Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Holiday break? NOT!!!!!

I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to finish up 2 stats courses over the winter break, including one class where 70% of my classmates have dropped out after the second week! Yikes!!!. But I think I did it because I'm trying to make up for lost time toward finishing my PhD. I think................
So it looks like joining my local SNMA (Student National Medical Association) chapter was a great move for me because I constantly get email "motivation" from them to stay the Physician/Scientist course. Recently, I got an email about the Annual Medical Education Conference being held in Austin Texas this year and it's an understatement to say that I'm looking forward to attending my first SNMA meeting!! Austin is one of the most beautiful cities in the US and the food there is pretty amazing too, so it's going to be a great time!

That week is going to be especially busy for me since I'll be at this meeting in San Fran earlier in that same week, 2015 Joint Summits on Translational Science. As I mentioned before, many of the people from my old, UNsupportive department in Texas are going to be there and there's also going to be folks from one of my alma maters there too. So I tremendously thank 2 profs at that east coast university in DC for having planted the seeds which helped me get to where I am today, immersed and in demand (job wise) when it comes to the field of biomedical informatics. Speaking of that alma mater, the elementary school where I teach occasionally, has a flag from that school posted in front of one of the classrooms:


People say a LOT of negative things about the people/education here in Texas but I tell everyone I know that there are quite INCORRECT!! From the free breakfast provided to ALL students every morning, to the emphasis on getting a college education ie posting university flags, public schools in Texas seem more than committed to higher education than ANY of the 6 other states I've lived in.

Speaking of jobs, I'm still meeting/interviewing like a crazy woman for positions in biomedical informatics/health data science, searching for that combination of flexibility and a gig that I can learn a LOT from. However, finding flexibility is proving to be the most challenging aspect of all but as I've said MANY times before, I'll happily (and blessedly) stick with teaching until the right gig comes along!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tests of resiliency and patience

Everyday, I get biblical scriptures by email which allow me to start my days off in the best way possible. And lately, these scriptures have been ALL about being patient and equally important to being a middle age premed, being resilient. Now the resiliency part of that is typically no problem for me though I've had my fare share of thoughts that I'll get my PhD and be done with school, permanently. But being patient is something I've struggled with all my adult life and in doing so, have made a few decisions that I wouldn't mind a "do over" for. That said, I recognize that for most of us, the "challenges" we have in life are part of our life's stories and that what happens, both good and not so good, are ultimately things which shape our character, define who we are, and define who we are yet to be.

So my semester ends up great, I did very well overall in the courses I'm taking for the certification exam as a Certified Health Data Analyst, and I'll be VERY busy over the winter break finishing 2 courses I'm taking as "refreshers" for my spring/summer PhD classes. Unfortunately, I did have a small "brouhaha" with one of my profs when I became so ill that I had to make a trip to the local ER. But that wasn't a good enough excuse for this new Prof not threaten to flunk me in the class for missing so many days (despite an almost perfect "A" average at the time). So it would be an understatement to say that I didn't take it too well, a position "aggravated" by my own position as an Adjunct Chemistry Prof at this same institution. Blessedly, I'm on the mend and have been for a while now and I'm so thankful to God for it! But I realize that whatever I did before in terms of taking care of myself, needs to be stepped up significantly. I talked before about how my eating/exercise habits have improved, in addition to carefully monitoring my asthma in a relatively new environment. But I must also stay on top of my flu season "preparation" (ie get the darn flu shot before flu season!!) like I never have before especially since I almost died of pneumonia in the late 90's. Aren't health professionals the MOST hard headed sometimes, LOL???

Movin' on, I've become quite active in my local "Data Science" community regularly meeting with others in this new and emerging field. So at a recent meeting, I connected with the 3 other women there which was not only dominated by foreigners, but men too. The fact that the 4 of us are all racially/culturally different was really kinda cool too!! More than ever I realize that bonding with women with similar goals will not only be key to my success it will certainly be key to my "survival" in this field as well.

On the med school front, I was able to get a pretty thorough review of general chemistry through tutoring a local predoctoral student last semester but I know in the area of chemistry, I have MUCH more work to do as far as MCAT practice testing is concerned. So next spring, I plan to cover that in addition to biochemistry and biology review. I'm still on target for a Summer MCAT exam and I'll be assured in my prep time due to being purposely part-time in my PhD program in the Spring. And it also helps me tremendously that my studies in Health Data Science reinforces my "med school in my 50's goal", todos las dias or everyday!!

**For a reminder if what my PhD program in Informatics/Health Data Science has to do with the practice of medicine, click on the link.**

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stuntin' like a med student!

Obviously I won't know how it feels to be a med student until I become one. But until then, I'll be THOROUGHLY acclimated to being SUPER busy ALL THE TIME!!!

With just 2 weeks left this semester, I'm FINALLY feeling what I call "academically normal". My grades are still high though I did have little slump when I got sick a couple weeks ago for the second time (still working on managing my allergies/asthma in a new climate), but overall I'm VERY pleased with my academic performance this semester.

MCAT wise I'm behind but without a set testing date on my schedule, I'm not overly worried that I haven't done much in the way of formal studying. With the way my schedule is working out, I won't be able to do a lot of focused studying until May at the earliest. So maybe a late June/early July 2016 date will work? We'll see!!

Movin' on, I'm spending a lot of time reading papers for what I hope will be my dissertation project and I'm meeting with PIs as well. However, given my VERY specific interest in health disparities and natural language processing (NLP) in clinical decision support, I'm realizing that I may be "winging" this dissertation work solo. And by that I mean that rather than taking on a project already in progress, I'll be creating and defending my own. And given the paucity of research in health disparities using NLP, this will be a TON of work. But hey, this is what I've wanted to do for a while so it's ALL good!! :)

Lastly, I've realized the hard way that I'm at the age now where it's do or die as far as me getting in tip top health is concerned. So after realizing that I've gained 15 pounds since I relocated to Texas ( putting the "B" in baby got back), I'm back down to what I was when I moved here, 5'8" and 140 pounds. I haven't started running again just yet, but I am exercising on a regular basis about 3X/week. But this weight "stabilization" hasn't come without major sacrifice, I eat at most 2.5 complete meals a day. And that works out to me eating 5 smaller meals everyday so I'm not hungry. To say it's been a little rough is an understatement especially since I've never in my life had to monitor what I eat. But between the escalating blood pressure and getting a booty made for a rap video, I decided that it's more important to be healthy especially as an old premed and to pass on the ability to REALLY "make it clap", lol!!