Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cramming About Memory

New pet peeve: frantically cramming exam topics into my head that seem VERY ironic...

- Learning and Memory
- Learned Helplessness
- Circadian Rhythms - how much sleep should you get?

It's like the syllabus is mocking me.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Random Quotes

A joke from a homeless man on Haight St. last night:

Q: "Why doesn't President G.W. Bush need nipple rings?"
A: "Because he already has a Dick Cheney."

Thoughts on being MD/PhD:
S: "But isn't eight years a long time to spend in one place?"
A: "Finishing in eight years is not the point of the whole thing."
S: "Then what is the point of each step if it's not about finishing?"
A: "Happiness."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Preceptorship at Kaiser SF

Dr. Lewis and Stephanie

Thursday, May 24, 2007

MedTeach = Awesome

Craig showing a gross specimen of a liver to 4th graders at Alamo elementary school
Yesterday, we taught our final lesson to the students at Alamo elementary school. It was a lesson on the BRAIN -- and we had 4 stations. One station, manned by Craig, showed the students a gross specimen of the brain and compared it to a gross specimen of a rat brain. The kids love putting on gloves and touching the preserved organs (heart, liver, intestines, brain). Sarah taught the children how to use reflex hammers and tuning forks, showing them the basics of the patellar reflexes and how there are different senses of touch (temperature, vibration, etc.). The teacher taught students how goggles that trick the eye into seeing double force your cerebellum to adapt during a nose-to-finger drill, and how your brain has to re-adapt when the goggles are removed.
I taught a station on the spinal cord and had the kids line up into two rows with one kid at the tip of human "V." The kid would be the brain, while one row of kids would form the sensory pathway, and the other line would form the motor pathway. Then, we demonstrated how the sensation of a fish biting your foot travels up as a pain signal through the sensory pathway, and how your brain senses the pain and decides to retaliate by punching the fish in the face by sending a "punch the fish" signal down the motor pathway. Then, we created a large space between two kids in each pathway and showed how the signal "dies out" during a spinal cord injury. For some advanced groups, I would also show them how a spinal reflex works by sending a "reflex hammer hit" sensory signal up the sensory pathway, force the signal to cross over in the spinal cord to the motor pathway, bypassing the brain, and how the motor pathway would send your leg flying into the air without the brain's control.
Tonight, we had an end-of-the-year MedTeach banquet and it was awesome. MedTeach is part of a larger group called the Science and Education Partnership (SEP). SEP does some really incredible work by connecting medical students and classrooms full of bright, eager, young kids. It was a great opportunity to get into the classroom and interact with these children (all Jeremy's age!), learn how to teach little kids and become a better communicator, and to share our newfound medical knowledge. Hopefully, the children have also gained a better understanding of the human body, learned the basis behind healthy eating habits and lifestyles (like not smoking), and perhaps inspired to consider a career in the health sciences.
Overall, MedTeach is an extremely rewarding experience for both the teachers and the students. Hopefully, both parties have taken something away from the interaction. This sentiment reminds of a quote:
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist (1875 - 1961)
I am transformed!

LA Times article on UC Mental Health

The past week in BMB has focused on psychiatry -- yesterday we learned about depression and today we learned about suicide. In fact, a speaker came to class today who described his struggle with bipolar disorder and how he tried to commit suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge. He is only one of 29 people who have survived jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge (out of an official estimate of 1500 who have jumped, and an unofficial estimate by the Marin Coroner's Office of 3500).

I feel like the LA Times article on mental health in the UC system ties neatly into the recent article on suicide among Asian American women. Considering the stats, it seems like there should be a service focusing on preventing suicide among Asian American women in particular! Since the Virginia Tech tragedy (there is something wrong to me about the world "massacre"), there has been a renewed interest in mental health, especially within universities. Learning about mental disorders in medical school right now is a strange coincidence.

From the LA Times

Suicides a symptom of larger UC crisis
As more students with mental health problems enroll, campuses lack theresources to cope.

By Richard C. Paddock, Times Staff Writer

May 23, 2007 DAVIS, CALIF. — As 20-year-old Jennifer Tse was dying in January, she
typed a message on her laptop to the coroner's investigators she
expected would examine her body. The lonely UC Davis sophomore,
depressed and struggling with her studies, had swallowed cold pills,antidepressants, dishwashing liquid and insect poison. "It's kind of rather sad, it's no way out," she wrote as she described her blurred vision, shaking muscles and a sense that her head was detached from her body. "Hopefully my IQ will stay at the same level. If I end up dead, then oh well." For five days, no one seemed to notice her absence until her roommate realized something was amiss, used a screwdriver to open the locked door to Tse's room and found her body on the floor. Tse's death is another grim statistic in what university administrators say is an escalating mental health crisis on campuses across the nation. She was one of at least nine students who committed suicide at UC Davisduring the last three academic years. Her death came four months after a high-level UC committee concluded that the university's overtaxed mentalhealth services fell "significantly short" and that the 10-campus system must urgently expand its counseling programs. "We have had an increasing number of students with serious mental health problems while services are lacking," said UC Santa Barbara Vice Chancellor Michael Young, co-chairman of the Student Mental Health Committee. "We just don't have the appropriate level of support to havehealthy campuses." The increase in mental health problems at UC is part of a national trend arising from the growing stress of university life and the growing number of students who arrive at college already under treatment formental illness, university psychologists and officials say. Advances in drug treatment mean that many students with psychological disorders who could not have coped with campus life a generation ago now go on to college.

