Monday, October 29, 2007


Just to let you know, I'm still here. I'm working towards the end of the year at the moment and am a real little busy bee.

More soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Musical Fruit


Why Medical Students Should Eat More Legumes

By legumes, I mean the entire family of beans, peas and lentils. If your idea of a legume is that mushy bean salad at family barbeques that nobody touches, you need to get out more and explore the fine world of beany cuisine!

1) Legumes are incredibly cheap. If you go into a food store with bulk bins, you will only pay a couple of dollars for a whole kilo of dried beans, depending on which store you go into.

Buying cheap food saves you money. Depending on your circumstances, this excess of money can buy you extra time on your rental accommodation, or beer. Personally, beer gets my vote.

2) Legumes keep you regular. Ever needed a break from PBHell? Can't stand two hours straight of petty medical students arguing about liver metabolism or the justice of socialised medicine?

Sure, these topics may be interesting on their own. However, the fastest way to make a topic unbearable is to give it to two stubborn medical students to argue over. You need an excuse to get away, even for a couple of minutes!!

Legumes will give you a valid and honest escape! I love being regular. Vegetarians and vegans are notorious for their love of discussing the poop. Eat lentils for a while, and you will soon discover why!

3) Legumes are low GI, low fat, high protein . . . blah blah blah. Yes, as medical students and future doctors, we should, in theory, aspire to be some kind of healthy example to our patients. Really. Legumes are VERY healthy.

Personally, I like to imagine that they counteract the occasional beer that I drink. Yes, I KNOW that this isn't true, but I like to think that it is. Think of it along the same lines as people believing that eating celery helps you to lose weight due to negative calories. Sure, it may be a pipe-dream, but it is a nice one!

4) Do you like baked beans on toast? Learn to make your own legume recipes, and you will have a million different variations. You might even pick up something more interesting to eat them with than stale slabs of toasted, cheap student bread!

Most Australians don't know the value of a good chilli. Imagine your favourite flavour of tin of baked beans, and multiply the taste, quality, texture and everything else by a factor of one hundred. Mmmm, chilli.

5) Remember that slow-cooker that you were given as a present years ago when you moved out of home? Lentil-based dishes are the perfect thing to cook in them, as the dish doesn't end up tasting overwhelmingly like meaty gunk, as a beef or chicken dish would if it were done in a slow-cooker.

Do up a massive batch of lentils, stick them in the freezer and have handy (and cheap) beans available any time.

Throw in all kinds of stuff into the slow-cooker (within reason) that you wouldn't know how to use in any other way. Quince paste? Into the slow cooker! Bay leaves? Slow cooker! Those extra left-over potatoes, or that box of random frozen vegetables in the freezer that you don't know what to do with? Slow cooker! A dinner that is ready when you get home and ISN'T out of a takeaway carton or frozen box is always a good thing.

6) Go exotic! Some of the best Indian cuisine is lentil-based. If you don't already know how many wonderful dishes can be based on lentils and rice, you should check it out. VERY far from boring.

7) Variety of beans. Yes, you may laugh, thinking that beans cannot possibly have the variety of, oh, steak. However, the variety of DRIED beans and lentils available in the bulk bins in the health food store is amazing.

Readers from the USA will probably not realise this, but in Australia we have VERY FEW varieties of beans available tinned. Plus, the tinned ones are always much more mushy, high in salt, and seem more bland.

Aussie readers, ever wanted to try a Black Eyed Pea? No, it really is an actual bean, not just the name of that group Fergie came from! Black beans are just pretty. And if you think that chickpeas are horrid out of a tin, try some that have been cooked properly - you won't go back!

8) Be the ultimate host! Learn to cook a legume dish properly and you may just pick up one interesting and tasty dish to prepare that you can be proud of when inviting vegetarians and vegans over for dinner.

There are a LOT of vegetarian medical students and doctors out there, and a quite few vegans to boot. The reasons behind this are both personal and cultural, but they are out there. Serve a vegan a tasty chilli for dinner when they are used to visiting people and expecting to get unflavoured raw tofu and a limp side-salad, and they will love you forever.*

Ah, I do love the humble bean.

* N.b. Don't be insulted if they are paranoid about the ingredients. Some people think that bacon is a condiment, chicken salt doesn't matter and that lard is good to add flavour. Needless to say, these ingredients DO matter to your vegetarian/vegan guest. Once bitten, twice shy.


Why do I always feel like I have failed an exam after I have sat it? Even though I have NEVER failed one in my entire life, I still feel this way.

The strange thing about going back to study after working for a few years, is that you get used to the responsible (haha!) worker mind-set, and expect yourself to be able to do everything that is asked (at least reasonably). The thing is that in exams, while it would be fantastic to know everything on the exam, it is not necessary to actually know everything to pass. (Well, not for most subjects . . .)

