was almost won over on Second Look, if other schools I am considering deliver better in this area, I’m dipping out and getting that refund back…I don’t like them that much.  If I did, then maybe I’d consider the HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) offered through one of the armed forces. But, I’m not quite there yet.  I’m really just hoping that this school is lackluster in this area and other schools come up with something better. It will certainly make my final decision easier. Money, money, money, money…when you have none, people keep wanting more. Ugh!

HBCUs…My Rant

In applying to med school, Rants on January 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Without getting into a discussion about URM-status (one of the most highly debated topics in this crazy admissions process), I do want to use this forum to rant and vent a little about the necessities of medical HBCUs.  And why not? I might offend some, which is not my intent, however, this is my blog!  So I suppose if you disagree you can leave, comment, or start your own. Hmph! Lol  Let me start with my personal history with HBCUs…

While I did not choose to attend an HBCU for undergrad, I have several family members who did so and it is that confidence instilled in them which prepared them for their successful futures.  In particular, Howard University was their alma mater, something I did not know until I was in college (both are deceased now).  Had I known beforehand, I might have been persuaded to seriously consider them for undergrad (to say the least, HU’s correspondence even back then was comical…hmmm, some things never change).  However, my take on undergrad was that I wanted an institution that mimicked the real world. That meant no all-girl’s school, nor an all-Black (or majority Black) school – that’s just not real life.  Plus, I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and in a very diverse church (300+ nationalities!). I thought it would be rough for me to acclimate to such a drastically different environment, especially in light of other adjustments that come with starting college. In the end, I am 100% certain I attended the institution God had in-store for me, and I have absolutely no regrets in that regard.  Now, to my rant on my more recent history with HBCUs…

I applied last application cycle and, in retrospect, had a poor choice of schools (not enough and not a diverse range of schools). Among schools I applied to were 2 of the 3 HBCUs, Howard and Morehouse.  [aside: the 3 HBCU med schools are Howard, Meharry, and Morehouse. Personally, I think Meharry and Howard are in the same leaky boat, with Morehouse doing just fine].  Any re-applicant out there knows the pain of waiting through an entire application cycle for a good word from just one school, so there is no need for me to rehash the stress I lived through in 2009.  At the time, Howard was at the top of my list.  My father’s alma mater, a med school committed to training physicians to serve the under-served, and it seemed very much like one large family – appeared to be a natural “top choice” to me.  Looking at their average stats, I saw that I was above average and figured I actually had a decent shot at at least getting an interview.  Little did I know that they use that clause about wanting “students committed to serving the under-served” as a rouse for choosing URM students that probably don’t stand a chance elsewhere…

Last year, I applied with HU at the top of my list.  In short, they “accidentally” left my application on hold the entire cycle instead of taking it off hold when I submitted my fall semester grades.  I found this out after many phone calls to the admissions office, during which I was spoken to rudely and even hung up on. (they really make some applicants jump through hoops)  By the time I actually got through to the dean of admissions, we had a lovely conversation, after which she said they were basically done interviewing, she’d “see what she could do,” and that if she couldn’t make things happen that year, I should be fine if I re-applied next year. Straight from the dean’s mouth. Said oh so nonchalantly too, which really irritated me. No apology, no remorse as to how this would affect my life, nothing.

Lo and behold, I didn’t even get a rejection letter last application cycle.  Then, I joined SDN and re-applied. I’m not going to dilute my feelings like I do on that website. I (and many others I know in similar situations with HU or Meharry) am genuinely offended! Especially after being on SDN and seeing who received “first round” invites. Absolutely ridiculous. Granted, I’m not speaking about everyone here, but when you have perfectly acceptable applicants that have above average stats for your institution, a strong expressed desire to attend said institution, as well as years of service confirming their want to medically attend to the under-served who are turned down by the bunch, there is a problem.  When you have first round interviews going mainly to low-stat applicants from other HBCUs or who clearly have a low probability of getting accepted elsewhere, there is a problem.  I can name numerous URM females with good stats and ECs to support this school’s mission statement who were denied even an interview last year, all of whom would have gladly attended either school and so raised the stats for these institutions.

But no. Let’s be real. In my mind, HBCUs are not reaching their full potential – they are not doing what they are supposed to do. (I suppose that’s debatable, as they are increasing the number of URM doctors in America, they just chose to draw heavily from the bottom of the pool)  Shoot, the complete and utter disgust that institution has left me in would have my father and my godmother rolling over shamefully in their graves right now.  I blame these schools for the stigma attached to URM applicants.  As has been stated time and time again, I would LOVE to see the stats for accepted URMs at non-HBCUs as compared to those at HBCUs. My guess is that they wouldn’t be as low as many claim URM stats are…

And I’m not saying that stats are everything, HOWEVER, you’re telling me that you can’t break a 25 on the MCAT and a 3.00 GPA, yet you deserve just as much as the next guy to go to med school?!? Get out of here. What does deserve mean anyway? You worked “hard” and therefore your efforts should be rewarded? False. Many people “deserve” to become a doctor, but many have to re-apply due to limited seating. And trust, I know many book smart people that will not make great doctors because they lack social skills and are otherwise dumb, however, I think the “deserve” argument is complete gutter.

