Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome to Michigan, try not to freeze

From Dose of Reality:

Over the last few months I’ve met and spoken with many potential Michigan medical students.  They invariably have questions about how the coursework is structured in the medical school, whether I’m nervous about returning to the wards after many years in PhD-land, and what it’s like to live in Ann Arbor (as compared with a big city).  Only rarely do applicants ask about the winters…

My undergraduate thesis adviser once said something along the lines of “The people who settled Michigan were the ones who thought the fall was really pretty, and then ate the others during the winter.”  (I’m pretty sure my recollection of this quote has gotten more gruesome over the years, and that he likely said something more like “…and survived the winter” but I think my memory of the quote is closer to the sentiment of the original statement…  He did not like the winter.)  Though I didn’t used to dislike the winter much (except during the 1-2 weeks we have every year of –15F to –20F temperatures), I’ve become more frustrated with the weather as it gets weirder.  We’ve had less and less consistent weather during the time I’ve lived in Michigan (a veritable lifetime) and although I couldn't verify that it's getting colder, this year certainly seemed to. 

As I was reading the New York Times the other day, I found an opinion piece discussing how global warming is making the winters colder.  It involves a brief explanation of how snowfall in Siberia affects temperatures and snowfall in the Northeastern United States, and although the author loses points for citing himself, he makes some really great points.  I was particularly excited to see interesting conclusions being drawn from a computational model that suggested new hypotheses to be tested with data.  Unfortunately, given the current state of anything that might be described as decisive action on climate change, I am not optimistic.  This suggests to me that the weather here is just going to get stranger and stranger, and that we’ll have more weeks of sub-zero temperatures alternating with weeks of balmy 40-degree days.  Dear applicants, please join us at our amazing medical school, but hold on to your hats…  and coats…  and mittens…  and boots…  and light fall jackets just in case.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A year of ideas…

In preparation for the new year, a little reflection is (almost) always a good idea. In the case of the NYTimes Magazine, it definitely is. Their 10th Annual Year in Ideas is a great combination of inspiring, entertaining, and thought-provoking ideas. A few exciting ones include the youth condom, the long-life-span smartphone, and turbine-free wind power.

Read them all here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A lovely visit

My apartment has mostly been converted into a pre-holiday sweatshop, but I have been enjoying myself nonetheless. At the very least, working hard on crafting all day provides a lovely change of focus. (And I will note that tomorrow I’m kind of hoping I have some time to work on my model results. This sort of anticipation and excitement about academic work has not been noted since the last break…) My eyesight-killing, shoulder-tightening labor, combined with the fact that many people are already out of town for the break, has meant that my social life is a bit limited. There is one visitor, however, for whom the crazy crafting is not substantial deterrent. In fact, I might even go to so far as to say she welcomes it. That visitor is… you guessed it… Ash!!!!!

She and Walter knit while I… also knit… and took pictures of them knitting… You see how this could potentially limit my social interactions…

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part IV

Eastern Market and Supino Pizzeria

On Saturday, in spite of the cold, Alicia and I headed down to Eastern Market, the gigantic farmers’ market in Detroit. Calling it a farmers’ market doesn’t even really do it justice, as within the many stalls there are various artisans (soap-makers, chocolate-crafters, wreath-sellers) as well, and in the blocks surrounding the actual market, you can see the suppliers of seafood, meat, and equipment for all of the restaurants in the area. Also the suppliers of nuts:

We walked through all of the market, feeling sad for those vendors with the misfortune to be standing outside. Though the indoor sheds were by no means hot, they felt downright toasty compared to the cutting wind outside. I bought some apples and lemons, which were grown in Michigan and somewhere else respectively. Because the market supplies not only individual shoppers, but restaurants and other businesses, they have a much larger variety of produce than most farmers’s markets. Apparently restaurants need citrus even when the rest of us can only get cold storage apples…

After perusing the market for a bit, we followed Ruti’s (incredibly strong) recommendation that we hit Supino Pizzeria for lunch. It proved just as delicious as she’d promised! It’s a small place, so if you plan to go, you can call ahead and order so that you don’t have to wait. Tables are limited, but we only waited a few moments before someone finished and we were able to snag one. Another successful excursion in the winter of Detroit…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Freezing Winter!

Walter wishes you all a warm and delightful life just like his:

Note: Walter has been unwilling to leave the house for more than a few moments since the temperature dipped below 20F. We should all learn something from this.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finals: Work vs. Knitting

The title here really says it all…  Although I really only have one final exam this semester (and it is today!), I have other big end-of-semester deadlines (for example, a complete dissertation draft).  As always happens, I have also added to my list of holiday knitting at what is relatively at the last minute (considering that I started in May).  These two things have resulted in another battle in that time-honored struggle: work vs. knitting.  Luckily, thanks to a really awesome suggestion from a friend, I have been reading The Monday Motivator and am working on scheduling in my to-do list so that I make sure to do the things that are actually important to me (rather than the things that seem most urgent/doable at any given moment).  I’ve been creating the hourly schedules that used to indicate tragic finals stress levels, but now reflect that no one else is scheduling my time, so I might as well do it, and have met with some success.  My conclusions from the first week include:

  • E-mail is a massive time suck and should be scheduled (and limited)
  • Stata takes longer than you think, no matter how long you think it will take
  • Thinking about what kind of crafting I want to do during a given week makes me feel productive and awesome, even if I do not follow the craft schedule (!)

