What Are You Going to Do With Your MD?

When I started out this blog, I deliberately geared it towards young pre-meds or high school students who thought they wanted to be pre-meds in the future. Over the past year, a variety of people, including people who were already in the medical field starting reading it, and that felt so gratifying. The fact that a young high school teenager like me could reach out to such a vast crowd was quite amazing! However, the aim of this blog post is to commence thought-provoking questions in students who aim to be MDs or Doctors of Medicine in the future.

So it’s 2015, and the Medical School Admissions process has changed dramatically. They no longer want robots that could solve an organic chemistry equation in 30 seconds, or rocket scientists who can develop ground-breaking technology, although that would be neat. They want students who KNOW what they WANT to do with their medical school education! Even though this sounds painfully obvious, there are numerous students I see apply each year, in hopes to get in, not for themselves but for their parents, or simply for the label of being a physician. At the end of the day though, you want to be able to look at yourself and say, “Wow, I am actually ecstatic to be who I am..” So, the underlying question is, “What do you want to do with your MD?” I haven’t been through the medical school admissions process myself, but from what i have researched and read upon, medical schools will be interested in knowing what an applicant wants to offer to the school, or any institution, hospital, or country for that matter. Of course it is crucial for the applicant to be well-rounded, but it all comes down to what you are going to give back to the community, if you even intend to!

medical degree now what

Here is a list of ideas I came up with for what I would do with my MD:

1) Doctors Without Borders – If you’re a person who doesn’t mind taking a few risks to save dozens of lives on the field in different countries, this is suitable for you. Also, if you’re interested in using your expertise to serve the purpose of helping others through a humanitarian cause, or simply love traveling, you may want to check it out. Although this job is not as easy as I make it sound, people have done it successfully! Here is a link to the kind of health care professionals this organization looks for : http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/work-us/work-field/who-we-need

2) UN Volunteers – UNV is a great organization associated with the United Nations that recruits volunteers from different areas of health care to help combat diseases in developing countries and help out with preventive measures and workshops. This kind of work builds up strong experience so when you apply for a UN Medical Officer position or some other high-rank job within the UN Medical realm, it can come in handy. Here is a link to the UNV page: http://www.unv.org/en/about-us.html. Here is the general UN Career Page: https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=SC.

3) UNICEF – Here’s another humanitarian organization that hires professionals such as medical doctors to serve domestically, or internationally: http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/index_careers.html.

4) Community Events – No matter where you live, there are doctors almost everywhere that are willing to offer free medical services to the poor or the uninsured. See if that fits your niche.

5) Writing Health Policies – This can’t be done without additional training such as aquiring an MHA or Masters of Health Administration, but it can be a rewarding career! After all, if you were assigned to write health policies for a developing country, or even the United States, that would be a huge responsibility and a gratifying one as well.

Although some of these prospects mays seem out of reach for you, there is still SO MUCH out there that you could possibly delve into. The number of possibilities within the field of medicine itself is amazing! This may not even be an eighth of them, but I hope this article serves to motivate you to think about what it is that you would do with your medical degree, if you were to pursue it!

Advertisements

Can We Defy the Process of Aging?

Recently, I was going through a chapter called the “Physiology of Aging” from my Environmental Physiology course on the Stanford website. This chapter intrigued me specifically because although it is amazing how dramatically our life expectancy has increased over the past centuries due to modern medicine, there are still some factors beside allopathy that could greatly affect our aging. In this section of the course, I watched a video of one of the professors go to the MIT AgeLab to try on AGNES, which is essentially a suit in which anyone can experience the deficits and incapabilties involved in the process of aging. The effects were so profound, and they seemed impossible to observe over the gradual lifespan of an adult. The video eventually showed how the professor wearing the suit lost motor, visual, flexibility, strength and dexterity skills. It actually got to the point to where I really felt sorry for elder people whom I have always assumed to have the same faculties I have. I obviously did not think old people could do everything but I did not realize it was that bad either!

mit agnes agelab

On the brighter note though, the point of the video was to show the natural physical effects of aging in a normal person, not an immensely active and healthy person. The video also showed a brief interview with a 79-year-old sprinter! This guy still performs a lot of his work manually, even though he could use machines and has taken up the hobby of sprinting at such a late age. Despite that, he is in optimal health. He is essentially decreasing his chances of developing a myriad of devastating health disorders such as hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, or type 2 diabetes. With that being said, the professor also mentioned the lady who lived till she was 122, breaking the life span record so far, Jeanne Calment. Although her secrets included olive oil, chocolate, wine and a lot of humor, there is a far more convincing observation about this:

As human beings, we have literally transcended our biological drawbacks through biotechnology and new means of improving the human condition. This doesn’t just include the use of scanners or machines to detect cancers and kill them. This also includes the mere fact that a good number of us have given significant value to having a healthy lifestyle. Another words, a lifestyle rich of mindfulness, productivity and vitality. Moreover, factors such as physical activity can make such a big difference in the end, as it can enhance repair mechanisms in the body, slow the rate of cognitive decline associated with aging, and literally stretch out telomere length on ends of chromosomes, associated with longevity. In fact, the benefits are so copious that it is too difficult to even mention them all! Regardless, we should definitely take pride in the fact that we have expanded our life span out so much by just modifying a few things here and there, and if we continue to do so, we can go even farther!

The Soul of a Doctor

During the past week, I became very interested in reading a book about how medical students deal with their first encounters with patients and what they experience being so close to the life-and-death situation. This book was called, “The Soul of a Doctor,” by Susan Pories MD, Sachin H. Jain, Gordon Harper MD, and Jerome E. Groopman MD. It essentially is a compilation of essays written by fellow students of Harvard Medical School, divided into four sections: Communication, Empathy, Easing Suffering and Loss, and Finding a Better Way. It targets aspiring medical and pre-medical students to capture moments in the lives of actual medical students who have to assess all these patients, ranging from slightly ill to terminally ill.

51NgsswN+iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

In the Foreword of the novel, Jerome E. Groopman, MD, makes a connection between the themes in literature to medicine. He describes that in literature, there’s a person that goes on a journey and that there is a stranger that comes to town. Likewise, in medicine, the person is the patient, accompanied by the doctor and the stranger is the illness that disrupts the equilibrium of life. Similarly, Sachin H. Jain makes a connection between the political science phenomenon of “social criticism” described by Micheal Walzer and the medical student in his Introduction of the novel. He states that the ideal social critic is someone who is embedded in society but is still able to apply external values to critiquing it. This is a crucial aspect to incorporate into medicine as well. He explains how the medical students are knowledgable about medicine but are still idealistic and have not yet been changed by the “norms of practice.” Another words, the medical student has a fresh perspective about the world of medicine and healing and is not affected by the habits other doctors may have. That is why the medical student may be able to effectively reflect on the health care system and uncover defects. That is why we want to hear from THEM in this book!

Delving into the first main concept of the book, Communication, a medical student named Amanda A. Munoz describes her worried patient and the little that doctors do to support. She talks about how the ideal patient-dcotor relationship is taught in classrooms and shown on videotapes in medical school, but it’s very hard to maintain that when everything is so fast-paced. A lot of times, doctors tend to place their efficiency, interests and performance over the patient’s feelings and questions. That in turn, leads to bad communication! This part of the book really stuck out to me because I always thought of the doctor actually comforting the patient and assessing their question(s) but never did I realize, that not all doctors think it’s necessary to do that!

The second concept discussed was Empathy, and in this section of the book,  a medical student named Rajesh G. Shah discussed how doctors can sometimes let their nature of prejudice get in the way of connecting with their patients and actually addressing their needs. Doctors may have preconceived notions about disorders such as anxiety and don’t consider it as a real, inhibiting condition, but when they actually see it occur in individuals, that completely changes their perspective. In this way, Rajesh G. Shah connected with his patient by learning from her condition and assessing her needs.

The third part of the book, Easing Suffering and Loss included numerous scenarios in which patients were extremely ill and perhaps living the last moments of their life, with only their doctors and a few loved ones. The important issue discussed in this section was that when doctors know that their patient doesn’t have much time, how can they ease suffering and loss? How can doctors assure their patients that they have been given the best care they can possibly recieve? How can doctors inform the loved ones that someone so close to them is going to die inevitably? These were some important questions that really got me thinking about how close one can get to the realm of mortality in the medical field.

The last section, Finding a Better Way, was mainly about the importance of ingenuity in medicine and started off with a remarkable quote by W.E.B. DuBois: “Education must not simply teach work- It must teach Life.” This quote is really significant because being pre-med and medical students, we can learn from older fellows, residents, and attendings, not just how to efficiently complete our tasks, but also to apply our knowledge to all aspects of our work and eventually form a bond with the patient we are dealing with. That is typically what, “The Soul of a Doctor” should constitute of. I know for some of us, it is way too early to even think about how patients should be treated or how their problems should be considered, but perhaps an important message to learn from this book would be this:

It is important to do the very best YOU can to provide the very best for the person YOU are caring for!

