They've seen us!!! We're RESCUED!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go. I'm standin' here outside Winair. I hate to wake the goats up to say goodbye. But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn. The dog is waitin', he's barkin his horn. Already I'm so elated I could die. Cause I'm leaving on a prop plane, I don't know when I'll be back again...
This is it. Got my passport, and one-way ticket home. It's been a journey and a half, and I'm hopeful I've learned enough to make it to the next Step. But for now, it's travel and some welcome R & R before starting the push for boards and my date with destiny. Another long day, but I know the drill by now after 6 runs. Hopefully all the bags and flights are on time, and together. Can't wait to be home again.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In the islands, there is only one thing more predictable than the weather... holidays! Today is 'Koninkrijksdag' or 'Kingdom Day'. it's a national holiday here and in the Netherlands and happens every December 15. It celebrates the signing of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands by
So today, nothing official can get done. I'm quite sure though that the green bottles will flow, and political conversation will spew. Or will the bottle spew, and conversation flow? As this place goes back to the kingdom, while most countries seek independence, the celebration will likely be the last one. In 2010, the last of the "overseas territories" will be gone, and all will either be back in the kingdom (not just a territory), or independent (like St. Maarten, Curacao, etc). This really is very historical but likely will not get the appreciation it deserves.
And I will continue to get ready to depart, also for the last time. Knowing that the next time I come to visit, if and when, I'll be entering a new place with more rules, regulations, organization, services, and taxes. It's bittersweet leaving now, but I'm a bit happy I won't have to live through the challenges that likely will be when the transition actually occurs.
So as we go back to the rule of the kingdom, Happy Kingdom Day!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
"The toughest sacrifices are the ones we don't see coming. When that happens, when the battle chooses us, that's when the sacrifice can turn out to be more than we can bear."
Hard day. And I thought it was really out of my mind.
It never is, is it?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The mind has an amazing way of protecting us from the traumas of our lives. We experience great stresses and like the small animal injured in a fight, the mind squelches the event and moves us forward to new challenges and new risks. Such is the experience of the past few days and months.
The memories are becoming buffered by the action of the mind and everyone speaks of the "good times", and great friends, and wonderful experiences. But if you listen closely, you can hear the remnants of some of the trauma hidden by the artificial expressive aphasia imposed by the mind. For speaking the truth in many cases, while factual, only resurfaces the wounds. And while those truth traumas are really there, we have to thank the brain for doing it's handiwork.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Coming to the 1/2 way point of this monster, I realize that I've learned so much since I hit the start all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not that I'm any less bright and bushy (cuz I'm not), but I've had some sense knocked into me for sure. I'm so thankful for the wonderful mentors and teachers along the way here. They are the reason I came and stayed in spite of the processes that threatened to derail us.
I came on faith and the recommendations of my friends who graduated from here now directors, practicing docs, residents and interns. They said that the campus was filled with role models, respect for the students and a pathway to the goal I sought. So I came, and learned.
I've learned that respect is something that is earned, not demanded. I've learned that quality is created, not accidentally stumbled upon by filling up slides. I've learned that quality doesn't have to be packaged in a pretty building. I've learned that our students are some of he most tenacious, focused learners in spite of great adversity and forces willing to impede progress. I've learned that not all change is good change, and can be dangerous if not recognized as such. I've learned that often little things create the greatest footprint of impact and effect. I've learned that, at times, doing the right thing is just walking away.
In retrospective sum, I see the great things accomplished, but I'm sure that my brain is deliberately hiding from me the traumas we were subjects of. I appreciate the experience so far, my classmates and the opportunity. And I'm ready for the next phase of the learning and hopeful I didn't learn too much, or too little.
Cause the next "step" is coming....and it's a doozie!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
HIPAA Privacy Rule - protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information
I have to admit, I'm a novice when it comes to experiencing health care delivery beyond the borders of the U.S. So this Caribe healthcare experience has been truly "new" in many, many ways. But one of the most amazing to me, it the protection of privacy. To the extent possible, the providers do their best, but in a population of less than 5,000 where everyone knows everyone, is that really possible?
Further exacerbating the situation is the rather free flowing way that care is delivered and how patient privacy is protected, or not. One encounter truly summed that up for me the other day.
I am sitting with the doc in his private office. There are 3 doors entering the room from the hallway, the next door treatment room, and an adjacent patient room.