The number of students seeking counseling at the eight main undergraduate campuses (not including UC San Francisco and the new UCMerced) rose 23% during 2000-01 to 2004-05 from 12,384 students to15,285 students. At UC, a quarter of the students who seek counseling are already on psychotropic medication. Many are being treated for depression and anxiety, some for bipolar disorder. Crises often occur when students, on their own for the first time, decide to experiment and go off their medications. It also is an age when undiagnosed psychological disorders can emerge. Across the country, about 1,300 college students a year commit suicide, experts say. Though university students are less likely than other age and occupational groups to take their own lives, suicide remains their second-leading cause of death. The UC Student Mental Health Committee called for "aggressive intervention" to reverse years of budget cuts in mental health services,double the counseling staff and implement dozens of recommendations to improve campus mental health care. UC needs 104 new psychologists just to meet national guidelines, administrators say. The UC Board of Regents received the report in September and in March agreed to designate part of an increase in student fees for mental health services. But that amount, about $4.6 million next year, will allow the campuses to hire only a fraction of the psychologists the panel recommended.

"Have we done enough? No, everyone agrees," Young said. For campus counselors who deal daily with depressed and disturbed students, the April 16 massacre and suicide at Virginia Tech by deranged student Seng-hui Cho was the realization of their worst nightmare. Buton a daily basis, campus counselors are stretched thin trying to helps tudents who are recovering from traumatic breakups, suffering from eating disorders or who intentionally cut themselves. At the same time, counselors must cope with students who disrupt classes, createdisturbances in residence halls or stalk women.

"There are more troubled kids, that's the bottom line," said Elizabeth Downing, who heads the UC Santa Barbara health center. "We boomer generation parents have not done a good job in a way. We were so laidback. Now there's so much stress. I think we've done our children a great disservice. They are driven in every part of their lives."

At UC Berkeley, 45% of students surveyed in 2004 said they had experienced an emotional problem in the previous 12 months that significantly affected their wellbeing or academic performance. Nearly 10% said they had seriously contemplated suicide. At UC Santa Barbara a decade ago, an average of 21 students a quarter came to the counseling center to report they were experiencing an emotional crisis. Now, more than 200 students a quarter come for help, saying they are in a crisis. "Our crises have gone way up and we have fewer psychologists to deal with that," said Jeanne Stanford, director of counseling services. "We feel like we have become a crisis center." UC has about one psychologist for every 2,300 students, far below theInternational Assn. of Counseling Services guideline of one psychologistfor every 1,000 to 1,500 students.

* Lengthy wait for help
For UC students with nonemergency problems, the wait to see a counseloris three to six weeks — a long time when a quarter is only 11 weeks long. "There are many students who are on the edge," UC President Robert Dynessaid. "We are spending less and we have more kids with fewer services." The mental health committee reported that there were 29 confirmed suicides at UC campuses from 2000 to 2005. Panel members say that number is low because some suicides go unreported to the university and other suspected suicides are not confirmed. It's not just students who have killed themselves. UC's highest-profile suicide occurred in June when UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton jumped from the roof of her partner's 43-story apartment building in San Francisco. One of UC's worst tragedies occurred at Santa Barbara in 2001 when student David Attias drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in thestudent community of Isla Vista, killing four people. He claimed he was the "angel of death." Attias had been on medication since the age of 11 for bipolar disorder and other conditions. After his arrest, he said he had stopped taking his drugs because he wanted to be like other students. In hopes of preventing similar incidents, UCSB now collects information on students who may be troubled and intervenes if they begin acting out.Like other schools, Santa Barbara has a crisis response team that includes police officers, counselors and administrators. Other campuses are also focusing on prevention. UC Berkeley, through a federal grant, has trained nearly 600 faculty, staff members andstudents to spot signs of depression and posted green stickers across the campus to show students where they can get help.

The UC system began examining campus mental health after the death of Adam Ojakian, a 21-year-old senior at UC Davis who shot himself in 2004. Suffering from depression and struggling academically, he received a letter from the university warning that his graduation could be jeopardized by his poor grades. Ojakian's parents, Victor and Mary Ojakian, believe his suicide — like most suicides — could have been prevented if his symptoms had been recognized and he had received treatment. Unlike many relatives of suicide victims, the Ojakians have spoken out publicly about their son'sproblems.

Victor Ojakian, a Palo Alto councilman at the time of his son's death, said one of the biggest obstacles in preventing suicides is overcomingthe stigma of mental illness. "We have a major health crisis and nobody wants to talk about it becauseof our cultural adversity to talking about problems involving the brain," he said.

Frustrated by UC's lack of action, the Ojakians got the regents' attention at one of their meetings in 2005, speaking during the brief public comment period. Their plea led to the appointment of the Student Mental Health Committee and its subsequent report. Victor Ojakian praised the panel's recommendations but said the amount of money allocated by the regents would fund only a "bare minimum" ofincreased services. "It won't address the second tier — reaching at-risk men and women —because that costs more," he said. "The Virginia Tech type of individual would go undetected with this kind of money."

At UC, officials have held to the idea that mental health treatment should be paid for with the student registration fee, which has been stagnant for decades. That fee, which pays for student services, rose gradually from $510 in1985-86 to $735 this year. By contrast, the education fee, the main fee students pay, rose over the same period from $723 to $5,046. As state funding for UC decreased, mental health services were cut in the early '90s and again this decade. In March, the regents agreed to raise both fees by 7%, with more than half the increase in the registration fee going to mental health services. But advocates say much more is needed. "We are already a decade and a half behind," Young said. "What you saw at the regents' meeting was a very small first step."

