Year Two

I’m officially a Second Year now.

So, in April I…

  • turned a year older
  • received my White Coat with my name embroidered all fancy on it, which also happened on my bday
  • took a bunch of finals and completed my classes (AAP technically finished the beginning of May but whatever)

Now I’m officially into my first rotation. I just completed my first week actually at the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. And I am having a BLAST! I’m seeing so many cases you wouldn’t see anywhere else. I’ve seen suspected elderly abuse/neglect, suicide by firearm, firearm victims, motor vehicle accident victims, and I even experienced my first decomp yesterday! Most of the people who work there are super nice and patient with me as I learn the ropes. The other interns that come in once a week are super cool, too. The pathologists are nice and helpful for the most part.

It’s physically demanding and draining more than anything. There’s a lot of pushing, pulling, lifting bodies. Not to mention constant cleaning and scrubbing. I’m learning to pull bodily fluids like blood and vitreous from the eye. I can sew up bodies and the head after they’ve been eviscerated like no other. I’m slowly getting to do more and more, which is so exciting. I’ll never get this anywhere else so I’m trying to soak up as much as I can and do as much as possible. This is my wheelhouse. Full body stuff as opposed to surgical. I didn’t spend all those years in cadaver class for nothing.

I’m also going to be the Gross Anatomy TA for the new first years (omg, that’s so weird to say). They asked me if I would be willing to since they’ll be coming to the Coroner’s for lab, and I said why not. I did this forever at Mt. SAC. I can do it again. Plus it’ll be a good way for me to practice my anatomy too. And I’ll get to work on cadavers again. Wheelhouse again.

So far, I’m enjoying my second year much more than my first. When I went to visit my program manager to pick up some masks, the first thing she told me was, “This is the most relaxed I’ve ever seen you.” It’s true. This is the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long, long time. It’s nice. I can enjoy doing what I do without worrying about lecture and tons of exams. We only have the monthly pathology exams starting in June. So right now I can kind of take it easy. It’s a welcome change of pace, for sure. I hope that it continues being this awesome.


Hell Week the Second

I’ve been slacking on Writing 101 mainly because of Hell Week the Second. Three exams and a quiz, three days in a row. Needless to say, I’m beat. I hope to catch up this weekend now that I actually have time to do it. I’m dubbing this weekend my Free Weekend. I didn’t do anything after my lab practicum today and I don’t regret it a bit. I don’t plan on doing anything tomorrow other than some cleaning around the apartment (that I’ve neglected because of the exams) and finally starting some art projects I’ve been dying to get started.

So, I’m going to use this as my free write challenge for yesterday. It’s supposed to be at least 400 words of whatever, which is perfect for what I want to talk about.

I think my exams went well this week. I felt much better about Embryology this time around, at least in terms of less guessing haha. Anatomy lecture was a bit trickier than the first exam. My prof wasn’t kidding when he said that he made this one a little harder than the previous one. He said he “doesn’t want to have the reputation of being a push over.” Psh. We kept telling him he’s doing fine and we’ve been preparing for his exams like crazy. Clearly didn’t matter. It was trickier but I feel that I beat him at his game except for maybe a couple questions. I hope I did anyway. The lab practicum today was kind of tricky too. I missed a couple easy ones because I totally misunderstood where the pin was, which pisses me off. I mean this is lab, this is my wheelhouse. How can I miss such simple things? I guess I need to pay more attention. Whatever, I’m pretty sure I got an A, but I really wanted 100% or higher. Actually, I really wanted the maximum amount of points possible, including all the extra credit. I’m greedy like that.

After the practicum we did more dissections except not really lol. We opened up the abdominal cavity but didn’t really do much. There’s gonna be a lot of cleaning to do the next lab, which will be our last dissection lab before the final. That’s fine. I originally signed up to do abdominal cavity, but then there would be 3 of us doing that while the other two did a hand and foot. It’d be too crowded, so I switched to face and neck. I’ve never done that region mainly because I was so scared of doing such a delicate dissection, but I figured this would be my last chance at doing it, so why not. That way I can officially say I’ve worked on every part of the body. I’m pretty excited.

