This quarter I'm in a pediatrics class. I chose autism spectrum disorder for our written research project. Autism is controversial, especially with respects to the alternative medicine therapies. Many chiropractors, nutritionists, and medical doctors make fantastic claims about what can treat autism. I have been curious to know more about the research behind these claims and was glad to finally have a legitimate excuse to really read the journal articles more deeply. I wrote it pretty quickly (so it isn't as polished as I'd like) and I had to limit it to 4-5 pages even though there are many more topics I wanted to discuss. Here's the final paper in blog form.Read More
I originally drafted this blog post during the late spring of 2014. Never to late to publish a good thought, right?
I'm training for my first ultramarathon. That's a race longer than a marathon. I've opted for a 50 mile race on Mt. Hood, although I'll likely precede that with a 25k or 50k in early June. Training for an ultramarathon isn't much different than training for a marathon. You just have to run. A lot.
The big question is…
How do you fit in all that running? I'm ramping up my mileage very slowly this year to avoid the medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) that nagged me before my first marathon. Currently I'm hitting about 45 miles per week. Eventually I'll get up to 70+ miles in a week, including a single run of 30 or more miles.
As a graduate student, it's a huge challenge to find time to run all that much. So recently I've been playing with different ways to log miles. Dean Karnazes, also known as The Ultramarathon Man, doesn't own a car. He lives in Marin County outside of the Bay Area and gets around primarily on foot. I decided to give his technique a try.
Work it off
I went out for a normal run last Monday after school. I did a common loop around a golf course and came back to my apartment, for a total of 5 miles. As I was stretching outside my door, my phone rang. I'm on call as an A/V Technician at my school, and a professor was having trouble with the projector. Usually I'm reluctant to go back to campus in the evening, even though it's only 1/2 mile from my place. But you look at things differently when your brain is infused with endorphins and BDNF. "I'll run right over," I told him. I snuck in another mile, saved the day for a small group of massage students just yearning for more PowerPoint slides, and I got paid for it. Win-Win-Win!
I've needed to get some audio cables to upgrade my little podcast set-up. These aren't the type of thing you buy at BestBuy or Staples. No, I wanted the real deal from Pro Audio & Lighting, an independent shop for audiophiles and indie-bands 6 miles away from home. I took a cue from Dean Karnazes, threw on my Anton Krupicka Ultimate Direction race vest, fired up The Tim Ferriss Show on my favorite podcasting app, and trotted over. Generally, I hate running on roads. This time wasn't much different, but it was a fun change to navigate the busy streets on foot rather than in a hunk of metal. The look I got from the store clerks was amusing.
So how do you fit in all your training?
Here's an attempt to document my experience at chiropractic school over the next 3-4 years.
Quarter 1, Week 1
Umm... no. This week was so filled with orientations and first days of classes that by the end of Thursday I was wiped out. I was killing it in the study area though. Reviews every night, diagramming on the 4'x8' white board in my living room, and sniffing fragrant oils (more on my experimental study habits soon). I'm also pretty sure I aced the 10 question quiz that covered 160 definitions and terms. But, like my high school cross country meets, I soon discovered I went out a little too hard. Fortunately, unlike cross country, starting school with too much effort is better than not enough. I just need to back off a bit and make sure I get some rest in each day.
Quarter 1, Week 2
Most colleges and universities run on a semester schedule. Most chiropractic schools run on a trimester schedule. The courses at [University of Western States] are divided up into quarters. That, of course, means that we have a completely new set of courses every 10 weeks, with a 2 week break after finals. Except that it isn't always that easy. Since some of the basic science courses are meant to be just an introduction, they don't take the whole quarter. Case in point: Spinal Anatomy and Cell Biology. These courses started during the first week, but will be gradually phased out in the next two weeks by Radiographic Anatomy and Biochemistry. What this also means is that the courses go by fast. There is so much information that it's a struggle just to keep up with which class is next and whether I've eaten, let alone reviewing and studying the information that needs to be memorized – which is almost everything.
By far my favorite course is Gross Anatomy. We take 3 sections of it during the first 3 quarters, all of which include a lab. The fabulous thing about Western States is that each chiropractic student has the opportunity to complete a complete dissection of a "fresh" cadaver in a small group of 4-5 classmates. This is a pretty unique program; other chiropractic schools I visited had 2-3 prossected (already cut-up) cadavers for the entire school, that lasted them for years on end. Imagine, 7-15 new bodies coming into our morgue twice a year. That's pretty awesome. I have to admit it's a bit fun to dress in scrubs, grab a sharp scalpel, and play surgeon for a few hours a week. Of course, hacking away at a dead body requires nowhere near the skill of a medical surgeon (who I have heaps of respect for). Due to regulations, I can't share any photos of the lab or cadavers, but here's a website that shows the step-by-step process of dissection WARNING: These are graphic images of a real cadaver. Have a trash can nearby. I was a bit selfish and gave myself the honor of making the first incision. It's a bit tough at first (emotionally and literally) to slice open skin with a load of fat underneath it, but I got used to it quickly and have no trouble with it.