All told, the scheduling is going well, and I am feeling that in the eternal fight between work and knitting, I, in fact, am winning.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part III

Detroit Urban Craft Fair and The People Mover

We headed down to the Fillmore Detroit last weekend to check out the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, and afterward I convinced Alicia that we should ride around the People Mover once, as it is only $0.50 to ride around the entire loop.

The Craft Fair was really quite good. They filled the lobby, the main floor, and the stage of the theater with booths for (mostly) local crafters and artists. I was impressed with the range of goods, though it was, I think, pretty typical of a good craft show: jewelry, textiles (dishcloths, knit and crochet items, pillows, potholders, etc), ceramics, and soaps, among other things. In addition, there were a few somewhat surprising booths filled with glass mosaics, little robot sculptures made from old flash bulbs and other electrical oddities, and dog collars. I must also note that there were some hand dyers there with yarn, and that I was good and did not purchase all of it… I found some great gifts, and would highly recommend your local craft show for stocking stuffers as well as bigger items that friends and family members don’t yet know that they need.

After we headed out into the bitter, bitter wind, I grabbed my camera and we headed up to the People Mover station. I think the last time I rode it all the way around was in elementary school when we got off at every station to learn about the art featured there. It's worth making the trip just to see the murals and other art pieces! Here is a pictorial tour of a round around the People Mover starting at Grand Circus Park Station.

Alicia with the uncannily realistic-looking statue at Grand Circus Park.

Looking down Woodward toward Comerica Park and the Fillmore Detroit.

Riding the people mover!

General Motors International Headquarters, The Renaissance Center

The river, looking particularly wintery and cold.

The bridge to Windsor.

Part of the mural at the Michigan Ave. Station.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part II

The Moth StorySLAM

I have been listening to The Moth Podcast for a while now. Each episode features stories from their various live events told, as their trailers for both the podcast and the radio show states, live without notes. Some of the stories are great, some are just okay, but when I heard on the podcast that they were now holding live events in Detroit, I made a mental note to check it out. I then promptly forgot.

Early last week, Alicia sent me a link and suggested that we check out the Moth StorySLAM held the first Thursday of every month at Cliff Bell’s, not far from Comerica Park, the Detroit Opera House, and the Fox Theater. We decided to leave Ann Arbor around 5:00pm in an attempt to get a table. The event was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, and the staff at the bar told Alicia that the tables fill up between 6:00-6:30pm (though there is standing room as well). Despite arriving shortly after 6:00pm, we did not get a table. We did, however, get the best standing seat in the house (in my opinion). Our view was slightly obstructed by a giant wooden column in the center of the room, but we were right near the servers’ station and not only did not have to move for every waiter (because we were positioned just out of their path), but were able to order beer and french fries from the waitress (who typed “LADIES” in the slot on the receipt where the table number is usually filled in).

A little blurry, but the BlackBerry wasn't really meant for indoor evening photos...

The stories were great. The theme was winter, and most of the stories stuck closely to it. My personal favorite was the last one, which featured girl concussed in a sledding accident that resulted in her saying all kinds of hilarious things to her date (who she had only just met). The winner was also quite good, with a no-fail combination of a little boy’s snow suit filled with pee and nuns (in a Catholic school).

Winter of Detroit continues…

Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking forward by looking past

From AMSA On Call:

As I contemplate returning to the medical school and starting my clinical rotations, I’ve come up with a few strategies along the way to calm myself down and turn my anxiety into anticipation.  These include reminding myself of how much support I will have over the next few months to regain my clinical skills, evaluating potential sequences of rotations to maximize early learning but minimize early embarrassment in front of future colleagues (by choosing to start with a field I don’t plan to call my career), and spending time with my resident/doctor friends, who all assure me that I will be fine and that no one will remember my first few awkward weeks/months on the wards.  The strategy I’ve been using most during the last few weeks, however, is looking forward by looking past.  I’ve been motivating myself to gear up for the third year of medical school by contemplating potential away rotations, research experiences, and vacations I would like to take during my fourth year of medical school.  Although I have come up with a volume that would not fit into another four years of medical school, much less a single year, the process of thinking about what comes after the exhausting, but hopefully rewarding ordeal of third year makes thinking about that exhausting ordeal a little bit easier.

