You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘education’ category.
As with similar Twitter chats, this will be an hour-long discussion about issues and questions related to pre-medical education as well as medical school and clinical practice every week. The day and time will be Wednesdays at 9 PM EST.
Here are some ground rules:
1. At the beginning of the chat, please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about yourself. Remember, the people who are there one night may not be there the next!
Ex. Saroj, pre-med, neuroscience enthusiast, Indian cooking maven.
2. Topics will be decided before each chat, but will likely branch out to other topics as the chat progresses. Bring your chosen topics and questions to the table. If they aren’t discussed one night, all efforts will be made to incorporate it into subsequent chats.
3. Be respectful and courteous to the other participants. Your online persona should be one that you wouldn’t mind showing to adcoms and employers down the road.
4. HIPAA does not disappear when you move from the classroom or clinic to the computer. Keep your tweets HIPAA-compliant. If you don’t know what HIPAA is, ask one of us. One of the later chats will likely cover HIPAA as well.
5. While you may have a great book or MCAT prep class, do NOT advertise on the #premeded chat.
6. If you can’t make one of the chats, don’t worry! We know all too well that pre-med schedules can be hectic (and usually are). You can access the transcripts either on our Twitter page (@Premeded) or Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/premeded).
Looking forward to chatting with all of you!
I realized that some of you who are joining the Twitter chat may be new to Twitter, so here are some basics that may help:
1. To participate in the chat, just write your tweet and include #premeded somewhere in the tweet so that it gets included in the conversation.
Ex. Organic chemistry is so cool. #premeded.
2. To respond to someone, type “@” followed by the Twitter handle of the person to whom you are responding.
Ex. sospokesaroj: No, neuroscience is far cooler. #premeded
premedstudent: @sospokesaroj In what universe? #premeded
3. To follow what others are saying in the conversation, you can either:
a) Go to twitter.com, click on “#discover”, and search for “premeded”. All tweets in the conversation should show up in real-time.
b) Use your Twitter client to set up a separate area to view all tweets with the #premeded hashtag. In Tweetdeck, just clicking on the hashtag sets up a new column automatically.
If you have any other questions about how to participate in the chat, don’t be afraid to ask!
When I was in ninth grade, my classmates were introduced to Hinduism and some basic Hindu tenets in our Global Studies class. One of the first things that we covered was the concept of the caste system. There were the brahmins (priests) at the top, followed by the kshatriyas (warriors), then the vaishyas (merchants), and sudras (unskilled workers). Absent from the hierarchy were the untouchables. It had always been my understanding that caste was a birthright. One was born into a certain caste based on their past karma (fruits of their actions). The hereditary quality of caste, like eye color and skin tone, seemed indisputable. If my parents were one caste, then I would be of the same caste. Hence, at the time, marrying within the same caste made complete sense.
I read this article recently in the New York Times, detailing the honor killing of a Brahmin girl in Northern India who was secretly engaged to someone from a lower caste. The parents had apparently feared, “…ostracism, and accused her of defiling their religion.” She was 22 years old when she was found dead, and was apparently pregnant. While the argument from the family’s side is that she committed suicide, it is hard not to believe that she died at the hands of her family. I can’t seriously believe her fiancé could have posed a serious threat aside from being a threat to questionable ideals and the pride that the family derived from adhering to those ideals.
My discontent with the caste system as it exists today probably started with my most recent trip to India. I was about to head off to college, and was visiting India partly to pray at some of the temples. One of the temples I visited was a small temple in Ernakulam devoted to Devi (the female embodiment of divinity). We had gone to perform a puja (ritual offering) in honor of one of the manifestations of Devi, Saraswati (the goddess of learning). The priest was unsurprisingly, a brahmin. My experience with priests here in the U.S. has always been positive; they have always been very friendly and interacted with us as though we were family. Yet this priest, nice as he was, would not permit us to touch his feet as a sign of respect, nor accidentally touch his hands when he gave us prasadam (food sanctified by having offered it to the deity). Even Nairs (at least in the old days…maybe even now in some rural parts of Kerala) had a physical hierarchy, where the castes are segregated to some extent, intermingling only as much as necessary. That never seemed right to me. While we set ourselves apart from each other with these supposedly hereditary castes, I’m pretty sure there are people in each caste who may not necessarily fit what it means to be from that caste, whether that means they rise above the defining characteristics or fall well below the cultural expectations.
