Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Whenever I talk to people about medical school, the first thing they ask is where I am in the process. When I tell them I’ve only finished my first year, those in the know acknowledge that I’m still at the beginning, while those who aren’t ask how much longer I’ll be in school. The conversation generally goes down hill from there. What started as innocent small talk devolves into a lengthy explanation of what I’m planning to do with my entire life, starting with a lot more school. I explain that I’ve always been interested in public health, but that I want the serious research training offered by a PhD. That’s usually followed by an explanation of the typical schedule: two years of medical school, three or four years of PhD work, and then two years of medical school. If their eyes aren’t glazed over by that point, I usually ask if they themselves have several advanced degrees. Otherwise I politely change the subject.

In spite of what seems to many an insurmountable number of years of schooling, I’m really excited to be in this program. If I’d realized at my high school graduation that I was only half-way through my schooling, I’m not sure what my reaction would have been, but at this point, I’m willing to do almost anything to get to do the things I love. From my current vantage point, it looks like I may have to. Chances are I’ll need to teach or be a research assistant during my PhD work to fund my education. Most people in public health do. This may or may not add another year onto my time here. Basically, I’m not thinking about how long I have to go, but how much I have to learn and what I’m preparing for. It will be difficult, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

It hasn’t exactly been easy getting this far. When I applied to MSTP and MD/PhD programs during my last year of college, I knew that my application wasn’t strong, and that my public health research experience was lacking. I didn’t anticipate being accepted and, not surprisingly, I wasn’t. I started my first year with every intention of applying again, this time with a summer dedicated to a combination of field placement-type work and research. I applied again, and it actually worked out. I’ll be an official “mud-phud” as the MD/PhDs are fondly referred to, and I couldn’t be happier.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

10 things that tell me summer has arrived in Ann Arbor…

(in no particular order… or parallel structure… sorry…)

1. The sunlight in the morning is lovely. The picture at the top was taken on one of my training walks and still doesn’t quite capture how nice it is. It’s always just the right temperature, and there are lots of little animals out enjoying it. Right after I took this picture I saw the cutest baby skunk. I was afraid that if I took a picture of it, the mother would come after me, so there isn’t a picture of the cute little ball of black fur…

2. The Farmer’s Market is going full tilt. It’s crazy every Saturday morning, and much more subdued on Wednesdays (when I hardly ever make it). I’ve procured for myself almost enough plants to make me stop wanting a pet, and am thoroughly enjoying the basils and parsleys that now grace my window pane. If this year has taught me nothing else, it’s that what I thought was a black thumb of death is actually a fantastically green thumb. I think my plants can tell that I love them, and grow for me accordingly. They sense that I’d love to have a pet but that “pet rent” in my apartment is so outrageously high that they have to fill in for something furry and snuggly.

3. I feel sticky much of the day. And I don’t think it’s just me. Although it’s not yet at it’s most humid (August here we come…), it’s still sticky during the hottest part of the day. This is doubly so when it’s going to rain.

4. It’s safe to drive around campus. This is because the undergrads are gone and are no longer darting out into the street at the most inopportune times.

5. Research. Much of my research experience has taken place over the summer, and this summer is no exception. I am working with a professor in Public Health, evaluating aspects of the HIV/AIDS Resource Center outreach programming. It’s fantastically rewarding, although somewhat overwhelming. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually kind of miss having quizzes at the end of the week that tell me when I can take a break. (Instead I have to police myself and get everything done on my own…)

6. My brother had a birthday. He turned 9 this year, which is crazy. I mean, he’s only got this year and then… double digits. It’s hard to believe. This year we went to the Potter Park Zoo, which is in Lansing. It’s quite a nice park, with a smallish but fun zoo inside. Some of the highlights of our day were seeing a baby camel, watching a white peacock do what my brother termed “the butt dance” with his feathers all fanned out, and feeding a llama, whose lips are remarkably like fingers.

7. Sunscreen has once again become a major issue. I always wear it on my face (even in the deadest of winter), but summer always seems to offer the opportunity to slather large portions of my arms and legs with the faintly coconutty cream that I love and hate at the same time.

8. Baby ducks! Actually, now that it’s summer there are sort of awkward-looking teenage ducks, but in the spring they were baby ducks, and they’re still cute. This family of ducks is another stand-in for a pet. Because we live in front of the little stream, we seem them periodically. They were even sitting in our bushes as a little family (but the pictures didn’t come out too well, because they were hiding in the dark shady area).

9. Free time? I always think that summer will bring an insane amount of free time, and I always seem to fill it up with all kinds of things. I guess in theory I have more than during the school year, but there are so many fun (and some less fun but necessary) things that I’ve put off since August that I feel like I’ve got just as much stuff to do. This is perhaps an unfortunate consequence of my personality, but a girl can only work with what she’s got.

10. I really am trying to schedule a vacation. This is the ultimate summer excitement.
Since our school year doesn’t start until August 21st, and my walk is the 11th-13th, there’s definitely time for a vacation. I’m sure where, and I’m not sure what, but we’ll be going somewhere…

Sorry if this post was sort of scattered, but summer’s here. I guess that number 11 is that my brain is fried from the school and so my life feels kind of scattered. Give me another 10 weeks or so…