UC officials would not discuss Jennifer Tse's suicide and her parents did not return telephone calls from The Times. It was unclear whether she sought or received treatment from the UC Davis counseling center. But Emil Rodolfa, who heads the center, said that it's easy for adepressed student to go unnoticed on the campus of 30,000, the third-largest in the UC system. "Depression sucks the life out of you," he said. "It causes people to withdraw and hide out. In these huge classes, it's hard to tell if a student is there or not." The report on Tse's death filed by the Yolo County coroner's office described her as "a highly intelligent young woman who held herself tovery high standards in her personal life as well as her studies."

She had a long history of depression, was prescribed Prozac and Wellbutrin and attempted suicide in high school, the report says. After starting at Davis, she took some time off and attended community college before returning last summer. On Sunday, Jan. 14, three daysbefore her death, she wrote in her diary: "I'm sooo lonely, so lonely.What shall I do bah bah and I must finish this paper, I must type. What can I type. I must type … I have to wait until wed. to see if I can call a counselor … I feel rather discouraged right now…. "

It's unclear whether she ever called the counselor. But that Wednesdaynight she swallowed whatever toxic items she could find in her apartment. "Okay, I think the meds are working," she wrote. "I think I will lie down and see what happens."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Congrats, DR. Jey!

Jey and Stephanie, BU Med Graduation, May 20, 2007
The Boston University School of Medicine held its graduation last Sunday at the Mariott in Copley/Prudential. As my first post-grad graduation, it was fairly interesting and yet standard in a comforting sort of way. Even though my life nowadays is usually disorganized and full of spontaneity and the delicious kind of sloth reminiscent of lazy afternoons in elementary school, I have to admit that I am deep down a creature of rituals, tradition, and routine.
I like to wake up at 7:40 a.m. in the morning, make some decaffeinated tea, run to class 5 minutes late (sorry D. Lo), and glance outside to make sure that the Golden Gate Bridge is still standing over the bay when I step out of my 6 minute elevator commute in the morning. I like to watch the previews at the movies, and I like hearing the introductions of the new lecturers to gain some sort of context and background. I love background stories and context. It's comforting to have my decaf tea, to see the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day, and to hear someone's story.
It's also very comforting to attend a graduation and see everyone dressed up like rejects from a Harry Potter movie, to hear student speeches joking about medical school, and to quietly moan to yourself while 144 students are called out individually for 30 seconds of stardom as they shuffle across the stage wearing sweet, goofy smiles to receive a ridiculously oversized piece of paper (like a giant check from Ed MacMahon) while their parents dart around the stage like rabid paparazzi.
Yes, nothing changes after medical school.
I am really proud of Jey and how he excelled in the 7-year BA/MD program at Boston University. He worked very hard, but he enjoyed life outside school, too, and pretty much became a native Bostonian. You can take Jey away from Boston, but you can't take the Red Sox away from Jey. Next month, he is moving to San Jose, California, to work at Santa Clara Valley as an intern! Don't worry, this blog will formally introduce Jey later.
What you really need to know is that Jey is a kid at heart. The graduation from medical school has not changed him at all. In fact, the night before graduation, Jey banged his shin against the car door and he yelled, "I hurt my calf."
"Jey," I chided, "That's NOT your calf. That's your SHIN. Haven't you learned anything in medical school?"
Jey looked at me defiantly.
He pointed at his stomach and said, "TUMMY."
Then he pointed at his nostril and said, "NOSE...HOLE."
Note: Jey is not going to be a pediatrician.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Losing Track of Time

Since the last BMB neuroanatomy exam, I have been really busy...but I have NO IDEA what I have been doing with all of my time. It's like falling victim to amnesia or an alien abduction.
Somehow, I've fallen 500 pages behind (ahem, and the worst news is that there are no plans to rectify that particular problem until Friday.
On the positive side, today is Kim's birthday! And Frank's birthday!
Also, I flew to Boston this past weekend (Thursday-Monday) to see my boyfriend graduate from Boston University School of Medicine. He spent seven good years in their BA-MD program, and now he's finally an MD! Congratulations, Jey!
The amusing comics have nothing to do with this post. This post was just to assure everyone that I'm not dead yet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Suicide Among Asian-American Women

A cruddy article in so many ways, but I never knew that Asian American women have the highest suicide rates between ages 15-24 years. Why has this never been addressed?

Push to achieve tied to suicide in Asian-American women

POSTED: 2:53 p.m. EDT, May 16, 2007

By Elizabeth Cohen

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- One evening in 1990, Eliza Noh hung up the phone with her sister. Disturbed about the conversation, Noh immediately started writing a letter to her sister, a college student who was often depressed. "I told her I supported her, and I encouraged her," Noh says.

But her sister never read the letter. By the time it arrived, she'd killed herself.
Moved by that tragedy, Noh has spent much of her professional life studying depression and suicide among Asian-American women. An assistant professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, Noh has read the sobering statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services: Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women in that age range.

Depression starts even younger than age 15. Noh says one study has shown that as young as the fifth grade, Asian-American girls have the highest rate of depression so severe they've contemplated suicide.

As Noh and others have searched for the reasons, a complex answer has emerged.
First and foremost, they say "model minority" pressure -- the pressure some Asian-American families put on children to be high achievers at school and professionally -- helps explain the problem.