To my knowledge, there is no scriptural basis for the theory that caste is hereditary. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is the following verse:
sudranam ca parantapa
Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with the modes of nature.
(Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 18, Verse 41)
The next few verses delineate the qualities of each level of the caste system, without any reference to family or lineage as a deciding factor. The son of a sudra is not necessarily a sudra just because he is born to one. The same is true for other castes. It’s like saying the son of a doctor is a doctor too…ok well some parents may actually believe that one.
Unfortunately, caste still exists as a rigid, unchanging system where mobility is not an option. Intermingling among castes, while accepted nowadays in most contexts (more or less), romantic relationships still remain taboo. It is truly unfortunate and deplorable when parents react so harshly (and sometimes violently) in the face of an intercaste union. It is equally deplorable that, while people do interact across caste boundaries, some still hold on to the antiquated sense of superiority of inferiority supposedly conferred by caste. I really do hope this changes, it just seems like the product of centuries of misinterpretation and an intrinsic need to create a sense of “us” versus “them”. Once we move past those terms and realize that we are all in this together, and that we must do what we can to elevate each other socially and spiritually, then only can we make real progress.
There is a trending topic on Twitter called #booksthatchangedmyworld. What are yours? Why? Here are my top 10 (in no particular order):
1. The Bhagavad Gita
2. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
4. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
5. Phantoms in the Brain
6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
7. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed
8. Autobiography of a Yogi
10. 100 Years of Solitude
I happened to be on Youtube a while back, and saw that there was a section devoted to commencement speeches, where Randy Pausch’s video was featured. I can’t believe it has been almost a year since he passed. I can’t believe that he passed.
I watched his last lecture soon after I had graduated from college. My brother had insisted that I see it, and he is usually not one for sweeping oratory. Randy Pausch did not look like he was dying, though all those present, and all those watching knew that he was. Not once did he pity himself, or bemoan his situation, even as his death grew steadily within him. His speech was peppered with grace, humor, and a perspective that one would not expect from cancer patients, let alone people who have ever been so much as slighted by fate.
He spoke eloquently of achieving his own childhood dreams, and helping others to achieve theirs. It’s one of those topics that, context notwithstanding, is beautiful and inspirational. Yet it takes on a whole new level of poignancy when one takes into account Pausch’s backstory, the “elephant in the room” as he referred to it (terminal pancreatic cancer). On a slight sidenote, and perhaps this is a gross generalization, but in the few weeks that I have worked in clinical cancer research, I have found such inspiration in the patients I have been lucky enough to hear about or perhaps even talk to. Their perspective, in many cases, is so pure and so positive. Perhaps it’s the specter of death that causes us to review our views on life, and find something positive to keep us (and those we love) going.
I remember coming into the hospital one day, having walked a few blocks in the pouring rain. I ended up being locked out of my office, and decided to wait in the waiting room. There was one other woman there, who was a patient. She smiled at me and asked me how I was doing. I responded, “Fine…but I wish the weather was better!”
“No no,” she said, “I love this weather.”
“Well,” she started, “it’s almost as if the city is being cleansed fully.” She smiled. “There is a smell in the city, that no amount of cleaning we do can take away. Yet when the rain comes down and washes the streets, it smells so fresh and clean afterward. That’s why I love it.”
I can’t look at storms with the same, negative view again.
Randy Pausch inspired me similarly. As many of you know, whether because you know me, or because you have read my posts, I really want to become a doctor. What you probably also know is that it has been a ridiculously uphill battle. In his speech, he spoke of brick walls. Brick walls, he said, were there to test how badly you really wanted something. Your propensity for breaking down the brick wall was correlated to the strength of your dream. I have made some progress with my own brick wall, but there is still more work to be done. I’ll see how it plays out.
