Saturday, October 27, 2007

SurgeXperiences 107 Blog Carnival

Welcome to SurgeXperiences 107!

On the forefront: Robotic SurgeXperiences

Patient and Provider eXperiences

  • Bongi tells the story of a surgery hopeful who had an unfortunate experience in the OR. I'd recommend if you read this one, you don't miss the postscript.

  • While it may be minor as far as surgical experiences go, JD had a thyroid nodule biopsy performed recently, and explains the process from the patient's perspective.

Surgical eXperiences Abroad

  • Kathryn provides a description of surgery in less than optimal conditions in a less than first-world country: "...The residents even tried to do surgery with sterile drapes wrapped around them because there aren’t any gowns at the moment..."

  • Going to a different country to get surgery or other medical procedures done can be intimidating, but the Medical Tourism Guide provides a how-to guide for Researching a Doctor's Credentials - a must-read for anybody considering getting treatment abroad.

eXperiencing Surgery outside the OR

  • If your friends ask you to play "a game of recreational surgery" with them, you may be interested in joining them since that's the name of a board game. I'd suggest you politely decline if any of your med student friends ask you the same thing, however.

  • If you prefer a surgical game of the online variety, take a look at simulated Open Heart surgery.

  • When I was a kid, I thought "plastic surgery" was akin to a game and had something to do with fixing people using doll parts. How fortuitious I corrected this bad impression by reading this excellent description of plastic surgery, lest I bring a Barbie to my first plastics elective in an attempted show of preparedness.

That's all there is to eXperience in this edition!

Special thanks to Jeff from SurgeXperiences for asking me to host this edition! Next week's can be found at Aggravated DocSurg on November 11.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

SurgeXperiences 107 Blog Carnival ::: Call for submissions

Vitum Medicinus is proud to be hosting SurgeXperiences 107 on October 28, 2007.

What is SurgeXperiences?
SurgeXperiences is a bi-weekly blog carnival featuring posts on a variety of surgical experiences. Find out more...

The deadline to submit blog posts is October 25, 2007 at midnight local time.

Submission Procedure
Submissions will be accepted via a Blog Carnival. Click here to submit your blog post.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Education mirrors reality in a series of random coincidences

I got a text message from a friend this morning:

"Leafs forward Jason Blake diagnosed with CML (Chronic Mylegenous Leukemia) - More at"

The guy who sent me this text message is a huge Ottawa Senators fan, and he knows how much I love the Leafs (I still owe him $5 because of a game that Toronto couldn't pull out of the hat last week). As often as he can, he tells me how much he thinks the Leafs suck, even though the Sens haven't won a Stanley Cup for way longer than the Leafs.

So, combine that with the fact that our last week of class involved learning about all the types of leukemia, lymphoma and myelodysplastic syndromes, and it's obvious that I would interpret this text message as him reaching a new low in mocking my favourite sports team.

But then I checked it out. He wasn't kidding.

Odd coincidence? Yep. Virtually impossible? Okay, probably not even close... but still weird.

It's not just with this story, though.

This week's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a new home for a family of a girl with another type of cancer we learned this week. Don't ask me how I know that.

It gets better. Last week, the cover article of the Canadian Medical Association Journal matched exactly what we were learning that week. We were learning about blood formation - and the cover article was on Erythropoitein, a hormone that influences red blood cell growth, and its role in the therapy of critically ill patients.

And - get this - that's happened almost half a dozen times with the CMAJ. I'm talking cover stories, too - not just articles within the journal.

During our pulmonary unit, the week we learned about deep-vein thromboses, there was a cover article on that in the CMAJ. Our intestine week was accompanied by a CMAJ cover story on colon cancer screening. And there was a cover article on Ovarian Cancer right about when last year's class was learning about reproduction.

Not only that, but a cover article on alcohol use was right during the week when we medical students were drinking a lot of alcohol (okay, that one wasn't a coincidence at all... that could be any week).

But, to top it off, during the very week we learned about Congestive Heart Failure, not only did the cover story match that topic... but my PBL small-group tutor had written an article in that edition of the CMAJ.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Studying Scared

What does it take to get Vitum off his butt and into study mode?

Good intention? A desire to do well?

Try fear. Plain, simple fear of failure. That's all it takes.

Unlike last year, when around this time I was enjoying how
slack I thought medical school was, this year is different. Not just for me - I've noticed that a lot of people who took it easy early in the semester for the last two terms are turning up at the hospital & university study rooms on the weekends / evenings. And I've got three things that are giving me enough fear to get me studying scared this early into the semester.

1. Life around finals time sucks.

First of all, now that I've been through a year of medical school, I'm more aware of what it involves. I know how hard I had to work when last year's finals were approaching. I spent entire days and entire weeks studying with few breaks. Seeing few friends outside of med - and even friends in med - was not an option, and how the only thing that kept me going was the thought that "if I don't work my butt off, I'm gonna fail." I don't want to be going through that again come finals at the end of this term, so I'm studying now. Hopefully, as a result, around finals I'll feel a bit more prepared and the stress level will be a bit lower.

2. Finals are gonna be brutally hard.

While that should be reason enough to get my nose in the books, there's another reason. If there's any truth to what the third-year students say, my finals this year are going to be tough... much harder than last year.

That could be because for some of our units, the course directors have decided that providing us with lecture notes and lectures that cover all the topics that will be on the final are ineffective strategies for teaching physicians, and so we're expected to do a lot of reading from a variety of sources outside our lecture material. That's intimidating... as is generally the case with medicine, there's not enough time to learn everything, which means I can only hope that which I've learned is enough to get me through.

3. I don't want to fail and have to repeat second year!

In addition to those first two reasons, there's something else. There are a few people in my class this year who are repeating second year. Their reasons for doing this span a wide range - personal reasons, lots of stuff going on in their lives, MD/PhD students who are doing bits of the program at different times as their classmates, and not doing well enough academically last year.

Despite the fact that I don't know the individual reasons that these people are in my class, every time I see them around I think of the last reason. Yeah, it's hard to fail out of med school, and if I do fail a few courses I'll be able to repeat the year, but the third reason I'm getting my study on is because the last thing I want to be doing next year is repeating second year. Med school is a long time and I'm excited for the clinical part of medicine, which doesn't happen until next year. I would hate to be stuck in another year of PBL and our physician and society course.

The funny thing is, I'm sure this year will be a lot like last year in that it seems 90% of the class is scared of failing, but 99% of the class ends up passing. I think it's because we former pre-meds are used to undergrad exams, which we would routinely go into feeling like we knew all the material. Med school exams are scary because there's no way you will know all the material... and getting your 60% for a pass is much harder and requires much more knowledge and understanding than getting a 95% in undergrad.

There's a few people I've talked to that are afraid of third year. Rightly so - from all accounts 80-hour work weeks, being on call all the time, and having the stress of working with attending physicians, seeing patients, and trying to figure out where all the equipment is - let alone knowing how to use it - will be stressful enough. But I'm not even thinking about that yet. I just want to get through second year.


By the way, Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. That's right, it's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. (early holiday, our soaring currency, our pristine health care you want to move here now!) Seems like everybody is doing family stuff this weekend, but since school is so far from the family - and since the 'rents are coming out here in two weeks - I'll be going to a friend's house for the festive meal. He's a master in the kitchen and I'm looking forward to it.

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