I really embraced this strategy at the American Public health Association Annual Meeting in Denver earlier this month.  As I prepared for my own presentation, I worked hard to attend the presentations of other scholars in my field, to introduce myself afterward, and to a few with interesting research or clinical connections, suggest the possibility of an away rotation in a unique clinic or a scholarly collaboration on a project that would extend my dissertation research.  Honestly, until I was at the conference sitting in a particularly inspiring session, I hadn’t thought much about the next big transition after PhD-years to MD-years: school to the “real world.”  As scary as it might seem to think about finally leaving the happy bubble of Ann Arbor and my alma mater, it was exciting to think about what is coming next.  I think that holding on to the exciting possibilities beyond my clinical rotations just may get me through the worst of it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh the holidays…

I’m back from a few days with my family and am feeling ready to get back to work. I ate a great deal at both Thanksgivings, spent some lovely quality time with everyone who was in town, and then spent the weekend relaxing at home on my own. Walter helped with laundry today:

I also got to hear the preliminary version of Ruti’s prospectus defense presentation this afternoon, which was lovely. I know she will be so glad when this is over, and I’m excited for the celebration this is to follow. I will be sending Ruti happy vibes all day tomorrow (and particularly around 2pm), and you all should too! Good luck Ruti – you will be awesome!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part I

You may recall the 2009 Summer of Detroit, and our escapades on Belle Isle, the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, and the fantastic finale that was the Tour de Troit. This was a great time, and provided the impetus to see some lovely parts of the city. Looking back at these posts, however, it is clear that while we did spend some quality time in the D, we ended up hitting a lot of the immediately adjacent suburbs, a city within a city, and things on the fringe of town. Enter the Design*Sponge Detroit Design Guide, a lovely list of lots of nice restaurants, shops, and museums, conveniently divided by neighborhood with a linked Google Map showing most of the attractions. I had already read about many of the restaurants and museums mentioned in the guide, but lots of the shops were new to me. In addition, my Detroit geography has never been particularly good (or any local geography, for that matter), so I was always lacking a real sense of how to “make a day of it” if I wanted to go into the city. I declare this the beginning of the 2010/2011 Winter of Detroit. Last weekend was the first excursion.

We started with an area that is already pretty familiar, the Midtown/Cultural Center area around Wayne State University and College for Creative Studies campuses, and tried out some new spots.

Leopold’s Books was a wild success, with me finding some surprise holiday gifts and Alicia picking up a new book about revitalizing Detroit. They stock a small but thought-provoking range of books, magazines, some gift items (like books of postcards), and an impressive collection of graphic novels published locally as well as from outside the city.

Located in the same building, The Park Shelton, we found Goods. They feature local handmade items, and also print t-shirts, bags, and baby garments with custom designs. I particularly enjoyed browsing the array of hilarious and snarky holiday (and other occasion) cards.

Somehow this photo of The Park Shelton looks more like a pencil or pastel drawing than a photograph, but I promise I didn't do anything to change it. Same with the photo at the top...

Although we had planned to walk from the shops (which were next door to the DIA) to lunch at the Motor City Brew Works, we were only able to find a meter that was good for an hour, so we drove. That was really the only disappointment of the day… We shared a great pizza, Alicia had a beer, and I, in my still cold-medicated state, had some locally made ginger ale that was tasty.

Right outside the restaurant, we stepped into the Bureau of Urban Living, another small shop filled with housewares and gifts. They had an amazing print of a map of Detroit with all of the neighborhood names written in that I’ve seen before, and coveted no less this time. Maybe next time I’ll finally pick one up…

Just down the street, City Bird was like stepping into a real world Etsy. In addition to their in-house designs, they stock a wide variety of things (and I mean really wide, from dish towels to leather jewelry) made by other local crafters and artists. I found a few (secret until December!) items I couldn’t live without, and will definitely make it a regular stop on my gift-buying excursions.

While we were shopping, I overheard discussion of Open City Detroit, an organization with which (at the very least) both the Bureau of Urban Living and City Bird seem to be involved. It looks like a useful resource for small business owners in Detroit, and I wanted to make sure to link to it in case anyone is inspired to pick up and move…

It was a great afternoon, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to winter. Now I just have to get work done instead of perusing the guide to pick the next neighborhood to explore.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sick Day

On Friday I woke up unable to swallow because my throat hurt so badly. I will limit the whining here, but suffice it say that I thought I might have strep throat and went in to get it checked out early in the day. In an uncharacteristically good decision, I decided to stay home and sleep/read/watch movies all day instead of trying to maintain my normal level of functioning. In retrospect, this is what I should have been doing every time I came down with a cold. On Saturday I felt 95% better, and was able to have a much more fun day than if I hadn’t gotten approximately 16 hours of sleep between the preceding night and preceding day. Walter helped keep me on track…

First, Walter implores me to stay in bed. He knows it will be better for me/us.

Next, Walter demonstrates the best technique to allow for maximum healing. He promises to move from my pillow when I try to sleep...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scheduling a defense

From Dose of Reality:

I remember when I scheduled my board exam. I wrote a blog post, very much like this one, documenting what seemed like a massive, but nonetheless intermediate milestone. Today, I check off another gigantic but relatively administrative milestone from the list: I e-mailed my doctoral committee members to schedule a dissertation defense. It still seems pretty far away (early-mid March), but it’s close enough that there are conflicts with various dates and I’m still waiting to hear from a few committee members about their availability. Being a rather calendar/list oriented person, being able to print on two pages the calendar between now and my defense seems like a big deal. In some ways, being able to chart out the endgame of my doctoral program has been one of the most satisfying moments in my academic career. It feels in some ways like I’m emerging from the trees to gaze happily at the forest, which ends in March.

