Thursday, August 30, 2007

Post-purchase confusion

Being a little bit poor as a student (well, poorer than I was a year ago), I buy a lot of my books second-hand. Often it is a lot cheaper to buy them from the USA, even when shipping is added into the cost.

The most fun and frustrating part about this is that I have no idea when the book is likely to arrive. It usually takes between 2 and 8 weeks to get here, so you can imagine that any books I need quickly, I don't send for internationally (to state the bleeding obvious).

This means that I often send for books that I find interesting or would be helpful for my study, and get them a long time later, and almost forget about them in the meantime. When they arrive, it is like somebody has sent a present, but it is almost a present that I have forgotten why I wanted in the first place.

Yes, I will use them. And no, the are not a waste of money. It's almost like I'm thinking, "Oh. That's right. I wanted this book for histology study 8 weeks ago. Interesting. I remember how keen I was on histology, way back when we were covering the liver. Ah, the memories." At the time, the idea of the book was so much more exciting than the book itself when it actually arrived.

Not that I'm ungrateful, mind you. I still love my books.

And thanks to Roy from shrink rap for the mention. Perhaps medical students are insightful. Perhaps we are all just confused and tired and should lay off the vino a little bit more. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why is it so?

Clinicians generally give the lectures that I find the most interesting. I won't say that they give the most interesting lectures, as this clearly depends on your point of view and personal interest.

However, I have noticed that psychiatrists as a group tend to give the most interesting and engaging lectures of all. Their voices are very natural and conversational in tone even as they lecture on academic topics, their communication skills are excellent, they look relaxed, and of course, they tend to have fantastic (yet anonymous) anecdotes.

It isn't just me who feels this way - other people I am close to who have no interest in psychiatry also love these lectures.

Perhaps we are lucky in our group of lecturers at my university. Perhaps psychiatrists who lecture also perform a lot of academic work and are used to lecturing large groups. Maybe spending all day communicating with patients rather than performing dry scientific research helps. Or is it that a lot of people go into psychiatry because they enjoy communicating and expressing themselves verbally to begin with?

Whatever the reason, psych lectures rock.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Junk mail

There is a junk mail delivery person who works in our area, and rides around on a motorbike that sounds exactly like the Australia Post delivery man's bike.

I'm sure I don't have to explain how annoying it is to hear the postman, run down to the letterbox only to find it filled with crap.

Why did we even bother putting the "no junk mail" sign on the letterbox to start with? There are people on our street who have made their own LARGER signs and attached them to their letterboxes. We are talking A4 sheets of paper, covered in plastic sleeves, using large-print, simple words.

They probably still get the junk mail.

I am very tempted to just put a big bin next to our letterbox, and put a sign on it that says, "junk mail receptacle". However, if they don't quite understand the concept of "no junk mail", the idea of a separate "letterbox" for their crap would just confuse them far too much.

More stuff about fish

Wow, a whole week has gone by since I posted last - time really is flying at the moment, and considering how close we are getting to exams, I am really a little scared.

We have one fish in our tank who has decided he wants to be boss over all of the other fish , and so spends the entire day chasing the others into hiding. Needless to say, it is not very relaxing.

I feel bad for them - there are plenty of hiding spaces in the tank, but its boundaries are very set and are never able to expand, so the fish can never get away.

At least he doesn't damage them the way that the previous "boss" fish did - we had to take him back to the pet store, because he was hurting the other fish. Because the others can't escape, I don't think it is at all fair to leave a fish like this in a tank with others who can be bullied by it. The new "boss" just chases them.

If we took him out of the tank, a new boss would emerge and start chasing everybody yet again, just to prove how much of a "boss" he was.

Sometimes fish are rather a lot like people. Very small, cold, wet, silly people. Scrap that - sometimes people like me take broad observations about simple animals and attempt to apply them to society. We probably shouldn't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is it wrong to be excited about this?

I can't wait to see this movie. For those into movie trivia, Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop buddies took care of the special effects.

Because the world needed a horror movie. With sheep. Really.

My old favourite

Just a quick note to say: Frank Netter was a genius.

If you are a medical or anatomy student and haven't heard of him, or if you have an interest in anatomy and want to see some excellent illustrations, his work can be found sneaking into any number of published works on anatomy, on the web, or (if you are lucky like me) in a book of its very own.

