Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tomorrow is promised to NO one.

Last Saturday I made plans to meet with a friend I've had since I was in middle school, part of my NC "family" of friends I've had for most of my life. And when he stood me up I didn't think too much about it because he's a busy guy working in the Oil and Gas industry here in Texas (in other words, Cha-Ching!!!). So by last Thursday, I started to get concerned because I still hadn't heard from him and because he had invited my daughter and I to visit his church today and wee needed to confirm a few details. But instead of picking out something to wear for church today last night, I was in his hospital room watching him rest in a drug-induced coma following a hemorrhagic stroke he suffered on the day we were to meet last weekend. Damn. Just damn.

My childhood friend had battled morbid obesity since his early 20's, but had lost over 150 pounds in the past 5 years through a combination of diet and exercise. But it wasn't enough to prevent him from having a stroke. But what REALLY pisses me off is that he hadn't been taking his blood pressure meds the way he was supposed to or getting enough rest (Black men and those meds!!!!). More importantly, his girlfriend had noticed stroke symptoms in him for over a year and never said a damn word to him about it (and you had to be there to see the MAJOR hairy eyeballs I was giving her last night). Yes, ok, I get it, she isn't in the medical profession and doesn't have a college degree, but how much education do you need to know that something is seriously wrong with a person when they complain of bad headaches or tell you that they feel like their face is drooping??? But I bet she could tell me EVERYTHING I needed to know about that thousand dollar weave she was wearing. URGH!!!!

Anyway, I'm not sure what the prognosis is because I haven't been around when the Docs were there. And what his mother and son have told me is pretty vague. But I also know that when it comes to major brain injuries things are vague though I'm concerned that 8 days after his stroke, his blood pressure still isn't very stable and he hasn't regained consciousness.

Of course the underlying theme in all this for me personally is that I have a little extra motivation to stay the course, though things are as difficult now as they have ever been. So when I think on why things are as difficult now as they have ever been, I'm reminded that I'm developing the"backbone" I'm going to need to make though a combined MD/PhD program. And when I think about my long time friend with the unknown future, I'm reminded that as long as I'm physically able to pursue the MD/PhD, I need to do EXACTLY that. TODAY!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I'm still waiting...................

So while I wait to receive the contract for the gig I accepted (translated they must be looking at other candidates because there's NO excuse for me to not have it yet), I've got another interview set up with another cancer research group for next week. I'm not real clear on what the exact duties are just that it's in GI which I have very little experience in, and none in GI cancer. But with no contract in sight, I'm open to ANY group where I can get financial and career support.

Other than that, I'm glad it's starting to get cool here in hot arse Texas! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I know why the caged bird sings, Sept 2014

So I had my last meeting with a prospective PI last week, and it went a little something like this:

PI: I noticed you don't have any programming experience, I don't understand why you are interested in my research group (which is a combo bench/bioinformatics work).

Doc201X: Well I've actually been programming for about 3 years now, I started with Java and my last course was in Python. It's listed there (me pointing) on my CV.

PI: Oh.

PI: I noticed you don't have a PhD and I get about 25 resumes a day with people who have PhD's. What can you contribute to my group?

Doc201X: I'm actually working on my PhD in Translational Informatics now. What I do have is a solid understanding of cancer biology and genomics particularly for the type of cancer you're studying right now. In fact, I received a national award for my work in this area. In addition to that and unlike many PhDs who concentrate in either informatics or cancer biology, I'm a bridge to both fields through my lab experiences, education, and work experiences in bioinformatics and cancer biology.

PI: I noticed you don't have any publications and I get about 25 resumes a day with people who have publications.

Doc201X: Actually, I do and that's the work I received a national award in......

PI: (Interrupting me)...... Yes, but I get about 25 resumes a day with people who not only have PhD's but have more than one publication.

Doc201X: Well, if you look at this section (me pointing) of my CV you'll see my publications listed there. Deep sigh.