While we were ‘dissecting,’ one of the UC Davis people with the body program was embalming one of the cadavers to be used in the future. So I pretty much ditched dissecting and ended up talking with this wonderful lady who patiently answered all my questions about the embalming process and the body program. I’ve heard all about the process, but I never had the chance to witness it. When I was at Mt. SAC, we got to take a field trip to tour UCI’s facility where they do the same thing, but we never got to watch how they do it. Apparently all the UCs work in tandem with each other and help each other out in fulfilling special requests if that school is unable to. For example, if UCI has a special request for breasts and they don’t have any on hand, they can ask UC Davis or UCSF (or any other UC who does this) for them. They’re all sister programs and all the bodies are donated prior to death, so they all want to be here. Because they’re sister programs, they all know each other so the Davis lady knows the Irvine guy, which is so cool. The Irvine guy is so awesome and laid back. He’s BFFs with my Mt. SAC profs, so we get a few perks haha. The Davis people are so nice and helpful, it’s fantastic that Drexel gets to work with them. Our program director said that it was pretty much luck that Davis would take us, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Whatever fell into place and whoever said yes to let us in, you have my eternal gratitude. The employees are top notch and so is the Coroner’s Office. It is an absolutely fantastic facility and we are so blessed to be able to share that space.

The Coroner’s Office is awesome, have I said that enough?. I’ve already witnessed parts of three autopsies. We’ve all creeped in the hallway by the locker rooms to watch as they dictate and open up the body. But every single time it gets to the good part, our prof comes to get us. Today, we actually got to see them open up the skull and they were just about to take out the brain when our prof came to get us so we could take our exam. We were all like, “Really? You have impeccable timing.” The last time, our prof got us right before they cut open the skull and we were like, “It was just getting good! Come on!” Can you tell how excited we are? They also don’t mind that we creep on them haha. But I can’t tell you how valuable and excellent it’s been to witness all this. I can’t wait to do the autopsy rotation through here. It’s pretty much a done deal according to our director, they’re just waiting on the final confirmation. I. Cannot. Wait.

Life has never been sweeter.

Open Letter to Teachers

Dear Past and Present Teachers of Mine,

I would not be anywhere, much less in grad school, without you. Many of you helped me and pushed me and challenged me when I needed it.

In elementary school, I had many loving and caring teachers that were always so kind and patient. Other than learning a lot from you, with drilling the multiplication tables into my brain or teaching me how to write the dreaded cursive or do long division, what I appreciated the most was how accepting you all were. You let me stay after school and help out with menial projects and get some free labor in cleaning up the classroom. I actually enjoyed that as a kid because hanging out by yourself until 6pm every day waiting for my parents to come pick me up wasn’t fun. It was lonely, it was boring and sometimes it was really cold outside. So, to all of you who let me stay warm and busy in your classrooms after school even for just an hour, thank you. You probably saved my life.

In high school, some of you let me stay afterwards too. You let me bug you about random crap, or just let me stay in and do homework. You let me argue about grades sometimes. You kept me away from what we students affectionately called The Cage aka after school care. (We were literally locked into the lunch pavilion with someone watching us. We couldn’t leave unless going to the bathroom or our parents were coming to get us. It was ridiculous, were were in high school!) Of course once I got my license, I didn’t stay after school anymore, but I did appreciate it for the first two years.

In college, it was different. I never saw any of you during your office hours really. But I did learn a lot. My grades didn’t show it, but I did. Mt. SAC was where I rebounded, motivated to get As to get into grad school. To those that taught me there, a great big thank you. You pushed me, you challenged me, you wrote freaking letters of rec for me. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, you did. You all did. You all saw the potential in me and made me realize it too. You all let me be myself, freely express myself, my passion, my frustration. So thank you to all the teachers who have shaped my education and shaped who I’ve become today. You were the ones that had one of the biggest hands in getting me this far, and I will do my absolute best to make you all proud of me.

I just wish there was more I could do for you. I wish I could increase all your paychecks to be as high as doctors. You guys lay the foundation for us and invest in our future. You’re the ones that toil and labor all night to grade our papers/exams/homework as we students do over our assignments (or at least you’re led to believe we do this anyway. :P) You answer all our questions to the best of your ability whether that’s in person or over email. Many of you have creative ways to teach new concepts to us lowly students who know nothing and we remember them for being crazy and fond memories. Most of you freely admit when you’re wrong, and that I truly do admire.