When I posted about scheduling my board exam in December 2006 (yes, it really was 4 years ago) I talked about my fear of failing. At that point, it was failing in a standardized way, failing in a way that every other medical student would have the opportunity to do for years to come. At this point, my fear of failing feels far more nuanced and individualized. I know that I will finish what I need to do in time for my defense. There may be some rather busy moments/days/weeks coming up, but it will get done. Instead, my fear of failing is two-fold:

1. Some of the first advice that I got as a doctoral student was to plan on being a little disappointed with the amount of work you can do in a dissertation. “It’s not your magnum opus, it’s a starting point,” was what I heard repeated by a variety of mentors. Having internalized that fairly well, I nonetheless worry that what I’ve accomplished won’t launch my fledgling academic career in the direction or with the force I’m hoping for.

2. Though many fewer of my mentors have emphasized this, I’m looking to try to keep my life in balance for the next few months. I want to keep having at least a minimal social life, see family, play in the orchestra, read, knit, and keep my kitchen stocked enough to eat well. I worry that the stress of the dissertation will cut into this!

As I write these two points, however, it occurs to me that these are neither nuanced nor individual, as I suggested above. They are in fact the same fears that we all have about the process and product of any major undertaking. I’ll take heart in that, then, and keep pushing forward. See you all on the other side!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kale riff…

Last month one of the fine members of the small agent-based modeling discussion/support group brought the most delicious salad to our potluck. (As an aside, I would highly recommend pairing serious methodology discussions with good food!) She said that it came from the Food Network show Aarti Party, and I’ve just found the recipe online. It is a salad featuring uncooked kale that is delicious. That’s right, a salad featuring uncooked kale… that is delicious… The combination of lemon juice, sunflower seeds (which my friend had substituted for the pepitas), mango, and kale was delicious. Motivated by this, I got a bunch of kale at the farmers’ market last week. I had every intention of purchasing a mango to go with it, but never made it to the grocery store. Instead, I decided to make a decidedly more Midwestern, but nonetheless delicious, riff on the salad. I also hadn’t found the recipe online when I made it, so mine leaves out what might be some additional delicious ingredients, so be sure to check out the original recipe as well. Here it is:

Fall Kale Salad
For 1 large serving or 2 small servings

4-5 leaves curly kale, chopped finely
1/2 tart crunchy apple (Ida Reds work beautifully), chopped to 1/2 inch cubes
sprinkling of pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

To make it look pretty, put the chopped kale and apples into a bowl and mix. Sprinkle with pepitas and juice the lemon over the bowl. Top with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby… but no pictures…

I got in late last night after spending the last few days in Denver. I’m tired today, and can tell that the jet lag is going to be problematic, but I really did have a good time. I was a bit overwhelmed the first day of the conference, but that was taken care of completely when I got to visit with Brittany and Holly and their 12 day old baby Scarlett. I wanted to take her home. I offered to exchange her for one of my carry-on bags, but they declined, as they seem quite happy with her themselves. Sadly I did not have my camera with me (as it is still somewhat large for conference travel), so you will just have to imagine the cutest little baby ever, double swaddled and still sticking her little hands out of the top of the swaddling blankets.

The rest of the conference was also good: I got to meet some exciting people and my presentation went well. That said, I’m not sure that anything really even came close to being as cool as meeting the tiniest person…

Thursday, November 04, 2010

All this travel is getting old…

This weekend I’m heading to Denver for the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, and I’m trying really hard to get excited about it.  There are exciting elements, of course, like the fact that I’ll get to see my friend Sonia who will be flying in from DC, and the fact that I may get to see the tiny new baby who just joined Brittany and Holly in the world of people who have already been born.  And of course, I am actually excited to be presenting the first paper of my dissertation as a conference participant.  All of this is fine and good, but I just can’t seem to get jazzed up about getting on a plane and switching time zones.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  Wish me luck…

Friday, October 29, 2010

Puppy play time!

I am dog-sitting for Ferdinand this weekend while his enviably fit owner runs a marathon in DC. I picked him up at 2pm today and I don't think Walter will ever forgive me if I actually return him on Monday. Here is approximately how it went today:

Tug of war begins...

They learn to share...

Ferdinand loses interest...

They forget how to share but embrace anyway...

Ferdinand gets ridiculous, and Walt remains ridiculous...

And finally, once Walt has tired out Ferdinand he remains vigilant in his bed...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vote early and often

The midterm elections are just around the corner, so I thought I’d post my usual links to information about voting as well as the usual reminders about what you can and cannot do at the polls. Also, if you’re voting absentee, don’t forget to mail in your ballot!

First, some notes about voting in person in Michigan:

Remember that you are allowed to bring whatever you want with you to the polls, as long as there is no campaign material visible. This means it's perfectly legal to print out a ballot, mark all of your preferences and notes, and carry it in your pocket to the polls. If you have a button, t-shirt, etc with a candidate's name on it, you can still vote, you just have to cover the item when you get within 100 ft of the polling place.

Michigan requires identification in order to vote, but if you don’t have ID you can simply sign an affidavit and vote anyway. Details from the secretary of state about the law and how to get a state ID card if you’d like one can be found here.