So after more questions that went like this, I'm thinking I need to end this fiasco ASAP so that's exactly what I did:

Doc201X: Dr. Chinese last name, thank you for meeting me about working with your group. However, I think my skill set would be better suited to a different research group. I thank you again for your time and wish you the best in your future research endeavours. Good afternoon.

I then quickly stood up, shook his hand with STRONG confidence, and I walked out of the door.

Now maybe the fact that he forgot about our meeting in the fist place should have been a sign, I just happened to recognize him at the elevator and mentioned that we had a meeting. But it had been so long since I experienced having a gig disappear like a fart in the wind after meeting with someone, that I forgot what that felt like. It was just amazing how quickly this situation went from "yes, I definitely have a spot for you" after he reviewed my CV before meeting me, communicated with me a few times by email, and with the positive recommendation of the PI I previously worked with over the summer (who is also Chinese), to the scenario that happened above. However, I'm so totally NOT surprised, this kinda $hit happens to people ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME!!!! Especially in academic research positions which is why I wish like hell idda' done something else with my life these past 5 or so years. URGH!!! He did "graciously" mention that I could work for him for free, following up on the research proposal I submitted to him before we met. Hellz naw,  though it does look like volunteering with a research group is what I'll need to do until I can find a paying one that fits on both sides. It'll count toward my required rotations, so I'm not pressed plus I don't want to loose these hard earned bioinformatics skills especially the programming ones. But I damn sure won't be volunteering with HIS group!!! Humph! :)

         "As long as you keep your head to the sky, you CAN win"!!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unfair advantage???

One of the words I try to keep OUT of my vocabulary is the word unfair. Why? Because many days my life in America could be characterized that way, so I simply choose to focus (most of the time) on the many ways my life is blessed instead.

So when I interviewed a month ago for an Adjunct Faculty position at a local nursing school and was told by my interviewer that my having a tutoring business was not only a potential conflict of interest, but unfair to the students competing with the students I tutor, my mouth just hung open. WIDE open. Because it was truly the most ridiculous thing I had heard recently.

The woman I interviewed with who had a PhD in Psychology and was on faculty at the nursing school was down right adamant that my work outside the position was highly unfair her exact words, to other students seeking admission to the school. But given that 90% of my clients are not only minorities, but some of them under-represented minorities, I wondered in what world would ANY minority student have an "advantage" in anything in America by working with me. Outside of having family members on the Acdom, of course. Now what I thought she was really trying to imply was that I would cheat for my students to help them do well/gain admissions to the nursing school. But what she was blithely unaware of was the fact that I don't cheat for anyone and certainly not the students I work with for two very simply reasons. I'm a person of strong integrity (otherwise I'd still be employed in death pharma) and my students don't need to cheat because we are just that damned good!!! Then it got me thinking about how SUPER ridiculous her concern was when I realized that I tutor students in Bioinformatics too but no one from my current department ever questioned that when I was accepted into the program and later offered a teaching assistantship.

My feeling was that she had a problem with the fact that I had a very specific and VERY well communicated goal of increasing minority representation in the health professions. In fact, I explicitly state that on my website. So yeah I admittedly do go waaaaaayyyyyyy out of my way to help my students but never once have I given a thought to cheating to help them achieve their goals. Because I don't have to, 'cause WE GOT THIS!!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Go shorty, it's your birthday!!!!!

                                            *Image from Google Images

The week of my birth began with one of my mentors Dr. E, telling me that she's going to do an 18 month RN program at a community college so she can go into administration at the public hospital where she's currently working in Informatics. Now for clarity, NO hellz NO, this isn't my newest career revelation, LOL!! Of course, this is a revelation I was already aware of but for a slightly different reason. After my rotations earlier this year in a variety of clinical specialities in medicine, I was reminded that I was missing a LOT of personal and career satisfaction not being involved in patient care. A whole hellva' lot!!! But the nursing model of medicine has never, EVER appealed to me otherwise I would have followed in the foot steps of my Mom, and become an Advanced Nurse Practitioner. Plus the field is dominated with women...............umm HUGE NO THANKS!!!!

