(NYtimes, reg required)
This article describes the man who uncovered Ecstasy, who believes in "the pursuit and celebration of chemically-induced alternate realms of consciousness" and has had at least 4,000 psychedelic experiences. He has created over 200 such compounds, and tested many of them on himself. It's interesting to read about such different mindsets about the use of psychedelic drugs, especially in the light of the new Ecstasy studies. I truly believe that such compounds do have theraputic potential, and that studies should be done, though I'm not sure I'd be willing to go through all the red tape to design such a study.
I love Gross Anatomy
Many of my fellow students hate it, some of them tolerate it, but I must say that I love my gross anatomy course. I was lucky enough to be paired up with a good group of students with very similar learning goals and expectations. But having a good group does not fully explain my love for the course (though having a bad group can explain why some people hate it). We didn't get to choose our groups, which I think worked out for the best for me, as I've gotten to really know a couple of people I wouldn't have elsewise.
I just find it fascinating. I almost get a little thrill anytime we find an anatomical variation, or when a nerve or vessel suddenly pops into view and I can positively identify what it is. I enjoy exploring the body and discovering how we're all put together. I don't mind the time spent in lab at all (in fact, I'd like to have even more time in the lab); I think I actually get much more out of a 3 hour dissection than studying the notes for 3 hours. In fact, I do have to admit that I rarely study the notes (or go to lecture for that matter), and gross is my best class. (Shh...don't tell my professors that) Perhaps I'm lucky that I never really have to study for the practicals because identification is easy for me, but I the studying doesn't bother me either since I'm so into the material.
Part of my love for gross stems from the fact that I'm a very visual learner. Seeing how things are constructed and connected makes it much easier for me to understand how something works, and what happens when things go wrong. I wish all my classes were like gross anatomy.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Last night, Dave and I were talking about various large purchases that we will make in the relatively near future (house, car, etc.) and of course, we concluded that in order to actually get what we want, we'd have to win the lottery. He asked me what I would do with my life if I never had to work, and could do anything I wanted.
My answer would be to do exactly what I'm doing now. I couldn't imagine doing anything else with my life. A future without medicine, without research, is not at all appealing to me. Having money would of course make things easier (I could get a housekeeper so that doing normal chores doesn't put me a day behind in studying, a personal trainer to force me to work out, and a chef to make sure I eat decent food). I think that, despite my struggles with school right now, and the fact that I don't exactly love the first year of school, I would definitely continue. I know that even though I will be in school until I'm 30, the end result will certainly justify all of the work I put into it. And I can't see myself happy doing anything else with my life. I'm glad I feel this way, because I couldn't imagine devoting so much of my life to something that I could just give up if a lot of good fortune rolled my way.
One thing I know for sure though, is that if we win the lottery, I will certainly take much better vacations. The nonstop pace of school has been incredibly draining. I miss the MIT philosophy of having at least one day off a month for holidays and such, and devoting the month of january to independent study. It made it so much easier to stay focused, and to get everything done without neglecting things like laundry and real food.
Speaking of laundry, its time to switch loads!
Besides the fact that this question came up on every application I filled out, many people have asked why I decided to do a Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) instead of just going to a medical school or graduate program. The quick answer is that I really love school, and I'm not ready for a "real job." And hey, who doesn't love looking forward to eight more years of school?
The first time I ever remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was in first grade. My answer was "A house painter." Now, I didn't want to be someone who just painted siding, or the interior of a house. I wanted to be someone who painted art all over people's houses. Nevermind that I have absolutely no artistic talent. I then went through typically elementary school dreams--teacher, ballet dancer, veterinarian, etc. In high school, I started out planning to work in theater, and then discovered that I loved science more than anything. Somewhere in there I uncovered a love of all things relating to the brain, and decided to pursue medicine. I got a job in a pharmacy, and taught myself how various drugs worked. I applied to MIT because I knew I wanted to study the brain, knew I didn't want a traditional psychology degree, and knew that the Brain and Cognitive Sciences degree was interdisciplinary and very flexible.
I entered MIT thinking that in the end, I would still apply to medical school. But then the time came for me to get a job, and because MIT has a wonderful undergraduate research program, I was able to completely fund my MIT education by working in various labs. The summer after my freshman year, I worked at the NIH, where I had the opportunity to work along side many physician scientists. I loved working in an environment where clinical medicine and research were mixed, where researchers worked with interesting patient populations and were actually able to see the difference they made in these patients' day-to-day lives. And so I decided that I wanted to focus on research as well as medicine. I continued working in research (a topic perhaps for a future post), and applied, and was accepted to a PSTP program.
So here I am, in my first year of medical school, trying to remember that once I get past these pesky first few years I can start pursuing what I really love. Of course, I do find what i'm learning now to be interesting, and it's unfortunate that my life sort of got in the way of my dreams for awhile. But I will continue on the best I can, knowing that in eight or nine years I'll be out of school and ready to start a new chapter in my life.