Today I presented a paper for clinical sciences journal club on how taking gastric acid-suppressive drugs like proton pump inhibitors and Histamine-2 receptor antagonists increases your risk of developing community-acquired pneumonia (Laheij et al., JAMA 2004). It was a fairly good paper, but the best part was being among so many fellow MS1's who come every week so faithfully for the FREE friday lunch and the lively discussion. Seriously, there is such a sense of community at UCSF and I grow to appreciate it more each day.
Last night, I went over the first part of my presentation with my roommate and her friends from the school of pharmacy, and they asked me why I was presenting and what I would get out of it. Albert, who kindly stopped by to give me some last-minute critiques, bluntly pointed out that you gain absolutely no benefit from presenting at the journal club...the speakers are strictly voluntary, you get no credit and no record of ever attending journal club much less presenting at a session, and you spend hours and hours angsting over a stupid powerpoint file and reading background papers to cram yourself full of facts and knowledge so that you can sound semi-authoritative when people ask you about confounders.
But really, I would beg to differ. There is a tangible benefit to volunteering and putting yourself out there. You get to research an area extremely thoroughly which I admit is really intellectually satisfying (and painfully nerdy) and you get to practice your presentation skills and learn to think on your feet. If I had to give myself a grade for my presentation today, I would rate it as a B or B- (grade inflation is a way of life at Harvard you know...just KIDDING!). The biggest problem wasn't fielding questions or my foundation of knowledge, but the fact that my public speaking skills are pretty shitty and out of practice right now. My voice wobbled more than Britney Spears' career and it cracked on several occasions. One audience member commented on that fact that it sounded constantly like I was going to cry, which wasn't the case at all but it was like I couldn't speak because my airway felt like it was closing and that I was going into anaphylactic shock.
When I look back on this in a few years, this entry is going to be a very funny read.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that presenting at CSJC was probably one of my best learning experiences thus far at UCSF. To a lesser extent, it is because I learned in great detail about the specific controversy between proton pump inhibitors and the risk of pneumonia, I learned that you are allowed to statistically compare incidence rates using a chi square test (pretty nifty trick comparing cases/person-years), and I learned from Albert that you can find old journal articles from the 1960's, 70's, and 80's in the basement of the UCSF library that are not available on PubMed (I am very satisfied with the library resources at UCSF by the way). To a greater extent, presenting was a great learning experience because I feel like I'm learning how to do public speaking all over again. Sure, my public speaking skills suck more than a vacuum and I sound like I'm going to cry, but at least I said, "screw it!" and went ahead and did it anyway. Next time, I will be better and maybe it'll be an oncology paper. :-)