Happy Week 13

Have you made your study schedule yet for Finals? (You know they actually start next week, right?) My schedule is somewhat made; exams, practicals, and last minute assignments have been entered, and from this point I just have to get busy! I'm on a brief reprieve from the Master's, until next quarter starts (during Week 15 here), and I've had off from Acupuncture for the last 2 weeks, so the Universe, and school, saw fit to give me some time. Of course, I still feel behind and also am a little bit panicked (as always happens). Right now it looks like 6 exams for me next week, and 7 the week after that. I'm already ready, but will definitely be more ready for a break.

Photo of sunset at Treasure Island beach
Sunset at Treasure Island Beach

Last week's Cadaver Workshop was AMAZING! I was, admittedly, a little nervous when I found out I'd be going over the musculature. After all, other than diagrams, I hadn't been back in the lab since I left basic sciences. And I hadn't worked on the back or limbs since first and second tri. I'd forgotten how much I love being in there. I suspected that would be the case, but I was actually thrilled and surprised at how much I remembered. I loved it so much, that I'm going back this week to do it again. We did a bit of show and tell, and also asked questions and quizzed the students that showed up.

We had students from the undergrad program, PA program, nursing, and EMT at St. Pete College. I'll be interested to see who comes this week. It's absolutely invaluable experience. It also reminded me how much I enjoy teaching. Back in undergrad, my internship was TA-ing biology for non-majors. THAT was an experience. It's frustrating, sometimes, to be teaching people who aren't always interested in what you have to discuss, or to approach things from a manner that everyone can understand (or that encourages clarification).

I have been planning, for about the last year, to spend at least part of my career teaching. I'll be honest; I'm really looking forward to it. Who wouldn't want the opportunity to geek out on a regular basis, and get paid to do it? What would you teach? Biochemistry? Physiology? Functional Medicine? Nutrition? Yeah, I could really get into that. The tough part will be finding a location that will allow me to practice, and has opportunities for teaching.

Last week, I did a Rehab demonstration on therapies to use for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I learned a lot in prepping for the demo -- like how the joints in RA patients can be hotter than normal, and how heating the joint itself can be damaging (but heating the muscle is fine). I learned how important it is to protect the joint -- even to the point of how the patient sits. The "point of relaxation" for the knee, for example, is full extension. This is the position that is least likely to promote joint degeneration. There are other positions for other joints. This week, I'm giving a presentation on Raynaud's Phenomenon (which I've had since I was a teenager) and therapies for treatment. I fully intend to go get my thick wool gloves for the demonstration -- just for effect. Although, if they continue to keep it so cold in this building, I'll have to wear them all the time. It does make it difficult to type and take notes.

Photo of sunset at Treasure Island beach from another angle
Sunset at Treasure Island Beach

There haven't been any other events going on for the last week or so, other than a ROCK tape seminar this weekend (that I didn't go to). But if you remember back, not that long ago, when I volunteered at the St. Pete Beach Classic and met Mr. Incredible, I have something to share. Mr. Incredible found ME! Last weekend, I received an email out of the blue, from Mr. Incredible himself, who found the blog and wrote me. (I do answer all of the messages that come through here, in one way or another.) He's starting on a new adventure with his training. Feel free to check out his blog: Superheroes on the Run.

All right kids, have an amazing pre-finals week! Remember to keep going to the gym, keep sleeping, and keep eating good food. You'll be glad that you did.

Week 12 - Breathe

We're nearing the end of the trimester. It's the calm before the storm. Since my classmate Lexxi just reminded me, I'll remind you. Did you: do your FAFSA? Taxes? Register for classes?

This week starts the last minute projects and presentations before practicals and finals. Actually we have part of a practical on Friday for PT. I'm going to rehab a knee with Rheumatoid Arthritis -- which I'm finding as a bit of a struggle. How do you give someone exercises for a degenerating joint, when they have to move the joint? I've been pondering it quite a while. Here's hoping I come up with something good.