A patient walks in with another person and sits down near the physicians desk. I thought the other person was family or close friend. Au contraire! They hardly knew each other. It was the "next" patient in line, sharing the space. But it didn't seem to matter to the patient. Just then the door flies open and a nurse from the hospital, and the hospital administrator walk in. They engage the physician in a conversation about a patient and his family (by name) needing assistance. During the conversation, the nurse next door enters another door and announces that Mr. So and so is ready to see the doc in the treatment room. When the midwife walked in to consult the doc about Ms. such and such and her baby, a phone call engaged the doc in a conversation about Mr. Some and such coming back on island after seeing a specialist.
I looked around. There were 7 of us in the room, and the doc on the phone. Everyone heard everything about everybody. The patient, patiently awaited attention to be turned back on her and her headache.
HIPAA Privacy; apparently, just a formality.
Monday, December 7, 2009
One of the buzz phrases of medical education has been the concept of "cultural competence." Loosely, cultural competence in health care services is the ability of individuals, and the systems they are a part of, to provide health care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors.
When I taught this class in an earlier life, I used the CLAS standards as the model for the behaviors that organizations and individual practitioners should use as a guide. Although the CLAS standards are primarily directed at health care organizations, individuals can use them as a guide to make their practice of medicine more culturally and linguistically accessible. This is becoming more and more important as populations become more blended with individuals of diverse backgrounds, religions, nationalities, races, sects and...most importantly...health care belief systems.
I cannot imagine a better place to learn the practice of culturally appropriate health care than where I am. I realized in clinic how far I've come to understand the Caribe culture, and language. First, most would say it's really English, but I say ney ney, ya? Iz der speak aw bra! (nothing to do with lingerie). Me bellie ben hurtz whir I coo coo (nothing to do with psych). Da water ist burn offa me git upa bed. After a few hundred patients, I'm actually beginning to understand most of it, but find myself totally baffled at times. I'm sure I have this deer in the headlights look when I nod as if I know all that is being said. I'm sure I laugh at the wrong times occasionally. The Caribe-English can be quick, choppy, rhotic, glottal, accented, sporadic with influences from Jamaica, Barbuda, Africa, Netherlands, the UK, France and Wales. Ah, but iz Stashia mon!
But then the culture falls away to the frank ills of this land. The charts stack up with the same chief complaints I hear in the U.S.: Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, poor nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, stroke, COPD, asthma, emphysema, flu, cataracts, glaucoma, melanoma and other cancers. Illness is a non-judgmental taker of life and health, without prejudice. Disease respects no boundaries or artificial segregation. It is truly equal opportunity. The subjective descriptions by the patient just sound a little different.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
It's been a hectic last few weeks getting ready to complete basic sciences and move onward to the next phase of training. With all the gloom and doom discussions, and continuous drone about school, I'm ready to move onward, and not a moment too soon. Lots of discussion about exams and such. It's such an inane conversation, truly an arbitrary system. Amazing how dogmatic people can get about this stuff. It's so contrived.
On that note, If large number of students are failing exams, that's not education...it's ego; teacher ego. Either the exam is too hard, or is poorly written. It is about ego creating an us vs. them mentality, adversarial instead of cooperative and mentoring. It is the creation of the antithesis to team work in healthcare. Students are not dumb, but teachers can be so vain and full of their position power that they succeed in seeing students as dumb, and working diligently to prove the point on exams...their only weapon in the great fight. Worse than having this environment is having it be supported by leadership. The greatest disappointment in school is when students recognize problems, and leadership is unable, or unwilling to move beyond "I know better" into "how can we make it better". There are no easy answers, but there are easy efforts. And in many cases, the effort and the process is more important than the reality.
Back on track...out of here. One of the last events of the process is getting away from the island, cleared of all "crimes and misdemeanors", bills, debts, cusses and discusses. It's basically a signature and pretty stamp scavenger hunt concocted by who knows who. But in a little less than two days I had my done and I was "cleared"...Cleared to leave without risk of being detained in some manner. What a sweet, sweet word.
So I've officially (or mostly) survived this part of my education and learning (very different and sometimes mutually exclusive terms). I've navigated the right to move forward and onward to the next phase and for that I am grateful. As wonderful as parts of this experience has been, I'm very excited about getting off the rock and integrating back into some sense of civilization, sanity and clarity. Patient care soon, soon.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I've gone and done it. I've signed up for the first national exam to practice medicine in the U.S. What a fear inducing process! It's all online and with a few simple clicks, it's done. $700 later, I look to the horizon for three months or so hence to sit down and take this beast on. I've got some time to prepare, but being the most important exam to date is daunting.
