The High Stakes How-To of HIV Diagnoses & Other Bombs



Have heard the story of the S-4 submarine? Pretend you’re–not a medical student this time–but a diver. The year is 1927. One frosty December day, your Massachusetts Coast Guard crashes and sinks the USS S-4. Heroically, you rescue many survivors yet six remain. Any attempt to open the hull simply allows more water stealing away precious oxygen. During their final hours, you place your ear to the hull and pick up faint Morse code–is there any hope?

This question adds a layer of complexity to the already daunting task of delivering difficult diagnoses Continue reading

Trick or Treat! USMLE Step 1

Halloween hasn’t quite happened but Step 1 already had us second years quivering in maroon swivel chairs of a windowless room.

Last month, our professors “cordially invited” the entire class to a mandatory introduction to the joys of USMLE. This afternoon, like good, little pre-clinical med students, the whitest white-coated kind, we tried our best to muster up all our optimism. It had been a long day beginning with a quiz in parasitic worms along with necrotizing fungi and ending in lectures on every known sexually transmitted disease. With terrifying slides of clinical examples. In color. Continue reading

When I Realized the Government Shutdown Included the CDC and NIH


As if learning about every lethal bacterial species wasn’t bad enough, our government decided to run out of money and no longer keep tabs on stockpiles of infectious agents.

Just peachy.

Happy day for those who prefer Salmonella undercooked and unobserved. Let the food-borne illnesses just monitor themselves!

Oh and don’t worry about the small businesses that depend on the tourism drawn by our national parks. Pay no mind to the 2 million federal workers on furlough. I’d be more concerned about our congressmen with the winter season quickly approaching.

How will they ever get their flu shots?!?


You Are What Eats You

We’re walking around with bacteria ten times the amount of our own cells. Or 10 x 100,000,000,000,000–the cell bio according to Wiki. And supposedly, we’ve enough inner prokaryotes to fill an entire soup can, whereas we might could squish one fist into a Campbell’s can. Does the anyone else wonder about this whole lot of bugs compared to the little bit of us?
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If Cupcakes Could Talk

They’d be a half dozen. One dark chocolate, another peanut butter, a third red velvet, the rest lemon-blueberry–all snapped in plastic, cradled atop both of my arms. I would grip a rainbow of balloons in my right hand, squeezing in my left a raffle prize. Top and center would sit a green T-shirt (a free one at that!) right beside a blue dish of M&Ms, another gift from that evening.

And those cupcakes would have once lined the counters of the attic of the student union on main campus. Like ducks in a row. The smiling kind. They’d witness all sorts of people meeting all different sorts of people. I would make a friend from Nigeria and another from Mexico and another, well, she would be an MPH student. Everyone glancing, contemplating–which flavor would need sampled… again? They’d whisk the cupcakes off to the corner where bowls of M&Ms lined the tables. Across those would sail red crepe streamers under red paper hearts dangling on red strings from the rafters.
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And So It Begins

For returning grad students, attendance the second of first days is a choice. I had already reapplied for loans, moved in, shopped for groceries. But that first class? My schedule PDF? Impossible to decipher. A white box with “I & I Course Policies” sat beside 8 AM while “Immunity & Infection Intro” glowed in bright purple at the half hour mark. Planning for the worst, I set my alarm for seven.
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