The Academic Afterlife

Everyone keeps asking me how I feel, now that I'm in the twilight of my academic years. Am I excited? Where will I go? Who will I work for? Will I start my own practice? I never quite know how to respond.

On the one hand, I'm so sick of school and class that I could yell. Probably for a good 10 minutes. On the other hand, for the entirety of my adult life, I've been either in the military or school. Both are rather controlled, time-consuming ways of life. Both are quite a poor representation of "real" life. It's an alien world that is still quite mysterious to me. So the path forward may seem dark, uncertain, and scary, but I can't stay here.

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My life at the moment

So, what will I be doing in 10 months time? I wish I knew for certain. It's something I definitely need to get dialed in. I keep saying that I'm going to shake some trees and see what falls out. But I haven't started shaking yet and time is really starting to run out. Perhaps I'm afraid of failure or rejection. Maybe I'm not quite sure what exactly it is I, uniquely, have to offer. I have everything I need to get started: a CV, a cover letter, even a business plan with financials. I just need to figure out how to present it all to potential employers or partners.

The pace of academic life does slow down the last year of school and I can see why. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure a smooth transfer from school to life. Internet research into a practice just doesn't quite cut it when trying to assess whether or not it's the right fit or if there's opportunity for upwards mobility. More often than not, a face-to-face meeting is necessary to truly determine the proper fit. I'll keep you all posted on my strategies and what falls from the trees!

Community Outreach

There are many facets to pursuing a career as a physician, far beyond academia. That is why a physician's education is geared toward creating a well-rounded individual. For example, here at NUHS, one of our graduation requirements is community outreach. We are called to participate in an event or organization through which we can help our community and spread awareness about what we have to offer. At the Salvation Army clinic, we have our own approach to community outreach.

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A quiet night of reflection on the lake

Since all the patients we see are inpatients for rehabilitation, we decided that the best, most effective way to positively impact our community is to create and deliver a lecture series to the residents. All the topics are designed to educate about one facet of health or another, whether it be diet, lifestyle or outlook. It's definitely been a unique challenge to learn how to boil down years of education and complex concepts into a succinct presentation that anyone can understand. It's rewarding, too. The attendees tend to be engaged and have plenty of follow-up questions that only seem to highlight my own ineptitude at simplifying some complex concepts. It's a truly fantastic experience.

While community outreach isn't going away, it is changing its form, which is unfortunate. Starting next trimester, the community outreach hours are being replaced with a quota. Interns will have to bring in x amount of new patients to the clinic as their outreach. While this does technically serve the community, it shifts the emphasis from the community as a whole to those who have insurance and can afford our services. I believe community outreach should be provided at no cost to the community as a whole. I suppose that, however things end up, students will be getting out and interacting with the community, which will always be a crucial aspect of our education.

Sentinels for the Ages

There are two imposing, larger than life figures that have watched over National University. Scores of students have found solace in their presence. They were a dynamic duo that lent inspiration and reprieve to the weary, unwashed masses walking National's campus. They were the bastions of excellence. But, alas, one has left us too soon.

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The lone survivor 

These figures stood at the northeast corner of Lake Janse, providing shade to those studying beneath their comforting boughs. These two willow trees have become almost a hallmark of the grounds at NUHS. I've sat beneath them many, many times, gazing out at the fountain, cygnets, and the occasional blue heron that flies in to fish the waters. The lake seems almost lonely without both of them -- bare and vulnerable without their combined presence. In a fit of rage, nature robbed one from us, in a storm that left the regal tree battered, beaten, and broken. The bright sunlight now beats down with renewed intensity in its absence, illuminating with stark contrast the lone sentinel. Down, within the soil, nutrients and carbon were shared freely between the two root systems, locked in an ancient embrace -- an embrace that is slowly withering away. There's a metaphor there, if one looks close enough.

The sharing of work and reward, the unification over common goals is a large part of what made this country what it is today -- a great nation. A melting pot, an intertwining of roots -- these things are, and have been, integral parts of our social fabric. Remembering our shared roots and their contributions to our growth as a nation is one of the most patriotic things to do this Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day!

Magic Rays

At first glance, it doesn't seem as though there is a lot that goes into taking an X-ray. Place the body part between the X-ray tube and the film and fire away. Simply speaking, that is exactly right, but the desired aspect of that joint or bone being imaged needs to be taken into account. Is it the joint space that needs to be visualized? How is that joint space angled? What are overlying and underlying structures? What is the tissue density? There are a slew of parameters that need to be factored into successfully executing an X-ray.

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Just a small glimpse at the excitement radiology instills in students. 

This trimester, after years of X-ray classes geared towards reading and understanding the X-ray, we finally are stepping behind the wall. We have some nifty X-ray dummies that are composed of human bones, encased in a composite that, more or less, mimics the density of human soft tissues. So, to answer your inevitable question, no, we don't irradiate our fellow classmates unnecessarily. And let me tell you, there would be a lot of radiation.

While our school does have cutting edge X-ray technology, we learn the good ol' fashioned way - on film. There is a fully functioning darkroom with a developer at our disposal whenever the school is open. It doesn't seem like that much of a pain, until you realize that you won't know whether or not you have a halfway decent X-ray until you've fully developed it. A few missteps can take a solid 10-15 minutes to iron out.

Each consecutive X-ray results in standing in the pitch black, groping around in the dark to feed your film into the developer and waiting, anxiety-ridden, until it comes back out again. X-ray positioning may sound like it could be a bit tedious at times but Dr. Michael Fergus breathes as much life as is possible into the subject. Either way, X-rays are pretty awesome. 

Standard Process

Whole health, nutrition, and wellness care are important facets of how we approach treating the whole patient. It would be nice if this could be accomplished utilizing only the nutrition found in whole foods, but the fact of the matter is that due to poor farming practices, our foods only contain a fraction of the nutrients they used to. This places us into the murky world of supplements.

Supplements are crucial in the treatment of a whole plethora of lifestyle related conditions. Finding a good supplement should be easy to find. All it should involve is picking out a supplement with the correct nutrients, in the correct amounts. Unfortunately, in the U.S., it's anything but that easy. Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so the entire industry is a verifiable minefield of shoddy manufacturing, poor quality control, and even completely fallacious claims. It can be tough to navigate. 

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Finding the right supplement takes a lot of research. There are a lot of great companies out there, who have manufacturing practices beyond reproach. I had the opportunity today, to tour one of those company's factories and it was impressive.

Standard Process is focused on putting whole foods, grown on their own on-site organic farm, into a supplement. They're good at it, too. They've been rehabbing their soil for years now and nutrient density and yield per acre are skyrocketing.

Touring a top-to bottom manufacturing and distribution site was a fantastic educational experience and provided me with a perfect idea of how I should assess other supplement companies I hope to work with. While many of the supplements carried at our NUHS clinic are Standard Process products, even if I decided not to use them, the company sets the standard by which I'll assess other manufacturers.