Second, if you aren’t sure where to vote, how to do it, or who to vote for, check out these resources:

Michigan Voter Information Center: Find out where you are registered to vote, find your polling location, contact your local election official, learn to use your voting equipment, and view a sample ballot.

ACLU Voting Rights Guide: This has information on what to do if you're told you can't vote at the polls, including the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE Get your whole ballot and use their nifty side-by-side comparison to see what the candidates said and their background information.

Ann Arbor Chronicle Article about candidates for the board of the Ann Arbor District Library.

League of Women Voters: They collect information about the candidates and line it up so you can compare their views on different questions.

Citizens Research Council of Michigan: Look here for nonpartisan analysis of the ballot initiatives that we'll be voting on here in Michigan.

Still have questions or didn’t find what you were looking for? If you don’t live in Michigan, visit to print out a ballot, find your polling place, and find contact information for local officials, or check your local Secretary of State website for details on how to vote near you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A knitting victory!

I knit a lot… And I know that… Nonetheless, in the fall and winter when school ramps up I knit less than I do in the summer. Which means that sometimes things that get started in the winter don’t get finished until… much later. Enter the gray vest: I cast on for the bottom of the ribbing last February. Then, I became consumed with a variety of other projects all summer and didn’t really come back to the vest until school started. Now, finally, after the amount of time it takes most people to create a fully formed human, I can finally present the finished garment. (Please note that I recently posted about my desire to knit instead of doing work. In light of this, please do not pass along the happy news of my knitting accomplishments to any of my dissertation committee members…)

You will note that the best lighting in my apartment at night is in the bathroom... This should explain the oddly plush (actually terrycloth) backdrops.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spiced Fennel Potatoes and Cabbage Salad

Born somewhat of necessity (in the interest of prolonging a trip to the grocery store), I made two new recipes last week. One was a modification of an old favorite, and the other was a first attempt at a new way to prepare potatoes. The whole meal proved fast and delicious! Here they are:

Spice Fennel Potatoes
Adapted from Easy Indian in Minutes

2 tablespoons neutral oil (or butter, if you’re feeling decadent)
4 gloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 teaspoons mild chili powder
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground fennel
1 lb small potatoes, quartered and cooked (I boiled them for a bit)
1 serrano chile, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to brown. Add the chili powder, fennel (both whole and ground), potatoes and chile, and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately!

Chat Masala Vegetable Salad

2 cups shredded cabbage (any will work – mine was beautiful purple)
2 small tomatoes, sliced or cubed (mine were green zebras – so pretty)
1/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons Chunky Chat Masala (I use MDH brand, available in most Indian grocery stores and really delicious on most fruits and vegetables.)

Stir the chat masala into the lemon juice, then add all of the vegetables to the bowl and stir to coat. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who will be there?

From AMSA On Call:

Welcome to the second installment in a series on returning to the wards after several years as a MSTP doctoral student in public health. You can find my first (and introductory) post here. (You can find all of these posts by looking for the tag "Back To The Wards".) This particular post was motivated by a series of events that have prompted me to think about who I’ll be working with next year.

As it sinks in that I'll really be going back, I've thought a lot about the class I’ll be joining. It will be made up of a few individuals I've worked with or made friends with, former students and folks who know me from lectures I've given, people I've never met, and some returning MSTP classmates. Apart from the medical students I'll be rotating with, however, I'll be working with 4th year medical students, interns, residents, and attendings, as well as medical assistants, nurses, techs, physicians assistants and a variety of other healthcare personnel . Of these, I'm likely to have met a few of them in my previous 6 years at UMMS or in the university at large. I anticipate running into my former boss at the Women’s Health Resource Center at various points, perhaps encountering nurses and administrators who have been involved with the UMMS Pride Network, and seeing physicians who have worked with other student organizations I've been involved with. I also expect to see instructors I've taught for and worked with in other capacities. These interactions promise to be somewhat straightforward, however, with normal rules of etiquette covering all that I need. Though there will likely be a few "how should I address this person" moments, I'm looking forward to showing these colleagues that I've made it and am finally back on the wards.

The interactions I've described above are not the ones I've been thinking most about, however. Instead I've been considering the friends and medical school classmates who will be 4th years, interns, residents, and even potentially attending when I start my rotations. Do you call your friend Dr. So-and-so when you've been calling her by her first name for the past 6 years? Are the expectations higher or lower or can they possibly be the same if your supervisor or evaluator knows you in a context outside of medicine? These questions are not unique to returning MD/PhD students, but apply to many medical students who worked in the same healthcare setting where they are now in school. I suppose I'll have to pin down a few folks over the next few months and grill them about their experiences and the etiquette they used to get through them…

Finally, I've been thinking a lot about friends and colleagues who won't be there when I go back. Last week the world lost an incredible individual when Sujal Parikh died after a motorcycle accident. He was an inspiration with his dedication to global health, HIV/AIDS research, responsible global exchange, and the huge range of student organizations he joined and led (including AMSA). He would have come back to finish his 4th year next year, and I would have had a chance to work with him as a sub-I or on exciting extracurricular things. Though Suj is the most recent and striking example, there are others who won't be there on the wards next year because of illness or untimely passing, or to care for a loved one. It's hard not to feel powerless in the face of these losses, and wonder whether every day will bring some reminder, but I'll be keeping those colleagues in my thoughts and if I can, working just a little bit harder in their memory.