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of what medicine today is really like and whether it is what they want to go into. If you are interested in checking out other books relating to the medical field, look over to the right in my goodreads section!

Integrating the Arts into Medicine

We all are well aware that going into the medical field is not a cake-walk. The transition from being a pre-med, to a medical student, and residency is fairly tough. Even though the process sounds tedious and stressful, there are ways people have hacked the system by enjoying the journey, rather than just quickly trying to get it over with. These people, that enjoy the ride, indulge in creativity and expand their perceptions to formulate new ideas and possibilities. There would be no innovation or progress in the medical field if it weren’t for people who wondered about why they were doing what they were doing and how they could have done it different to make it more efficient. Luckily, there are still so many doctors who haven’t lost touch with their child-like state of wonder and are inclined in the arts, which is, essentially, a median for creativity.

Timeline of Major Breakthroughs in Medicine:

800 – Indian doctors were grafting skin from one part of the body to another

1600– Italian surgeon reconstructed ears and noses out of pieces of human skin

1954– first successful kidney transplant

1950s-1960s– studies conducted on how body rejects or tolerates foreign tissue , era of widespread organ transplantation began

il_fullxfull.251604207

The Human Heart from the original Gray’s Anatomy 

On the Art of Medicine podcast, a doctor from Mount Sinai School of Medicine was interviewed about how the arts have a strong correlation with anatomy. The doctor described her passion for art as a high school student but also for the sciences. This is a conflicting decision that many students in high school encounter because there are academically inclined kids who think they could excel in the sciences, but also want to pursue the arts. This lady shared how she got over the conflict by double majoring at Cornell, and taking art courses along with her prerequisites at the same time. However, she still did not feel connected to her purpose yet. Later on though, she pursued a project in which she got to illustrate anatomical drawings of fish and different animals so she could study how dissections would be done. Although this is an example of veterinary medicine, it ties into how the arts can be incorporated into anatomy in general. In fact, studying drawings of animals could even help develop models for human treatments. She also mentioned how someone who’s pursuing the arts alone may be constrained by finances whereas someone who’s strictly focusing on completing the medical steps may be restricted in terms of creativity. That’s how she came to a consensus of having the arts inculcated into anatomy, which ties into medicine directly. That’s why the Gray’s Anatomy by Henry Gray is actually helpful for medical students. Students can look at the visual representations and make different connections about structures of the human body.

The universal concept of the arts in medicine lies in the idea that one can look at a study, project or assignment with a fresh perspective, and begin to discover new possibilities. That is why medical schools like Mount Sinai value this concept so much and represent it with some of the most renowned physicians in the world.

So, the next time you contemplate the whole medical school process, think about it as a journey to experience with an open mind. That way, medicine will rather be a very interesting ride!

Check out Mount Sinai School of Medicine: http://icahn.mssm.edu/

Art of Medicine Podcast (also available on iTunes for free: http://www.theartofmedicinepodcast.com/podcast-archive/ 

The Upstreamist Approach to Health Care

Recently, I was watching this TED Talk by Dr. Rishi Manchanda, which emphasized the importance of asking patients about their living conditions and overall environment, because many of these factors can affect their health. He called this approach the “upstreamist” way of thinking and now it serves health care in such a beneficial way.

As we come to think of it now, people are more concerned with receiving immediate care for their illnesses than actually taking the time to dig deeper into the root cause of the problem. Although factors like genetics play a huge role in illnesses, there are also many environmental triggers involved. Check out the “Upstreamist” website and the TED Talk on it. It will definitely make an impact on how you view the medical field.

http://www.upstreamists.org

tumblr_inline_nbxjgdXdRM1reuegq

You Don’t Even Need Drugs

While studying about the different types of stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens in Psychology class today, we talked about how these type of drugs affect certain neurotransmitters, especially dopamine.