Thus, when you go into an exam feeling like you HAVE to know everything on it, and you don't, it scares the living hell out of you and you feel like you have failed.

Then again, I would rather have a doctor who knows as much as possible, wouldn't you? Even though a lot of what we learn in first-year is just foundation theory, it must still help somehow.

*End rant of massive self-pity*

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thinking of a happy place

Do you ever feel like you want to lie down and sleep for the longest time, but you can't let yourself so you keep plodding along?

This is where I am at right now.

It will pass.

I'm happy, just tired.

Plus I can hear the sound of a neighbour vomiting noisily into the gutter or the garden. Things could be much, much worse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Second-year, here we come!

We are approaching the end of our first year of medical school. This has good aspects and bad aspects. Well, to be honest, the good out weighs the bad by a fair bit!

The good things I am personally excited about are as follows:

a) I will no longer be a first-year! When people ask what year I am in and I say, "first", I die a little inside from the shame.

b) There will be new first-years, and they won't be us! Hahaha!

c) I will feel a lot more comfortable in my role as a medical student than I did at the start of first-year, and start to get into the substance of the course more. A lot of the first year is working out which way is up, while trying to juggle a million things at once. The juggling will get harder, but at least I will know my way around!

d) I am one year closer to not being poor. I love working. I love earning a full-time wage. I love being an employee. Nothing quite beats the feeling of pride that you get every time you get that newly-minted hospital ID badge. I get so excited when I have to go to security/admin to get the photo! With time it gets a beating and resembles me less and less every year, but I still love my ID badges. There have to be more people out there than me who feel this way!

e) We start to get into the actual pathology a lot more in second year! This is very exciting for me, and many other people. As interesting as homeostasis and normal functioning are (and yes, they are what we aim for!), I find it fascinating to see what can go wrong with people. Frankly, I am surprised that our average life expectancy is so high!


a) Exams are going to get much meaner and nastier and will also examine things from first-year. My brain may not be big enough.

b) The opportunity for work will diminish slightly each year. Luckily my better half seems to get small raises semi-regularly, so now we just have to keep interest rates down and we will be fine. Oh, and I am also a gunner at cooking rice and beans, or rice and veggies, and other meals that don't cost the earth.

c) We get new PBL groups. This may actually be good or bad. As much as I hated PBHell, I was with a pretty nice group of people.
d) I am a little bit closer to shutting down this blog. Australian hospitals are VERY strict about their doctors not blogging. It is a BAD move career-wise to be caught writing a blog. I never write about anything involving patients (as much as some people would like to read it, I'm sure) because I KNOW it could come back to bite me in the buttocks in a massive way, but even with this policy firmly in place, it would be a bad idea.
So now all I have to do is survive to the end of the year. However, I think I am close enough to safely get excited about next year!
Please excuse the spacing at the bottom of this post. Blogger won't let me fix it for some reason. Sorry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Medical School Exams

I have a theory about medical school exams and what you need to learn to pass.

Just a small warning to anybody who is in med school or about to start, and who hasn't done any exams yet: I honestly think that if you learned only what was covered in lectures and practicals, you would not pass.

My theory is *ahemahem* that in order to pass exams in medical school, you need to study like mad for the weeks prior to the exam and hope like hell that enough of the RIGHT information sticks in your brain so that you can get the result that you want.

(I also believe in studying as you go along, however a lot of things slip out of your brain after a few months, so in theory, those weeks of cramming should technically be revision. I blame the big holes on the sides of my head for any information leakage that occurs, and need to revise with a capital R.)

Doing past exams can help you target this information, however there will always be several "WHAT THE HELL??!!" moments in any exam. Guaranteed. As long as they make up the minority of the exam, it is all good.

I am trying not to get stressed. After all, how am I going to handle college exams and actually working as a doctor if I find first year medical exams overwhelmingly stressful. ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello, stomach!

I have eaten too much acidic food (why is fruit so tasty??) and now Gastrogel is my friend. The stress and extra coffee are also to blame.

I can't whinge about growing older being the cause - I had worse stomach inflammation when I was in my late teens. Now it only flairs up occasionally, and I am good at getting onto things to calm it down before it REALLY hurts.

You can now buy Ranitidine (Zantac) over the counter in Australia but I am hoping that it won't come to that.

Now excuse me, I need to do a shot of Gastrogel and drink something a little more stomach-friendly than black coffee.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The power of MRI

This is an MRI scan (from Radiology Picture of the Day) of the outer ear.

Why are we learning clinical examination skills, when I will just be able to fill out a request form for a scan of the relevant surface anatomy and have the radiologist and radiographers do the work for me? ;)


I love Google Image.

I may just pass the year because of it. ;)

Stress peak

At the moment, I know that I have reached my stress peak. How? Because nothing short of a disaster seems to dent my calm.

