Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Like the first time you saw snow?

I was riding my bike last Friday. This is not an uncommon occurrence, as it’s the least expensive, most cardiovascularly beneficial, and most fun mode of transportation available to me. Something amazing happened on Friday though. I was riding along, excited for the yoga class that awaited me at the end of my ride, and not really paying attention to much of anything. Suddenly, I realized I’d entered a slightly shady part of the path, with just those magical little rays coming in and illuminating everything through the leaves. There were little puffs from the cottonwood trees swirling around me. It was like I had been transported to a mystically warm version of winter! I was on my bike, and the sun and air were warm, but there were little white puffs blowing lightly across my path. I wondered if this was how people who had never seen snow felt during their first encounter with the soft white flakes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Staying in Touch

After a year of coursework in the School of Public Health and the beginning of a second summer of research I’m feeling less like a medical student than ever. Although I see my med school friends periodically (which never fails to send me into bouts of anxiety about returning to my clinical years), I feel quite solidly situated in the graduate school. I’ve found myself beginning conversations with “I’m a graduate student” rather than “I’m in medical school.” I’ve stopped being the token medical student in my cohort (at least I think so), and I talk less about the medical school. My research interests have shifted from physician biased, focused closely on my future clinical career, to a much less physician oriented research area (prison health and HIV). It’s been a strange transition, but one that has people commenting that I seem happier, more relaxed, and generally more pleasant to be around.

I attribute much of this to the more supportive and caring environment I’ve found in the School of Public Health, as well as to the exciting challenge of thinking for myself rather than just memorizing and regurgitating facts. Although I know folks who thrive in a very externally competitive environment, I think I do much better when I’m competing with myself. I also appreciate the openness and sense of community I’ve found in my cohort. Rather than being terrified to share our difficulties, and shy to mention successes, I think we share both the ups and downs of our academic careers much more openly than I did in the medical school. Additionally, although I made it through the first two years of medical school without serious academic problems (just a few slight bumps) I don’t like just memorizing facts. Even memorizing relationships is challenging because it’s not necessarily something that you thought through and came to on your own. The experience of graduate school fits my academic style much more (in spite of feeling challenging): writing papers and giving presentations about ideas and topics I’ve put together through reading the literature is much more stimulating. Apparently, the last few years of medical school are also more based on research and individual motivation, but I haven’t gotten there yet so I can’t really judge.

In spite of feeling like I’ve taken to the School of Public Health like a duck to water, I don’t want to lose my connection to clinical work and medical student advocacy. For this reason, I’ve stayed involved with AMSA, the American Medical Student Association. Having served last year as the chair of the LGBT Health Action Committee, I’ve stepped down a notch in the organization and am serving as the LGBT Grassroots Organizing Coordinator on our newly defined Committee on Gender and Sexuality. I spent last weekend at June meeting, the first of our two national leadership meetings, and it was wonderful. AMSA is a gathering of many of the medical students I have the most in common with. They are progressive, enthusiastic students working to make the world a better place.

This weekend I made plans to invigorate our network of regional and local LGBT activists and organizers. I have some exciting new tools, as well as a fantastic team of folks with lots of grassroots organizing experience, to help me get this off the ground. I’m also planning to make this year’s National Coming Out Day the biggest ever. Last year we had over 1300 medical students from across the country participate in that day’s festivities. Hopefully this year it can be bigger and even more meaningful.

This weekend was filled with meetings and discussion (literally: we met from approximately 8am to 8pm both Friday and Saturday). Although I’m exhausted and still recovering a few days later, I had a great time. Nothing like total immersion to keep you in touch with what being a medical student should really be about.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The end of an era…

I fear my computer is dying. Actually, I’ve successfully progressed through all of the stages of death and dying (Kubler Ross, 1969):

Denial: My computer is fine. There was just a little power short - perhaps in my battery - that caused this blue screen of death to appear. I will just force a shut down, and it will be fine.

Anger: I hate PCs. Weak! Weak! That’s what you are - weak! Next time I want a Mac. How can my computer be going down this soon??? I’ve only had it for four years!

Bargaining: Please just last for another year or so - just long enough for me to save up for a replacement. I’ll let you start up slowly, and not open too many programs all at once, just keep letting me type and send e-mail.

Depression: It’s inevitable. You will die when I need something the most, so why should I bother trying to do anything about it.

Acceptance: Well, we’re on this downward spiral. I should probably look into replacements that I can afford within the next month and a half. I wouldn’t call it a will, but it’s something similar when you back everything up religiously every few days and plan for a transition of material from one machine to another. Don’t worry little computer, I haven’t given up on you, I’m just being realistic.

Through all of this I’ve been backing up all of my files, so as long as my external drive doesn’t die at the same time, I should be fine. Now I’m just trying to plan my next steps: Do I get a desktop for school so that I don’t have to carry my laptop back and forth? Do I get a much lighter computer so that it doesn’t slow me down so much? Does my bike damage my computer when it rides in the saddlebags? Do I get two small laptops and leave one at school? How soon should I start this transition?

It’s all overwhelming, but at least I’m dealing with it before my computer actually dies. Keep your fingers crossed for me and my little Inspiron…