Medicine Archives

"...It is an art."

My professor Dr. Johnston constantly reminds us, "Medicine is an art. It's not black or white. It is an art."

I used to think that medicine was like everything else. You stick in A+B+C and output = V. But it isn''s A+B+Z+K-J = possible D or N or M+O

K. Lee
posted January 26, 2010 7:09 AM

Meeting the Interim President

The old president/CEO of my old (1916) esteemed institute KCUMB, left and the current president is just awesome. In these past couple months, he's proved to be much more accessible than the previous president. He's had these morning breakfast Meet-the-President events where students can go and have free yummy goodness breakfast and talk to him. I went to one of them on Thursday. Food; quiche, strawberries, donuts. That quiche was so crazy good. But more importantly, being able to talk to the President/CEO about what's going on with our program. He spent 20-30 min at my table of 10. We told him what we wanted, asked him about how certain things were going, and other. Most importantly, he told us that our tuition is going to stay the same or reduce for the next year. (Yes yes, the rest of you at Berkeley are in pain because of those 15% increases in tuition.) That was exciting news. The faculty have also been quite supportive too. Anyone (students or faculty), can just walk in and ask to talk to him. How cool is that? I've never tried it with the Cal Chancellor, but just being able to is awesome. =)

K. Lee
posted January 23, 2010 9:39 AM

Cutting the cord

..the Umbilical Cord!!!

At my school, KCUMB (Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences), they assign us to an Early Clinical Experience. I got an OB/GYN. I need to get back to studying, however, it was amazing!! I had always been scared off from OB/GYN due to the high malpractice rate, but seeing a kid pop out of the canal? Coolness extreme!

continue reading "Cutting the cord" »

K. Lee
posted January 14, 2010 5:20 PM

What I Gained from CNR

When I first came to UC Berkeley I had no idea what I was doing. I was an out of state student from a suburb in Georgia and I had only visited the campus once before. Like many freshmen, I was enrolled in the College of Letters and Science, intended MCB. I didn’t know much about what classes to take and I just chose some of the pre-med requisite courses somewhat blindly. I was pretty disillusioned throughout my first semester. Constantly going in and out of huge classes of 500+ students made me feel like I was just “going through the motions.”

After getting settled in, I gradually took some more initiative in figuring out what I wanted. Fortunately, I learned about the College of Natural Resources (CNR) from a friend in the Molecular Environmental Biology (MEB) major. After spending time in Mulford Hall and the CNR side of campus, I realized that it offered a lot of the benefits I was looking for. Some of the features of CNR that I found particularly appealing were the smaller size, a greater focus on crafting a personalized major, and opportunities for independent research through the CNR Honors Program. I quickly transferred to CNR to become an MEB major and found new enthusiasm for my college experience.

One additional obligation for me as an out–of-state student was the cost of tuition. My CNR advisor helped me plan my class schedule around my part-time employment and condense my workload such that I was able to complete my degree with an honors thesis in three years. When it came time to find a job, I made use of the resources at the CNR and received a lot of guidance from my thesis mentor. I immediately found that there were many opportunities within my interests that I never knew about. For example, I had always been under the false impression that if I was interested in science then my only options were to either become a doctor or a professor. However, the resources at CNR opened my eyes to opportunities ranging from science policy, administration, conservation, ecology, public health, and medicine.

After graduating I knew I was broadly interested in biomedical research and public health, but I felt I needed professional experience before deciding if I wanted to pursue a graduate or professional degree. I found the perfect post-baccalaureate job in biomedical research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, formally called the Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) Fellowship. I was a competitive applicant to the program primarily because of the independent research experience I gained in the CNR honors program. My project, "The Labellum of Costus (Zingiberales) and the ABC Model of Floral Development," was supported by a grant from CNR's Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program, and I was able to work closely with a faculty mentor, Professor Chelsea Specht.

Over the past two years I have worked on a number of different projects, each of which contributes directly to global malaria control efforts. One of my projects entails the use of molecular epidemiology to track the prevalence and genetic history of drug resistant malaria-causing parasites in various parts of the world. As part of this project, I have had the privilege of learning powerful molecular techniques and have trained guest researchers from collaborating labs in Pakistan, India, Thailand, Tanzania, Ghana, Nicaragua, Peru, and Brazil.

Another one of my objectives in the lab is to improve low cost malaria diagnostics, since malaria tends to be a problem in economically distressed parts of the world. Last year, I helped develop an instrument for this purpose and traveled to a rural health clinic in India to personally work with local physicians and carry out its first field trial. The data gained from this trial and other techniques that I have optimized in the lab have lead to the development of a quality control system for malaria diagnostics, which we hope to implement throughout East Africa early next year.

Although I feel I have had many opportunities, the learning curve in a professional environment can be slow. It took me two years to really get off the ground and gain the sense of autonomy that I have always sought in my career. Looking back, I feel that my experience at CNR did not just help me get my foot in the door with my first post-baccalaureate job; it also helped me excel in a professional environment.