Usually I HATE going to the grocery store, particularly during the day. There are too many aggressive people with trolleys, children trying to throw themselves under my trolley wheels and huge lines.

Today, it didn't even bug me in the slightest. I just wandered along in a happy state. My handbasket became overloaded, so I just rearranged it so everything would fit, and held it so the handles didn't snap like little twigs under the huge load of veggies, fruit and rice milk.

When I got to the check-out, the lady working there managed to scan my rockmelon (Australian for "cantaloupe") in as a bag of tomatoes and then had to call for help to fix the problem. I looked at the picture on the checkout screen (they have LCD screens at my grocery store) of big, red tomatoes, looked down at my little rockmelon, and thought it was funny. (I'm an abstract and divergent thinker, and usually find things that are ridiculously out of place highly amusing. I'm not entirely losing my mind!) I didn't get annoyed at the delay at all.

As I was about to walk out of the checkout, with two heavy bags, the woman in the checkout next to me parked her trolley which was loaded with groceries and two small children, directly across my exit, meaning that I was trapped with two very full hands. (I am sure she didn't mean to do it, but was distracted as she had just been grocery shopping with two small children in tow!) With the help of the checkout lady, I managed to nudge the trolley away enough to escape, at which point the mother realised what she had done and apologised profusely. I really didn't mind at all, and found it amusing.

Normally, these things would have annoyed me a little. However, when I am under stress, I tend to function pretty well, and seem calmer and happier than normal. If I am under no stress at all, I get miserable and depressed. It is an odd personality quirk, and I don't think I would ever be capable of a laid-back life!

Just a quick note - has anybody else noticed that the Christmas decorations are up at the shop already?? The checkout lady mentioned to me that it is only 10 weeks away. I'm not really looking forward to Christmas day. It is the day you get to spend with the relatives that you don't like enough to spend time with normally. And you get to give them presents. Bah, humbug!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sit! Stay! Study!

I have been studying like the mad and rabid study creature that I am. That is, I have no attention span, snap easily and graze a lot!

I have rediscovered the joys of caffeine in a mild way, and am working on the theory of "breadth, not depth" in my studies.

If all goes well, in a month or so I will be finished with my first year of medical school, and will be even closer to getting out into the real world as a doctor! Yes, this does frighten me a little. However, if I doubted my ability to do a good job, I would have never applied for medical school.

Hopefully by the time I get out into the real world, I will know what areas I enjoy working in, and I am really hoping that one will leap out and grab me. I have a few in my list, but they keep shuffling around. At this stage, it really doesn't matter.

This was just a quick post to let you know that I am still alive, and stuck in the process of hard-core study and procrastination!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Things that make me sad . . .

Last night, Lilya 4-ever was on television. (Bless you, SBS!) If any of you have seen it, you will understand how the movie made me feel - it is unremittingly tragic and heartbreaking, and it is made worse by the fact that you just KNOW that this actually happens to a LOT of women in real life, even in the countries that we live in.

It also made me sad for a couple of other reasons. For this terrible trade to happen, it must make a profit, which means that there must be enough men out there keen to be clients, which means that there are actually a lot of professional, well-paid men into this kind of thing (as opposed to the mental stereotype of the slimy degenerate). I wonder just how many men that we meet in everyday life support this industry. God, I just hate thinking about it.

The other thing that bothers me is that after watching the poverty in which Lilya lives, at one point she walks into a cosmetics store at the airport, and it hit me straight away just how RICH and wealthy the shop and the products looked. I blinked, looked at them again, and realised that it would not be unusual for me to walk into a shop like that in everyday life and take for granted the fact that I could probably buy any product there if I REALLY wanted to. (Just not all of them, at once.)

I look around my house today and see how many wonderful possessions I own. Even though I have been working for years and have paid for them myself, if it weren't for the accident of my birthplace (for Australia really is another rich, western nation), I would not have all of this. We are not wealthy by a long shot, but we are certainly comfortable.

The main theme that floored me was how ready people in the movie were to treat their children like possessions. Perhaps at some point their parents wanted them, but during the movie the two main characters are both abandoned by their self-centred (but poverty-stricken and alcoholic) parents, abused and left to fend for themselves. The adults in the movie don't look after them, but either treat them either as nuisances and pests to be deplored, as punching bags, or as objects to be manipulated and exploited for profit. There was simply nobody there for these kids.

I wanted to see hope for the main characters, but in the end their only hope was to escape from this life. To me, this seems to be an extreme option, and I would like to think that there were alternatives for them, people who could and would help at least a little, or other ways of getting out. To me, suicide is not an acceptable way out. Many people feel at some point in their lives that it is the way to go for them and there are unfathomable numbers who go down that path, but I believe that it is not the only way. The movie made it seem like it was, which probably saddened and angered me more than anything else.

Still, I thought it was an excellent movie. However, I could not recommend seeing it if you are feeling down, vulnerable or have had a bad day.