Double Vision

Double vision is an interesting thing. In Neuroscience we discussed double vision a bit — but referring to it with the technical term, “diplopia.”

I won’t go into the cause of diplopia. A cursory search of the internet should lead you to some fairly good explanations.

I wanted to share a few pictures I found on the Internet. It’s a sort of simulated diplopia. And it feels weird looking at it. It feels totally wrong — I almost felt dizzy looking at these pictures. Maybe because the brain was trying to make sense of it all.

Well below are the pictures. Have fun with them.



A Thank You Note

Originally posted on The Differential on July 17, 2008


Dear Professor,

Medical school is filled with plenty of defining moments. During my first year, one of those moments was meeting you. I’m not quite sure what word I’d use to describe that time I first met you. Odd? Eerie? Creepy? Awesome? Inspiring? Solemn?

I remember looking at you, a little intimidated. You were the expert in what you were going to teach me. I was a little lost as to what I needed to do. I noticed your wrinkled skin. You could probably tell me a whole bunch of fascinating stories from your lifetime.

A classmate mumbled that you were old. But you looked calm and composed –- not at all like a rookie teacher. It was reassuring. I knew I’d learn a lot from you during the course of my first year.

I remember staring at the muscles of the neck in Anatomy lab. I was confused about which muscles were which. Was this the anterior scalene? Or was that the anterior scalene? If this one is the anterior, then that must be the middle. But wait, what the heck is this muscle here? Staring into a human neck for the first time can be disorienting. And it often only barely resembles the drawings in Netter’s Atlas. I lamented, but you offered no answer. Instead, you remained silent, forcing me to figure it out on my own. And when I finally figured it out, I thought I could make out the beginnings of a smile on your face.

Because I struggled, I remembered. And I did well on that first anatomy lab practical.

The rest of the year followed in similar fashion. I was stuck and confused. You stuck to your teaching method. At least you were consistent. Regardless, you stayed right beside me all along.

I came to accept your method of teaching and even found your silent presence calming — even if I often wished for you to just speak up and point out what I was looking for.

I just wanted to write this note to say thank you. I’m sorry you will never get to read this. At the memorial service we held for all those who had donated their bodies to our Anatomy program, I sat quietly and looked around. There were plenty of family members there to remember and celebrate their loved ones. I couldn’t help but wonder if your family was there.

Was it that old lady wiping away tears? Was it the young lady who sat proudly as her loved one was appreciated by so many students? I don’t know; I’ll never know.

I never knew your name. But I knew your face. I knew your arms, your hands, and your legs. I knew you inside and out. And I know that you have give 100% of yourself so that I could be a better doctor. Thank you, Professor.


It’s High School — With Scalpels

Originally posted on The Differential on July 9, 2008


It’s lunchtime at the hospital cafeteria. Patients stand in line, their IV stands in tow. Children from the pediatrics hospital sit in pillow-lined wagons while their parents pick out food. Doctors, nurses, and other staff members file through the cashier, scanning their cards so as to avoid the hassle of carrying cash. The first year medical students eat and talk about their morning experiences on the wards, some more excitedly than others.

A phone vibrates and its owner chuckles as he reads the text message. And that’s how the lunchtime gossip starts. Or maybe that’s just how the morning gossip transforms into lunchtime gossip. He leans over to his neighbor, who then gladly moves the info down the line. A first year fainted during rounds that morning. Everyone smiles, then desperately tries to find out which one of their classmates fainted and on which service.

A character from Grey’s Anatomy said that the hospital is “high school with scalpels.” That could probably be said about medical school, too.

Watching at least one of the medical dramas on television seems to be a requisite for every medical student -– regardless of how little medicine is actually on the show. When the new season of Grey’s was starting, there were a bunch of my classmates who got together to have Grey’s Anatomy nights. (For the record: I don’t care for E.R., I have no comment on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Gregory House fascinates me, and Turk and J.D. never fail to, in the very least, put a grin on my face.)

In medical school you can find the nerds, the jocks, the popular kids, and the bullies. They’re just called by different names. For example, bullies have graduated to being called gunners. The really mean ones have an even cooler name: snipers (as previously written about by Anna on The Differential). Even the class elections, where interesting promises and platforms can be found aplenty, seem like popularity contests. It’s just tough to grow up.