A funny thing happened on the way to the wards...

From Dose of Reality:

It’s finally starting to sink in that I’m going back to medical school next year. As much as I’ve been writing and thinking about it recently, it’s only just now occurred to me that I will be rejoining the current M2 class, a class of medical students who have been together since the first day of the their first year of medical school. I will be the “new” girl who doesn’t know anyone, and who certainly didn’t take Step 1 two weeks ago, or even two years ago.

This really hit home when I was talking with a former student of mine who subsequently started medical school at Michigan. She is a second year, and going through the normal joy of M2 coursework, wondering what scheduling clinical rotations will be like in a few months, and generally panicking about the process of learning clinical medicine. I think that most M2s share a mixed bag of emotions that includes excitement at the prospect of finishing up with classroom-based learning, terror at the prospect of even a small amount of clinical responsibility, and nervousness about performing adequately as a third year student on the wards. I’ve always sympathized with this predicament, even as I laughed to myself at my privileged position as onlooker who wouldn’t have to deal with this for quite some time. Suddenly, however, it hit me that I was no longer to be an onlooker.

This realization was made all the more real when I ran into a friend from BGLAM, the student group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at UMMS. He is an M2 and was preparing to see a standardized patient on the morning that I ran into him. At this point in my academic career, I feel a bit more like an advisor to my favorite student groups than a participant, even though I’m obviously still a student. I drop in when I can, provide an… historical (?) perspective. However, as we rode toward school and discussed BGLAM and when we might next see each other, I realized that soon we would be classmates and I would be a “normal” BGLAM member again: a medical student educating and supporting other medical students. So bizarre...

Monday, October 18, 2010

(Through) Chicago

I returned today from a family wedding outside of Chicago.  Although I’m feeling a little bit behind, I got to see my grandma for the first time in way too long (years…  really…) and had a really nice time with my family.  We went to the botanical gardens near my aunt’s house in the morning, and then headed over to the wedding. 

It was yet another lovely ceremony.  It really makes me happy to see yet another wedding that is so well suited to the couple getting married.  Everything from the welcome dinner to dessert at the reception seemed to fit Kristina and Evan to a tee, and I think everyone else had a great time too!  Congratulations to the newlyweds!

On the way home, we stopped for lunch at an unlikely but incredible Thai restaurant.  It’s called Ban Thai and the proprietor (Jimmy) is one of the friendliest people I’ve run into in a long time.  He introduced himself by name when we came in, and shared with us the history of the restaurant as he brought us our menus.  In addition to the food being delicious (and the lunch specials fantastic), the decor was just lovely.  It’s located on Niles Rd. just off of I-94 in St. Joseph, MI, so if you’re traveling between anywhere east of Ban Thai and Chicago, I’d highly recommend making the stop!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Feeling crafty

I suppose everything ebbs and flows, but it seems like my desire to be crafty is particularly variable and highly correlated with my ability to focus on the rest of the things I’m supposed to be doing.  Take this week, for example: it’s been a really sad week in which I’ve attended 2 memorial services already, and will be heading to another tonight for my medical school friend who passed away on Wednesday.  All of this sadness has made it rather difficult to focus on my work.  I keep coming up against the inevitable connections between my work and that of my deceased friends and colleagues, and just feeling frustrated at the world for taking them away before they had a chance to keep getting more amazing.  Instead of thinking about my work, I find myself thinking about the knitting projects I’d like to make for myself, the ones I’m already working on for myself and for others, and the things I want to get done before particular deadlines (holidays, due dates, etc).  I suppose it’s not irrational to want to create something soft and warm in the face of all of this destruction, but it is a little frustrating overlaying the other deadlines in my life…  Hopefully things will look up soon, and until then, I’ll keep taking little breaks to dream about baby booties, sweater vests, and other crafty pursuits…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And now for something completely different…

I thought a happy post was in order, and a comment by Kurt, my cubicle-mate at SPH, provided just the necessary fodder. You see, Kurt had a birthday this weekend. Kurt, as well as most of my friends at this point, is past most of the really exciting birthdays where you get to be a teenager for the first time, get to drive, get to vote, get to drink, or even get to rent a car for the normal price. Kurt is a thoughtful individual, however, and pointed out that after this particular birthday, he is now eligible to be president of the United States. I now have something to look forward to at 35!

These photos are from my visit to the Smithsonian in August, and although they are a little blurry (shocking that there would not be enough light for flash-less photos at the pretend-t0-be-the-president-area), I think that they are still kind of awesome. I believe the background is from FDR's inaugural address...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A friend in need…

Things have been a little crazy around here, what with my first math exam tomorrow afternoon (!) as well as the usual craziness of dissertation writing. In addition to all kinds of academic stresses, sad things seem to be happening all over. It started with the passing of Sam, Alicia’s mom’s miniature dachshund. Several friends have had relative pass on this week, and though some were expected, and even welcome as an end to a long period of suffering, it doesn’t make the loss any easier. Finally, tonight I learned that a friend from the medical school who has been abroad in Uganda was in a serious accident recently. His situation is tenuous, and it is an all too scary reminder of how dangerous travel can be. I’ll be keeping him and his family in my thoughts, and hoping that he will pull through against all odds.

