Sunday, April 05, 2009

National Conference of Physician Scholars in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Michelle at the singular ATM in Philadelphia International Airport

I finally found where all of the cool MD/PhDs find one another! After a (very) chance encounter with an MD/PhD in the RWJ Clinical Scholars program here at Michigan, who did her PhD in the History and Sociology of Science, I was directed to the following website:

I promptly called Michelle, the other MSTP in Public Health, to tell her of this amazing find. We agreed that we should try to go, and that submitting something jointly might allow us to make the deadline that was coming up in just a few short days. We pulled together our network analysis paper, and they asked us to give a talk! Having secured a presentation slot, we subsequently applied for (and received) funding from Rackham to attend the conference in Philly. Yay!

We thought we were set, and Michelle took care of making hotel arrangements and all of that. We knew it was a short train ride from the airport into town, and were excited to see a bit of Philadelphia. We got off the plane even a bit early, and thought we were off to a great start. Enter Philadelphia International Airport. After leaving security and going down to the train stop, we discovered that you cannot buy tickets before you get on the train at the airport, and you must have cash in order to buy tickets on the train. This combined with the lack of an ATM anywhere near the train made things much more complicated than they really should have been. We trekked back up past the sleeping information desk attendant and asked the security guard where we might find an ATM. She told us we’d have to go down a few terminals (what!?!) in order to find one. We mostly believed her, and started walking.

We stopped another friendly-looking airport employee, who directed us to the check-in kiosks one floor down. Pleased to have circumvented the long walk, we headed down the escalators. Only to find that there was not an ATM. There was a white information phone, however, and I called to see where we might actually find an ATM. The kind gentleman on the phone said that baggage claim was the closest. (Note: When we were at the train stop, we were about 30 seconds from the baggage claim. At this point we were retracing about 10 minutes of walking.) We set out for the baggage claim.

Upon arriving at the baggage claim, we seemed to have hit another dead end. We looked around a bit, and asked another attendant. He said that there wasn’t one in this terminal, and that we would have to walk to terminal B. This echoed the advice of the first security guard 20 minutes before. Somewhat dejected, we headed outside (into the warmth that was Philly) and made the left turn he had instructed. As we walked, we realized that there were no outdoor signs indicating which terminal was which. This was like some kind of sick joke. We kept waiting for the some kind of candid camera-like people to jump out, laugh at us, and produce an ATM out of nowhere. Sadly this did not occur.

From the outside of one of the terminals, we saw a public transportation desk. This seemed promising, and we waited for her to finish dealing with a slightly-less-friendly client. When we asked about the train, she informed us that we would need to buy tickets on the train and that we couldn’t buy them there. We asked where we might get cash, and she said in terminal B. We asked her where we were, and how we might get to terminal B. Turns out we were headed in the right direction… We kept walking, and finally reached the promised ATM. Above you can see Michelle rejoicing after our 30 minute hunt was over. We were just in time for the next train, and the rest of the trip was much less eventful.

The conference itself was fantastic. I got to meet and chat with all kinds of other MD/PhD students, and some who have gotten through the program and have jobs! It was inspiring, and all of the talks were great. I knit a bunch, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Now, it’s time to get back to work… There’s always more grading, more prelim preparation, and work for my classes.

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