He was both a physician and a professional artist (another bio here) so the pictures are excellent from both points of view.

I find anatomy really interesting, and his pictures help me learn, understand and remember more than just about any other anatomy source. Combine his work with other sources (cadaver atlases, medical imaging anatomy books) and those big latin/greek words might just stick in your head!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cats in the coriander

My day was making me VERY UNHAPPY. Unhappy enough to go into the Room of Screaming and Smashing. (I don't actually have this room. But sometimes I wish I did!)

Sometimes I hate the process of medical school. I hate PBL. There is no good side to PBL. I hate it. There is also something about nice people being medical students that makes me hate them from time to time. Actually it is the way some of them act when they are medical students.

If you don't know something, then you don't know it. Considering that we are all STUDENTS, we don't know enough of anything at this point in time to shout each other down. This is just RUDE. (This is one of the main reasons I still work. Being at the hospital and working keeps me sane. Plus, I love being around patients.)

Just when I thought it was all a bit too much, I found that Ah Yes, Medical School is going to have a sequel: Ah Yes, Residency.

Also, my chili bush is starting to flower. Which means chillies will be arriving quite soon.

Oh, and when I arrived home, our strangest cat was in the front yard sampling my coriander pot-plant which I had put out on the ground to catch some rain. Yes, I know he was eating my herbs. But there is something funny about a cat eating coriander. Afterwards, he told me that he prefers celery leaves.

(N.b. He didn't ACTUALLY tell me that he prefers celery leaves. However, he eats them with much more gusto when they fall out of the fridge. This is even funnier that him eating coriander.)

So now I am going to have a thump on the piano and get back to study.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The more you learn . . .

We are approaching the end of first year, and somehow I still don't feel like I know very much at all. I know that my overall knowledge has increased exponentially since the start of the year. However, the more I learn, the more I realise that I will never know.

I remember that not so long ago, whenever I met a medical student I expected them to somehow have superior knowledge of all things medical, and when they demonstrated gaps in an area or two, it was a bit of a disappointment. It is funny how the words "medical student" produce an increased amount of respect in the general public but a slightly decreased amount of respect among allied health and other hospital staff. Of course, I'm joking here! However when a medical student comes in who is entirely dismissive of qualified professional staff because they are not doctors, and the student knows nearly nothing about the area he or she is in yet refuses to acknowledge the fact that people apart from doctors know what they are talking about, it is bound to rub people up the wrong way.

It is fairly safe to say that I will never be one of those students. Sadly, I can see people in our course even now who are just bound to fit right into that stereotype. They will learn. Hopefully.

Actually, I have been pleasantly surprised by how helpful a lot of the senior doctors are towards medical students. I somehow expected them to be a lot ruder, or more dismissive. I'm very curious to see how it will all turn out when we go out into the hospitals later on in the course. I might change my mind completely.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My confused little brain

Recently, it rained for the first time in a long time where I live.

This can often have interesting effects on the way your mind works.

I walked out the back door, looked out at the wet ground, and the first thing that popped into my head was that a pipe had probably burst somewhere underneath the house.

Then I looked up, and realised that it had just started raining.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Seeing life through the eyes of others . . .

is a wonderful blessing.

I have mentioned the blog Terrible Palsy before, and why I really love it. Her writing is fantastic, and I love reading about the way she and her family (including one son, "Moo", who has cerebral palsy) go through life together.

The August 12th post, "Close of the Curtain" is something that I think everybody should read. It is an especially touching post and brought tears to my eyes. Tolerance, empathy and understanding should be the standard, not the exception.

I think the blog title is great, however I dread the day that I am tired and the words "terrible palsy" slip out when I mean to say "cerebral palsy"!!

My cunning plan

Final exams are looming, and I am rather . . . behind.

Luckily, I have made a Study Plan! It is guaranteed to succeed. I know this for a fact, because:

1) I made it up on my computer;

2) It is in the form of a table, with official-looking columns and rows;

3) I have used fancy lettering;

4) If it doesn't succeed, I will be in Big Trouble;

5) There is no way in HELL that I am going back to my old job permanently, and as such, I am driven by a big scary monster called FEAR;

6) The last exam was bloody painful, and I would like this one to be slightly less so.