For example, CNR helped me cultivate principles of conservation and sustainability in whatever I do. In fact, one of the first major contributions that I made to my lab at the CDC was in optimizing a laboratory technique that I used during my honors thesis. That optimization cut the cost of the technique by over two-fold and will save our lab thousands of dollars in the long run that can go towards valuable research efforts.

Several CNR classes also helped me develop skills in written composition and oral presentation that I now find essential when conveying my work through lab meetings, grants, publications, and conferences. I recently helped write a grant proposal for a $20 million clinical trial in India using skills I first gained at CNR when I wrote a Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) grant proposal for my thesis project. On a more abstract level, the culturally and academically diverse environment at CNR prepared me to work with people from all around the world.

If you had asked me what I would have envisioned myself doing in 5 years, back when I started at CNR, I would have never guessed that this is where I would be. I also don’t think my experience at CNR necessarily dictated what I would be doing either. Rather, I feel that CNR gave me the fundamental skills to pursue my personal interests and appreciate the opportunities, instead of fearing the uncertainties, which come with a future that isn’t clearly written out. I look forward to continuing my career in research and my goal is to ultimately investigate host-pathogen interactions in infectious disease as a physician-scientist. I am currently applying to MD/PhD programs and I hope that my future professional training will be as formative as the experience I gained at CNR.

Sankar Sridaran
Research Technician
Genetics and Immunology Laboratory

Sankar Sridaran
posted October 27, 2009 9:31 AM

69th day of Medical School

One of the greatest parts about medical school is having your questions answered. I remember all those times that I couldn't understand why a person was the way they were or what disability a person had....

It helps to finally have your questions answered.

---sometimes I wonder about how much is appropriate to write on this site. Patient confidentiality and such. Sorry about the vagueness.

Anatomy lab is.. _______. We have our practical (where they tag stuff on the bodies and we look at it and name it) in 2 weeks so I've been spending more time in lab.

The smell was alright at first. I'm getting more sensitive to it though. hum ho.
It stays in my hair like crazy. I've been washing it as soon as I get home.

I feel kinda sorry for the guy sitting next to me in class. (He doesn't have anatomy lab on the same day as me, and sometimes I go in the morning just for kicks).

The other day,.... I said, "Man...anatomy... I want to nap [during 10 min break] but I can't because I smell. Maybe I should go change."
He said, "Yeah, you do smell."

heh.. whooppps... I should bring a change of clothes more often.

K. Lee
posted October 10, 2009 11:15 PM

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

I can't believe that I've been in medical school for more than a month now. Here at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Kansas City, Missouri, I've been learning everything from anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, histology, immunology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. With my Molecular Toxicology background, most of the subjects come to me quite easily. The hardest ones for me are Immunology and Anatomy. I've never been good at blatant memorization (Anatomy/Microbio). The end part of immunology is great for me because we learned alot about apoptosis and necrosis (yay death domains!) with NST 110. For anyone with a MolTox major, take an extra upper div class in Immuno. Microbio in medical school takes a semi-different perspective from the Microbio I had (the PH one~one of the two microbio major req fullfilling classes that we have as a MolTox) since that one was more about etiology and currently in med school we're going from the lab test perspective. I did my first Gram stain two days ago. The hardest part about being well prepared for med school is... LAZINESS. I had my buddy change my facebook account pswd because I was getting ... sidetracked. We have a final on Tuesday (and another on Thursday). ^^ hahah. yay..... ::cries in the corner:: I'm sure y'all at Berkeley don't have any exams until the end of this month right?

Have fun meeting people still while I suffer here.

Miss y'all.

Pray for me!

Kristin Lee
posted September 10, 2009 9:30 AM

well being

It's a bit hard to believe that the first year of medical school is beginning to draw to a close, but it definitely is. I am currently in the midst of studying for a series of final exams for the neurology system, which will cover neuroanatomy, psychiatry, gross anatomy, pharmacology, and a whole hodgepodge of pathways and tracts within our bodies. It's an intriguing subject for sure, but also one of the most difficult.

Medical school ultimately trains doctors who will take care of patients, but the training is without a doubt intense that many medical students put their own health and well-being aside to focus on classes and become the best and most successful doctor that one can be. It's especially apparent around an exam, when students stay up until dawn memorizing just one more neuro pathway, or one more drug name and its mechanism of action. It seems like a small price to pay when that knowledge may come back to help you save a life a few years down the line.

It's also painfully ironic when I've studied blood pressure medications while munching on calorie-dense vending machine food or reading about how lack of sleep can affect our lifestyles while burning the midnight oil.

With that in mind, I hope to be able to invest more time into diet and exercise. I do believe that living the lifestyle that one preaches to patients is important. I'll get around to that, once I memorize this list of sympatholytic drugs.