So what is the purpose of HBCUs in the new millennium?   Is there even one?  Hmmm…to be honest, I have very mixed feelings on this. I think that if HBCUs are to exist, there is no reason for them to have such low stats. Every time I read their stats I shake my head and, as a URM, am a little bit embarrassed.  Contrary to popular belief, there are many URMs re-applicants with decent stats that could have occupied some of these HBCU seats that were not chosen because, let’s face it, these schools feel that the applicants will chose another school over them.  These students would have gladly accepted a seat in the class and raised the schools’ expected standards of excellence, however it is apparent that these schools are in no way concerned with that.  I am also choosing to believe that a majority of their applicants are also considered “disadvantaged” which introduces a whole new confounding variable.

Le sigh. I could keep bringing up points, but I’m tired, it’s a complicated issue, and a highly flawed and imperfect application process.  So, I’ll just end with “I am DONE with HBCUs and think very lowly of them.”  [ends rant and steps off soapbox]

Death has a Face…and comes with Responsibility

In health insurance, medicine, Rants on January 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I naturally wake up every morning at 7:06 am on the dot – random time, I know, but that’s my Circadian rhythm for ya!  However, this past Monday was a morning seemingly straight from hell.  I unexpectedly awoke to the screeching screams and weeping of my mom coming from behind her closed doors.  From the intensity of the volume, I would’ve sworn that both of our doors were open.  Panicked and in a daze (I hope you never need to wake me while I’m sleeping…I am nonfunctional for a good 15 minutes, usually unable to talk) I stumbled over to her room and paused in her doorway to see her slumped over her desk, on the phone, with her entire body heaving up and down, nearly convulsing.  Usually relaxed and soft-spoken, I had only seen her in this state a few times before, and that was when close family members had unexpectedly passed away.  I waited for the right moment to interject, but unable to find one, I opted to hop in the shower and hope that she had gained some sort of composure by the time I got dressed for work.

Fortunately she had calmed down a bit by the time I went to check on her again (I hate interrupting people, especially when I feel that time to themselves is what’s most beneficial, but there was no way I could spend the next 9 hours of my life focus on what I needed my attention on if I knew she was home in this state with the reason unknown to me).  She told me that her dear friend had been found dead in bed early this morning.  Apparently, her leg had been bothering her for a while, and was acting up the night before.  Her husband, being the loving, caring man that he is, decided to give her a nice message before she went to bed, hoping that would help relieve the tension and stress she was feeling.  He woke up to her unresponsive in bed with him the following morning.  Yes, most likely his loving message had dislodged a blood clot that wound up being her untimely demise.  She leaves behind a husband and two young children.  According to my mom, she was one of the kindest souls on this planet.

So, why do I mention this story on this blog that usually pertains to medicine? A: Because this was a woman who had had a double mastectomy when the doctors had found a lump in one breast, out of fear and as a precaution as a middle-aged woman with a history of breast cancer in her family. She was the first one to run to the doctor when something was wrong – just to err on the side of caution.  Yet, she had to endure months upon months of pain and discomfort because…you guessed it – she had gotten cut from her job, couldn’t find a new FT position, and was without health insurance.

I know so many are against health care reform, and are specifically against a public option.  Many physicians, pre-meds, and medical students, if they are honest with themselves, are mainly against it because they think it will be a drain to the economy, and more specifically, a drain to their own pockets.  I, like many others have mixed feelings on this whole debate (I’m not really going to delve into it now, just give a quick run-through on where I stand). I do believe that this health care reform might lower the income for some physicians. And, I wouldn’t think that would be such a bad thing until you factor in costs of obtaining an MD and things such as malpractice insurance.  The only way I could justifiably see lowering the wages for physicians would be to likewise lower the cost of education in the US.  With undergraduate degrees costing $45K+ per year and medical school education costing $70K+ per year (assuming private schools here), are we expected to mount debt that we might not be able to climb out of for 20+ years? That’s ridiculous. Especially when you consider how highly respected this profession is.  People are quick to point overseas to health care systems that are “better” than ours, yet hesitate to look at other aspects that factor into those societies that enable those systems to work (i.e. their doctors aren’t coming out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt!).

