Sunday, February 28, 2016

On second thought...........

Although I questioned it at first, I now understand why my adviser didn't know I would soon be conducting research at one of the top medical schools in the US. I've had so many interviews that seemed promising only to be let down in the end, so I guess I really didn't believe it myself until I got the contract by email last week. And I suppose I'm really not all that surprised that with this "new realization", he's now encouraging me to complete my dissertation with this infectious disease(ID) group despite the low publication rate of my adviser. So now that I'm thoroughly confused about what I should do dissertation research wise, I've decided to put the dissertation issue on the back burner and focus on 4 things over the next 1.5 years: 1) Scoring well on the MCAT later this summer, 2) Learning as much as I can in my ID data research gig, 3) Finishing up my 2 health data certifications by the end of the year, and 4) Finishing all my PhD courses/passing my written and oral exams. And that is MORE than enough for ANY one person to do in 1.5 years!

Movin on', in what is now my 6th week teaching general chemistry at a predominately Hispanic college, I'm realizing that the challenges many of my students face outside of the classroom are pretty damn difficult to overcome. And with the knowledge that many of the students at the wealthy predominately White university where I last taught, not only have supportive parents encouraging them toward excellence but also attend regular tutoring, I'm getting a better understanding of why Black and Brown kids don't pursue careers in STEM. But when I learned at a faculty retreat this past Friday that only 13% of the STEM students at my school graduate, something else in me started brewing, something that became a FULL blown anger at "the system". I have "a few" college degrees all obtained at predominately White universities, including some of the best universities in the country. And at NO time in my tenure at ANY school do I think a pass rate of 13% in STEM would EVER be acceptable! EVER!! So why in the hell is it "acceptable" at this college?

URGH!! Anyhoo, I have a couple ideas about what they need to do to turn this thing around starting with getting a better Chemistry textbook! The book we're using now (General Chemistry by McMurry et al) is just terrible in it's organization. Yeah, McMurry has a fantastic textbook for Organic Chemistry (it's in my Orgo collection, though I've never used it for a class). But just because you can author a great orgo book doesn't mean you can effectively author any other chemistry textbook, especially general chemistry. And I know this book well because my kid "used" it in her AP Chemistry class in high school a few years ago. Actually, she ended up learning chemistry from my Petrucci Chemistry textbook from the 1980's and only last year did I update to the 4th edition of Petrucci just to modernize my general chemistry textbook collection. Here it is in case someone reading is looking for a good chemistry textbook, just make sure to order the solutions manual too:

This experience like so many others I've had in the educational field, are a reminder that while I do enjoy it to a large degree and welcome the opportunity to mentor and "give back" to women and/or minority/disadvantaged students, committing to it full-time isn't something that will ever be on my long term goal list. Because like Big Pharma, I find far too many "unnecessary" obstacles to success that people in these industries not only find acceptable, they seem indifferent too. The "as long as I've got mine, you get yours the best you can" attitude, is simply more than I can tolerate.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Slow your roll!

So my adviser emailed me to say that I'm putting "the cart before the horse" with this research project stuff and that over the course of the next year I need to focus on: 1) Getting the rest of my classes for my PhD completed, and 2; Passing my written and oral exams.  So, in the words of Nene Leakes from Atlanta housewives, BLOOP!!! :)

However, that isn't going to stop me from submitting an abstract to an AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) meeting to be held in the early fall. But of course, that's going to be HIGHLY depended on what I get done this summer with more certification classes to complete (as a Data Analyst/Health Info Management) and an in depth MCAT review, BOTH with definitive placement on my "summer plate" too.

Still point VERY well taken, I seriously need to slow myself down!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More scribble, scrabble!!!

"Sure, I'd much rather work on a project related to cancer, but I accept the fact that right now, I don't have any support in that area unless I want to leave Texas."


So not even 48 hours after I came to accept that I won't have a cancer research project, did my graduate adviser pretty much veto DOWN my choice to have an HIV focused dissertation project. Not only that, one of my mentors did the same thing adding that my new PI hasn't published enough. D*mn!

So while this may appear to be a major set back of sorts to some, it actually really isn't because I haven't officially started the research gig yet, LOL!! And I obviously won't mind continuing with cancer research. :)

Right now, I'm going to stick with the HIV gig for my "day job" because of the opportunity to have regular interactions with patients and my VERY strong interest in staying "clinically oriented". And the fact of the matter is that I don't have time to volunteer in a clinical setting, as much as I'd love to do it. But we'll see how this "Jeckel and Hyde, Infectious Disease/Cancer research existence goes moving forward!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Keeping my expectations grounded in reality!

This is the story of my pre-med life to many people, LOL!! However I've learned to accept that, not because I think this image is in any way accurate to ME, but because the way God planned my life has nothing to do with how others think He should have planned it. The fact is that save for one too many disappointing research endeavors, it's been a pretty interesting ride. And the most important fact of my journey is that I succeeded remarkable in raising my kid to become the fabulous and successful person she is today, receiving MUCH more family support for her life and goals than I received. More than that, I'm resolved myself to the fact that my med school journey will not include my parents (for reasons I've mentioned before but won't elaborate on again, my father is deceased so that's one part of it) and it's just taken me until very recently to accept that and MOVE ON anyway!

Speaking of which, my MCAT review is going  at a pretty steady clip and I mix it up to keep myself motivated. One of the sites I'm using is the Khan Academy website which now has all of the new sections of the MCAT included among their materials:

Of course, being a college chemistry professor keeps me on my MCAT toes and I remain very grateful for the opportunity to not only teach/mentor other minority students, but relearn some things myself.

The other really cool thing going on is that I've settled on a new research group for my dissertation and it looks right now like I'm back in the infectious disease (ID) arena. I finally came to the realization that besides not taking the advice I give students to pick your research group based on support first and interest second, I was causing an unnecessary delay in getting things going (my target date to finish my PhD is December 2018). Sure, I'd much rather work on a project related to cancer, but I accept the fact that right now, I don't have any support in that area unless I want to leave Texas. And that's the other part of this, my unwillingness to move placed me in a situation of not having many options but I accepted that because I LOVE the people and living in Texas, and hope to practice medicine in this state as well.

While enjoying my last bit of free time (I start with my new research group next week), I spend a LOT of time walking in my downtown neighborhood. Out home is about a block from dog park and I snapped this pick on the way back from picking up a package from the post office:

Again, it's so mega cool living blocks from the arts district!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016