"In my study, the model minority pressure is a huge factor," says Noh, who studied 41 Asian-American women who'd attempted or contemplated suicide. "Sometimes it's very overt -- parents say, 'You must choose this major or this type of job' or 'You should not bring home As and Bs, only As," she says. "And girls have to be the perfect mother and daughter and wife as well."

Family pressure often affects girls more than boys, according to Dr. Dung Ngo, a psychologist at Baylor University in Texas. "When I go talk to high school students and ask them if they experience pressure, the majority who raised their hands were the girls," he said.
Asian-American parents, he says, are stricter with girls than with boys. "The cultural expectations are that Asian women don't have that kind of freedom to hang out, to go out with friends, to do the kinds of things most teenagers growing up want to do."
And in Asian cultures, he added, you don't question parents. "The line of communication in Asian culture one way. It's communicated from the parents downward," he says. "If you can't express your anger, it turns to helplessness. It turns inward into depression for girls. For boys it's more likely to turn outwards into rebellious behavior and behavioral problems like drinking and fighting."

But Noh says pressure from within the family doesn't completely explain the shocking suicide statistics for young women like her sister.

She says American culture has adopted the myth that Asians are smarter and harder-working than other minorities.

"It's become a U.S.-based ideology, popular from the 1960s onward, that Asian-Americans are smarter, and should be doing well whether at school or work."

Noh added that simply being a minority can also lead to depression.

"My sister had a really low self-image. She thought of herself as ugly," she says. "We grew up in Houston in the '70s and '80s, and at that time in school there were very few Asian faces. The standard of beauty she wanted to emulate was white women." In college, Noh's sister had plastic surgery to make her eyes and nose appear more European-looking.

Heredity, Noh says, also plays a role. She says in her study, many of the suicidal women had mothers who were also suicidal. She says perhaps it's genetic -- some biochemical marker handed down from mother to daughter -- or perhaps it's the daughter observing the mother's behavior. "It makes sense. You model yourself after the parent of the same gender."
As varied as the causes of depression, Noh says she saw just as many approaches to overcoming it.

While some women in her study did seek help through counseling and prescription drugs, most of her subjects were ambivalent or even negative about counseling. "They felt the counselor couldn't understand their situation. They said it would have helped if the counselor were another Asian-American woman."

These women found help through their religious faith, herbs, acupuncture, or becoming involved in groups that help other Asian women.

"It shows the resourcefulness of these women," she says. "They had really diverse healing strategies."

Elizabeth Cohen is a CNN Medical News correspondent. Senior producer Jennifer Pifer and associate producer Sabriya Rice contributed to this report.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Darling Buds of May

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park


"Certain emotional states facilitate learning and memory processing. Under optimal conditions, a mild state of anxiety and arousal enhances learning."

I knew it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Falling in Love in Golden Gate Park

"Hotel Eden" by Joseph Cornell
Golden Gate Park is located 2 blocks from UCSF, I cannot begin to explain how fond I have become of walking or running around exploring nooks and crannies.
Today, I just wandered restlessly around golden gate park
there was in art show in front of the deyoung museum
i fell in love with this painting
it was $600 and i couldn't buy it
so I talked to the artist for a bit
what was it about the painting?
everything just felt right
the first thing that caught my eye was that he uses threads and nails
he uses tiny nails and winds colored thread around them
red paint, blobs, random features and bits of broken glass and found objects
it just felt right
i like the textures of the objects and how he strung the thread around the nails that made shadows onto the canvas and so it created even more artistic lines that change with light
and his framing of the painting was assymetrical
all of his framings were assymetrical, and i'm a sucker for that
so even that caught my fancy
i like it when things a just a tad "off"
and the artist was explaining how he finds things on the street
and he showed me this bit of a coke can that he found
and how it was beaten around and silvery and in the shape of an african mask
i don't even usually like abstract art
but i do like 3D materials and found objects
i snuck back and got his name and contact info
so maybe when i'm older i can get a painting
and even then it's not as important
it's remembering how this painting makes me feel
i don't know
it really is like being in love
it just felt right
i don't think that strong reactions are rare
but you have to be open to them
that's the other thing that he was saying
he said:"don't hold anything in"

Happy Mother's Day

HNHM 2005
Telephone call at 11:30 a.m.
S: Hi Mom! Happy Mother's day!
M: Ah, I knew it was you. Samantha called at 10 a.m. this morning and Jeremy thought it was you.
S: [mentally: Crap, I'm the last kid to call] Oh...
M: Yeah, but I knew it couldn't be you because you never wake up until noon.
S: Yeah...Oh, and I'm sorry that I forgot to send you a card this year!
M: That's okay, your brothers gave me two pink roses and signed a cute pop-up card with all of your names. And Samantha sent me a card and signed your name too, so you're covered.
S: [mentally: Oh, crap, I'm the only kid who didn't send a card] Oh, okay, that's cool. Well, give me a call if you want to chat or anything.
M: Okay, and I know that if I ever want to check up on you, I can always read your blog.
S: Yeah, okay.
M: We're going hiking now, bye!
S: Bye Mom!
Wow, I'm officially the "slow" kid on Mother's Day.
Whenever you get around to reading this blog, Mom, I just want to say, "I LOVE YOU!"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Only a Scientist Would Say