That argument aside, if everyone were required to buy-in, it really would not be a drain on our economy.  Shoot, other countries spend 6% of their GDP on health care and are doing just fine. Meanwhile, we’re spending 16%, as is, and we are clearly struggling.  Our economy is failing, over and over again, morbidity and mortality rates are increasing …something’s got to give! (ok, that last comment I have no empirical evidence to support, but I’m just taking a guess…increase unemployment, increase uninsurance rate, and increase untreated diseases).  And yes, I said everyone must buy-in. Pardon me this one time, but I am going to say screw freedom of choice!  The first ones screaming “Freedom of Choice!” will be the first ones up in the ER when something unexpected happens to their health and they don’t have the means to cover it.  Then what? We’ll wind up spending far more in late, emergency treatment than if they had been treated when symptoms first arose.

All this to say, I believe in the public option. It is long overdue. Shoot, I haven’t had health care since September. I’ve been missing my medications and have been in knee-pain for 5+ months now. I’m already tired of my current quality of life.  I can’timagine living indefinitely like this.  Fortunately for me, as soon as I’m officially a student again, I can have insurance factored into my bills (i.e. student loans). But what about those that don’t have that option?  It is my honest opinion that those against a public option have yet to lose anyone close to them due to something as simple and silly as lack of health care insurance.  Because, once you start putting faces and individual stories to the statistics, you start to interpret the data a bit differently – with more of a heart.

Brrrrrr…Get Me out of Here!

In Rants on January 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm

It is cold.  Let me rephrase.  It is bitterly cold!  I admit I have been spoiled in recent years by attending undergrad in the South.  I remember laughing at my peers from Florida who would go out and buy a peacoat in 50-degree weather.  I laugh a lot, and personally, I find those unacquainted with cold weather and snow highly entertaining when the temperature drops below 40.  It’s like all common sense sprints right out of the door!  People start to panic, forget how to drive, start dressing a hotmess in some vain attempt to keep warm – in sum, they quickly lose their minds.

You know that saying, Whenever you point your finger at someone, 4 fingers are pointing back at you ?!?  Well, that’s exactly how I feel right now.  Granted, I feel justified feeling this cold and panicked when I’m out in the elements, however, I feel like God is paying me back for laughing at my friends not too long ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cold weather.  I like being bundled up, getting prepped to go out, seeing my breath as I walk down the street.  The cold makes me feel more alive and more aware of every inch of my being…that is, until I start to lose feeling in my extremities.  I remember all the snow storms we had growing up and the sheer awesomeness of a snow day – waking up early, lying in bed waiting for your school to be named on the radio, only to go right back to sleep under your warm sheets and out to play with your friends later, building snowmen and forts, going sledding, and making snow angels.  Gee, seems like we never got cold back then! I absolutely love snow and the way it mutes all the commotion of my everyday life.  Have you ever experienced the aftermath of a blizzard?  Suiting-up to go shovel-out, only to find yourself panting after a good 25 minutes of hard labor to hear near silence all around you.  It’s one of my favorite experiences of nature on Earth.

However, for all the loving memories cold and snow conjure up within me, there is nearly an equally long list of negatives that pops into my mind.   As an older, more mature individual with increased responsibility, snow is no longer a best friend.  Of recent, snow has meant being late for work attempting to shovel-out after an impromptu winter blast.  Or, it has meant starting my day at home in frightful anticipation that my car will just keep turning over and not start, leaving me stranded at home…or even worse, that when I get off at midnight, I will be stranded at work – yikes!  While snow still can mean a snow day, what comprises that term has changed.  Now, snow days mean studying and fearing a revised syllabus that will cram lectures together to compensate for lost time (granted, I’m not currently in school, but this was my experience last year).

Let’s face it, now that I’m older, I feel the cold that my sensory neurons were once able to ignore.  And, it hurts!  I can deal withcold, but this winter has been ridiculously windy. I can’t stand the wind basically whipping my body around at its pleasure. I feel like nature’s ragdoll, used and abused.  That’s not fun.  The temperature with the wind-chill the other day was 3! 3!!!!!! That’s not fun either.  Makes you want to not come out of hiding until we reach near freezing levels.

All this recent intense wintry conditions have had me re-evaluating my medical school choices.  Why did I apply to so many schools in cold regions??? Yes, I know, because I love being near family and I love the changing of the seasons. However, every time the temperature dips into the teens, I can’t help but take a peep on weather.com to see what the weather’s like in New Orleans.  Then, I get very jealous and eager.  I know their summers are oppressive, however, in the cold of the moment, I think I am willing to trade stabbing bitter pain for sticky hotness and mosquito bites…I think.