So what do I have to do now? Study. I need at least the national average 225 or so to be competitive for rotations and residency. I need to blow this thing out of the water if possible so I can compete against the twenty somethings for those coveted spots. I hope that I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, but I don't have a lot of second chances left in me.
For the moment, just keep swimming!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I'd really like to teach again, at least one on one with an interested health care student. I miss the interaction and the cognition of the "ah ha" moments in others. I've missed seeing that here since it so rarely happens. And this sabbatical has really shown me a lot about good and bad teaching.
Good teaching is about passion, as well as reason. It's about motivating without coercion. It's about teaching others how to learn and making that lesson relevant, meaningful and memorable. It's about substance and treating students as consumers. It's about staying on top of the information you teach, and teaching relevant practical points over useless "I know more than you" knowledge. It's about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It's about listening, being responsive and questioning if necessary. It's about pushing students to excel with reasonable expectations while being human, and respecting the student. It's about not having a fixed agenda, being too rigid but instead being flexible, and fluid. It's not about "finishing" the material. It's a creative balance between being a dictator and being a pushover. It's about style, entertainment and still filled with substance. It means working the room and addressing every student directly in that room. It's about recognizing individual learning styles, and proficiencies and working to address them. It's about not taking yourself too seriously and a sense of humor. It's about caring, nurturing and devoting time...not just to test and presentation creation but to the student. It is supported by strong visionary leadership with a strong vision of what is appropriate and necessary.
Having had REALLY good teachers has been a great blessing and a great curse. I cherish the interactions and the learning, but despise the level of expectation it has created in me. I think I miss out on opportunities because of that prejudice and I don't think I'll be able to accept less than the quality I've come to expect in others, and myself. One of the dangers of being an older dude with a history.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I know I'm going to miss this experience at some level. I've enjoyed the overall environment and the people. This was a good choice, and I'm sure, heralds a wonderful future to the last part of my life. The learning has been wonderful, albeit difficult at times. The living has been challenging, while still inspiring.
Most of all I'll miss the natural beauty. It's part of my soul, even before I got here, that I'm connected with nature around me. I love the water and the land. I appreciate it all. Best of all, it has been my sanity when there seemed to be none left. It's been my balance when the imbalances piled up. And I know, someday soon, I'll know how much I miss being here despite roaming animals, water shortages, absence of real culture or burgers, the mosquitos...
At some point we have to slow down, take stock and ready for the next day. That's what I've done here, and I hope that I can continue that work no matter what or who is around me.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Hard to believe that the end of this part, the first part, of training is nearly over. We are making preparation for leaving the rock and readying ourselves for taking the most important board of our careers to dates. I'm stunned at how quickly it feels we got here, but I relive the daily slog thru the 567 days in my mind regularly. But who's counting.
After taking the sample boards, and realizing how much we have to study for the next months before the national exam, we are finishing up our experience in the hospital. It's been great. I've really enjoyed watching the local physicians do their magic without the common conveniences I've come accustomed to appreciate. There is no x-ray, no ultrasound, no major labs, no surgery, no CT/MRI, and no EKG machine. Diagnostic is basically bedside combined with amazing low tech skills and lots of experience. It's not sophisticated, but it is magical in a way and a pleasure to watch.
We have engaged in some interesting discussions as well about what's coming with clinical rotations, and testing and such. Mostly I've enjoyed the discussions about the future and choosing a practice specialty. I'm particularly interested in that for my own sake and choosing a balance between practice and private life, while still providing a much needed, core service. I still envision being that "anything that walks thru the door" doc in the hinterlands.
It is a very strange world in which we erupt into this phase of training and I am anxious to hear the pondering of our clinical faculty. The doctoring profession has been so mis- and devalued by what I've come to understand as "the business." It's not fashionable or profitable to be a general practitioner, yet it is our countries greatest need. I've seen an over emphasis on doing CPT coded procedures, and a sense that specialists are the only ones who know anything. Yet the patient centered "home" model where the doc knows the patient from "womb to tomb" seems to be what people want. But the finances, and legals get in the way. How to navigate that? I'm not sure, but hope to find out in the next two years.
My initial goal is to stay far afield of the financial conflicts that creep into our lives as new docs. I won't test or market products for drug or equipment companies and will scrutinize continuing medical education carefully, even though it's required. I'm not interested in serving the commercial interest Gods anymore. I recently turned down a steak dinner from a drug rep. Somewhere in this new world there is practice which is largely governed by patient advocacy, ethics and professional doctoring values in a private, not for profit realm of the wood. I'm moving thru cynicism and hopefully see clearly the "man behind the curtain." I'm sure it won't be a yellow brick road.