This week and next week, our program hosts a cadaver lab demonstration for the nursing, PA, and other health professions programs that we share space with. For those who aren't familiar, we share some campus space with the St. Petersburg College health profession programs and Barry University PA programs. Since some of our classroom space is at the St. Pete Caruth Health Education Center, we see a lot of students from other programs running around -- including RN, PA, EMT, etc. Unlike our program, they don't have cadaver exposure, which always surprised me.

So, since we do, we host workshops toward the end of each trimester to expose those students to what the body really looks like. Several of our students will spend an hour or more in the lab going through some general parts of the anatomy, and explaining function, etc. I've always been surprised that the other programs don't have cadaver exposure. I honestly feel that dissecting has given me invaluable information that there's no way I would have known otherwise. Even still, when someone asks me a part of the anatomy, my mind automatically goes to the cadavers to visualize it. I do this during classes; I've done this during boards. It helps to actually SEE where the origins and insertions are, how the vasculature and nerves surround and penetrate the muscles, and how the muscles layer and invest in each other.

I haven't been in the cadaver lab since I finished that portion of basic sciences several tris ago. I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I think most of the other student-instructors will be from basic science tris. It'll be fun to get to interact with them. That's a privilege I don't often get.

On Saturday, I went to the Gluten Free for Life Expo. Last year Grey and I went, walked through, and received a ton of samples, coupons, and business cards from local gluten free businesses. This year, I was by myself, as Grey was at an FBLA conference. I ran into Julia, my classmate, and her daughter-in-law, Stephanie.

Beyond running into them and seeing my friend who runs a local acupuncture clinic, the expo was a total waste. And it wasn't just because of the samples and coupons -- which I guess were there -- it was because of the quality of products. If you've ever been to a health food store (and I'm guessing all of us have), you've seen that there's just as much junk food there, as there is at any other store. It's labeled as "organic" or "all-natural" or "healthy", but the difference is only that they use sugar instead of corn syrup, organic versus conventional, and substitute refined with less refined. That doesn't make any of it healthy.

So, I talked with the reps for a company (that I won't name), because they recently reformulated their products. They are dedicated to having gluten free, GMO free products. I respect this tremendously, however, they still have some pretty big problems. Previously, they were using sorghum flour -- which has been a staple in gluten free cooking for a while. Even I have used it on a regular basis (although not for several years). The rep mentioned that they were having problems with their sorghum flour becoming contaminated with GMO soy. So they changed formularies and started using buckwheat and millet instead. The problem is, that these other grains contain lectins, in very high quantity. Lectins, in brains, beans, and potatoes, cause disruption of the tight junctions in the gut -- leading to leaky gut. Leaky gut leads to food intolerance, inflammation, and lipopolysaccharide invasion (toxins from gram negative bacteria that naturally live in the gut). Big problem. Check this out: The Lowdown on Lectins. And if you're a real glutton for punishment Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants for far more in depth information.

So, I talked to the rep about how the choices they've made in substitutions are likely to affect their customers. The lady didn't have a clue what I was talking about. But she seemed pretty scared in response and said she'd pass it on to their recipe people. I'm sure it won't go any further. I looked through the ingredient list on EVERY product they had there. The few that didn't have millet or buckwheat had TONS of sugar. *sigh* Gluten free isn't always healthy.

Since my "conversion" to mostly Paleo, I just can't look at food the same way. I'm always thinking about the grain or carbohydrate content, how much I'm allowing my gut to be exposed to the lectins and sugar, and what it's doing to me. I'd say I'm about 80% Paleo now. I go back and forth -- trying to only have rice a couple times a week, and sugar maybe once. It IS a struggle sometimes, especially when I'm stressed out. But I feel SO much better.

2014-03-27_dino

And before I go, I've wanted to share this guy with you all for quite some time. He stands outside a defunct mini-golf turned car dealership parking lot. I often wonder why he's still here -- maybe it's because he's so awesome. I haven't come up with a name for him yet. I'm willing to entertain suggestions. There are lots of oddities around St. Pete.

Have a great week everybody.