People usually take drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), Cocaine, Amphetamines etc., to boost the dopamine activity in their brain. Their emotions for the particular drive that dopamine produces, another words, the motivation that they need all comes from drugs. There are millions of people who become so dependent on these drugs to function normally as well, and it is just so sad. I’m not stating that drugs are absolutely horrible, because they are not. Marijuana can have miraculous effects on cancer patients and can fix headaches! However, in terms of motivation, and the joy that everyone craves for, it isn’t necessary to take drugs that may have potential adverse reactions. Ever heard of the “Runner’s High?” You can even train your brain to release dopamine by simply exercising.

16moth-physed-blog480

Who would’ve thought feelings of euphoria could be associated with strenuous exercise like prolonged running.?! An article in the New York Times called, “Phys Ed: What Really Causes the Runner’s High?” explains this phenomenon very well!

Not only does running provide that amazing rapture, there’s also other motivating ways to boost dopamine activity in the brain, or at least bump it up to a point where you’re satisfied. See, the thing is, you don’t want to have excess dopamine, because then you may be schizophrenic, and you definitely don’t want to have too less of it because then you will be depressed. So how can we naturally have an equilibrium in our brains?

It all comes down to our DIET! Remember that famous quote I mentioned earlier as well, “You are what you eat…” ? Well, your brain’s neurotransmitters will definitely act upon their receptors in response to what you eat.  Eating protein-rich foods like eggs, and fish-oil supplements or eating the fish itself, is essential to increasing the brain’s dopamine activity. Also, eating bananas can help since they’re a good source of tyrosine, which is an amino acid that neurons eventually turn into norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter boosting adrenaline or alertness) and dopamine.

Really, one of the easiest ways to stay active, have an elevated mood, and maintained levels of dopamine, is to be Bulletproof! (:

P.S..: Just in case you think I’m stupid for stressing dopamine again and again, be sure to check out this cool article that explains part of the reason why:

http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2012/05/dopamine-impacts-your-willingness-to-work/

Being the Patient Yourself

How does it feel for a doctor to get sick? I really can’t tell you from a doctor’s point of view because I would have to be one myself, but I can tell you that being a patient, no matter who you are, really sucks. Here I am, fascinated by the way medicine heals the human body so effectively, if taken in the right amount, at the right time and in the right condition. However, what really sucks is when that medicine doesn’t help and all you can rely on is time…

This Saturday morning, I spent my time volunteering at Medical Bridges here in Houston, which is a place where they sort and organize medical supplies that need to be shipped to various developing countries. I thought this would be a really interesting experience for me. I could literally picture myself using one of those supplies one day on my future patient(s).

So, my volunteering team was told to put some latex gloves on and begin the process. We had to sort out urinary catheters, nose cannulas, blood pressure cuffs, masks, different types of syringes, etc. Then, we were told to pack them into assorted sizes of boxes for shipping. I honestly couldn’t have enjoyed anything else better than this. Or not really…..

Even if it was just sorting out supplies and boxing them, I knew that my tiny effort in this process could potentially change some patient’s life. Some doctors in developing countries did not even have the medical supplies to provide health care to their fellow citizens. This caused me to be melancholy, because living in a luxurious country full of medical practitioners and medical supplies, most of us don’t realize the value of what we have. The people in Nigeria, Sudan, Argentina, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and some other countries, are really the ones who desperately need these things. I am not saying we don’t but it is always good to contribute some of the supplies that we have to these countries. I really, really, respected the work that this particular organization did.

Doing all this volunteering really gave me pleasure. However, that pleasure only lasted for about an hour. After that, I started feeling my body burn and developed raised skin bumps, a reaction to an allergy that I had. I didn’t know what that allergy was and just assumed it would go away. When I came out, my arms were covered with hives and I knew that I immediately had to go to the doctor and get medicine. I did get medicine, and took it for about 2 days, but it still didn’t go away. Perhaps I was developing an allergy for latex or some other instrument I dealt with that day. The point, however, was that I couldn’t function normally and really needed help. I didn’t even touch my books for 2 days and felt useless.

My huge concern, which actually should have been my the least of my concerns, was that I was potentially allergic to a medical instrument or latex gloves and I wanted to be a doctor !!! This was kind of ironic too because I dealt with latex gloves all the time in high school dissections. Anyway, being the patient really sucked and if there is anything I have learned, it is that take care of your body. Your body is your temple and therefore, you must protect it from viruses, bacteria, etc.  If I can’t protect myself, then how do I expect myself to take care of patients when I become a doctor?!

Thought of the day.. Just thought I would share this with all my fellow bloggers or blog-readers…

Peace.