I wish I had more than this letter that you’ll never see to express how much you’ve done for me. How much you’re doing for every student that walks through your door. I’ve seen you get frustrated, but I’ve also seen you exercise a great deal of patience when dealing with unruly students or downright rude ones. And deal with my annoying tendencies to bug people with everything or my sarcastic responses. It takes special people to become teachers, to do what you guys do day in and day out. To deal with kids all the time, every single day. And to do this while dealing with your own struggles in life — simply incredible. To me, that is heroic. I hope all your future students see what you’ve done for them and thank you one day. I haven’t given you enough gratitude or credit during my time as your student, but maybe by completing this program I can show you.


With all the gratitude in the world,

The Anatomy Nerd

undergrad vs. grad

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

I suppose the two things I can compare and contrast would be undergrad me vs grad school me. Although I’m only in the 5th week of grad school, there are quite a few differences. I’ve mentioned them before in previous posts so if this seems familiar, well, it’s because it is.

So in undergrad, I was in the quarter system. That meant 10 weeks to cram everything possible, take two midterms and a final that usually constituted my grade and try to pass with at least a C+. That worked for the most part except for Calc II and physics. Back in undergrad, I didn’t care about my future. I was excited to finally move away from home, get away from all the stress and pressure of living with my parents and find out who I could be. I lived in an all girl dorm my first year, then moved around to different apartments. I made some great friends from the dorm, whom I still talk to and am relatively close to today. I accepted that getting a C+ was okay, as long as that meant I could graduate with a little piece of paper that said I got my Bachelor’s, then so be it.

I was cocky, probably arrogant as well. I was too proud to ask for help. I made a lot of mistakes academically that I wish I could take back. I wasted a lot of time and money just scraping by. I left with a terrible GPA that I knew wouldn’t get me anywhere. Then again, I had no desire to go to grad school or any kind of professional graduate school like med school. I just wanted a lab job where I could minimize the personal interaction and just get my work done and get paid.

Well, that clearly didn’t work out.

Skip ahead to now where I am in grad school and life is… quite different. I’m older, I’m a little more mature, especially in my thinking. I’ve learned humility. I know how to ask for help and while it sometimes still takes me a little bit to gain the courage to, I do at least ask now. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if I look stupid for asking questions because as long as I get the info I need, that’s all I care about. I know the value of grades (which, to be honest, I’ve always known, I suppose I just chose not to care in undergrad). I also had to find out what independent learning was. Embryology is online, so it means you can pace yourself, but make sure you don’t get too far behind or you’re really screwed. It’s heavy material and the textbook doesn’t explain concepts as well as I’d like. But anyway, that a rant for another time.

Graduate school is what I expected and yet it’s not. Right now, summer is a 10 week course, so that’s nothing new, except they call it a semester. It honestly feels like they’re cramming in a semester’s worth (16 weeks) of knowledge into out heads though. They sort of treat you as adults, yet the same old students at the same time. A lot is based on the honor system here. For example, we took the Embryology exam yesterday and instead of our instructor staying in the room as we took it, she went back to her office and occasionally popped her head in to check on us.

In Histology, we don’t get powerpoints/pdfs of lectures. We do get lecture outlines that she sends us and we have to print it out, but not full on lecture slides. They have higher expectations, which, duh, should happen. But they also treat us as equals. It’s sort of strange to find that balance of still being a student but at the same time we’re nearly at the same level as them.

In Lab Management, we have a fellow PathA (with something like 30 years of experience) teaching us some concepts, but he likes to keep the class really informal. Today, for example, he didn’t lecture at all. We spent the whole time talking about these job listings we had to look up, traveling agencies, and news articles on diseases. It literally was just a large group discussion where we got to give our two cents and ask him questions to which he would answer them completely if he could. It was incredibly laid back, but it’s also incredibly helpful. He gives us real world experience out in the field and cases he’s worked on to help us make better decisions and so we don’t go out there with stars in our eyes.

It’s a mixed bag really. Maybe this would be a more useful comparison after I complete summer.