Update for the Week

It's raining again. It looks like the Florida winter might be over. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that for every other place in the country the weather has been a LOT worse than it has here. It's been, I think, the coldest winter that I've experienced since I've been here (since 2005). The crazy thing about living in Florida is that for about 5 months out of the year, it doesn't rain hardly at all. It's very, very dry (as far as rainfall goes). Of course, the humidity is still 5000%, but it doesn't rain. Come May/June it rains EVERY-SINGLE-DAY. Sometimes it only rains for 15 minutes in a day, sometimes all day, and sometimes for hours/the whole day. But it's fairly predictable.

So today, it's rained all day. And after all of the months of sun (even when it was cold), I find myself a little bit depressed. So, I went home and took my vitamin D. Vitamin D has been a buzz-study subject for a few years now. Running a quick search on Pubmed on "benefits of vitamin D," returns about 840 articles. But searching for just vitamin D yields over 58,000! Shortage of vitamin D has been linked to Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, Obesity, and Cancer. Whoa! So, what we're finding out is that the vast majority of people are deficient in vitamin D, ESPECIALLY here in Florida. For those of you coming out of a cold, cold winter up north -- I feel for you. I really do. You probably need some vitamin D too. Here's an article on Vitamin D and Depression from the Vitamin D Council. 

In other news, I have finals for the Master's in Nutrition and Functional Medicine this week: Nutritional Biochemistry -- which has been completely different than what I had at National; and also Clinical Nutrition, which has been completely different as well. I've been pleased that there's been some overlap with the information. And I have found that the background that I've received here at National has helped me with the master's at UWS. I've already registered for classes next quarter, there. I'm taking Immune Imbalances and Inflammation and the Botanical Medicine elective. I can't wait to see what shows up.

This next week brings last minute quizzes, papers, and presentations. I'm doing a presentation for PT on therapies for Raynaud's phenomenon (which I've had since I was a kid). I have yet to decide what I'm going to do my Botanical paper on. I'm leaning toward Oregon Grape Root -- but I may choose an adaptogen instead. I need to prep for a practical on knee rehab. No rest for the weary/wicked.

Some of my good friends and classmates are taking boards this weekend. Good Luck to them (and to you, if that's your weekend adventure). We have the weekend off from acupuncture, and I'll be visiting the Gluten Free for Life expo. If you're in the area, it's usually quite worth it.

Last year, Grey and I went and filled up bags and bags of gluten free goodies from vendors. I think we had GF snacks for months. I may have to find a partner in crime to go with me this time. Note to self: it's always better to go towards the END of the expo. Vendors are less worried about running out of supplies and visitors feel less guilty about taking a couple extra.

And lastly, I hope everybody had a GREAT St Patrick's Day. My granny, whose birthday was 3/17 (although I can't remember what year), would've been somewhere around 100 years old right about now. She's been gone quite some time. Little Irish woman, red hair and freckles -- was born on St Patrick's Day. Happy Birthday Granny -- whatever plane you're on.

Taking a Good Look

Have you ever stared at something so long that it looks completely different? I do this with words. I think that's a new level of zoning out. Sometimes when I do this, it completely changes my perspective. Not all that often, mind you, but it does. Lately, I've been getting hit with a lot, that's been altering my perspective.

2014-03-14_pier

I've been spending a lot of time in downtown St. Petersburg. It's not as if I haven't lived here for 8+ years, and it's not as if I haven't been downtown nearly a million times. Because of friends living downtown, I'm seeing parts of it that I've never seen before. I'm always amazed at what exists, right under my nose -- but I just haven't taken the time to see it. So now, it's starting to look completely different.

Like many downtowns across the country, ours has had its moments. There were department stores downtown, factories, big business. I've always wanted to research some of the buildings downtown, especially the Studebaker Building, which I used to drive by nearly every day when I lived on the other side of town. And then there's the nation's first open-air post office, which, honestly -- these pictures don't do justice. The inside of the post office reminds me of old time banks and Westerns -- loaded with beautifully stained wood and remembrances of teller windows. Some of these buildings have been standing for a long, long time -- constructed not long after the turn of the century, which for this area is nearly ancient.