But I am heartened when I see the docs here talking to patients at he beside, doing a classic Bates history and physical and actually making a sophisticated diagnosis without the high tech to depend on, or worrying about the lawyers in the hallway. There is something wonderful and pure about professional practice in the absence of profit, and a defensive posture, even if we can't get a chest x-ray.
Monday, November 9, 2009
We started making the transition from classroom to the wards today. Getting into the hospital really is exciting given the fact that we have been pretty much sitting in class for almost two years. The smell of the hospital, the patients and staff walking around...gave me the chills, in a good way.
The hospital is small and ill equipped by standards enjoyed by most westernized city hospitals. There is no x-ray, no ultrasound, no EKG, no surgery, and limited blood-work services. For anything major, patients have to be shipped out to another island. But then, the skills of the physicians here are truly amazing, and their beside clinical assessment skills are excellent and they demonstrate that high tech can be somewhat replaced by high touch, and skill with history and physical exam. It is something I hope to remember.
But I can see that there are challenges in this environment. First is the heat and moisture. If you were going to create the perfect environment for the breeding of infection, this would be it. And then there are the mosquitos and the flies. Without A/C the windows are open and fans are blowing, but the mosquitos and flies abound. In the world of Dengue fever, and other mosquito borne diseases, this is a challenge. Lastly, the dust...it's everywhere. Diligent housekeepers are working nearly round the clock, but in the dry conditions of late, there is dust everywhere, covering nearly everything uncovered.
Certainly not ideal conditions to heal and get better from trauma and disease, but what a great opportunity to learn about hard core, basic medicine. I really missed that the first time around and hope to gain some great skills of beside clinical exam without the high tech trimmings (except maybe my smartphone). The frontier of primary care will be much more interesting if I can stay focused on that instead of all the other political and apolitical chatter.
It's really pretty exciting to stand at the doorway to the next phase of this training. It's still, and maybe more so, a rush!
Monday, November 2, 2009
People change in medical school. I noticed it one day waiting for class and found myself marveling at how one of my classmates had morphed over the past two years. Beyond the dichotomy of whether that is good or bad, it just is.
When you strip away the expectations of parents, friends, family and others; social pressures to become a doctor; and all the hype...you are left with your own values, dreams, personality and the true self. In the stress of school, particularly in the aberrant pressure and competition against others for grades (our retarded system here), that true self is subject to change.
I have found that to be one of the great challenges in this endeavor and work daily to avoid the pitfalls of what I see around me both in classmates, and in the physicians I have worked with in the past. My goal is to emulate those that maintain that true "sane" self, and don't morph into another species, burn outs, psych patients or surgeons that throw instruments at unwitting nurses and equipment technicians.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
But as long as that isn't a train coming toward me, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's coming to the end of this part of the process of becoming a doc. I've always thought that basic sciences is more of a fraternal hazing than anything, but I've come to appreciate the baseline of knowledge that it is, and the reasons for that foundation in the future. The hurdle is not way out there anymore..it's right around the corner. I just need to navigate this last stage of basic sciences and the imposition that it is.
I've learned so much. I've eaten so many pancakes...many overdone, some underdone, some not even looking like pancakes. Now it is time to spit them out and finally be done with this phase. I know the learning isn't over, but I'm hopeful that life beyond this stage is a more an adult learning experience filled with self direction, mentors that lead and direct, and learning that is for the sheer joy of it, rather than the huge imposition that it has become. I have great faith since I've had such experiences...and I can't wait.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I was having this conversation the other day, so this is for that person, but worthwhile for anyone about to deal with patients.
I've had my share of really angry patients over the years...
* Keep your perspective straight. The anger usually isn't about you — even if the patient believes it is.
* Assess your safety. Do you need a witness? Should you leave the door open? Is this a matter best handled by security or the police?
* If at all possible, sit. Sitting tells the patient you have all the time in the world to solve this problem (although we all know you do not).
* Acknowledge the anger. "I feel like you are angry," is an honest way to start the conversation. Alternatively, "I feel our communication has broken down" can help the patient feel heard and steer the conversation toward resolution, and not just go-nowhere venting.
* Get to the real source of concern. Did the nurse have to stick the patient three times for venous access? Is he afraid he will die? Probe gently but persistently to get to the core issue.
