Monday, January 30, 2006


As you may know, they originally picked us as guest bloggers (some of you dedicated fans may have noticed the slight change in format), perhaps because we were involved in a lot of activities. And maybe they had some space constraints. At any rate, it became clear once we tried to schedule everything that we all had way to many things to write about to only submit three or four blogs per person. Hence, the change in format and upgrade to "regular blogger."

Today's topic is near and dear to my heart. After spending my undergrad years working toward a Spanish degree, I was a little afraid that I'd be forced to abandon it during medical school. Some of that has come true, which saddens me slightly. While I was invited to sit in on several of my professors' classes this semester (I did my undergrad here...), none of them really fit with the anatomy/histology schedule (lots of afternoons) or the lecture schedule (lots of mornings). As such, it seems like my days of analyzing literature from South and Central America are over, at least for now. I think that's part of why it's been so difficult to transition from undergrad to medical school. All during undergrad, I had two very different foci. I had my cellular and molecular biology degree, which took up about half my schedule, depending on the semester, and a Spanish degree, which filled the other half. Between the two of them, there was always something drastically different I could work on to keep myself sane. Now there is much less variation: if I'm sick of GI anatomy, I have only GI physiology or GI biochemistry to select from. I think it makes it easier to get burned out more quickly and makes getting involved extracurricularly really, really important.

Which brings me to today's topic: LANAMA. The Latin American and Native American Medical Association hasn't been the Spanish-language literature discussion group that I secretely hoped it would be before our meetings started, but it has provided me with some fabulous opportunities. Now, you may be thinking "that girl doesn't look very Latina to me." I struggled with the same issues: I'm not Latina, I just love Latina health issues and am passionate about working on them. And as the argument goes, there aren't enough minority people in any group to work exclusively to fix every minority issue without allies from outside the community. So as much as I questioned my place in LANAMA for a while, I no longer wonder about the being part of the small but dedicated following of self-identified white folks. We all get together because we're dedicated to Latino or native health issues, which is something that seems to quite easily cross boundaries of race, gender, and age.

Apart from forcing me to think about some philosophical questions, LANAMA has also given me venues to practice my Spanish (and some of the members are working on a medical Spanish course, for which the pilot has already begun) and work with the community. At Festival Latino we did blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol screenings. It was great to get out and work with the community. Sometimes we get so caught up in textbooks and labs that we forget wat we're working for. Doing health-related outreach in the community is a great way to bring that back.

Going to lunchtime talks is another way to get outside the scope of the current sequence and learn about something new and different. The upcoming Minority Health Symposium should be just that. A number of different groups (including LANAMA) will be presenting speakers on different minority groups. I'll post more about it as it gets closer, but I'm looking forward to it.

Alright, I'm starting to feel like I'm rambling, so I'll sign off for today.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Galens is a Michigan original

For those of you who don’t know, here are some details (directly from the website,

“Established in 1914, the Galens Medical Society is a tradition at the University of Michigan Medical School. Originally conceived as an honorary society, Galens has evolved into a unique organization of medical students and faculty dedicated to improving the welfare of the children of Washtenaw County while making medical school life a little more enjoyable.”

Tag Days, arguably the largest Galens event, and certainly the most profitable one, took place early in December (this year it was the 2nd and 3rd, but it’s the first weekend in December each year). “Taggers” (read: medical students wearing every piece of clothing they own underneath a big red poncho, a “Tag Days” sandwich board, and carrying a bucket filled with little paper tags) descended upon Ann Arbor to ask passersby for donations. 100% of the money raised during Tag Days goes directly to different pediatric charities in Washtenaw County (members pay dues to cover overhead), so it’s a great cause! Although by then end of the two days people were holding their tags like garlic to ward off vampires, most of the queries to “Please help us help the children of Washtenaw County” were greeted with smiles and the sound of money dropping into buckets.

I did three shifts, four hours each. Picture the little kid in “A Christmas Story” and you’ll have a good idea of how much clothing I was wearing. While I may not have been able to bend at the waist, I was still able to approach people walking and ask them to donate. And I was warm through all 12 hours. I was also quite able to enjoy the food and drink delivered by the happy vans. (If the idea of raising money for the children isn’t enough to get folks into their ponchos and out on the street, the thought of happy faculty members driving around in minivans filled with hot chocolate and donated food items usually does it…) Here is a picture of me before I headed out (with Eric, who helped me assemble my sandwich board):

Last I heard we had raised over $53,000, and there were still checks coming in the mail. Activities like these add a lot to the medical school experience. While standing outside for hours might not seem like the ideal study break, it’s actually a lot of fun (we go in pairs). And, since most of us came to medical school because we want “to help people” (please pardon the overused, yet nonetheless true, statement), raising money for pediatric charities is a great way to start. Check out the Galens website ( for more information on other great Galens events!