Huzzah! It can't fail!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Beware the bathroom doorknob

Here is a trap for young players:

Recently moisturised hands and round, smooth doorknobs do not a happy pair of friends make.

Standing at the bathroom door trying to escape the heat and managing to turn the knob a little, but not quite enough to actually open it, is rather frustrating!

The next time we renovate, I am choosing and easy-to-grip, preferable non-round door handle, damnit!

I wonder if something like this would be out of the question:

Stylish, practical, everything I could ever want, really. Plus, the cats would love it. ;)

BTW, if you are at all into doorknobs, there are some fantastic pictures on Flickr. If you happen to be into that sort of thing.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


How do you deal with it when somebody you know and admire is doing something awful that you never thought they would do?

Right now all that I can feel is sadness.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I find it interesting to see how much more positively people respond when you are enthusiastic and positive about something. I guess people like being around positive people much more than negative people who whinge a lot of the time.

As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy studying medicine even though the process of medical school and the associated assessment can be somewhat vexing from time to time. When casual aquaintences meet me and ask how it is going, I like to respond by waxing on about how much I am enjoying the study and finding it interesting (which I honestly am). I don't like to go on and on about how some parts of the course annoy the hell out of me, because: a) this would bore them to death; b) focusing on negatives drains me and the people I am talking to; and c) what good would it do? I always feel a lot better about what I am doing when I think about the positives - and there are many!

I love the information I get to study - it really is so very interesting and incredible! I love the people that I get to study with and learn from. Most of them are so helpful and intelligent, and I am looking forward to being colleagues with such a great bunch of people. I really enjoy working with the patients who I get to meet, both through study and in everyday work. I love talking to them and finding out as much as possible about them, their lives and what is going on. I love the depth and variety of pathology that we get to encounter. I love my textbooks! ;)

People are really fascinating, and I think that a lot of how they feel about somebody comes from how that person makes them feel when they are around. Have you ever noticed that genuinely popular people (as opposed to "popular" people) always seem to be positive, caring and kind? When they are around, they make you feel enthusiastic, valued and good about yourself. Have you also noticed that when a genuinely nice person can only seem to whinge about everything in life, people seem to tire of them being around and their sympathy and empathy soon wears thin?

When I was younger, adults who saw the glass as half empty and predicted that everything would go badly would always make me feel terrible about things. It took a lot of years to learn that they didn't necessarily know how things were going to turn out any more than I did, and that some people seem to get perverse pleasure from whinging and stressing about the worst possible outcome. I think that medicine seems to attract a fair few of these vocal people, and it does the rest of us good to take what they say with a grain of salt, or at least look at what they say and try to work out how they are seeing it from their point of view - some people have had a rough time in life and seem to think that it is also going to apply to everybody else as well.

Don't get me wrong, I know that I am not a "popular" person. (I don't think I have the energy that this would require!) However, I try to be genuinely positive and enthusiastic in life, about my life and about the people around me. At the end of the day, we all feel a little bit better for it. I think that I have a choice - I can either be happy where I am and doing what I am doing, or I can focus on the negatives and feel bad. (I'm not talking about depression here - that is an entirely different kettle of fish, and anybody who thinks that they can choose not to be sad is being both cruel and clueless.) And yes, I have worked for years in the public hospital system. That won't get me down, either.

I do like listening to patients, by the way, in case any of you were wondering. I also like hearing the genuine troubles of those I am close to and care about. I am also happy to listen to people whinge when something bad has happened to them, or if they are having a bad day. It is when people don't do anything but complain that it gets tiring.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

And a little inspiration . . .

propelling me to study and think about where I could be in a few years time.

ANZAPT is a support forum for Australian and New Zealand Psychiatrists in Training. I love it as it gives outsiders an insight as to what it is like to train as a psychiatrist, and includes the bad as well as the good.

It is definitely worth a read if you are considering going into this field.

My brain is running on half-power . . .

and I suspect my cat ate one of the mice that runs the wheel that supplies the power. Anyway, as a strange result, I'm feeling philosophical. It is a little bit like being drunk, but I am more co-ordinated and am legally allowed to drive.

