Monday, December 16, 2013


DD: How do you have so much confidence in yourself?

Path201X: I actually didn't have much when I was your age because unlike you, I didn't have a Mother that believed in me the way I believe in you.

DD: So how did you get confidence anyway?

Path201X: Like I said before, I wouldn't say I had much in high school although I appreared to be very successful on the outside. And when I flunked out of college due to my grades, my confidence took a MAJOR dive! But what I was and still am very good at doing is surrounding myself with people who believe in me. Unforntualtely, that now means that there are people I don't regularly communicate with about my goals like my mother, but I've learned to be ok with that. It is what it is.

DD: But I need to know EXACTLY what you did to be so confident?

Path201X: I made up this little matra that I started repeating to myself after I was readmitted to undergrad after being kicked out of school. I would say to myself " My brain is a sponge and I will use it to absorb EVERYTHING I can. I'm smart and I'm capable of achieving ANY academic goal set before me. I am focused and will work hard to make sure that happens". And I would say this to myself over and over and over again just before exams and any other academic task. When you were little, do you remember me singing a song that went "you are sma-art"?

DD: Yes, I found it a little annoying at the time. Plus you still sing it to me every now and then.

Path201X: Well I did that because I wanted to have that instilled in you, that you could do ANYTHING you set your mind to. I know Senior year has been hard and you're disappointed you didn't make honor roll for the first time since you've been in high school. But when you're not feeling confident, just think about that song I used to sing to you. And maybe come up with your own too!

DD: Okay, I'll try that on my next exams.

And so my kid who had struggled more this year than in all the years of high school combined, is now on her way to making the honor roll at her new school. And obviously I'm VERY proud. But I can also admit that I STILL say my "confidence mantra" to myself pretty regularly and will ALWAYS do so when needed.

My hope is that you too will find that special something you say to yourself to give you that extra confidence boost! Or feel free to borrow mine!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fertilize your own damn grass!!

One of the things I'm guilty of career wise is not knowing when I should stick with what I have and not be tempted by something else that appears to be what I want. Some of this I attribute to having ADD as an adult, and some of it it just illogical thinking on my part.

So after doing a little more research into prospective PhD programs at my school, I'm right back to where I started in Biomedical/Health Informatics. AGAIN! URGH!!!

But this time the reason is made after VERY thorough thought to what I'd be losing by changing to another department and quite frankly, the job market. Sure, my heart ain't in Biomedical Informatics the way it's in Cancer Computational Biology/Cancer Biology, so I'm going to find a way, through my elective requirements, to MAKE IT MINE!!! Just like EVERYTHING else in life, NOTHING is 100% the way we'd like it to be. The people in my department are smart, kind to me, and open to EVERY educational dream I have, so how much sense would it make for me to leave such a supportive environment for one I know very little about? It's not only illogical, it's just a stupid idea.

So, my class schedule for next Spring is Health Informatics and a second semester Bioinformatics course. And in the meantime, I'm going to research Faculty in my department that can help me design my program such that my "heart" won't get left by the wayside.......while also attending seminars in Cancer Biology. ;)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Taking a sip from a fire hydrant, part 1

*image credit

The exponential growth in the amount of biological data available on the net is best compared to taking a drink from a fire hydrant, an analogy often compared to the medical school educational process. But unlike medical school info, this biological data can be written/stored in any number of programs using terms/codes that are often unique to who/where that data was created.

The slide below from my Bioinformatics course this semester illustrates just how significant the amount of available data is:

So where a MB of data was considered a LOT when I first started using computers on a regular basis in the early 90's, I'm certain we'll cross the yottabyte level in the next 5 years. And for the uninformed, that's 1 trillion terabytes, with ONE terabyte equal to 1 trillion bytes. YIKES!! That's a helluva' a lotta' data! MY question, what's the "end point", numerically speaking and how in the world will this data be stored, much less processed? Yeah, give me the medical school "fire hydrant" of info because that's small stuff compared to genomic data.

Moving on, one of the things I haven't really talked much about this year is my kid and let's just say that when you have a person straddling the line between smart mouthed teenager and adult AND is a Senior in high school applying to colleges, it can be a difficult thing. What I can say is that it would have been a COMPLETE disaster for me to be focused on full-time studies right now, because I would have lacked both the time or patience to "be there" the way I am now. So while I often wish I was in med school or at the least Residency, I also know I NEVER could have been the Mother I needed to be to my daughter. And this is as much about what she needs as what I need to do for her to feel like I've done my "job" as a Mother. One thing is for sure, I'll NEVER regret putting my academic goals on the back burner so to speak because I've so thoroughly enjoyed being there for her!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Get it in writing, ALWAYS!!!!

