Towards the end of 2013, Facebook highlighted some of my major events of the year. I thought it’d be interesting to reflect and comment on a sample of the pictures they showed me. I know it is super late, but as usual, medicine got in the way! I would like to offer a warning, however: the quality of this post is like a CIN grade II; the deeper you go, the more dysplastic it becomes. (i.e. it becomes crappier the more you read.) I didn’t realize that commenting on 20 photos would be so hard. It’s been way too long since the start of the new year so I just wanted to publish the post!

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This first picture is from a Christmas party in 2012 but was posted on Facebook in early January (so right off the bat we are breaking the year-in-review rule!). We are lounging and watching a UFC card. Obviously, not all of us were intensely focused. Back in the 2009-2010 year of undergraduate studies, 10 of us rented a house together. All of us have graduated, but we manage to stay in touch relatively well although we may not be able to gather the whole house together like at the pictured party. I feel fortunate to have met such generous and kind classmates with whom to share my college and post-graduate experiences.

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The Cardiology block greeted us with full force after our weeklong winter break. Reading books and learning from paper can be difficult, but occasionally we have opportunities to apply that knowledge in physical exams and patient interviews. This picture is my EKG from one such activity. (It would not be the only EKG this year; I would receive three more EKGs done later in the year to establish the diagnosis of a partial right bundle branch block. This pattern is hard to see in this picture of the age of the equipment used – my classmates definitely applied the leads correctly!) I remember being completely dumbfounded at all the lines and lead labels, but now I am glad that they make a bit more sense. Of course, I’m still nowhere near proficient at reading EKGs now – will need a lot more practice and repetition!

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Even though I had absolutely no experience in film-making, I was lucky enough to be a grip for the 2013 Student-Faculty show video. Alan, co-director with Zach, had editing skills I would say are unrivaled by past and former students at our medical campus. The final video can be seen here. (Alan has also filmed and edited another great video for the anatomy donor memorial.)

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Medical students obviously aren’t always serious. Sometimes we’re cheesy. The man in the seat, however, deserves all the praise for being a good friend and for his excellent work on the StuFac video.

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This is a picture from the multicultural fair held at our Student Center. Our school prides itself on being diverse. There were tables representing the the food, culture and activities of numerous nations. The Chinese table had the “Chinese” food that we Americans are accustomed to and activities like calligraphy. Here, Angela is seen holding up an ink bamboo drawing that was clearly done by her hand.

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First time being Facebook-hacked in 2013. The culprit: everyone in our group knows who it is!

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The OMNY Taiko group held a wonderful performance on April 21 in Manhattan. Can’t say enough good things about them. OMNY started off quite recently as a group and strove to spread a message of harmony through music. Now they have many participants and going strong. Everyone should experience the sound of taiko drums live.

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Med students do a lot of eating to prepare for studies (or just to distract ourselves from studying). This particular meal was a late-night dinner in Chinatown. The waiter is apparently explaining that they ran out of vegetables.

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Can’t wait for springtime! This is a tennis court located near the dormitories. this year, I hope we can have more sessions.

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More food!! This is a large gathering in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. Alan’s cousin, who we had the pleasure of meeting, is unfortunately not seen since he’s taking the pic.

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According to Facebook, I didn’t have any major events in the summer. Which is kind of true – most of my days were spent in the laboratory doing research. However, the more likely explanation for the dearth of photos is Alan’s absence. Anyways, more food! This was a gathering to celebrate our return to school. Yay!(?)

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Another back-to-school celebration. This was a barbecue with a bunch of second and first-year students.

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So much food!! Another celebration – this time for a friend. The name needs not be said because his intellect will become world renowned.

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This is a soccer team composed of Korean/Japanese international students. I was fortunate to have taught two of them at an English academy before starting med school. Although I’m not always able to travel up to Manhattan for their late-night scrimmages, they are always worth it. (By the way, this is PERFECTLY legal – you know who you are!!)

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This was a picture taken by Angela in the summer at Central Park. Normally, I would keep such photos to myself, but when another friend posted a trendy, warm-colored photo of himself rowing, I had to to post this as a tribute. 

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Angela majored in art during college, and her skills have obviously not disappeared. This was a game mat requested by a classmate that features the people we see most often at school, particularly the ones who play board/card games when there’s downtime. 

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Ramen or Triple I? The priority is obvious. I believe this was after I had been absolutely demolished by one of the block’s quizzes. 

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Green Deli? Ah yes, we haven’t heard that name in a long time. It was a sanctuary of Philly cheese steaks and late-night snack runs. But not to worry – it is still standing. It just has a new awning and a redecorated interior. For the record the official name of the place is Kanz Deli, but to us, it shall be known as: Deli The White.

