Friday, July 27, 2007

Final Thoughts on Research

Well, the summer program finished today. The perks of this experience are still obvious and although the research itself really didn’t grab me, I couldn’t have been happier doing anything else this summer. I got out into the city several months in advance, got my place pretty much set up all the way, got used to the hustle/bustle of living in the city, got to know my way around the dental school, met several of my soon to be classmates as well as faculty members, the list goes on. Not to mention that I was paid 3k for doing something I probably would have tried for free.

So enough about the clear advantages to any summer integration, what about the actual research? Well, my project got plenty of results – however they were nowhere near the original hypothesis. Such is the nature of research. Let me simplify things further. Here are the pros:
-Laid back
-Flexible hours
-Get left alone for the most part by ‘the man’
-Working on something to better human understanding of health and the body
-Actually applying 4 years of biology trivia into something cohesive
-Use nifty technology

Now on to the cons:
-Rather unorganized
-Nobody respects other people’s property/space
-Nobody picks up after themselves
-Easy to lose your box in the freezer when other lackeys rummage around and misplace things
-monotonous as hell
-easy to make untraceable mistakes
-lab politics

OK. So after eight weeks of running PCR after PCR, what do I have? Not much – a simple ‘further investigation required’ will suffice. I have the beginnings or even hints to possible significance in a few figures, but overall nada. All of my work is pretty much just preliminary data for other projects now so it is unlikely I will be pursuing or getting mentioned towards any publications. I didn’t expect to get any though, so it is hard to be disappointed.

Nothing was conclusive, but this is also the way research is supposed to go. I’m glad I didn’t get a sugar-coated, everything-works-out-in-the-end version this summer. Otherwise I might have been more inclined to pursue the PhD. Ultimately, I just don’t have the ‘it’ factor to go into research full-time. I would love to help out in the lab over the next four years whenever I can, but I don’t see myself putting research in front of everything else. It is just too final of a decision; one I am not willing to make at this stage in my budding career.

The lab I worked in was great, aside from a few weirdoes; the people were extremely nice and great to work around. If I could contribute to future research done in this lab, I would be thrilled. Realistically though, I doubt I will have time unless I can naturally manhandle dental school (yea..right).

Nonetheless, research was something I wanted to experience while in dental school. It is great that I was able to do it before class even started. And while I still have to present this research at clinic and research day next February, I have gotten the majority of the work done already. It’s Just a matter of refining and rewriting everything so that it makes sense to the brainy scientific community.

I know UIC isn’t the only dental school that offers a summer research program or any program for that matter to incoming students. I mentioned way back that I could retract my encouragement for these deals at any point during the next 8 weeks. Well, eight weeks have gone by, and I stand by the early statement. Get out there if you have the chance. It is a great experience and will really ease the transition that is sure to rock the foundations of your life.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The TB Test Snafu

Wow. I just got off the phone with a certain medical group practice in a certain town near a certain hospital. Got it? My parents have been going here for awhile, and last year got me on the bandwagon – namely because I needed a TB test before starting my summer job (remember, this is a year ago). So I go in, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have to ‘become’ a new patient since I didn’t fill out any forms. I used our family insurance plan and bam, TB test done. Wait the two days, and back I go to make sure I’m TB-free.

On the return trip, I didn’t even see a doctor (they still charged me money of course), but a nurse who verified my goodliness. She ran off with the form and had the doctor quickly scribble down his signature so that I might secure my summer employment. So merrily I walk away, unaware of the horrible time-bomb that was planted that day.

Yes, yes, today a year’s worth of time has elapsed, yet I still can’t seem to get these bastards to sign my TB test on UIC’s medical immunization form. I mentioned this form many months ago, and I had it dropped off at this office over my spring break. They signed off on EVERYTHING except the TB. You know what is amazing though? Everything else was done somewhere else. The only test I had done in this office is the only thing they have no record of.