* Then, stay silent and listen. The complaint may be 100 percent valid, completely insane, or — more likely — somewhere in between. But you won't know unless you let the patient talk.
* Ask what he would like for you to do; then negotiate. If he demands high-dose morphine PCA, offer a p.r.n. narcotic or NSAID. If he demands instant test results, offer to call and find out when the final report may be available. Don't do anything medically unreasonable or inappropriate. You are, after all, the doctor.
* Offer an alternative outlet. Depending on the issue, you may not be the appropriate person to resolve your patient's anger. The office manager can often help the patient feel his concerns are being addressed.
* Once again, remember that the anger isn't about you…most of the time anyway.
Some good applications in life too.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Break was way to short. It always is. But I think it was the best that could be expected given the time frame. Great time with family, friends, food and foolery. Mentally rejuvenated and 10 pounds heavier. Ready to tackle even the most challenging....WHAT? A test!? The first day of class, covering everything we have ever done since we started learning? Tell me you are kidding. Tell me where the ibuprofen is!
The new term brings new students, new hopes, new fears, new schedules, new rules, new faculty, new leadership, new money...you can just feel the "newness" ooze from every wallboard pore. It's the same old island; Nothing ever changes for the most part. But the attitude and environment on campus is palpably different. We just don't know what to expect, but are hopeful none the less. I am back. And dare I say, we are back.
I hope I passed the test today. It's going to be a long haul to that infamous Step 1. I can feel it getting closer. I can see the light...but then again, it could be that train coming at me I keep dreaming about.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Break...between terms. A great time to take inventory and figure out how to regroup for the next assault. And the next one will be one for sure. The pinnacle of processing thru the first two years of medical school is the "first" Step exam (part 1)...an assessment of knowledge since starting medical school. It is daunting at best, for even the smartest 20 something. For me, it seems like a beast. But I am blessed with some insight, motivation, and at least a sense of what I need to do to get ready for it. I'm sure I'll be as ready as I can be after the next few months, but I have to stay focused on the goal and the path to success that lies in service to others without expectation of reward.
The other inventory taken during breaks is that of the "other" life; often the one we leave behind when engaged in graduate school. That other life seems more uncomfortable and I feel as inept in it as ever. For nerds like me there is comfort in the one on one study that is medical school. With only me against the process and the knowledge. It is what it is, and so be it is what it is. My worry about it won't change it, or make it feel any more comfortable. Why is it that those so close have the propensity to do the most harm and show the least respect and most disregard? I should cherish and even revere their "honestly", but I don't.
I go back to school more hopeful than ever about the learning, the environment, the stability of the institution, the faculty, and the organization as a whole. The rest, as it has been so eloquently stated, is up to me and I accept that challenge. It's far easier than real life in that regard, and there are no photo reminders of more brutal times. Bearing it alone is so better. A shame I wasn't born in the Aussie "Outback". I believe it's time for a walkabout.
"Without hope of reward, provide help to others. Bear suffering alone, And share your pleasures with beggars." - Nagarjuna, "Precious Garland"
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Summer term is OVER! At least the lecture, classroom part. Final exam are next week and they can't come too soon. I'm really already ready for them since I come in with pretty good grades and have been keeping up, but wait I will. And then break, and home. Can't wait. YAY!
"And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn..."
In the hills of New York state, 40 years ago, there was a failed concert. There were too many people, no organization, too few services and some of the worst rainstorms of the season. But it was an event that probably changed many people. Today is the anniversary of that concert.
I'm pretty sure at the age of 12 that my parents wouldn't have let me go to Woodstock, but it influenced my choices in music for the rest of my life. I still have some of the greats on my IPod: Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, John Sebastian, Jefferson Airplane, Paul Butterfield, Arlo Guthrie, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Richie Havens, Country Joe and the Fish, Joan Baez, The Who, Joe Cocker, Sha Na Na (yes, "Bowser"), and Canned Heat. The first real album I heard and owned in college was Jefferson Starship. I still get silent listening to a full rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Jimi. Am I still listening to Santana's music after 40 years? Amazing! And when I met Stephen Stills in Hawaii I was speechless.
But the real effect was the thread of spirit and thought it laid down in future friends, camp counselors and bunk mates, relatives and in my heart, and the sense of rebellion it kindled in my psyche. I'm not sure that is all a good thing, but it's there none the less and I'm still marching to a different drummer after all these years. Happy 40th Anniversary!