There are a few other things that stuck that I have been able to relate to my own life. For one thing, he strongly advises his audience to never lose that child-like wonder. It’s absolutely true. If you do, you just get caught up in the tide, and in the humdrum passing of the days, where everything is just shades of gray. I think, oftentimes, it is the curse of adulthood, once we step outside of our colleges into the real world. Life threatens to be the same old story, everyday. It’s important, though, to find excitement in even the smallest, most seemingly mundane things. Even on my commute, I find myself staring out the window, trying to pick up on this and that that flies by as we head to Penn (or head home), or just let my mind run a little wild, contemplating this and that. Everything has the potential to be amazing, it’s just a question of how we approach it. If I find myself getting swept away, I just have to remember Randy Pausch, and how he was able to see everything in a new, awe-inspiring way
Helping others and doing the right thing seem to be things that we should be adhering to, but it’s surprising how many people drop the ball. Karma is something I strongly believe in, though that’s not the only reason one should do the right thing. It’s a question of the act itself, not the rewards it may potentially bring.
Ultimately the one thing that really touched me from his last lecture is the premise of putting others before yourself. He demonstrated that visibly by leading the entire audience in singing happy birthday to his wife. Yet even in day to day things, we can put the needs of others above our own. Humans are social beings, to deny our connection to other people, and to subvert that connection for our own gain does go against what it means to be human. Sure, we do have to look out for ourselves on occasion (otherwise we ultimately perish, literally or figuratively) but in serving others, we become better people.
Part of me wants to think Randy Pausch was, in a sense, enlightened all along. He seemed to conduct his life with a strong awareness of what he expected of life, and what life expected of him. Part of me thinks that his fight with cancer hastened the enlightenment process. Perhaps it was a little of both. He was certainly an extraordinary man, who led an extraordinary life, yet maintained a sense of humility that most people in his position fail to have.
It’s unfortunate that those who are truly an inspiration to humanity inevitably end up being taken away from us too soon. It is fortunate, however, that we have the means to immortalize those people and the wisdom that they preach. Indeed, the video of the last lecture has 10 million or so views. I’ve personally watched it twice, and I cried both times. It wasn’t really so much the inevitability of his death, but the manner in which he handled it that so moved me. He smiled, joked, laughed, and reminisced, even treating his impending death light-heartedly. Cancer wasn’t an end, it was a beginning.
It is partly because of Randy Pausch that I still dare to dream, even if the dream seems walled off by brick walls. Like he said, brick walls are there to test the strength of our resolve, and our devotion to the dream. Nothing is ever impossible, as he demonstrates by admitting that he was not accepted to Carnegie Mellon for graduate school. However, he was persistent, and eventually ended up going. As the 1st anniversary of his death approaches, I hope that new people, as well as people who have already seen the video, become inspired by the wisdom he so willingly gave.
Here is the video, for those who haven’t seen it, and those who want to see it again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo
I first heard about Project Remix last year–or at least the collection of nascent ideas that would eventually become Remix–from one of the creators, who is also a good friend of mine. I was immediately sold on the idea, which was to create a site that provided resources and information to Desi (South-Asian) youth. A site created by the Indian youth for the Indian youth.
The official site launched recently, though it had already started generating buzz among our peers when it had made its first foray into the collective consciousness. Currently there are sections for cuts, cultural media, and articles. The cuts feature mixes used by various student groups and collegiate dance teams (bhangra, raas, Indian fusion, etc.) from across the country. Cultural media highlights video performances from various collegiate groups. The articles on Project Remix have been broken down into smaller categories and initiatives, devoted to everything from the arts to sports (currently I’m contributing to Team Innovate’s Neurobio series so be sure to check that out!). Examples of articles currently up on the website include my neurobio piece (an overview of neuroscience), a two-part series on biofuels, a review of Slumdog Millionaire, and a piece recounting a trip to Chennai to volunteer.