So what is the deal? Did the dumb nurse just not write everything down and get things figured out? Oh wait, perhaps the nurse is not to blame at all. Maybe the smart nurse simply has too much other shit to do or maybe it wasn’t her job. Was it a dumb secretary? Was it a dumb doctor? Was it a dumb me? Did I never actually get a TB test? That is what these idiots would have me believe.

So while I tend to get agitated when people claim I am lying, I was quite friendly over the phone. The lady had no idea what to do and kept pretending to look for things. “Oh, but feel free to come and get another TB test anytime.” Hah, I could probably sue them for malpractice seeing as it is illegal to not keep records. But I suppose the problem with that is that I don’t have any actual records. Oh yea, and I’m not a douchebag either; I wouldn’t join our lawsuit-happy society over something as dumb as this.

But wait! What if my employer from last summer held onto the only proof that exists!? Ah-hah, the plot thickens. If I can get my hands on this document, I will smugly strut into that office and state, “Give me TB, or give me death.” No I don’t mean the actual illness, you know what I mean, stop trying to dissect my rant – I’m on a roll.

I bet this paper won’t count as proof somehow anyways though – because they ultimately just want me to pay them for another test. Screw that, I’ll get it done for free at one of the medical schools here if I have to. Hell, forging the signature would have saved sooooo much time. Damn me and my scruples. I am one signature away from completing all this paperwork; no incompetent office shall stand in my way!

In all seriousness though, this really isn’t that big of a deal. But it sure is annoying, and simply reinforces my already negative opinion on our healthcare system. It sucks.

You win this round TB, but I have not lost the war.

In other news, research ends next week and I have to give an oral presentation on what I have done. While my results were not what I was looking for, they are still legitimate results. I’ll dedicate a future post to the research program. Oh yea, and we get the other half of our stipend at the end too….MONEY!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Welcome to the ADA – The Overlords of Dentistry

So instead of working in the labs, all of us summer research students took a ‘field trip’ to the national ADA headquarters which is conveniently located in Chicago – a mere 20 minute CTA/walking transit. The visit involved a tour of their laboratories as well as presentations. We learned about evidence based dentistry as well as the health screening program. Notice how everything oral related has that little ADA seal of approval? Well, they are apparently phasing that out by the end of the year and placing a new Professional Product Review approval instead. The lab work will still take place as it has for decades, but now the ADA is incorporating more practicing dentists into their reviews. Instead of meeting ‘minimum standards’ everything will be graded based on ‘how excellent’ it is rather than ‘good enough.’

However, the best part of this trip was the actual experience of walking into this building. It reminded me of the headquarters of some evil mastermind from a Bond movie. We were herded into a MASSIVE conference room that was the ritziest looking conference room I have ever laid eyes on. The desk was a giant and U-shaped. If you looked at the face of the desk across from your spot, there were giant flat screen TV’s every 15 feet. These were used to display presentations and insure we all could see. There were also microphones at every spot, and little electronic pads used to in voting and having ‘the floor.’ Hell, even the clicker used to move to the next slide looked like it cost a couple hundred bucks. I couldn’t help but wonder if there were secret trap doors under the chairs ala Austin Powers that could dump naysayers into an incinerator… it would not have really surprised me.

I also regret signing the ‘consent to photography’ form during our first week of research. The faculty at UIC are like paparazzi – taking shots left and right. A few more would have sent me into a seizure. But hey, check out the next ADA quarterly or JADA issue. You may just see a bunch of awkward dental students standing in a giant conference room trying to look important.

Following the tour, we were treated to free lunch at Gino’s – apparently the birthplace of pizza in Chicago. I would have liked it a lot more if every pizza wasn’t smothered in mushrooms. I just can’t stand to eat fungus…or is it fungi?

And what would a trip to the ADA headquarters be without FREE STUFF? Yes I was treated to a bag with two different brands of toothpaste, some Listerine (cool mint of course), a fancy pen, toothbrush, and most importantly, denture ointment.