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So ended the hardest block in med school history. The memories of those two months are bleak indeed. Let us not speak of it. 

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This is a picture from first year, courtesy of Alan (the same one mentioned and seen above). It was one of the earlier large outings I would participate in with my med school classmates. 

2013: Year in Review (Facebook)

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The Value of Sting and Things

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo finds a small weapon in a cave after the trolls have been defeated. It is of diminutive size and “would have made only a tiny pocket-knife for troll.” But to Bilbo, it is “as good as a short sword.” This weapon would eventually become known as Sting. Sting is a commonplace item and overshadowed by many one-of-a-kind items in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is given little thought by Bilbo’s companions, but it would play an important role in the stories of Bilbo and his nephew Frodo; it is valuable and irreplaceable.
 
In a Manhattan bookstore, Strand, my friend and I wandered up into the rare book collection on the top floor. There we saw books clearly from a different age. Their covers did not flash famous movie characters. Many had reliable pages that showed wear from much usage. All of them held special statuses. My friend commented on how the books produced today would never achieve such a state; nowadays there are too numerous copies – both physical and digital – of books for a single one to be valued highly. 
 
Do we value our possessions? In my case, I feel constantly under pressure to obtain newer items. In the span of the past month, I have had my eye on two newer models of items I already own: an iPad and a MacBook Pro. Of course, I knew that I didn’t need the updated models right away. For other big purchases, I promise myself that they would be the last for a while, but soon comes along another thing that I “need.”
 
Now, I am wondering why I was so willing to ditch my possessions. I want to be modern and up-to-date, but I know that the novelty of the new items will fade in short time. To be constantly in “update mode” is to have short acceptance of owned items and to have persistently nagging desires. It feels unfortunate to crave for what I don’t have and to undervalue what I do. 
 
Thus, for this holidays and for the new year, I will try to be appreciative of my material goods. I have all the tools I need to succeed and for that I am thankful. I will not be so quick and willing to abandon my things. Though, I still want Sting. 
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The Excision of…Empathy

Six Words: Hello. You. Don’t. Need. Stitches. Bye. These were all the words I was offered recently by a dermatologist. Granted, I was in her clinic for a small pre-approved procedure: an excision of a 4mm papule, which was later confirmed histologically to be a benign growth. The whole operation lasted mere seconds with the dermatologist’s skilled technique. But before I could thank her, she was already out the door. 
 
Our medical school places much emphasis on patient-centered clinical care. Students are taught that physicians should be welcoming, patient and empathetic. With all the work that modern doctors have, it is said that these qualities can be lost. I have had experiences in busy clinics that felt rushed and artificial. However, I had always believed that doctors genuinely cared about their patients even if they did not have time to express it. Of course, an ideal interaction needs time and my concerns were not as grave as in other patients. I would trust those doctors if I end up in more alarming situations.
 
The visit to the dermatologist felt much authentic. She was a young Asian doctor who graduated from and attended residency at excellent programs. I felt a strong connection to her at first and believed that we could form a strong patient-doctor partnership. (On a side note, what’s with all these papules and macules popping up all over my body??) I felt this way primarily because she was closer to me in age than my previous docs. Surely she must’ve learned about patient-centered care! 
 
She walked in and greeted me only after I had said, “Hi.” She chatted with the nurse about the latest drugs in acne treatment as she prepared her equipment. She maneuvered my bed to her liking and started her procedure. About a minute later, she mentioned that contrary to what she expected, stitches would not be needed. She requested the cautery tool on the other side from the nurse and resumed her work. When the procedure was done, the nurse finished up. I lifted my head afterwards only to see the dermatologist walking out.
 
It was disappointing to be on the patient side of such a closed interaction. I at least had an inkling of what was occurring. But I also had concerns and curiosities that were not addressed. These feelings were compounded since I was supine and could not observe any part of the procedure. 
 
In retrospect, I supposed I could have been more assertive and asked questions. Even as someone who was in same professional field as the physician, I felt like she was in the position of power and held the right to initiate dialogue. But she offered no opening and never asked if I had any questions or concerns. She is the doctor and she knows best. I am just a lowly medical student and had no right to challenge her authority. (Maybe it’s just the Asian reserve.) Even a goodbye was fought for. Upon leaving the procedure room, I saw her writing intently in a file on her desk. I almost felt bad when I thanked her and said goodbye, to which she responded with a monosyllabic farewell. 
 