Also, like many downtowns, St. Pete seems to constantly undergo some form of revival. New places move in; old ones move out. Things get rebuilt or renovated, torn down, and new life comes in to change the look and feel of it all. The more time I spend down there, the more I like it. There are old bars and restaurants, beautiful scenery, and the old stately architecture. I've posted pictures of the banyan trees, the Dali and Mahaffey Theater, the Pier, and a few of the marina as well. I'm running out of time to explore here -- at least while I'm still at school. I've set a loose goal for myself, of visiting every building between Beach Drive and 34th street on Central Avenue. I wonder how close to that I can get with this crazy schedule.

2014-03-14_pelicans

We're in Week 10, which means midterms are over here at National, and I'm looking at finals for Western States. I can't believe how quickly things have passed. I keep going back and forth about jobs and locations and being excited about being out in practice and clinic and a million other things. I was forwarded a list of job openings all over the country, towards the end of last week. I couldn't help but look -- thinking that it was all very premature, and yet I'm being told that I SHOULD be looking right now. I'm still thinking it might be a little presumptuous.

And of course, this week I have to turn in a sample business plan. It's hard to anticipate things like that when you have no idea where you'll be. Of course, I could go anywhere. The question becomes where, and when, and how, and why. We've all talked about setting up our own practices -- well, most of us have. Some, I think, are planning on joining practices and others might just associate for a short period of time. When I thought I had a clear plan before, now I'm not so sure. Life sometimes gets in the way of plans. John Lennon said something like, "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans." For right now, I'm only making immediate plans, with the rest in the background.

2014-03-14_sunset

Maybe I just need a change in perspective.

Looking to the Future

What is the thing in life that you want the absolute most? How many times do we ask ourselves this? I figured it was time for another philosophical exploration here on the blog.

Whether you're still in the planning stages, full on into your training experience or career, or a supporter of someone who is training for a career in medicine, motivation and goals will always be a big part of the training experience. It's so easy to get disillusioned by what it is that we're doing. It feels so endless. I can't say how many times I've had friends, family, or significant others comment to me that I work too hard and have no time for rest, relaxation, or even them. Sometimes it's a lonely and miserable existence to be in medical school. And now that we're all depressed... Motivation is so important--especially now as my countdown is in full swing and I'm starting to think about what comes AFTER school.

I have to give a shout-out to my classmate Julia, who honestly keeps me sane (or less borderline insane) a lot of the time. This weekend we're planning a "vision board" exercise to plan for what comes after we're finished with school. If you're not familiar with the concept of vision boarding, it's pretty simple, and a lot like arts and crafts in kindergarten--but with purpose.

Get a cheap piece of poster board, some old magazines, some glue sticks or tape, and some scissors. If it inspires you, grab a bottle of your favorite beverage and a clear spot on the floor and spend some time thinking and planning about what you want--either short term, long term, or just what you want out of Life. There are no absolutes. I've seen people with vision boards of houses, careers, decorating ideas, healthy living, etc.

I'm looking forward to this exercise. It's been about five years since I've done one of these. Maybe some of my goals were a little bit different; maybe some were the same. Nothing has to be set in stone. As we grow, our goals and desires change. I know one thing that will definitely be right in the middle of that vision board. I want to be happy.

Happiness means something different to everyone. Maybe for you it means a house and a family, a thriving practice, a fancy car, a big garden. For me, it means fulfillment--and laughter. I guess I see a lot of the other things as extraneous. They might be nice, but it's not something that I need to live. But being happy--that's like breathing. When it feels like the world is crashing in, when there are too many tests and I'm being pulled a million important directions, when all I want to do (but can't) is not what I'm supposed to be doing, or when there's some kind of crisis (for me or someone I care about), I have to have a sense of humor. I have to be able to laugh, because I'd much rather laugh, than cry.

This week, like many other weeks, we have exams and projects to work on. I'm coming to the end of the quarter for the master's program at UWS and through midterms here at NUHS. Distractions abound. Fatigue sets in. And thankfully, I have some pretty awesome people (thank you Julia, Grey and Forest, and many others) to remind me to find my motivation, keep my sense of humor, and keep going.

For those of you needing a "feel good" moment, for those starting to feel that fatigue set in, for those that are maybe feeling a little bit lonely in their journey--this video is for you. I hope it lifts you up and gives you a great big smile this week, like it did me.

Have a great week everybody!!!! Laugh. Be Happy.