Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Evaluating Our Professors

I'm done my finals and it's great to finally be relaxing at home.

I'll use some of my free time to add a few long overdue posts to this blog. Until then, I'll just make this one comment.

Right now, I'm filling out evaluations of the courses that we took. I am very liberal with the positive feedback wherever it is warranted, but at the same time it's a nice feeling telling the course directors what changes need to be made, especially when they have told us some of the things they have improved in the past due to student comments. Hopefully they change some more stuff.

My favourite comment I've left so far:

"While Dr. M is a nice individual, she has trouble relating the information to students who do not know it well. Also, her lecture slides lack professionalism as they are written in cartoon font."

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Tribute to Our Med School's Finals

Question 4,281

The "second signal concept" refers to the process by which a T cell is activated through two signals, allowing the Tcell to complete its normal duties of the immunological system, the system also referred to as Host Defense, by which the host fights off pathogens using acquired immunity, also known as specific immunity eg. receiving a vaccination, and natural immunity, which encompasses the physical barriers to infections that do not require previous exposure to the antigen (eg. mucous production). Which of THE following isn't NOT false?

A. Effector cells of the immune system called B cells exist in two subtypes, B-1 and B-2. B cell activation is dependent on three things: antigen bound to the B cell, the presence of cytokines from a Th cell - specifically a Th2 cell, and contact with the T cell including an interaction between a CD40 receptor and a CD40 ligand.

B. An electron micrograph of a plasma cell USUALLY IN MOST SITUATIONS shows large amounts of rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) in the cell's cytoplasm. Rough endoplasmic reticulum can be considered part of the cell's cytoplasm but not the cell's cytosol; it is different from smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) which is similar but identical to RER, and performs slightly different functions, as SER is more highly expressed in steroid-secreting cells.

C. Another term for Macrophages is ALWAYS "histicytes."

D. The optional lecture on Complement was WRITTEN by Dr. Alex Blackstone, whose e-mail address is blackstone@pathology.medschool.ca.

E. The quantity theory of money IS shown by the Equation of Exchange, MV = PQ, which is used to show how fast money circulates in the economy and can be considered an accounting measure.

F. Naive B cells do not produce IgG; instead of not producing IgG, they also don't not produce IgD and IgM, until the binding of T cells with B cells with Antigen, when the B cells stop not producing IgG but don't not stop producing IgD.

G. This is just an additional TRUE statement to throw you off and increase your reading time of the question.

Remember, only 60 seconds per question. You've already used up about 120. You better hurry up. What's the answer?????

(Scroll down for correct answer).



Correct answer: D.
Dr. Alex Blackstone's e-mail address is
ablackstone@pathology.medschool.ca, not blackstone@pathology.medschool.ca.

General feedback:

A. Wasn't covered in our notes. Therefore it must be known for the exam.
B. is histology. of course that is a separate subject and wasn't directly covered on the exam, but it is similar to immunology so it's fair game. And it's frikkin long, just to eat up more of your time. B is true - the "USUALLY IN MOST SITUATIONS" is there just to exclude exceptions such as a blurry EM.
C. also wasn't covered in our notes but it was mentioned in the lecture once.
E. may not SEEM to have anything to do with immunology, but immunologists make money so they should know stuff like that. And it's true, so it isn't not not the correct answer.
F. Enjoy figuring out the double negatives, but it's true.

G. A reference to the GRATUITOUS use of CAPITALIZED words in the TEST QUESTIONS.

Oh, and none of them really have that much to do with the question stem.

Now you should have a good idea of how I felt the final went yesterday.....

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Monday, December 18, 2006

What the heck do you mean, balance? I'm too busy studying.

A common question that I've gotten from pre-meds is, "Is there a lot of work in med school?" Let me give some sort of an answer to that question.

During the semester, it was awesome. Great fun. I loved it; the people are awesome, the coursework is increasingly interesting, and there wasn't much required work to hand in so there was plenty of free time for socializing.

And then it dawned on us that finals were so close that they were staring us in the face. Oh, how things have changed.

My life for the past 13 days or so has consisted of me waking up, going to school to meet up with some friends in a study room, unpacking all my books, studying for my entire time awake, and then going home and going to bed.

Exceptions to this wake-to-sleep study time include breaks for writing the two lab finals I've already written (histology & anatomy), and eating and toileting and sanity brakes (most of which involve doing anything other than studying to keep our mind sane, during which we usually end up doing crazy things and don't look very sane at all). I also took a day off to go on a paramedic ride-along, and an evening off when I called my friend and said "I need to do something other than study" and we hung out instead. And I had to go pick up milk at a 7-eleven once because none of the grocery stores are open at the ghastly hour I end up driving home every night.

There are also random breaks when I wonder if I if this is all worth it. If I should have become a paramedic / burger flipper / graphic designer / any other profession. There are times when I feel like I don't deserve to wear my brand new hoodie with my school's initials and "MEDICINE" plastered across the front until I at least pass this final. Times when I wonder how embarrassing it will be for me to have to re-take a year if I fail this semester. Times when I listen to a classmate confide in me that his relationship is on the rocks because his girlfriend never sees him anymore. "It will be really sad if med school causes me to lose my girlfriend." I agree. My heart goes out to him.

This study frenzy and sudden lack of social life isn't because I did have a social life during the semester and maybe I didn't keep up as much as some of the more keener folk in my class. I know that because even those who have been studying every day throughout the semester are still stressing and approaching this final wondering if they'll make it.

The exams themselves will be exhausting. Our two finals this week will be pushing 300 questions. We will be given a massive question booklet and an answer booklet with enough blank circles on each of its several pages to make it look like it's been riddled with bullets. Over the course of three hours, we will decide which of those circles we feel should be filled in.

When we are finished our last final, we'll go to the class holiday party. There, I will realize that it's four days until Christmas and I haven't even thought about Christmas shopping yet, let alone enjoyed the progression of the holiday season towards Christmas day. The only reason I knew it was holiday season was because Tim Horton's and Starbucks, where I've been partaking in caffiene infusions lately, have seasonal cups and flavourings.

Other than the MCAT (I shudder every time I even say that word), I have never studied so much for such a huge test, and I have never studied for one test for so many hours and so many straight days. In undergrad, if I studied one single day like this for any one of my examsI would have been more than ready. Here, I am merely hoping to get by with something more respectable than just a 'pass.'

Of course, there's still that echo in my mind that "everybody passes" and "it will be fine." But that's from people who studied more than I have for these tests and have also put them well behind themselves. Easy for them to say.

I'm not sure when I traded in my life for this. I guess this is when I'm supposed to take a step back and think about the reasons I signed up in the first place.

So this is med school.

This is what I fought so hard to be able to do.

And it's only the first term.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's study time.

Dang, there's a lot of stuff to know for finals...

I've got tons of things I can't wait to write about here. I'm actually making a list. But our class dynamic has now undergone a sort of a change as it's starting to hit home for everybody all that stuff they say about how hard med school is (despite my previous impression). Even for the more laid-back people in my class, it's study time like never before. For the first time in...ever, I'm spending almost the entirety of my time outside of class with my nose in the books.

Thanks so much to all of those of you who read this blog and those who have told me you check for updates on a regular basis. I look forward to writing a lot here over my Christmas break, and who knows - perhaps the odd post during finals as a form of procrastination. I'm excited for when I get the chance to write lots more stuff here along the lines of what inspired me to start this blog in the first place - interesting stories from clinic, and more about how they teach people to become doctors. Until then, I strongly encourage you to check out the other blogs I've linked to in the column on the right. Perhaps they're more balanced than I and are updating during this season.

And keep the comments coming!

- vm

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