One of the things that always surprises me in life is when you try something you never thought you could do, and you succeed. For me, the whole process of medical school has been a lot like that. I never expected to do as well as I did on the entrance exam. Sure, I worked hard for it. I never expected to get in, and didn't expect to do well in the first few rounds of assessment that I have done. But I did.

Perhaps we should all be more willing to challenge ourselves and do the things that we always wanted to do, especially if the only reason for not attempting them is fear of failure.

I feel both admiration and jealousy for people who seem to wander through life without a hint of self-doubt or fear of failure. But then again, I think I would rather have a well-developed sense of my own fallibility than fly along feeling bulletproof.

I guess there is a happy medium somewhere that we all need to find. Perhaps I need to push my level of confidence from "I don't know if I can but I am going to work at it so it happens" to "I know I'll be able to do it and I'm working hard to get there." Life would be a lot less stressful.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Oh, the shame!

Although the medical students at our university have been back at lectures for ages, we are still only a couple of weeks into second semester for the regular undergrads. However, it is SECOND semester (unless, of course, you started your degree halfway through the year) and so you would expect them to be on top of things and used to being independent uni students.

Not always.

This afternoon, I was treated to the sight of a young man being dragged through the university bookstore by his mother. Seriously.

Could he not be trusted to buy the books himself, even if he had to be given the money by his parents? Is his mother such an expert in the areas he is studying that she is aiding him in his textbook selection? (Given that most courses have set textbooks, this is unlikely.) Can she not let go? Is he hoping that he won't be seen by anybody he knows? Does he realise that the amount of time he spends on campus with his mother is inversely proportional (in an exponential manner) to his chances of hooking up with a nice girl, or even (especially) a not-so-nice girl??

I don't mind going out for a meal or seeing my parents socially. I love them. But even as an 18 year-old I didn't need them with me to show me the ropes at university. Considering that neither of them had been to university or had studied the courses I studied, it would have been ludicrous. And boring for them. And they would have let me know, and whinged about when I was going to actually grow up and do things for myself.

Seriously, as somebody whose parents encouraged her independence, I can hardly imagine how painful the process must be for this young man, and for his mother. I can only hope that he is a first-year. And will move out soon. For his sake.

I think my husband's mother came to uni with him a couple of times in his first week. Thankfully, I hadn't met him yet. So there is hope, yet, young man! You may yet grow up to be normal, well-adjusted (if slightly mad) and independent! Break free!! ;)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The joy of Clinical Medicine

I just thought that I would add that I am in love - with Kumar & Clarke's Clinical Medicine.

Sadly, I come from a clinical background rather than a scientific one, so I actually learn much faster and understand better when I see things presented from a clinical viewpoint. Thus, any books that present things from a clinical view make me fall in love with them, buy them and bring them home to live with all of their brothers and sisters.

I frequently feel stupid when I talk to people with strong scientific backgrounds in various areas, but I am quite used to feeling like I don't know much at all so it is nothing new. Good to get used to it now, BEFORE I am an intern, I guess. :)

Some days I am so happy to be learning more about medicine, but other days I am just terrified at the amount that I don't know, and worse still, the amount that seems to flow out of my brain when I am not looking. Some times all I can do is scratch my head and wonder about how I am going to deal with it when I am actually out there and working as a doctor. Time will tell.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The myth of the balanced life

Yes, the idea of the medical student who works, exercises, eats well and studies everything they are meant to is a complete myth. However, there are some things that I have found that I absolutely have to do to feel well.

1) Exercise. Watch the TV or movies that you love. If you do both at the same time, it counts as productive time rather than pure relaxation or procrastination. ;)

2) Eat healthy food. Avoid takeaway. Find a few nice FAST meals (or some good healthy frozen ones). Nothing will get you down faster than putting on weight and feeling like crap.

3) Actually stop procrastinating and get in and do the study quickly! Find effective ways of study that work for you. I learn by answering questions. Others learn my re-writing information. Others retain things by reading. We are all different.

4) Schedule some time for social events. Don't turn into a hermit. But don't feel pressured into going to all the crazy parties if that isn't your style.