Alex Lau
posted April 26, 2009 9:25 PM

1/2 a year down!...and about 7 1/2 more to go

Happy new year bloggers! What an awesome game yesterday at the Emerald Bowl.

It's hard to believe, but half a year of medical school has already flown by. And it's been busy. I've never had to study such a large volume of material at one time, and occasionally it has been overwhelming. On the other hand, come exam time, the course material actually starts becoming more cohesive and making sense, and that's when all the hours of studying really pay off.

There really isn't a typical day for a medical student, especially not at Keck, where classes are scheduled differently every single week. For the past few months, we have been covering the "Core" curriculum, which is a (very) broad survey of different topics aimed at placing everyone on the same page. Starting in the spring, we will be moving on to a "systems" curriculum, where we will study dermatology, cardio, neuro, and musculoskeletal individually. Hopefully, that will make the material more cohesive than Core.

What I love most about about med school is the clinical experience we have from day one. Even as complete newbies, we get to meet with patients in LAC+USC Hospital and take histories. Unlike residents and nurses--whose schedules are overloaded and overbooked--we have more time to find out about our patients' experiences and lives. Many patients also welcome med students to the bedside because they enjoy playing a part in educating future doctors. Being able to interact with patients helps me keep in mind the reasons why I decided to go into medicine, reasons which are sometimes difficult to keep sight of when med students are so busy.

I have also been looking at starting research again and have been meeting on and off with a faculty member performing research on gut bacteria over at Caltech. Hopefully I'll find time to become more involved with that. More updates to come. Good luck with the spring semester bloggers and GO BEARS!

Alex Lau
posted January 2, 2009 11:31 AM

work this past summer


Hey blog readers! Before I jump into describing my first few weeks of medical school, I wanted to share with you guys my experiences this past summer as a faculty advisor with the National Youth Leadership Forum program at UCLA. I spent June through August with three separate groups of 22-23 high school students, all of whom were attending a program designed to expose them to the field of medicine.

I had a whole classroom-sized group of high schoolers to be responsible for at all times! Pretty challenging for a soft-spoken recent college grad. My job entailed three basic duties: 1) teach a curriculum that would introduce many key concepts and processes that are integral to medical education and the profession itself (i.e. med school admissions, traits and character, ethics), 2) supervise and chaperone students to different site visits and 3) manage and discipline students when necessary. This was how my room looked like at the end of every forum:


Yes, that's a lot of bleached flipchart paper. Don't worry, it was all recycled.


Believe it or not, I had a blast with this job. It was very rewarding working with high schoolers. Though there were times when I wondered what the heck I got myself into, it was great to get a glimpse of what the next generation of teenagers think, feel, and value. I worked with a diverse set of students--each with different backgrounds and beliefs--who broadened my perspectives on just how mixed our country really is. I also had a lot of fun with my co-workers.,,


For any college grads with a free summer, I'd highly recommend this program. It requires a college degree, lots of energy, and a willingness to work with super-hyper high school students. Check it out!

Alex Lau
posted September 2, 2008 9:46 PM

Hey there, calling out from Southern California

Hey! It's great to be in touch with CNR again. After graduation, I've felt a bit disconnected from campus, so blogging will give me an opportunity to continue contributing to the Golden Bear family.

So first, let me introduce myself. I'm Alex, a freshly minted graduate this May with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences, physio and metabolism concentration, along with a minor in English. When I was at Cal, I was involved in the Peer Advising Leadership Program (PAL) at CNR and got to know many of the college's friendly and helpful administrators. In addition, I penned a food on Fridays column for the Daily Cal, did research with Ellen Simms from the Integrative Bio department, and volunteered with the Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) down at Berkeley High and the YMCA.

So where am I now? I'm currently a first year MD/PhD student at USC's Keck School of Medicine and am wrapping up the second week of medical school as I write this. It's been really exciting and (admittedly) a bit challenging, but I'm really enjoying the experience.

I'll be sure to blog about my med school experiences as the year progresses (as well as write an entry about what I did over the summer), so "stay tuned!" I look forward to sharing my experiences with the CNR family.

Alex Lau
posted August 21, 2008 8:33 PM

Summer Time

In a sense, you can say that I've "graduated." The only thing that's holding me back are two classes over the summer that I'm currently taking to finish my major. I'm really excited to get my degree in Molecular Toxicology, but also sad that I'm going to have to leave CAL which is weird because I'm usually not a sentimental person. The feeling struck me as I was walking towards the Mulford area. It's surreal to think that I have only two months left of summer school before I head out to Sacramento for my gap year. I'm going to miss all the labs and great professors who really helped me understand the area of Toxicology. After CAL, I plan to further my education by either going to public health or medical school (where ever God leads me) to pursue my interest in Maternal and Child health. However, I'm going to take a year off to unwind and work on my applications. I'll be sure to post updates so stay tuned.

Rebekah Kim
posted June 26, 2008 1:18 AM