Friday, November 28, 2014

Back and Forth

Here we go again...................................

So not even a week after I extolled the virtues of my new research gig, than I learn from HR that the position was filled and NOT by me. Well DAMN!!!!  Actually DOUBLE DAMN, and I'm sure my regular readers have joined me in a collective "HUH????". And unfortunately, the PI didn't have the professional decency to tell me he decided to go with another candidate. TRIPLE DAMN!!!!! But as I've learned MANY times in the last 4 months, until you see a contract, the job is like a fart, it disappears in the wind within seconds, LOL!!!

But.......................... in the spirit of contacting PI's EVERY week until a gig comes through, I attended a recruitment event last week at a computer science (CS) department with my daughter who is seriously considering following in the foot steps of her Computer Engineer father. But when I heard the words, genomics and bioinformatics, my attention was immediately changed for what would be great for her to what would be great for us. However this isn't the first time I've floated the idea of CS in my mind, I just summarily rejected it with a strong HELLZ NAW!!! (Of course, Dr. E's #1 and #2 on that list contradict themselves, sigh) But in the absence of a gig (again) and a woman PI in CS that is interested in me (and my goals) and whom I'm meeting with next Friday, I'll need to retool my thinking because: 1) EVERYONE I know doing what I'm interested in has a degree in CS including Dr. E, the Internist at the county hospital and my mentor from the FDA with the PhD in Bioinformatics, 2) A HUGE part of my inability to get "respect" from folks in Bioinformatics is my weak background in CS, and 3) As one of my new CS colleagues put it, the difference between Bioinformaticians and CS people who do Bioinformatics is that one makes great money and the other is poor.

So while this is far from me "playing to my strengths", I can't "play" to $hit without a gig in my "strengths". Meanwhile, the clock for me getting a head start on my MD/PhD plans gets delayed while I'm ardently searching for a research group I can "stick" too. Right now, it's ALL about where I can get support for what is already not a realistic goal to many people for me. But then, becoming a Scientist wasn't supposed to be "for me" either according to the many naysayers I'm come across in my academic endeavours. So now it comes down to support and how I can tailor my interests into an area I'm going to be supported in because in the end, support trumps EVERYTHING!!!!

Enough about that, "It's Friday and I'm ready to swing".........

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Never too much?

"Baby, you're all over the place".

When someone you're emotionally attached to, starts a conversation off with that sentiment, you KNOW you're in trouble, LOL!!! So it turns out that my plan to train to become a pharmacy tech has scared the "heebie jeebies" out someone VERY close to me. And I can't say that I don't understand why. I guess..........

The thing is that having ADD as an adult means being all over the place (especially when you forget to take your supplements as often as I do) although I can easily concede that it's just not a cool look. Not at this age. I've just had to have plan A-Z my entire life such that it never once occurred to me that to others, I look like "I'm all over the place". But I don't think that's the real point here, I think the MUCH bigger point here is that a Physician/Scientist program is going to require the utmost in focus for at least 6 years (yeah, I'm planning on finishing my PhD in 2.5 years and med school in 3.5 with some academic reciprocity between both programs). So it's probably in my best interest to do my best to get focused NOW!!!

I also realized that I'm going to have too much on my plate beginning in January because I need to hit the ground running on my next research gig. So I decided that in addition to preparing final assignments due in a few weeks, I'd also better start reviewing every thing I've learned in bioinformatics over the past 2 years. And since there's no way in hell I can do all that, study for my Pharm cert in the next 6 weeks, and travel a LOT between now and January 2015,  I've decided put my Pharm tech stuff on hold indefinitely........

Speaking of research gigs, it's an ironic observation that my entire support system at my school is now entirely of Indian descent. My new PIs (2 MD/PhDs) are both Indian men and my new department advisor is a female Indian Scientist whom I've known for over a year. Add to that the fact that most of my business clients are Indian along with the fact that I heavily studied Hinduism in college (as an Eastern Philosophy major) and maybe that's not so ironic afterall. What I do know is that I'm taking support any damn way I can get it and I'm so very thankful for it! :)

You know some people say that you can never have too much of a good thing, in my case the opportunity to learn something new (or some of my awesome Thanksgiving dinner cooking, LOL!!). But what I realized is that for me, that's just not the case either with Thanskgiving dinner and especially not with my academic goals which must stay laser focused if I'm to be successful.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Brand new gig

So it turns out that the gig I mentioned in this post where there were 3 positions and 4 job candidates, has unofficially come through for me with a start date of January 5, 2015. And as a reminder, this is the gig where I'll be involved in data analysis, bioinformatics, and seeing patients too which also comes with the opportunity for dissertation work in the long term. Now once again, I've been verbally offered a job but have yet to receive anything in writing. However in this case, the position wasn't created at the time I interviewed for it so I'm not surprised I haven't seen an official contract yet. But I'm still cautiously optimistic given my recent history with gigs these days.