5) Find some excellent friends/tutors in higher years and organise tutorial sessions, and get their advice. This counts as effective study.


7) Even if anatomy isn't particularly examined, learn a good grounding of the basics. I love anatomy (including histology), so I had to put this in. I hated learning it as an undergraduate, but I am so bloody happy that from now on it is mainly revision.

8) Take the time to do the things that you really want to do. Life has a way of forcing you to take time-out if you don't do it for yourself. Stay in control. Do it your way. :)

9) Keep an eye out for specials. Get that facial. Buy those pants. Find places on-line where you can buy the nice smelly fancy perfume/cosmetics/face care products that make everyday things much nicer.

10) Cuddle a cat. Or a dog. Or a friend. However, before you do this, just make sure that none of them bite or scratch first.

11) Reward yourself for the things that you HAVE done, rather than punishing yourself for the things that you haven't. Sure, I didn't manage to learn EVERYTHING in first semester that I wanted to. But I passed the exam and got a good mark, and I feel good about it!

Anyway, they are just a few thoughts I wanted to jot down. Hope you are all having a good day.

Contain your shock - I wrote another post!!

I just thought I would write a couple of thoughts about the graduate medicine experience that have been floating through my head lately.

We get lectures every week - usually around 7 or 8 of them. However, the content and order is completely variable, and we will often have weeks where it seems that we have covered the intricate detail of XYZ cellular process, and have not been "taught" one thing on the major pathological process of the week.

Frustrating? Yes. Confusing? Often.

One of the odd things that people who are not in the course don't seem to expect is that we don't have any real kind of continuity in our lecturers. We may have the same expert twice in the one week talking about the same topic, and then not see them again for another year or two. We certainly don't have regular lecturers who guide us through the concepts in a logical fashion week after week. In essence, you have to learn how to guide yourself.

We have two or three academics from the university who seem to come in semi-regularly to teach in their areas, which helps. However, they often seem to teach in areas about which they are not experts. This can be offputting, particularly when you recognise that something they are brushing over is not quite right. (This happens when you are already a qualified person in the area concerned and you recognise that they are teaching material that because obsolete 20 years ago, not because you read something different in a magazine somewhere!)

Thus, I have become a hoarder of textbooks. I look up to their authors as I used to idolise my lecturers in my undergraduate courses. Just joking!! But seriously, I am getting sentimental about my textbooks where I used to not particularly care about them. I have also noticed other people do this.

To do well in this course, you have to be HIGHLY self-motivated to the extent where you are able to work out your own study schedule and take an educated guess at the areas you are supposed to be covering. Past exams and the advice of students in higher years is invaluable.

When motivation starts to lag, the only person who is capable of pulling you back into line is . . . yourself.

I don't mind all of this. It is just different. I am still rapt to be studying medicine, even if it isn't all sunshine, fluffy white clouds and ponies. And why the goat? No particular reason. Perhaps if I were as stubborn as one, I would get more study done! Besides, I love the hair - that goat looks high-maintenance!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Welcome to August

Happy August!
I have been slack with the posting (along with many other things!), so sorry for the break.

Since I last posted:

1) I caught up with my friend and her baby and had a fantastic time. She is back to her old self again now that she is used to the sleep deprivation, and her baby is gorgeous. Thanks for the advice, everybody who posted.

2) We are even further into the second half of the year, which frightens me a fair bit, as we are so much closer to the end-of-year exams and I still have so much left to learn. But I am VERY excited about being a SECOND YEAR!!!

3) Motivation to study regularly has gone away for a long break. Perhaps it is the topics we are covering, or the sheer quality of what is on television, or the fact that I am actually exercising again. Sorry, cross out that middle one.

4) Being a first-year medical student is getting very frustrating and annoying. I love the medical study and learning about how things happen. However, the way universities run things still drives me insane. I doubt that I could do what they do with the budget that they have, however as a student it gets frustrating when you feel like you are falling between the cracks and nothing you can do is changing anything.

5) I read the final Harry Potter book the first day it was released, so that I didn't have to worry about overhearing the ending. I love the fact that most of the "spoilers" that had been released on the internet were just plain wrong. (I looked them up AFTERWARDS!) :D

6) Everything has been going swimmingly. Hope you're all having fun, too!