"And I get by, with a little help from my friends..."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Looking NE just right of St. Maarten around midnight thru the early morning we should have a nice view of the Perseid (the constellation) meteor shower. They predict several 100 per hour and I'm sure I'll be able to find a lonely location far from city lights. Oh wait, we have no cities! COOL!
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'm getting into that mental frenzy called finals prep, but I don't feel to panicked at this point. I guess I'm either delusional that I know this stuff, or I'm just getting used to the routine. This is, after all, the 16th barrage of block exams. Maybe I am just getting used to it. I still have about a week to study. Plenty of time by standards, if I've been keeping up, and I have....eating those pancakes everyday. can't wait for break though.
The only imponderable in my otherwise drab island existence of study and island life is the impending storm season and one particularly interesting one just coming off the African coast to our east. It's got no name, but it's heading our way. This is the predicted Aug 16 position based on my trusty sailing wind predictor.
At that rate, and if it continues its course and path of development, it will strike the island when I'm safely in Florida. But that could be good or bad. I'm going to have to watch this one. I don't like the idea of a "big one" hitting when I'm not here, but nothing I can do about that now. Waiting, watching, studying....
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I think you can judge the level of society sophistication and progression by it's leash laws. I am officially in a 4th world country. I got attacked on the beach by a vicious dog today. No worries...no blood. Fortunately as I emerged from the water, I had my mask and snorkel in hand and as the beast leaped for my calf I hit him with the mask. He was pissed, but I wasn't hurt. Statia is no place to get bit. I'd probably have to be airlifted to a 3rd world country for treatment and that would suck just prior to finals.
What is it about places like this and their attitudes toward dogs? Dogs are mistreated, chained to car bumpers, running wild killing sheep and attacking humans...and there doesn't seem to be a care about it. A place can truly be judged by how it treats it's animals.
Monday, August 3, 2009
The end of summer, and my time here, is almost over. Summerfest ends today. The parades this past weekend heralded the end of the Carnivale season and the end of summer. Only a few weeks more til finals this term and I can already feel "break" ahead. Time to really hit the books hard for cumulative final exams.
It is also nearly the end of my "season" here. As I left immigration with my new annual "license" to be here, I realized I've been here over a year and that my time is coming to an end. The tell tale sign? My old immigration permit was punched with three huge "invalidation" holes punctuate the end of one year. National U.S. boards will be upon me soon enough and clinical rotations will begin the trek toward M.D. hood.
It was a busy weekend with lots of end of summer events, some amazing diving and lots of thoughts about life beyond Caribe medical school. It's been an amazing experience. I'll miss it.
There was a series of amazing "fly overs" this past weekend of both the shuttle (before in landed) and the Space Station. The night is so dark and filled with stars that the view was amazing. Note to self: Walk up slowly on free ranging donkey encountered on night time walks to view the Space Station flying by. They spook easily, protect their young, and don't like humans much.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Our perceptions about the world around us, and how we interact with the world, are filtered through the perspective of who we really are and what we thrive on. As I watch the sunset, sitting on my Caribe island, studying the depths of human physical illness, I've discovered (again) a tremendous pleasure that I can only enjoy when I am alone, therefore the desire to be with people or to run after things or position or title has vanished away by itself again, as I have been here.
More importantly I prefer it to anything else. It will be a challenge to reintegrate into the real world, and my recent brushes with the real world hasn't been too pleasant. Question: How do I combine my love for the healing arts, and contributing to the elimination of human suffering and creating more health while being true being alone and not running after things or positions? Is there such a position in medicine?
I remain open to the possibilities.
Friday, July 10, 2009
It seems that right after any major break, there is a sigh of collective relief and then a counting down. That hasn't changed the entire time I've been here and the countdown has begun for the term. T minus 40 something days. I don't keep up to the day, but there are people here who know it to the minute. I have to admit I'm ready to be done to and with next exams 2 weeks away, it's only a matter of a few quick weeks before term break. I'm thrilled.
This block is a voluminous one filled with details and content, much either new to me or buried so far down in the recesses that retrieval is impossible. As always, I'll come up with what I need to succeed in two weeks, but this part of the process is so nerve wracking. Oh the pressures we put on ourselves.