Friday, October 08, 2010

End of the week...

Apologies for the dearth of posts recently. Things have been busy, but hopefully this makes up for it:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Really a tragedy

The last few weeks have brought a great deal of sad news to the LGBT community. In listening to The Savage Love Podcast (Dan Savage’s amazing podcast) last week, I learned that 15 year-old Billy Lucas had taken his life after classmates called him a fag and told him to kill himself. Then, earlier this week, I read in the New York Times that 18 year-old Tyler Clementi had jumped from the GW Bridge in New York after having his romantic life broadcast online by a roommate. Just one day later I learned that Andrew Shirvell, an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, had been stalking and harassing Chris Armstrong, the first openly gay president of the Michigan Student Assembly. Shirvell is also apparently the “concerned alum” who was up in arms about the appearance of a rainbow sticker at New York Pizza Depot a few years back. (Thanks for sending that link mom!)

At this point, you may be wondering, what can I do? How can I help? Here are some suggestions:

Both and the Detroit News have reported that Shirvell has been suspended or that he has taken a personal leave. This link will take you to a site organized by the Victory fund (a group that supports LGBT candidates) to send a message to Mike Cox, the Michigan Attorney General, asking him to dismiss Shirvell.

In response to Billy Lucas’ death, Dan Savage created the “It Gets Better Project,” YouTube channel, which features videos submitted by out LGBT individuals letting kids who may be going through a rough time that life gets better after you leave high school. His The first video, posted by Dan and his boyfriend Terry is inspiring and the outpouring of support (and thousands of videos) is incredible. Check out the site, and if appropriate, make a video yourself!

Finally, I hope that all of you will make sure to share an anti-bullying message whenever you get the chance. You can use this HRC Action Alert to contact Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to encourage anti-bullying programs across the country, or you can get involved in your own school district and ensure that the necessary policies are in place to protect vulnerable kids where you live.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Two things have happened in the past few weeks that have made reflect on my extensive academic history here at Michigan… One was academic and the other more practical, but both prompted some revisiting of old notes, reading of material long since learned and mostly forgotten, and finally, a not-totally-unexpected-but-nonetheless-surprising vindication of prerequisites…

Read the rest of the post at!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cape Cod

This last weekend took Alicia and I to Falmouth, Massachusetts for the wedding of two wonderful MD/PhD candidate friends. It was an exciting excursion to Cape Cod (my first)! We flew into Providence, RI, rented a car, and headed to the Cape.

The weekend started with the delicious clam bake Matt and Heather had planned for their Welcome Dinner on Saturday night. There was so much food, and I disarticulated my first lobster. It was certainly tasty, but I think I prefer not to have to rip the legs off of my food in order to enjoy it. More lobster for everyone else!

Sunday morning and early afternoon Alicia and I drove out to Provincetown at the very end of the cape. It was a really pretty drive and we stopped and saw the Salt Pond Visitor Center for the Cape Cod National Seashore. There were people harvesting some kind of shellfish (maybe clams?), and the salt marshes were a completely different geography and ecosystem from any I’ve seen before.

When we got to P-Town, we headed straight to Gale Force Bikes, which according to my guidebook was the only place to rent a hybrid bike rather than a mountain bike. It turned out that these were not the sleek hybrids I was hoping for, but instead looked more like hybrid beach cruises. They were quite functional, if a little slow, however, and we made it across the cape (only a few miles) to Race Point Beach on the Atlantic side.

Biking quickly back into town, we had a delicious lunch, returned the bikes, and drove back to Falmouth for the wedding. It was a truly beautiful ceremony, perfectly suited to the bride and groom, and the reception was fun. I must say that my favorite part was the cake topper…

Congratulations Matt and Heather!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


As most of you know, this is not the only place to find me online. I've long been a blogger for the medical school admissions committee, and have recently started guest blogging for the American Medical Student Association. Starting this month, I'm departing from my previous practice of double posting everything and will likely just include periodic links here to my other posts (to preserve the integrity of the other spaces in which I am a guest).

You can find the beginning of my series of posts on returning to medical school here! The other posts at AMSA On Call are generally pretty good, though it is just getting started. Support us and leave a comment, send your friends, and come back often to check out new info.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Sadly this is not a typo… I did not see the new (and awesome-looking) Broadway musical produced by Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (FELA! if you haven’t heard about it)… As much as I would like to a) be in NYC b) have tickets to FELA! or c) not be de-flea-ing my dog and my apartment, I did in fact find a flea on Walter on Sunday and have been reacting to that ever since. Perhaps needless to say, I freaked out about it, but have since calmed down because as far as I can tell there are actually only a very small number of fleas at this point. I have nonetheless taken the following actions:

  • purchased a flea comb and killed several fleas myself by submersing them in soapy water – apparently they can hop out of non-soapy water unscathed, which I believe proves that they are the devil incarnate
  • liberally sprinkled Borax all my living room, working it into the carpet with a scrub brush, and then vacuumed it up
  • similarly Boraxed my mattress (and yes, it is a verb now)
  • written out a plan to Borax the rest of the apartment
  • identified a flea shampoo and spray that does not contain pyrethrins (because they are crazy toxic to everything, not just fleas) but instead dissolves the exoskeletons of the fleas to kill them
  • bathed the dog in said shampoo (resulting washing 4-5 dead fleas down the drain – yay!)
  • laundered pretty much every piece of fabric that the dog has ever touched

Keep your fingers crossed that they are taken care of…

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Having successfully made this twice now, I thought I’d share one of my newest favorite recipes. I’ve heard that the dough freezes well, so I have every intention of getting on top of things this weekend and making some little frozen naan-balls for next week or beyond. Once the dough is made the cooking is incredibly fast (and the bread is so good hot), so it seems best to make the dough ahead, but cook the bread right before eating. Mmmmm….

Basic Oven-Grilled Leavened Breads (Tandoori Naan)
Adapted from 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (but you can get away with 1 tsp)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (about 110F)
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
all-purpose flour for coating and dusting

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water and set aside about 5 minutes. Mix in the yogurt and oil.

Place the flour and salt in a food processor and mix. With the motor running, pour the yeast mixture into the work bowl in a thin stream and process until the flour gathers into a ball. Be careful not to over-process the dough! Add a little more flour if you need, but it’s better to have a slightly sticky dough than a dry one, particularly as you’ll be dusting the little balls with flour before you roll them out. Collect the dough into a ball and put it in a covered bowl in a warm place for at least an hour. (Batra recommends longer rising times, but I can never plan ahead that far and an hour or hour and a half seems to be plenty.)

Divide the dough into 10-12 balls. (At this point, depending on how long your broiler takes to heat up, you probably want to turn it on to get it warmed up.) Coat each dough ball in turn in flour and roll it out so that it is slightly thinner than your desired bread thickness. Place the naan on a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil (or water) to keep them from drying in the oven. Place the baking sheet under the broiler until small brown spots appear on the top surface. This will happen quickly – after only a minute or so! With a spatula, turn each naan over and put them back under the broiler until the other side is golden. (Or turn one naan over with your hand, run your fingers under cold water, and then get the spatula to turn the rest…)

You can baste them lightly with butter, but they are pretty good plain as well. Batra also presents some variations that I’d like to try, with extras that can either be added to the dough or made into a paste to baste the bread with after cooking: 3 large cloves of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon tumeric; 1 small onion, 1-2 fresh chile peppers, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or kalonji; 1 teaspoon each fenugreek, mint, and curry leaves, 1/4 teaspoon ajwain seeds (ground), 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Back to maize and blue…

Much of Ann Arbor was celebrating the start of the football season this weekend. There was much to celebrate: it’s not a million degrees outside anymore, the football team won a game, and fall is an exciting time generally. I chose to sing the praises of my alma mater by painting my living room blue, and my bedroom “egg custard” – which is a fancy shade of maize. I didn’t realize how little paint it really takes to cover just a single wall, and how big of an impact it would have on the overall moods of the rooms. Here they are before most of the pictures and other decorative things made their way up…

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Sewing success…

When I was visiting Ash in Vermont we went to a fancy little yarn and fabric store called Nido in Burlington. They had some beautiful (relatively) local yarn from Maine, a nice selection of high end and organic yarns, and really amazing fabrics, as well as some inspiring books. I haven’t sewn much in recent years, except for a few odds and ends, but was drawn to an Amy Butler pattern for a really beautiful bag. It was so pretty, and looked so functional. Before I completely took leave of my senses, I started to notice the details on the bag that would be new techniques for me: things that are not straight lines, piping, making something nice enough that I want to carry it around as a fashion item rather than having it sit around the house (mine or someone else’s). It occurred to me that there were many more things that I did not know how to do than things I did, and that perhaps this was not the pattern to start with. We left the store, but I kept thinking about the pattern and wondering whether I could do it.

Thankfully I didn’t buy the pattern, as I would have mangled some poor piece of fabric until I was so frustrated I stashed it in a bin in my closet for years to come, unable to finish it but unable to throw it out/donate it/repurpose it. I was, however, motivated to do a little sewing to assess my skill level. When I got home I promptly made a cover for my sewing machine, and then earlier today I crafted a cover for a pillow that has plagued me for years. It is really squishy and wonderful, but was a shade of electric blue that didn’t really fit with my design sensibility. I had attempted to knit it a cover at some point, but it was so ugly that the pillow sat in a bin in my closet for several years waiting for me to figure out what to do with it. (Yes, that was experience talking…) I’m quite happy with the result now, though I think I still have a lot to learn about sewing things in tubes…

I’m definitely not ready to make that amazing bag, but maybe over the next few years I’ll be able to sew a few more things and finally work up to it. I don't know that I really need any more long term goals, but I do know that I like being able to start and finish something in an afternoon or a few days!

As an aside, posting these pictures made me realize that I could probably also stand to learn a little bit about ironing, but who has time to iron when you're crafting???