The degree of discomfort I felt, I’m sure, is nothing compared to what a person not acquainted in the health professions would have felt. As a future physician (hopefully!), I will be able to make patients feel comfortable and welcome in the clinic. 
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A Re-Do (Once)

Hello again! It looks the promise made in my undergraduate days to write blog entries was not fulfilled. Just two entries?! That drive did not last long. (In fact, I forgot that I even had a blog set up –  it was only after I tried creating a new account and saw that someone had already created a profile with my username that I realized this blog still existed.) I can think of multiple reasons why I stopped: I wrote those two entries while working at the gate in Binghamton, so I must’ve been super bored. I probably did not see the point of writing publicly in a space that will hold the attention of only a couple people, myself included. Or I may not have seen the value in writing about my feelings and reflections. I did seek an avenue for logging the happenings of my days, but for that I resorted to word processors and apps. Now, however, I feel the urge to contribute to this blog again!

While there were many reasons that I stopped writing, there are many reasons why I’d like to resume writing blog entries. For one, Alan, a classmate for whom this entry is named, maintains his own blog and updates it frequently. I enjoy reading about how other people experience life – his blog is especially intriguing since we are fighting through school together. 

Another inspiration comes from Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon and author. In his book Better, he describes a speech he gave to medical students. One of the topics was how to contribute to and propel medicine, a field that is already filled with spectacular people caring for millions of patients. Medicine is so vast that one may feel like a “white-coated cog in a machine.” Dr. Gawande lists five actions that we can take – one of them is writing. The odds are that I will not write a masterpiece that will shatter conventions. However, I hope to contribute at least slivers of ideas that will allow glimpses into medicine, as ordinary as it may be. 

I also hope that writing blog entries will allow me to become more expressive and to hone my writing skills. I have always been a quiet person. I still remember my high school advisor warning me that I would not succeed as a medical student or doctor without becoming less introverted. My status as a medical student refutes that idea, but I think there is still merit in what he said. I rely on my ability to absorb and integrate information, but that skill is wasted if I am not efficient at relaying my thoughts. In this blog, I hope to provide a clear interpretation of my experiences. In addition, I have noticed that my writing ability has plummeted since graduating from college. Hopefully blogging with halt that decline. 

At this point, I don’t have a clear direction of this blog in mind. But I will try to provide frequent updates of my experiences in medical education, ramblings about life and stories about fun stuff, whatever that may be. 

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Smile and Wave to Make Someone’s Day

A kind gesture can go a long way.

I forget for what product or service, but there is this commercial floating around that shows how just one exemplary deed can create a cascade of noble acts. Even though the people in the commercial were not connected in a close way, simply witnessing a moral deed made them more inclined to perform a moral deed. This process can happen subconsciously. Warm-hearted thoughts can spread drastically from just one simple action. Sounds pretty corny, right? That idea is showcased in a lot of movies, but can never be worn out. It is an elegant fact that I experienced first hand tonight.

The Binghamton University main entrance booth was once again my home for five tiresome hours. As any other night, the vehicles that passed spent a maximum of maybe ten seconds at the window. For three hours, I looked up at license plates, held up a habitual thumb, and then waved unemotionally as the patrons passed. Then along came a taxi driver.

This taxi driver was not like the other cab drivers in Binghamton, (Cheer up dudes!). He pulled over, opened the trunk, and took out a Wal-mart bag that contained a handbag and purse. The purse contained many credit cards and cash. He inquired that I help get these belongings to the rightful owner. He also refused to accept any rewards and even gave me his number for the police to call and inform him that the items were returned. This was a man who said paying for a new license was too expensive. Instead of staying anonymous and hoarding the stuff for himself, he decided to give it back.

Needless to say, I was smiling a lot more to the subsequent vehicles. Those drivers even smiled and waved back. Who knows that great deeds they will do today?

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Just Another Weblog!

As I sit in the Binghamton University entrance booth, I can’t help but think, “This is what prison must be like.” The time is 1:38 A.M. I look outside and realize that the sky is starless and pitch black. The only light comes from the the numerous street lights hugging the roads. However, they serve little purpose. The bulbs illuminate empty streets. The roads are usually bustling, but not on this cold night. It is a very lonely evening indeed. No sign of company except the virtual voices of my friends (friend) on AIM. This is a pathetic existence; I am waiting for cars to enter. Each vehicle that arrives at the intersection up ahead is a tease. Yes, this is definitely a prison.

Who am I kidding? I have created this prison. Here I am with my laptop, which has Internet access and Katy Perry songs on repeat. A two inch thick MCAT study book sits nearby, slowly collecting dust and looking neglected. The pages are barely rippled and the cover is still glossy as it was on the day of purchase. But instead, I chose to open a blog.

What will I write? When will I write? wILL i WriTe CoRRECtly? I have no idea. It has been twenty long years, and yet I have have never kept a diary of any sort to trace my humble legacy. I guess my goal is to try and be more expressive, both in person and in writing. This blog will help me with the latter.

Right now, the name of this blog is “Just another wordpress.com weblog.” For the time being, I think that will do. Hello World!

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