But I have to admit that this stuff is great. I love the study, and the path has been particularly engaging with an interested, vibrant, totally engaging professor. Although I can't say that he has much competition...the others suck. I hope I didn't suck as bad when I was teaching. It's all I can do to stay awake and many, many of my colleagues have chosen to just stay home and study. One day it was me and 5 others in class. Frankly I don't blame them for staying home. Think the prof would get the message? Nah! There is only one thing worse than being an uneventful, uninspiring, boring professor...not knowing you are. It's sad. But our new dean says if they keep it up, they are out of here. They should be. It's amazing how much medicine you can teach yourself, and lecture is such a terrible way to teach and learn anyway. I think I see the med school of the future :)
So we are on the down hill to the end of term, the rains of summer intermittently green up the lands and fill the cisterns, the heat is radiant off the poorly constructed cement streets. Thank good ness for the Caribe, the water and the small town diversions to keep me sane in the meantime. TGIFriday and the weekend promises some respite, catch up, and focus. Nothing much changes on an island, except maybe perspective.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Hey it's fun but it's a distraction none the less...it's Summerfest time! Impromptu parades that interrupt the neighborhood, lots of drinking and way too much gyrating...but you can't stop it. There are events for the next several weeks, filled with music, beer, parades, more beer, madness, mayhem, animal sacrifice...maybe not the animal sacrifice part. And don't you know that it coincides with exams. How much fun can a medical student have?
The more interesting thing about Summerfest is the costumes. Seems that some work on these objects of fashion for many months preceding the events. No wonder! Probably takes several trips to St. Maarten, and Duggins Market (upstairs of course) to get everything you need to create one. They are masterpieces of how to reveal as much skin as possible without being naked. They seem to fuel the sexual energy that pervades the event. And age has no limit....even the young are all decked out. And they wonder why the teenage pregnancy rate is soaring.
Ah, Summerfest...just another island excuse to not have to go to work, drink beer from green bottles and wander around half naked.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Only on Statia....I wen to the immigration office for this country island to renew my resident card (so I can stay on the island and finish my studies).
Guess what? They are out of ID cards and don't know when they'll be getting any in.
As I was leaving the clerk mentioned that maybe they should just issue a vehicle license plate to me that I could wear around my neck.
I don't think she was kidding. Whether I can stay or not, is still being discussed.
Monday, July 6, 2009
When you are in a city of millions, a case of H1N1 is news. When you are on an island of 2500, it's fear inducing. So was the first case of H1N1 on the island, recently confirmed by the health department in the Netherlands. And while he has recovered, he is now teaching in the school, and I shook hands with him yesterday...before I knew he was previously infected. I can only hope that the salty waters of the Caribe are hostile to H1N1. I went swimming shortly after meeting him. I patiently await signs of the flu.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The study of human disease is chronicled in great textbooks with names that every student of medicine knows...Sabiston's (Textbook of Surgery), Nelson's (Pediatrics) and Harrison's, Textbook of Medicine. As I study, I pick up these volumes regularly to get the full expose' of the disease rather than a summary analysis or "Diseases Made Ridiculously Simple" version. I regularly pick up Harrison's.
I love the extensive nature of the discussions. This is on the verge of a diagnosable mental disease in itself as most avoid books the size of mountains. But the descriptions are so complete, and so vivid, that it is difficult not to learn something. I only wish I had more time to read it so I can become the doctor I dream I will be.
But Harrison's, and the legacy of it's original editor (Dr. Harrison) is part of my problem with medical school today. I have said this before, but I was very lucky to have had some of the greatest professors of medicine in the world during my education as a physician assistant. I have been schooled by some of the best tactical clinical teachers who learned their craft from the best of the best. Dr. Harrison (of the textbook) taught one of my professors while he was the chair of Cardiology at the University of Alabama. I walked by a building named Harrison. So indirectly, I've learned from Dr.Harrison. Or at least I've had a glimpse of that greatness in the teachers I've had. I am reminded of that as I read the text.
But it is with that history, that I struggle with the sheer madness that is medicine teaching today. As if the art hasn't been practiced and has wonderful theoretical and practical foundations, I feel daily experimented upon...today, once again, I am the victim of disorganized thinking and presentation, random musings of the inappropriate, and painful presentation styles reminiscent of torture.
I will survive this because there is a grand goal, but I am totally understanding of the reasons why many people leave this experience angry, frustrated, bewildered and so willing to forget that this ever happened. I hope that is not the case for me. I do not want to fall into the that hopelessness of a failed romantic, still beaming with a love for the art of teaching in medicine, and the writings of wonderful teachers of teachers. And I can only hope that such wonderful teachers will continue to enter, and force out those that shouldn't be...back to research, or taking care of patients, or whatever it was they did before they took up the hobby of teaching.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I'm back from break, but not sure that I'm ready to be. This last block was challenging as represented by the lousy grades. I worked hard, and was a bit lucky so again I fall above the bell-curve. 1/2 down, 1/2 to go till the end of term and the next break. The content is wonderful, but nothing like the scenery of break...