Project Remix is seeking new, fresh voices that can contribute to the site in any capacity. If you are a writer or blogger who is interested in appearing on the website, you can email projectremixny at gmail dot com. For any other questions, you can also send an email to the aforementioned address. The website is http://www.projectremix.org.
In addition, you can follow Project Remix on Twitter @ProjectRemix for updates.
Women doctors have made amazing strides in the field, where only half a century earlier, it was almost exclusively dominated by men. Yet while the doors have opened to women doctors in most aspects, there is one notable exception: motherhood.
My favorite story of women breaking into this, male-dominated field is the one of Agnodice, who disguised herself as a man so that she could study medicine in ancient Greece. Many girls want to grow up to be both well-regarded doctors and wonderful mothers, but it seems that for the most part, they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Men can enter whatever field they want with little consequence, women must make sacrifices. I acknowledge that this seems to be changing, but the pace is still painfully slow.
To paraphrase a professor of mine, the world is still cruel to women. They are encouraged to pursue their career and focus on it with razor sharp focus, while their biological clocks tick away, independent of any aspirations they may develop down the road to start a family. Once the residency and fellowship parade is over (as the case were for aspiring doctors), and a woman is ready to start a family, it may already be too late. I’m all for women being driven and seizing life by the horns, but sometimes the cost is pretty great.
And then, there is me and those like me, who are from immigrant families who insist upon marriage and having at least the first child before age 30. If I am lucky, I will enter medical school at 24, take four years, and enter whatever specialty I can. Depending on what specialty that is, the years devoted to residencies and fellowships may be as low as 3 or as high as 6-7. People can say “Rebel! Blaze your own trail, do what you need to do to get what you want.” Yet in cultures where filial piety is prized and expected, it is far harder to go against the grain, even when your own wishes may be at stake. How does one reconcile cultural and societal obligations with the rigors of medical school/further training?
From what I can gather (and please correct me if I’m wrong) but several residencies tend to not look kindly on women who are pregnant or who have very young children. Each specialty requires a certain number of years of training. It makes sense, of course, that the more high-stakes residencies (for example neurosurgery) would probably require more time to train physicians in that field. Obviously I’d want my neurosurgeon (heaven forbid that I need one) to have had rigorous training. Yet there are 194 certified women neurosurgeons, out of something like 3000 neurosurgeons in total in the U.S. The difference between those numbers is alarming. It’s enough to discourage most women from even entertaining the idea of going down that road, but I’m not like most women. Many women seem to end up vying for the more “family-friendly” positions like family physician or pediatrician, or at least ones that finish up training quickly.
I am not one of those people, I’m aiming for one of the neuro residencies (neurosurgery if I can help it).* I love the complicated nature of the field, and yes, I love the potentially maddening level of stress that’s involved. It’s a field I greatly respect and I want to be a part of, but could potentially be turned away because I want to devote the same kind of attention to my family.
I went to a seminar being conducted at SUNY Downstate, giving advice for medical students as to when they should get married and start families. Literally, the window of opportunity was a few months at best for both, where the birth of a child could potentially set students back a year. Clearly under these restrictions, days-long, traditional Indian weddings are out the window. If I were to get pregnant year 3 or 4, that could be potentially problematic, whereas the first two years were a bit better (but by no means ideal). Heaven forbid you wanted to take care of your child until they were at least more communicative or mobile, and when their fear of strangers was under control (Piagetian child psychology sets this at around 2 years of age). Then perhaps the babysitter could be introduced, if you don’t mind having a babysitter or nanny (I do mind). Children are for many people, a vital part of their lives, and they have the right to get as much time early on with their parents as they can. Yet as far as I can tell, the policy seems to be to leave everything to after you start practicing. That’s great for some people, but others are (still) bound by age-old traditions and (sometimes antiquated though biologically sound) cultural expectations regarding marriage and childbirth.
Hopefully, the domination by men that still seems to be inherent will continue to be addressed, and will encourage more women to live their lives a bit more easily while pursuing their dreams. If any women doctors come across this, I’d love to hear your perspective, given that mine is pretty limited.