But if I were talk to my younger self, it would probably go something like this:

Hey! Yo, yeah you, the one who thinks you’re so cool and knows everything.

Yeah right. What do you want?

Get good grades all right? Make it easier for you when you get older to get into grad school, okay?

Grad school? Are you freaking kidding me? I’m not going. I don’t need to. I’ll get a job when a graduate.

No. Seriously. Take undergrad seriously. You’re just gonna screw yourself over if you don’t.

Psh. Whatever. I got this. I don’t need to you tell me or nag me about school. I’ve gotten that my whole life. You’re not my mom.

No, but I am the future you who will curse you for a couple years for being so stupid.

Yeah, whatever. Grad school is for those that are really ambitious and wanna look cool.

Or it’s for your future job.

I don’t need a Masters to work in a lab. Are you kidding? Most of them just require a Bachelors.

In your fairy tale world. They lied to you.

Look, they said I could get a job when I graduate. I’m gonna do that. Don’t need to spend more years and money into school. I just want to be done with it forever.

You will after you get your Masters.

Not getting one. How many times have I told you that?

Just shut up and listen. Get one. It’ll do a body and your life some good.

*rolls eyes* Yeah, whatever.

I told you I was an idiot back then. I really was. But at the same time I keep telling myself that if I didn’t do this, if I didn’t make this harder on myself, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the same experience that I did. I probably would’ve gone in right after undergrad, no experience from shadowing or cadaver lab, and been completely overwhelmed and lost. I might’ve even dropped out. Those years after I realized my grave error made me stronger. We have a running joke now that everything we’re going through, all the exams and what have you, is all character building. So we throw that at each other every day, it’s hilarious. But it’s true. My profs at Mt. SAC were basically telling me the same thing. Fighting for classes, fighting to get those As, working my tail off to make sure I learned it all and came out on top, getting put on the wait list — all character building. It’ll strengthen you for when something hard truly comes in your way.

Or so they keep telling me.

At least now I’m coming in, eyes wide open, ready for the next hit. This isn’t some distant future or wish anymore. This is my reality. This is something I can see coming now. It’s no longer in my blind spot. I won’t be thrown off or too distracted. I mean, we all have to grow up some time, right?

me vs. me

I believe there are many versions of me, but I see them more as wearing different hats. I bring out a different hat depending on the situation. I can be a student, a friend, the goofy kid in the room, the awkward one, the silent and studious one all in one class period. I’ve done it many times. In lab, I would be the hard working student completing my current assignment on the cadaver, the next I could be the goofy, annoying one just to inject some humor into the monotony. Then I put on the tutoring hat when someone asks me a question about technique or in identifying a structure. Then back to student if I have a question to ask the profs or have them double check that I’m on the right path. I can be a friend when we’re having random and fun conversations while working. At some point, they’ve all blended together to form me. All of those different hats are a part of who I am. I don’t have split personality (unless it’s ridiculously early in the morning and/or I’m starving, then the evil side of me rages), I just adapt to the situation.

The two parts of me that I find hard to reconcile are the real life me and the online version of me. My online persona is different than the real me. Here, on the internet, I have time to edit, to think about how to phrase certain things. In the real world, sometimes my mouth gets the better of me. I may say something and it might come out rude when that’s the last thing I mean. (Although, sometimes I mean exactly that haha.) I’m sarcastic, my humor is a little dry and I enjoy confusing people. In real life anyway. Online, I think I’m a little friendlier and I try not to be confusing so I don’t accidentally offend someone. Cautious could be a word to describe my online personality. At the same time, I feel like I’m a little more open here on the world wide web, where anyone can check out my thoughts, funny enough. Maybe it’s because it’s an anonymous audience or because I don’t have to stare at people’s faces when they read these posts, but it’s freeing to have this so called secret online identity. Sometimes I sound (slightly more) sophisticated on here than I do in person, but I try my best to sound like I do in real life to give this blog life.

I don’t think I quite answered this challenge properly, but these are my two cents. No crazy story. No ranting about school (although I could if it would be interesting to anyone that’s willing to listen). But I suppose if my online persona did collide with my real life one, that would be quite the story to tell.