St. Kitts is gorgeous and filled with some of the most friendly people I've met yet. The views were spectacular, the food delicious, the relaxation about as complete as possible.
As ready as I'll ever be I guess to start back soon.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Walking home today, I past several homes with the same activity happening on the porch. Big girls, little girls..."doing" each others' hair.
I've heard it called several thousand things over the years, and frankly, I'm not sure what it's called here. It's braiding, platting, twisting, spiraling, and probably many other names. But all seems to end with beads or other such adornment.
There are more hair salons on this island than gas stations. There is an absolute dedication to the hair and being sure that it is different on a regular basis and "taken care of" even more regularly. It takes hours upon hours to "do" the average head of hair and is part of the social fabric of parts of the island. My landlord is a self proclaimed "expert".
But then, with the adorned beauty of the island, it's people, it's vegetation, there is good reason to keep the hair just right. And, to be honest, there's not much else to do, so why not the hair.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
It is amazing to me how one person can change the environment of a small school. Bring on a "filler", a 2nd or perhaps 3rd string to take on the role of a star, and chaos is likely to ensue. Such is the case with a small institution.
Clearly, another hiring mistake has been made in a BIG way. I totally respect experience, my elders and that dynamic of fraternal organizations called "senior" or "upper class"...those that have conquered before me. But I am also acutely aware that this position power lasts only briefly before the deeds have a chance to be planted. 100 days in the case of the President of the U.S. I suspect then that new teachers get only 10-30 by extrapolation.
He is terrible. He is chaotically disorganized. He has so few teacher positive qualities. And he is turning off students as quickly as he has come. Out of 28 registered students for one of his classes this week, 5 showed up and I suspect (as represented by the number of Facebook and IM windows I saw open in front of me) that only 1 was paying any attention at all. When student recognize low quality they walk with their feet since they can't walk with their wallets once invested in the semester.
I thought it was a aberrancy because of the GREAT teachers clinicians that I have had in my past. I believed what Dr. Stead said about the history of medicine education, that clinicians had a duty to teach. But the moral of the story is clear...clinicians can tell great stories but can't teach automatically. It is clearly a skill in classroom & time management, preparation, humility, organization, communication, planning and delivery that requires attention and deliberate learning. Even perhaps "unlearning" of bad habits. But what else are they to do? They are truly unfit to do little else, and that in lies the conundrum of hiring authorities.
And on a small campus, the implications of poor hiring are inversely proportional to the size of the campus. The smaller the campus, the greater the impact of both good, and unfortunately, poor teachers.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I was talking on the phone yesterday and one of the wonderful faculty maintenance/cleaning staff walked up to me, said hello and handed me 3 "things" that I didn't recognize. She is one of the most sweet ladies in the world and we have exchanged cordial conversation over the time I've been here. For some reason on this night, she decided I needed the gift of food? Yes, it was food. She explained, after I put my phone conversation on hold, that this was a walnut. But I know walnuts and this was no walnut. In her typically broken, Dutch-Island English, she explained that it was a fruit and that the insides could be eaten. She told me she just picked them and they were ripe and ready to eat. I asked what you could eat and she said "inside". I thanked her very much and went back to my phone call. As I did, I studied the "fruit" intensely. That's a cashew!!
Now, I don't usually do this, but this morning, I carved up the fruit and put it in my oatmeal and ate it. What don't I usually do? I don't usually put an item in my mouth that I know nothing about on the word of another person. I got 1/2 way thru the bowl before I got on Google. Whew! You actually can eat this thing.
It tastes pretty good, but I can see that a juice or by itself, you may need to sweeten it. It tastes a little like star fruit and is often called the "star apple". And yes, you actually can make a cashew like nut from the top seed. Officially it is the Spanish jocote de marañón, probably from Guatemala originally, and the seed at the top is the official fruit of the red pod.
But is some ways I felt the intrepid traveler and discoverer, eating something for the very first time. Can you imagine the person that first ate anything from the forest? Besides food sources, toxic poisons and medicines with profound effects were also discovered this way. I can happily say that after about an hour, I'm still breathing and have no signs of GI disturbance, but it is early. If this is my last day on earth, it's been fun!