Mystery Baby
Today in lecture, our professor had a cute computer desktop image of his baby son. As members of the audience "ooh"ed and "ahh"ed, our professor blushed and said:
"The author of that baby is sitting in the audience."
A classmate named Alex turned around and said to me, "Wait, does he mean like the first author?"
How many authors could there be?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Perks of Being a Blogflower

Last month, I blogged about going to a mash-up, Bootie SF, at the DNA Lounge.
Here is my excerpt:
"Attended a mash-up called Bootie SF with some friends from medical school. A few weeks ago in Vegas, a girl accidentally burned my right index finger with her cigarette while clubbing at TAO. It was an accident, but it was bizarre. Saturday night, while dancing at Bootie SF, DJ Axel from LA was throwing copies of his new album into the crowd. I raised my arm to get one, and he threw one at me, but the CD hit me in the face and cut my left cheek. And I STILL didn't get the CD. Yet another entertaining nighttime injury. I'm going to be like one of those biker pirates with a leather eyepatch and a story behind every scar. Chicks dig scars, right?"
I wasn't mad or upset, the anecdote was more along the lines of "Why do I suck at life?" and other such self-deprecatory musings. my GREAT surprise, I found a comment attached to that entry from none other than DJ Axel!
"Hi Stephanie,I just came across your blog. Sorry about cutting your cheek with my CD! Email me your address at and I'll mail you the CD. Thanks for coming out to Bootie! -Axel"
You know those days when you say something to no one in particular like "Gee, I wish I had a donut," and then a big yellow donut falls out of the sky into your hand? Imagine my surprise that this little medical school blog attracted the attention of...a really famous DJ.
So I emailed DJ Axel my mailing address and I received this album this afternoon in the mail! He is so incredibly nice! I love it! Yay for DJ Axel! -HUGS-

Medical Scholars Program (MSP)

MSP handout
As always, SO MUCH has happened between this week thus far. Most of my Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday was consumed by the Medical Scholars Program (MSP), which is a tutoring program run by mostly by fourth and second-year UCSF medical students to help first-year UCSF students with anatomy and basic concepts. This quarter, the new MSP leaders are practicing their teaching skills by preparing lessons for BMB, and my first MSP lesson was this week on the amazing brainstem. It was an experience similar to Clinical Sciences Journal Club, in that you prepare intensely on a particular topic and present it in a public speaking forum to your medical school classmates, but it was also more didactic and had a different approach, using chalkboards and xeroxed handouts and whatnot.
At the beginning of the year, Albert asked me how I would prioritize seeing patients in the clinic, research, and teaching. I told him that I would rank 1) seeing patients 2) research and 3) teaching as a distant third, because teaching did not really appeal to me at the time. However, somehow, I was bitten by the "teaching bug" by watching the incredibly talented and inspiring MSP leaders this year who helped me so much and by realizing in our daily small group discussion sections that it was genuinely fun explaining medical concepts and factoids to peers (um, when I actually read and sometimes when I actually didn't). "Teaching" first-year medical students (peers) and 4th and 5th graders through MedTeach (with Craig and Sarah) this year has really given me a lot of joy. Nowadays, I might rank 1) seeing patients and 2) a tie between research and teaching.
So anyway, most of this week was consumed by preparing for my first MSP lesson, presenting it in a practice session to my fellow MSP leaders, and then giving the lesson last night in front of some 6-10 peers. I was particularly touched to see Paul and Albert there, because I know that Paul doesn't bother to attend MSP (this is taken by me as a fact of life) and Albert occasionally drops in.
Yesterday was so busy! Besides class from 8-12, there was basic science journal club, a meeting, an amazing UCSF Iraq Teach-In (check the UCSF Synapse page next week for more coverage), and then MSP.
Today, there was class from 8-12 (an exam review in the morning), a Synapse meeting, a session to learn how to use otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes, and then a few wayward medical students and I walked over to Japantown to eat some mochi, crepes, pearl milk tea, and go shopping at a Japanese market.
Busy month!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Reasons Why You Should Come to UCSF

Second Look Weekend for the incoming first-year class at UCSF occurred last weekend, but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't launch my own private blog campaign to bring would-be premedical students to our hallowed institution. Look out for more reasons to come in the near future...I will list the reasons numerically as they occur to me.

Reason #1: UCSF is a vibrant institution; you will never be bored. When I was checking my email over spring break, my mother glanced at the unread messages in my inbox and gasped...she asked me if I always had 20 new emails advertising different charity events, seminars, organizational meetings, social events, free food events, bake sales, journal clubs, protest rallys, tutoring get the picture. Having grown accustomed to cleaning out my inbox every afternoon as a matter of survival (to avoid being crushed and suffocated by a swollen electronic inbox), I never realized how privileged UCSF students are to be able to have SO MANY activities and events available each and every day. Although I try to take advantage of everything offered, it's impossible to participate in everything that interests me!

Here is a recent email to give you an idea of what happens at UCSF every week:

May 15, Noon - 1pm N225 (Parnassus) How to Start And Manage a PracticeYou’re preparing to be a brilliant practitioner, but will you be ready to be a brilliant business owner? Get the jump on what it takes to successfully start and manage a health care practice. The issues, the concepts, the language are all novel for UCSF students but will be increasingly important to understand as you contemplate your future professional options. This session offers a basic overview of financing, staffing and managing a healthcare practice. Presenter: Kevin Mc Namara, Student Loan XPRESS Cosponsored with Student Financial Services

::Passport to Wellness:: Through May 24. Attend events. Get Stamps. Win Prizes. Be Well Activity Center: MU108W, 502.2442, MConway@ucsf.edu_____________________________________________________________________::

PLUS info you need THIS WEEK ::TOPICS FOR NEXT YEAR’S STUDENT ENRICHMENT SERIES: FIVE QUESTION SURVEY, PLEASE!Two minutes, 5 questions and you will send us off in the right planning direction for Tuesdays at noon next academic year. Your opinion is the only one that counts.