Surprisingly, I've been enjoying the class I was most afraid of - Cell Biology. I hated my biology classes at BYU, (except for freshman Bio with Marta Adair, which I took as a senior), and was dreading having to learn the Kreb's Cycle, etc. again. (Well, evidently we'll actually get to that in Biochem.) But I've really enjoyed learning more detailed structure of the phospholipid bi-layer and membrane proteins.
The best part about the class - the lab where we get to individually use $4,000 light microscopes. Light microscopy isn't anywhere near as exciting as electron microscopy, but at least it's something you can get your hands on. For some reason, I was never excited by opportunities to use a microscope in high school or my undergrad, but It's awesome now!
Of course, with anatomy comes a whole new language, mostly based on Latin. Ligamentum, latissimus, levatores, scapularis… all of these words come pretty easy to me. It's probably all the high school Spanish and 3 years of Portuguese, but could also have to do with my obsession with spelling and pronunciation. (FYI, it is lev-uh-tohr-eez and thawr-uh-koh-dawr-suh-l. They wouldn't have put the "e" in there if it was just luh-vey-tohr and thoh-rak-oh-dawr-suh-l just sounds weird.) But it's rekindled my desire to learn another language, so I downloaded Duolingo for the iPhone and have been learning Italian finally. "Io bevo l'acqua. Io sono l'uomo." Ha. It's kinda fun.
As you may guess, I am unfortunately due for another review of the origins, insertions, actions, and innervations of back & neck muscles, plus I need to do my preview reading for tomorrow.
Check back soon. Hopefully I'll have time after my anatomy midterm to share a little bit about my study tactics which are working great so far.
I just moved into my new place in Portland, Oregon. The drive was long and tedious, broken up by a cold night in Three Island Crossing State Park, just outside of Boise, Idaho. I love it when I'm the only person in an entire campground. It makes everything feel so serene. (It probably means I'm the only one crazy enough to spend the night in sub freezing temperatures, too.) I did make it easier, however, by stopping into the Carmela Winery just outside the state park. It was a great mix of a classy winery and the local bar hang out - and the Southwest eggrolls were amazing.
I'm starting chiropractic school at the University of Western States this next week. It's been a plan of mine ever since high school, but things got in the way - poor grades, hobbies, uncertainty. In fact, I'm still not settled on the dissonance between the claims of chiropractic and the medical science. I mean, I know chiropractic benefits people – me included – but there's not a whole lot of scientific evidence that explains the mechanisms or even supports a lot of the claims. This was a key factor in my decision to attend the University of Western States, which is touted as one of the more evidence-based chiropractic schools.
In the past few years, I've become intrigued with science. (There's some irony here in that the classes I struggled with most were the hard sciences, but I never said I was good at it, only that I am fascinated by it.) I love listening to Neil Degrasse Tyson's Star Talk Radio podcast, reading tweets from skeptics and scientists, and trying to learn how the scientific method applies in daily life. (By the way, check out this Haiku Deck I made based on the BadAstronomer's blog post about why science is great - It even won an award.) This curiosity has actually led to some difficult life changes, particularly in my beliefs about religion and spirituality. You may have noticed my posts becoming more politically liberal in nature, and you possibly felt that I was becoming cynical. I prefer the term skeptical. Although it usually is used with strong, negative connotations, it simply means not being easily convinced, kind of the opposite of gullible. There are lots of reasons to be skeptical - avoid falling victim to financial scams, resist following the crowd and spreading rumors that are untrue, or to not fall victim to fears of the world ending. There are some potential drawbacks as well, like becoming a crotchety old curmudgeon who 'bah-humbugs' every potentially beneficial new discovery.
Lately, I've been following a Facebook page called "I Fucking Love Science" and last night saw this quote by Carl Sagan, another of my favorite scientific literacy evangelists.
In case you can't read the image, here's a summarized version (emphasis my own):
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. ...
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you.
On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones.
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.
So the challenge is finding moderation in skepticism and being willing to accept new ideas.
I think this will be my motto for 2013 and as I start chiropractic school - be a well-balanced open-minded skeptic.
Hmm... Maybe I'd better first confirm that Carl Sagan actually said this.