This week, I also had to meet with my 2 advisors and was greeted by the one in my current department with "You're applying to med school this year, right?" before Dr. B even said hello, LOL!! So our conversation started with my plans for matriculating into med school for the class entering in the Fall of 2016 and my current study for the MCAT due to my last scores "expiring" this month (according to some schools, scores are only good for 3 years). We then discussed whether or not I should stay in the Biomedical Informatics department or transfer to the Translational Sciences department. Now this advisor has a joint appointment in both departments which is the main reason I picked him, besides the fact that he was my professor in the Spring and I shadowed him at the county hospital where he's an Attending. So we have a REALLY good relationship!! Anyhoo, he suggested I stay where I'm at giving my very specific interests within Biomedical Informatics and that was a relief, because after meeting with my advisor in Translational Sciences earlier in the day, I felt I should stay in the Informatics dept too. But when he started suggesting classes in Artificial Intelligence (and the preq classes to even enroll in that class), I started to question whether or not I'd made the right decision, ROTFL!! One thing he did make crystal clear is that there is a significant need for Physicians trained in the nuances of Health Informatics (translated, those that understand the programming languages used in Health and Biomedical Informatics) and that I was studying the field at a very good time.

On the "work" front I'm still undecided about the next "group" I'm going to join, but I hope to have more clarity after I meet with the last PI on my radar on Tuesday. In the meantime, my Informatics classes keep me plenty busy these days as does the verbal reasoning/MCAT practice I'm managing to integrate into my daily study routine.

Lastly, I got one year closer to the half-century mark age wise on Thursday and since I meet with 3 different PI's on that day too, I'd say that that isn't a typical way one spends their birthday, ROTFL!!! But at this point in my life, I was VERY happy to spend it the way I did since I have long since grown inpatient with where I am in my career right now ie not in an MD/PhD program. But the knowledge that with each passing day, I'm one day closer to my MD/PhD goal means that I wouldn't change a thing about how my special day was spent! Plus, I'm just happy to still be here when so many of my loved ones are not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feelin' so good!

                                      *mother/daughter commuter selfie

It's the biggest understatement in the world to say that I was thrilled to learn that one of my "real" gig recommenders knew my future supv VERY well and had also worked with him. It's also no coincidence to say that I'm thrilled to be joining a group that's ALL male and in a relatively new department too, so they'll be room for significant career growth should I decide to stay for a while.

But honestly, this is all a very premature conversation because I haven't officially accepted the job yet. The hold up? Me and another interview I have next week with a Breast Cancer Genomics/Bioinformatics research group. I also haven't seen the final contract yet for the new gig and I've had one too past experiences with folks who think they can "flip the job pay and/or description script" after they think they have me on lock. NO. CAN. DO. My days of accepting less than what I'm worth are OVER.

School wise "everything is everything" as the young folk say and I STAY geeked out about all I'm learning and the people I'm meeting!! The fact that it all is directly related in some way to patient care it just well, my favorite cliche' of all, the icing on the cake! On the MCAT front, I haven't done anything in over a week but it's okay, the beauty of taking a semester to review the verbal section is that I'll have PLENTY of time to catch up. I am also leaning toward not taking any "formal" classes next semester so that I have plenty time to study for my April 2015 test date. But I do plan to work on my programming skills next spring and that will keep me plenty busy enough with a new gig and MCAT review. What I'm not going to so is overwhelm myself so that I can be in the best position to finally get at least that "30+" I'm shooting for!

Speaking of programming, I'm not one of many (new) programmers (or old for that matter) in bioinformatics that does so with hands like these:

But that's cool, I'm finally coming around to being my true self around some of the stiffest but smartest people known to man, ROTFL!!! My blue nails are just one reflecting of how good I'm feeling these days:

Saturday, September 6, 2014


So I've mentioned before that I'm taking a class in translational sciences which is team taught primarily by MDs and MD/PhDs. In this course, the lecturers discuss their research and how it supports the concept of "bench to bedside".