WALK THE LABYRINTH: YOUR MOVING MEDITATION EXPERIENCETODAY Wed. May 9, 10am - 3pm, Saunders CourtLabyrinths have been used over centuries as a tool for moving meditation and spiritual practice. They are not connected to any religion and lend themselves to any personal belief system. Use this unique opportunity to fuel your soul and move into relaxation. Sponsored by the UCSF Spiritual Care Program. *Passport to Wellness!

TODAY Wed. MAY 9, 2-5 PM, in Millberry UnionWe are at UCSF to learn about the alleviation of human suffering. We have been at war for 4 years now, and it is our role to learn about, and to teach about, the suffering involved. What can we do? The symposium will feature invited guests along with speakers from within the UCSF community. Plan to participate in this important, interesting, and exciting event. Arrange your meetings, lectures and classes so that we can join together during the teach-in. We look forward to taking action and learning with you on May 9th!

AFROFUSION RETURNS: A CELEBRATION OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORAFriday evening, May 11, 6:30pm, Millberry GymThe African diaspora is the story of how Africans, though scattered and dispersed, managed to retian their traditions and reform teir identities all over the world. Dance performances, fashion, food and so much more! Free. Black Student Health Alliance

NOTES OF CHANGE BENEFIT CONCERTFri May 11, Milk Lounge, 1840 Haight @ Stanyan, 8-10pm, $5 at the doorSponsored by the Asian Health Caucus to benefit the San Francisco Women’s Shelter

VOCAL CHORDS ANNUAL SPRING CONCERT Friday, May 11th, 7pm-8pm. Location: N-225.Sit back and enjoy a performance by UCSF's A Cappella choir: Vocal Chords Singing jazz, doo-wop, modern rock, ballads, and everyone's favorite old-school songs. FUN, LIVE, and FREE entertainment! Open to everyone. Free Refreshments. Vocal Chords is comprised of UCSF students, post-docs, residents, and staff. Passport to Wellness stamp!Contact:

KaBooM FIREWORKS FROM MISSION BAY GARAGE TOP: GET A PASSPORT STAMP!Sat May 12, at dusk, Meet on the roof of the Bakar Fitness Center parking structure KaBoom is an all day event sponsored by KFOG that features an expanded fireworks display synchronized to a World Class Rock soundtrack and the exciting, fun atmosphere that Fogheads make happen every year. For great viewing and destressor, gather at the top of Bakar Fitness Center and get a Passport stamp from Suya Colorado-Caldwell. Look for the woman with the silver jeep serving chocolate chip cookies. She’ll be looking for you.

UCSF DEPT OF DERMATOLOGY: FREE SKIN CANCER SCREENING May 12 Sat May 12, 9am to 4pm, 3rd floor Med Center Mt. Zion, 1701 Divisadero
Worried about a change in your skin? A sister’s mole? Your dad’s sun damage? May is designated as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month® One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetimes, but through early detection, it can be highlycurable. UCSF and community dermatologists will participate in the screening and will provide informational material on self-examination for skin cancer. open to anyone, free, and no appointment. For more information about the screening, please call 415/353-7800.

5:00 PM - 8:45 PM, DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, Wilsey Court and Kimball Education GalleryFriday Nights are back! The popular series returns, offering live music, poetry, films, dance, tours, lectures, cocktails, food, artist demonstrations, and interactive art projects. Enjoy a variety of musical performances; performance art; artwear demonstrations; art works made from recycled clothing; student designers and more for free. The galleries are $10. The calendar:

Check out the Passport website for all 14 events between now and May 24 where you can relax, get a stamp and be well! There are endless visits to the gym possible. Get your name into the raffle hat by getting 6 stamps before the 24th. Be Well!It is all free and brought to you by your campus wide student services.

Introduction to Rock Climbing:Sa 5/12, Sa 5/19, each class is $55 and is 9am – 12pmThis three-hour entry-level climbing class is designed to get you up and climbing on the new outdoor wall at Bakar Fitness Center at Mission Bay. You’ll learn and practice basic climbing skills, proper use of equipment, and belay techniques. Successful completion of this course will qualify beginners to take the skills test and safety orientation at no additional charge.

Monday, May 14th, 11:30-1:30 pm, City Lights/Golden Gate Rooms, Millberry Conference CenterGet informed, check out your own health status, take care of yourself all free. Check your bone health: get a free bone density screening. brought to you by the Women's Health Organization at UCSF. A Passport to Wellness program.

Tues. May 15, 5-6pm, SHS Parnassus clinic, MU-H005A small group workshop emphasizing the latest research on foods and vitamins to fight stress and disease, be energetic, stay healthy and maintain your weight. Refreshments. Sign up: shs@ucsf.eduOr in person at the SHS clinic. A Passport to Wellness program!