*This is all contingent on my getting into medical school. I’m not going to crow about medicine without putting in that little point in there, I’m not in medical school yet. Hopefully I will be soon, gotta take it one step at a time. Even contemplating residencies is a long way off, but it can’t hurt to start contemplating a little now!
For those of you who know me know that I am, simply put, neuro-obsessed. Here’s where I try to justify that.
Think about the human body and how incredibly complex it is. Think of all the chemicals that course through your bloodstream to regulate this organ or that, that allow you to grow and mature. Think of the electrical and structural precision that is needed to keep your heartbeat normal. Think of the myriad events that go on to maintain normal digestion even when you are unaware that it is going on.
Now think of the brain and think of the fact that it regulates all of it. A three-pound (give or take a few ounces), gelatinous and convoluted mass of neural tissue sitting comfortably in your cranium regulates all of it. I think that’s pretty cool, right?
Consider this a kind of (grossly simplified) neuroscience primer from someone who has neither an M.D. nor Ph.D (so take it for what it’s worth).
Thank you for upholding the integrity and honor that comes with going to Cornell, no matter which part of Cornell. I was in Human Ecology, you were in Agriculture and Life Sciences. Our paying less money per semester does not make us any less of a Cornellian, or any less of an Ivy Leaguer.
I was not aware of Ann Coulter’s comments about your Cornell education, deeming it “the land-grant, non-Ivy League school…” (for those who want to see the full article, go to her website) For the record, Ann Coulter is my least favorite Cornell alum–if the word “favorite” can even be used reasonably to describe her in any regard (like describing a favorite illness?)–falling well below even the oft-maligned Paul Wolfowitz. She is a disgrace to the University, not for her Republican views but for her small-minded approach to the problems that plague our society. She does not consider the other side, it’s her way, or the highway.
Cornell University seeks to promote intelligent dialogue among people from different views (which is the case with most universities I suppose). At Cornell, the Cornell Review and Turn Left (right-wing and left-wing publications, respectively) coexist relatively peacefully. We have a thriving religious works department, and discussion is always encouraged among the different religious groups. Ms. Coulter, meanwhile, killed two birds with one stone in an interview with Beliefnet, by calling liberals “godless” and claiming churches that don’t agree with her “are called mosques.”
I’m not one to be blunt about things, but I’ll make an exception this time. I don’t like her, I think most people who know me are well aware of that (and I think it’s fair so say if she knew me, she wouldn’t like me either, so it’s mutual). I don’t usually complain about the incessant nonsense that seems to emanate from her on a daily basis. Yet hearing this just rubbed me the wrong way.
I am a Cornell graduate. I am not any less qualified than any of my friends from Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Art, Architecture, and Planning, or the School of Hotel Administration. I took most of my classes in Arts and Sciences, since I was pre-med, and the chemistry and physics classes were only offered in Arts. Most of my Cornell career was spent in either Baker or Rockefeller. My freshman writing seminars were in Arts. Some of my humanities requirements were also in Arts. The rest was in Ag or Hum Ec (oh and one elective cross-listed in Engineering). What was the difference between my education and someone in one of the privately-endowed schools? I paid less for my education. I’m a New York State resident, and I went to the College of Human Ecology. In-state residents get a break, something that is definitely not unique to Cornell. Yes I got my Cornell degree, which is proudly sitting on the mantel of my fireplace, at a graduation ceremony where other graduates from all the Cornell colleges were present. We heard the same speech by President Skorton, we sat in front of the same, proud collection of college deans, we all sang the “alma mater.” My state-side college peers and I just did it for around half of what the rest of them paid. Big deal. I am no less of a Cornellian than anyone else, past, present, or future.
So thank you Keith for standing up for the rest of the Cornellians from Ag, Hum Ec, and ILR.
I’m calling on all Cornell alumnae (and all current Cornellians) to email Ann Coulter expressing your feelings. I don’t care what college you’re from, but stand up for your status as a Cornell alum, regardless of which college you’re from. We’re all Cornellians at the end of the day. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.