You'd think that by now, this isn't something someone my age doesn't already know. Which is why when I mentioned the "deal" my old company put on the table verbally regarding my position with the company, I added the following caveat in my 10/15/2013 post: "Assuming all this pans out of course, there's always a risk that things won't happen the way the company prez says, and if that's the case, I'll happily increase my client load and take the next graduate assistantship that comes in my school inbox.". Well in the world of business, NOTHING is what it seems until it's put on paper.

At the end of the day, NOTHING was put in writing which essentially meant that talk was cheap and NOT cash-able at ANY bank I can think of, LOL!! And that's why I pretty much take EVERYTHING I hear with a grain of salt especially when I realize I work with folks who would (and DID), work for free so that they could keep their work place visa which allows them in the US in the first place. And let me be clear, this is VERY common in the Scientist "industry" which is why wages are slow to grow and haven't increased much in almost 10 years. Yeah, Mr. Facebook, this is just what the average US trained Scientist needs, is a glut of competition from folks who'll work for free or for wages equivalent to what I made washing glassware back in the day. Yeah.

But because I know EVERYTHING happens for a reason, I immediately started looking for the silver lining in all this, and it didn't take long for me to find it. I now have to decide if I want to work on a PhD full-time with a FULL Scholarship/Fellowship beginning in the Fall of 2014 OR do I stick with plan "A", and shoot for med school in the Fall of 2015. Thing is, I realize that if I had jumped on that PhD bandwagon years ago, I'd be DONE by now and since the desire to earn an MD is NEVER going to go away, I'd be a much better employment situation in the location of MY choosing. And I have to qualify that because I get weekly inquiries about jobs in the US, so I remain thankful.

However while there are programs in place that will allow me to transfer to the combined MD/PhD program, there's the VERY strong possibility my age is going to be an issue for an Adcom. And yeah, I'm going there DIRECTLY because there's just NO other obstacle I see, given my record. Sure that probably sounds arrogant, but it's a fact. Just like it's a fact that there isn't enough research being done which is significantly beneficial to people of African descent, with our genetically heterogeneous selves. And turning down ANYONE qualified and committed to such a goal is just stupid IMHO. And medically reckless.

So with this in mind, my Spring schedule is STILL under evaluation as is the program I ultimately want to get my PhD in. Today, it seems to make MUCH more sense for me to go for a program I can transfer credits into and which I already have strong mastery of. And for the record, that ain't Computational Biology. It IS Cancer Biology and Pathology, so with a nearby program that integrates both areas within reach, I'm strongly considering that. And I'd use methods germane to Computational Biology of course, in light of the current employment outlook for PhD's. I mean, I find the program I'm currently in, Health Informatics, VERY interesting, but my heart just isn't in it.

So, this brings about a new term for where I seem to be going, Computational Cancer Biology or Cancer Informatics, both of which are a mouthful, LOL!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Green light, let's go!!

So it looks like I WILL be working at the major cancer center I first dreamed of working at TEN years ago. And it looks like I'll do so using a combination of the skills I've developed in Pathology and Computational Biology/Bioinformatics. The exact details of my new position aren't yet clear and are likely to change, it simply appears that I've come along at a GREAT time as the integration of genomic data starts to become part of the standard of care for patients fighting cancer. Put another way, the "bench" may FINALLY be reaching the "bedside" in ways never before seen in the history of the field of medicine and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Now the question may be what happened to my last position. Well, as soon as I sign on the bottom line for my new one, I'll fill you in. In the meantime, suffice it to say that if I NEVER work for a private company again that will be FINE be me, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, LOVE the financial stability of working at a major cancer center affiliated with a major university. So no dis, the majority of the people I worked with at my old gig with were really great and the things I learned there were amazing, but I DESPERATELY need a financially stable environment. However, what I can tell you now is that I will NOT miss the woman Scientist that rudely never spoke back to me during our weekly conference calls. NOT. ONE. BIT.

Moving on, I also learned I could start the PhD program and transfer into the MD/PhD program at a later date. And this is BY FAR the best news I could have received given my goals!! But I also know convincing a committee to award me a spot is going to be a vertical battle since the tired argument of the number of years I'll practice is bound to come up. And as I've mentioned a few times before, I've been hearing this ALL My life the ONLY thing that's different is the "story". Whatever, I've already got one part of my story down, Pathologists die at the scope in their 80's, ROTFL!! But I'm saving the rest for my personal statement, which I plan to post AFTER I get that acceptance in hand. Still I'm realistic that I'll likely have to do the programs separately, and I'm perfectly cool with that, because it is what it is!