Movin' on, I haven't done ANY MCAT study in weeks and I don't really have a reason why except that I'm mentally drained with my lack of research gig situation and have decided to work on a definitive study plan starting in January. I am still enjoying my bioinformatics courses to the point where I'm looking at other options for getting more training in a department where I feel supported. So I'm visiting a Genetics department a week from Monday in an effort find a supportive environment where I can further my training in Bioinformatics. My HowardU mentor is constantly reminding me that it's not necessarily the degree that counts, but the training you receive earning the degree. And since I have a background in Cancer and Genetic Epidemiology from my time as a predoctoral fellow at the NCI, I'm looking at ALL my options. Interestingly, one of my classes which has focused intensely in GWAS or Genome Wide Association Studies works extremely well with the idea of me studying Genetics at the graduate level for reasons which should be obvious by the name GWAS. However, I have had to dust off my knowledge base in genetics all semester because it's been years since I used it. So instead of being frustrated by it, I've reminded myself that cancer is a genetic abnormality, bringing everything I'm learning now full circle with what my research interests are and what I've learned in the past.

Other updates are that I'm still working on my Pharm tech certification study (gotta have the plan B gig IN PLACE!!) and it's kinda interesting to be looking at drugs from a different perspective given my previous disasterous learning experiences working in big Pharma, great experiences working with the feds in drug approval process, and having earned an MS in Pharmacology which was more about how drugs work than their identity/what they're prescribed for. I actually feel like these experiences are coming/have come together for a reason which just isn't clear to me right now for whatever reason. All I do know is that come hell or high water, I will be in school full-time (MD or DO/PhD) by 2016.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When the teacher becomes a student......again! :)

                             *My dry erase board is my friend, LOL!!!

It occurred to me that my readers may be wondering what I'm doing these days to "earn my own keep". Turns out that tutoring nursing, pharmacy, premeds, prepharms, and prenursing students keeps me pretty busy. And I actually find it humorously ironic that I'm applying for jobs in the $15-$20/hour range when I make 4X that at a minimum for tutoring folks, LOL!!

I also have an interview for a position in the ER/Trauma department at a local hospital in the job equivalent of a medical assistant with some research study work too. Turns out that the Doc I shadowed in the ER remembered me and wants to follow up about a gig, a gig that is normally filled by medical students. So YES if I'm offered this opportunity I'm going to take it, it's full-time, 12 hours shifts, 3 days/week. The other 2 days, I hope to work as a Pharm Tech. And I won't be taking classes this Spring to prepare for the MCAT, so I'll have time. Now I know that probably sounds like a lot going on, but I'm the kind of person that doesn't function well with too much time on my hands, hence the dual gigs. Of course, that won't leave much time for tutoring and that's okay, because as much as I get out of helping others, it simply doesn't fulfil my need for being highly stimulated academically.

I do enjoy learning though and I suppose that must be the case given my long term goals. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The "In the meantime" gig.....

                                   * No, I'm NOT looking for love, LOL!!

So after finally getting caught up in one of my Informatics core classes (yeah me!!) :)), I'm back to spending a lot of time looking into gig prospects. And unfortunately, I still haven't been able to secure a suitable research position despite an exhaustive effort!! But like clockwork, I'll continue to send a letter of research interest to a PI every week and apply for whatever research gigs become available. Because THAT is what it means to be as tenacious as 50 bull dogs.:)  I should emphasize local gig because I did get an offer to go back East, but turned it down. I also interviewed for a fellowship with another federal agency and I will probably seriously consider that one if I get an offer. It's just so difficult to consider moving (again) for the second time in a calendar year, with a family without some serious pre-planning. So I've decided I need to explore other local gig options including this one which probably appears to come straight outta' no where, Pharmacy Technician.