This past week our class was taught by the Doc that discovered the chemotherapy treatment for a major cancer and has spent the past 50 years creating other treatments for this particular cancer. So to say that I was impressed is an understatement. Actually, I had this kinda moment during his lecture:

Now I get that only a true researcher would understand how big of a moment this was for me. And the fact that he said a few kinds words to me was just the icing on the cake. So what did he say? Well he first commented that he "was soooooo glad to see me there" and I understood the underlying meaning of what he said the moment he uttered it. As the only brown face in the class and one only of 2 predoctoral students, I think he was excited to see his field show some much needed diversity. The fact that I answered a few questions during his lecture was just the icing on the impress the prof cake, but I have to always be mindful to not go the "gunner route" during class discussions because I want  good rapport with my classmates as well. I just had to keep pinching myself during the lecture because it seemed like such an unbelievable moment and was again, a much needed reminder to stay the course!

My week ended on a really great note as I'm now considering 3 different offers, 2 at the graduate research assistant (GRA) level and one at the "real job" level. Ironically, the "real" one came after a lecture in my department that was attended by ALL of the folks I worked with in my summer gig (except then mean lady), so needless to say, I had some trepidation about seeing them again. But that all went away quickly when I was warmly greeted by the husband and wife team (with the cute baby), with a very sincere "we REALLY miss having you around". Then the wife proceeded to give me a big huge which caught me totally by surprise because culturally speaking, native Chinese folks aren't that big into hugging, at least not in my experience. Anyhoo, while talking to her my conversation was overheard by two of the speakers that just happened to be looking for someone with my skill set. One thing led to another ie interviews, and now I have an almost 6 figure gig in Texas to consider. Now on one level (financially that is), this should be a no brainer but on another, I'm concerned it could take me down a different path than the one I'm on. In other words, I worry about getting "comfortable" and dropping the MD/PhD for the Doctorate in Health Administration, with a concentration in Information Systems. And in case folks are wondering where that came from, Information Systems is just another manifestation of Biomedical Informatics in a program that is not only part time, but gives me credit for my work experiences in the field.

On the flip side, I also had a moment this week where I thought again about becoming a Pathologist especially as I realized the the Doc's lecture was based on work he did with a Pathologist on board. Yeah, it's kinda hard to get around the field of Pathology where novel cancer treatments are concerned and of course, I've always known this. Now I have to be honest here, if I were 10 years younger I'd be far less stressed about "doing the right thing" now because I'd know that I have time to do something else too. OTOH, tomorrow is not promised to ANYONE at ANY age, so who says that I couldn't say, get the DHA in Information Systems/Translational Informatics, work in that for a few years, GET PAID BIG TIME, then go to med school? Or maybe I'll work on the DHA or PhD in the next two years, go to med school in 2016, then between years 2-3, finish up the DHA or PhD, followed by the MD 2 years later?

Yeah, I think I really like the sound of that last one, but I'm going to meet with my academic advisors next week, make a decision on a gig, then move forward with whatever the heavily "prayed upon" plan is at that time.

This video by Usher pretty much says what I was thinking and this week's lecture, replacing the "God" with "Gosh", of course!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The "devil" of being "tired"

It pretty much never fails that when I feel totally and completely exasperated by my professional goals, something and/or someone reminds me to stay the course. Today that source of my reminder was a post by one of my favourite Doctor bloggers, the Grady Doctor. This reminder like most of them, brought tears to my eyes which is kinda odd when your in the middle of the cafeteria at a major cancer center.

Class wise, things are going well as usual but I did have a moment where I thought about what it means to be in a class full of Oncologists. In total, only 2 of us are at the predoctoral level and it's a little complicated to think about why this situation makes me a little uncomfortable. A good deal of it is that in these settings, I'll get asked at least once if I'm a Physician or what type of Physician I am. And I this question used to make me feel good, but now I find it kinda annoying because it's a reminder of the fact that I'm not where I want to be. Yet. But I'm always gracious when I receive this compliment, saying "thank you" and adding that I'm not a Physician. Yet.