On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of stories about the workplace being so much like high school, too. Maybe it isn’t adults acting like teenagers, but teenagers acting like adults. And then we just have a bunch of really mature teenagers in high school. But this is a topic of a whole ’nother post.

The difference between medical school and high school, though, is more than just scalpels. It’s, uh, about… Well, it’s like… It’s about learning to save lives!

Wow. Now I’m even writing like a high schooler.


Do I Really Want To Do This?

Originally posted on The Differential on July 1, 2008


Throughout the year, one question loomed over me, haunting me like a bad dream: “Do I really want to go through all of this to become a doctor?” It’s a question I think is harder to answer now than when I was in college, especially now that I’ve started to see what I am getting myself into.

One day while I was in high school, I was sitting on the couch in front of the television. I’m not sure what I was watching. I do remember my mom calling me away from the tv set. She called me into the living room because she wanted to talk. I found it rather odd; it seemed totally out of the blue. But, I suppose, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Conversations with mom sometimes seem, at least to me, to come right out of left field. That evening my mom defied the stereotype that all Asian parents want their children to become a doctor or a lawyer. She sat me down to tell me she didn’t want me to become a doctor. That conversation was in high school.

The thing is, I was never the child who grew up with dreams of becoming a doctor. When my mom found out she was pregnant, she decided that in order to stay at home with me she would have to start her own business. She started a data entry business. As a result, I grew up around computers and decided that one day I wanted a career that involved computers.

But here I am, now a medical student. Although I have only completed the first year, I’m on my way towards earning the right to add the initials M.D. behind my name. Not that I need any more letters; my last name is long enough.
It’s scary, though. I have put myself on a path towards becoming a physician -– a path that is long and quite expensive. Should I continue down this path, I know I will find myself in a very rewarding career with enough money to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

It’s a frustrating journey. There’s a ton of information that is force-fed during the pre-clinical years. At times it’s a challenge to see how some of it is even relevant to patient care. More than once during my first year, I wondered if I really want to do this. It was almost a monthly cycle; it coincided with exams that came about every five weeks. I hated exam weeks. Actually, I still do. But those were the times when I wondered, considered, and longed for being somewhere else. I enviously think about friends who have finished school and are earning a good paycheck. Then I take a look at the numbers on the statements I receive from my lender. It is always a little shocking to see how quickly those numbers grow. Sadly, the balance of my checking account has the opposite trend.

Yet there are times where I am truly grateful for the chance to be where I am. And there are many more times where I am excited about the possibilities of where I’m headed. Because medicine -– being invited into the depths of patients’ lives –- is exciting. I wouldn’t blog about medical school if I thought it was boring, depressing, and monotonous. On second thought, I probably would. But if you’re reading this site, you probably wouldn’t be my target audience.

Sure, it can be hard and time-consuming. Obviously it can be very frustrating. But after having spent six weeks in the wards with attendings, residents, and medical students (2 at the beginning of the school year and 4 after), I think I have found a source of inspiration and motivation. It’s not about the prestige; I don’t think all the training is worth what prestige is left in the profession. It’s not about the money; there are easier and shorter paths to earning a decent living. It’s not about being your own boss; the current medical system has made that terribly difficult. It’s all about the patients.

And now I think I’ve found the answer to that looming question. I just hope my answer doesn’t get lost in the deluge that will come in the form of my second year…


Random Thoughts For The Day

Over the past few days I have re-watched the two Disney adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia — The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe & Prince Caspian.

I was always a big fan of the books so it was interesting to see the beloved characters portrayed on film.

And it got me thinking about the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. I have often seen these genres grouped together. And I suppose there are similarities between the two. One must be able to suspend one’s own belief in reality for a moment to really get into the story.

But there are differences. In Fantasy, one tends to find magic, dwarves, giants and the like fighting with swords, spears and arrows. In the SciFi realm, there are distant galaxies populated with multi-colored aliens, space battles, and energy weapons.

I’m just wondering… why don’t we ever read about a futuristic, space-traveling, laser-toting dwarf?

On another note, I was thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. I found my post from last year about what my resolution for 2008 was going to be. I don’t think I have anything else to add to that list of two. So I guess I’ll just have to stick to those.