MONDAY, MAY 14, 12noon, HSW 303, Parnassus Keynote Speaker, Preston Ni. on Communication and Culture at UCSF
TUESDAY, MAY 15, 6pm, Mission Bay Apartments Community Room
CHPSA's Dumpling and Tea Night
WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 12noon, UCSF Library Lange Reading Room
The Music in the Library featuring Benjamin Sun, a Passport to Wellness Program
WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 12noon, Genentech Hall, Cafe 24, Mission Bay Steve Espaniola, Hawaiian slack key guitarist
THURSDAY, MAY 17, 12noon, The View, Laurel HeightsSteve Espaniola, Hawaiian slack key guitaristTHURSDAY, MAY 17, 6pm Genentech Hall, Mission Bay"China Blue" screening FRIDAY, MAY 18TH, 12noon, Millberry Union Gym
Filipino Cultural Show:: PLUS info you need

CALL TO ACTION: DON’T LET SACRAMENTO GAMBLE YOUR FUTURE AWAYUrge Your legislators to Make a Safe Bet for Higher Education during the UCSA Week of Action May 7th - 11th @ UCSA is calling on ALL students and families to fax a letter and make a call May 7th - May 11th urging Sacramento to BUYOUT the UC Fee Increase and RESTORE Academic Preparation Program funding to $33 for info:

CHECK OUT THIS FREEBIE TO BEAT ALL FREEBIES If you have a Bank of America card, many SF museums are FREE for you and a friend in May. Really. No more excuses.

Wed May 16, noon – 1pm, Lange Reading Rm, UCSF Library
The Erhu is a traditional Chinese two-stringed musical instrument that became popular during the Song Dynasty. Sun has received many awards for his music and has been honored at command performances in Beijing with the Central Ballet Orchestra of China. Free! A Passport to Wellness program!

The Fitness & Recreation Centers at UCSF have adjusted the standard membership monthly rate for any additional adult household members of a UCSF Student. This Standard Membership package is called UCSF Student Add-On. Dues have been discounted to $20.00 per month. Any UCSF Student Add-On who enrolled on or after July 1, 2006 is eligible for a credit to the UCSF Student’s membership account. Eligible UCSF Students and their Add-Ons, contact Member Services for more info: Millberry 415.476.0348; Bakar 415.476.5646

Thurs. May 17, 11 – 3pm MU GymOver 50 information and product tables, Free raffle tickets for eco-gifts and more. Shop, samples, learn green choices. Very popular last year so come early. A Passport to Wellness program.

Thurs. May 17, all morning at key routes into campusGet a Passport to Wellness stamp for riding and leaving the other options at home!

THE COST OF A TICKET: CHECK OUT THE RANGE OF OPTIONS!Have some time on your hands? Here are some good options for high- and low-end entertainment. There are some freebies, too.

SF ZOO PASSESThe passes are available for 24 hr. check out at the Student Activity Center, Millberry Union 108W. Must have your student ID to check out the pass. Passport to Wellness stamp when you check out the zoo pass!

EARN A PASSPORT STAMP: CLIMB THE STAiRS OR HILL FROM IRVING TO PARNASSUSCome in our of breath but thrilled with your success to the SAC, MU108W, and get a Passport to Wellness Stamp! Get six and enter the raffle. We are open 7:30 am to 5:00pm M-F.

9TH ANNUAL INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE FORUM: COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES OF HEALING May 18 & 19, Parnassus Campus Pre-Registration: Student :$20, ($30 day of) Includes dinner, breakfast, lunch. Keynote topics include: “The Art & Science of Mind/Body Medicine”, "Indigenous Diets from Around the World: Ancient Cures for Modern Plagues", “Guiding People for Self-Healing Across Cultures: Reducing Dependency” and workshop topics: Herbs & Weight loss, Integrative Medicine and Cancer, Ayurveda, Holistic Healing, Homeopathy, Yoga, Energy Healing, and more! To register and for more info: A Passport to Wellness program!

WOMEN’S SELF-DEFENSE MAY 19 @ MISSION BAYMay 19, 2:30- 5:30pm, Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center, Studio 1, Activity Code: 2434.45, $55Women, get the essential skills needed to defend yourselves and maintain confidence in any situation. Practice and train in a series of safe, but realistic scenarios and learn how to program your mind and body to respond automatically, day or night. Taught by IMPACT Bay Area , 415-514-4545 for questions about registration. A Student Passport to Wellness program!

DISABILITY VIDEO SERIES: ARE THE KIDS ALRIGHT?Wed May 23, 12 – 1pm, S172 (Medical Sci Bldg.)This searing documentary examines the crisis in mental health care for children and adolescents at risk and the catastrophic decline in the availability of appropriate service for young people. Info:

SCHOOL OF PHARMACY: 9TH ANNUAL COMMUNITY SERVICE SPRING AUCTIONThurs May 31, 4:30-7:30pm MU Conference CenterSave the Date! This auction serves to benefit pharmacy students’ community service activities. Funds raised through attendants’ bids enable School of Pharmacy service groups to continue to provide health screenings, disease-state management counseling, and informational health fair presentations to Bay Area communities. There will will be a Silent Auction followed by a Live Auction and Raffle. Appetizers and light refreshments will be provided. Check out our website See you there!