Ah, I love freebies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An Ode To Traffic

Traffic traffic everywhere
Places to be, faces to see – public transportation is for saps
No need to signal, thats why the person in your blind spot has brakes.

Traffic traffic everywhere
Get mad at the slowskies, honk and tailgate – flipping the bird is an art
Rudeness is a prerequisite, acting infantile a required stipulation
Rage is extra credit.

Traffic traffic everywhere
Scared as hell to be with your thoughts for more than 1 minute – pick up the cell
Call, call, blah blah, dial dial, hello hello
Now note that the only difference between driving drunk and driving while on a cell is that one is legal.

Traffic traffic everywhere
Let this guy in? NO! Gotta go faster
Faster, faster, slow is for losers
Left lane closing in 1 mile? Merge left, speed as far as possible and force somebody to brake when you run out of lane – everybody does it – why can’t I?

Traffic traffic everywhere
The bigger your car, the cooler you are
Hybrids are for liberal pansies - more gas, more power please
Step on it – go go.

Traffic traffic everywhere
A depressing commentary on society in general
Selfishness, Greed, Hatred, Disregard, Rage, Waste, Stupidity
A multitude of man’s faults and negativity conglomerate in one dangerous atmosphere.

The Road.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The D-0 Experience II

So what’s it like? Ya know, school on the horizon, transpositioning yourself into a foreign territory, attempting to quickly form a social network, take out loans?

For me it hasn’t been bad at all. Anyone who knows me will quickly remember how much I hated undergrad by the end – and despite being a creature of habit, I welcomed this change with open arms. As I mentioned before, your time as a D-0 will be completely dependent on whom you are as an individual. We aren’t IN school yet, but I can already smell the formaldehyde.

I have noticed recently that several schools seem to offer summer activities for their incoming class. Some, like UIC, offer a research program, some have get-togethers, and others appear to have mini boot camps. Regardless of the situation, I would recommend seriously considering signing up for anything your school offers. But again, that is dependent on you.

If you are married and/or have kids, you probably have a lot more responsibility and obligation than others. The transition still exists, but you are a team, not a solo flyer – adapting is not your responsibility alone.

However, if you are like me – in your early 20s, single, and living alone – these summer deals are great. I grew up in the suburbs around Chicago, that didn’t make much of a difference in terms of getting used to living IN Chicago. By moving out here earlier, I am already comfortable. I know how to get to good places, the school takes exactly 12.5 minutes to walk to at an average pace, and Fridays = 5.00 Foster oil cans at the local tabernacle. What else could one ask for? Maybe Cheaper Guinness.

I went out with a few fellow dentites the other night to a White Sox game. Of course they blew the game, but it was still a fun time. If the rest of my classmates are this great to hang around, then these next four years just might not suck as much as they could.

I don’t care who you are, or what type of school you attend – professional school is going to be a TON of work. Making some good friends is a pure necessity simply to have people to lean on when you need it most. I could not imagine trying to get through this journey alone – I don’t think I could do it.

So yea, what about ‘the other?’ Ya know, those imminent feelings of dread. Please note, I am not trying to say that this D-0 time is really stressful – because it isn’t. But there is some other feeling afoot, one that can’t be compared with school-related pressure. A culmination of your entire life spun into this decision because once you take out those loans – there is no turning back. Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? If you haven’t asked yourself this question, then you must be a robot. The best way to stay sane is to ask yourself: “Well, what else would I rather do?” I seriously can’t come up with anything realistic. Yea rockstar or astronaut would be fun, but I prefer to be grounded in reality. Besides, rockstar dentist sounds better.

I am not the first, and will not be the last pre-dent to think that all my worries will vanish once I got that acceptance. They did for a week or so, but the mental shift is quite a dramatic twist.

I am 50% done with this summer research program. As mentioned before, I still have the right to say it was not worth it at any point until completion. However, I still stand by my original statement – getting out here early was a great idea.

Happy 4th of July to one and all.