Now I'm certain folks are probably VERY perplexed about this but it actually relates a lot to my background, and ironically to my recent research experiences. One of the projects I worked on this past summer involved drug-drug interactions, so I'm quite familiar with ALL the major drug databases. I also have Gov't job experience in chemical drug evaluation as well as an MS in Pharmacology. Most relevant to my next possible gig is the fact that back in the day, I worked as a Pharm Tech during a time when I thought I would apply to Pharmacy school.

One thing IS very clear about me right now is that I'm soooooooooooooo desperate to work with "people people" and with patients, that I'll do damn near ANYTHING!! So when it comes down to clinical gigs I can get into/trained in quickly only 2 come to my mind, CNA(certified nursing assistant) or Pharmacy Tech. And given what my sister (who's a Pharmacist), says about working as a Pharmacy Tech these days, I MUST be pretty damn desperate to get that "clinical" interaction by working in a retail pharmacy, ROTFL!!!! I would prefer a hospital pharmacy gig, but sometimes you gotta' do what you gotta' do, and take whatever you can get! :)

So for now, in addition to finishing up my classes, I'm learning the top 200 drugs in use, blowing the dust off my basic math skills for pharm calculations, while also preparing mentally for volunteering at a hospice agency. And I'm hoping to start all this by January 2015 if nothing else comes through. In other words, even with this highly curvaceous path to the 'Dr' title, life is still VERY interesting and VERY good! I just gotta hang in there and keep being patient!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

If I had to choose a medical specialty today, I'd choose..............


Today, it seems a very good way for me to do the following:

1) Have a career seeing patients while also conducting research too.

2) Use my pathology background so that it won't go to "waste".

3) Use bioinformatics skills to address cancer health disparities.

The ultimate trifecta!!! :)

Interestingly, my hospice training is on the 19th of this month and I also joined American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) last August. Add to that, my first Master's thesis project was in sickle cell disease and the other one was a breast cancer project. Interesting, but probably not ironic.

Of course, that's a long time form now, but it's fun to dream today!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fake it til' you can make it!

                            * all images in this post are from Google images

The story of my life these days, LOL!!!

A few years ago, I created a playlist titled "Fake 'til you make it" and I've played it least once a week for the past 2 years. On one level I look back at my path thus far toward a career as a Physician/Scientist and I say, "D@mn, I don't know how or WHY I'm still here" pursing this impossible dream despite obstacles that at times appeared insurmountable. Then I'm reminded of who I'm made of.

I'm a descendant of many people, some of whom spent months here:

Actually in the dungeons of this building, where my ancestors were chained to each other and forced to live in a room with a floor made of feces, urine, menstrual fluids, and dead bodies:

Minus the light shown in this photo, of course. And the lucky few of my ancestors that survived the 3-6 months in this living hell, ended up here for a months long trip to America:

And the ones who survived this trip lying in feces, urine, menstrual fluids, and dead bodies became my African ancestors in America. Yeah.

On my worst troubleshooting computer days of which there have been MANY lately, I think about this man Henry O Flipper, who was "silenced" for the 4 years while he was a student at West Point Military Academy becoming the first Black cadet in the school's history:

For those who don't know the definition of "silenced", it's when your classmates refuse to talk to you. FOR FOUR YEARS in this case. Actually, this reminds me of being a Black woman in Bioinformatics/Computational Biology, but I recently made a very interesting observation. My relationship with my colleagues/classmates in their 20s and 30s is phenomenal, with a capital "P". It's the middle age folks who have given me and regularly give me the the most hell and not ironically, these are the people who grew up with a VERY different viewpoint of people, which I don't think is a coincidence.

My last inspiration to stay focused and stay the course, comes from these men:

These are the infamous Tuskegee Airmen an all Black fighter pilot squadron during world war II. After fighting for their country these college degreed men, were not only prevented from assuming jobs as Airline Pilots in the US, many had a difficult time securing work in the field of their degree due to racism. And it's a reality that I feel every day when I think about the difficulty I've had securing a position utilizing Bioinformatics skills as compared to similarly educated/trained people. But just like these men made the decision to gut it out until an opportunity presented itself, I must do the same if for no other reason than the fact that my genetic profile is made of people who not only survived under the most hellish circumstances known to man, but thrived as well!!! 'Cause I got BIG things poppin' in my future and imma "Ball on these suckas, shawty losins not an option"!!! :)