8TH ANNUAL UC SYSTEMWIDE BIOENGINEERING SYMPOSIUMJune 15-17, Mission Bay Campus, call for abstracts and registration now open speakers include Tejal Desai, PhD on Micro and Nanofabricated Interfaces for Therapeutic Delivery and Joe DeRisi, PhD on The Virus-Chip: Pathogen Diagnostics and Discovery. All are welcome to this open symposium. Register now for the early bird rate of $75. MARK YOUR SUMMER SUNDAY CALENDAR:

Sundays, 2:00 p.m., June 17 - August 19, 2007, Stern Grove - 19th Ave & Sloat BoulevardStern Grove Festival is San Francisco's celebration of community, nature, and the arts. World-class performing arts has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer in one of the country's most beautiful and unique natural settings. Check out the performers http://

Student Activity CenterUniversity of California, San Francisco415-502-2442Maureen.conway@ucsf.edu

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

So Fun It Should Be Illegal

Reflex Hammers from Steeles
Yesterday we learned how some basic neurological physical exam skills, and we finally got to play with NEW TOYS (read: tuning forks, reflex hammer). Imagine eight medical students sitting in a classroom banging away at each other with tuning forks and "queen's square" reflex hammers (which, in one of those cruel mysteries of life...are actually circular rubber disks on a stick) or "tomahawk" reflex hammers.
My favorite neurological maneuver is the good old fashioned patellar reflex. Just bang the tendon below the bony patella and PRESTO! Your leg shoots up like it's been possessed. For some reason, this trick never gets old. In a manifesto on humor, the philosopher Henri Bergson mentioned how one type of humor, exemplified by the Jack-in-the-Box, amuses us as children because it pops out at you unexpectedly. It's paradoxical because you fully expect it, even relish it, but when it actually happens --- you are no less surprised and delighted. Every time I see a leg shooting up in the air due to the patellar reflex, I giggle with the maturity of a toddler playing with a jack-in-the-box toy.
Also, today in small group, we learned about the mental status exam (MSE). One of the criteria is arousal/alertness, another one is speech patterns, thought processes, etc.
At one point, in order to comment on a recent patient presentation, one of my classmates started off the discussion by saying: "She seemed pretty aroused."
You don't have to tell me...I have the maturity of a 5-year-old.

Monday, May 07, 2007

SF Int'l Film Festival 07

"Once" - good film - thanks Kim!
I will try not to get too frou-frou on you, but I like how the center of this picture is empty...
it's just the space between a guy and a girl and somehow it says everything.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Back from Spring Break

Don't worry, I know that you've missed me. ;-)

"We See into the Life of Things"

Studying anatomy has led me to believe more and more that the human body is a reflection of the earth. The three comparisons shown here demonstrate a sample from neuroanatomy and how it reminds me of an equivalent in nature.
Shown above: cross-section of the human spinal cord.
Shown below: black and white image of a sand dollar seashell.

Shown above: cross-section of the brainstem (midbrain).
Shown below: photo of a moth (notice the two spots on both photos).

Shown above: drawing of a neuron with many dendrites.
Shown below: Painting, "The Red Tree," by Piet Mondrian.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ads Say the Darndest Things

Google ads have always interested me. Especially the ones that pop up in your Gmail windows and on the top of this webpage, because they select ads that target for specific keywords. Since I have been posting about the brain so often, there are "brain"-related advertisements at the top of this page. If you actually start reading them, you might become very amused and confused.

See below for an informal analysis of four Google ads based on three categories:

Relevance of Need - Is there a demand for the product or service?
Literary Value of a Two-Sentence Ad - Is the ad coherent and persuasive?
Website - Does the website address inspire confidence?

All categories will be judged and awarded "brain points" on a 0-5 scale (5 highest).

Brain Cancer Treatment
Leading-Edge Research & Innovation From Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Relevant Need: 5 brain points - cancer patients and families need to find treatments for life-threatening diseases.
Literary Value: 5 brain points - "High-impact" words like "leading edge research and innovation" capture your attention.
Website: 5 brain points - Cedars-Sinai...almost as cool as UCSF...

This normal ad has been included as a "control."

Neuroscience Lab Manuals
Sheep Brain Dissection Guides Stereotaxic Surgery Manual

Relevant Need: 1 brain point - Why does the general public need sheep brain dissection guides? What is "stereotaxic" surgery?
Literary Value: 2 brain points - Interesting but totally incoherent words explode like dizzying Pop Rocks on my prefrontal this a whole sentence or two nouns pasted together? "Sheep Brain Dissection Guides" and "Stereotaxic Surgery Manual"?
Website: 0 brain points - Exudes "scam"...I mean "spam."

Activate your Brain & IQ
Lab proven to amplify IQ, brain functions & intelligence. It's easy

Relevant Need: 5 brain points - people are always looking for quick and easy ways to get richer, smarter, and thinner...the rationale behind this ad makes sense to me.
Literary Value: 5 brain points - At first, I was confused because the ad didn't specify how it would activate my IQ...but the website address suggests through music? Never mind that -- IT'S EASY!
Website: 4 brain points - iMusic?

Brain Pictures
Browse a huge selection now. Find exactly what you want today.

Relevant Need: 1 brain point - This advertisement REALLY confused me. Why do people need brain pictures so badly? WHY do we need to PAY for them? Are people looking for specific brain pictures of OTHER people? Do they have something "exact" in mind?
Literary Value: 0 brain points - Two sentences have left me even more confused. This is an ad for "Brain Pictures," NOT audio CDs or DVDs? But it says, "Browse a huge selection now. Find exactly what you want today." Unless there are hundreds of people out there with a fetish for brain imaging, I'm not sure why the vendors even bothered paying for this advertisement.
Website: 0 brain points - EBAY? Let me get this straight -- EBAY is paying to advertise the large selection of BRAIN PICTURES that people are selling on the website?