Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A bunch of random stuff

We had our last "official" PBL session of the semester today.  I swear, vet school is like some crazy time machine - it does not seem like the end of the block.  Each block since the beginning of school has seemed progressively faster than the one preceding it.  I only have 2 1/2 years to go, and at this rate, it will feel like nothing.  

This block's group was one of my absolute favorites, and I'm kind of bummed we have to change in January.  The little chunk of time before you find out who is in your new group is always the worst.  You look at who you've been in a group with already, and who you could still be in a group with, and keep your fingers crossed the entire time you're in suspense that you don't get stuck with certain people who rub you the wrong way.  Yes, I'm sure there are people who have their fingers crossed that they're not stuck with me.  

Since it was the last day of PBL, our facilitator gave us all these paper pop up snow globes.  She even "customized" the animals featured in each snow globe to what each person in the group was into.  I left all my Christmas decorations in Colorado, so the little snowglobe is my Christmas decoration.  I love it.  

I was talking to my med school neighbors earlier today.  They were talking about how excited they are for getting to get out of Southern California next year, and how terrible SoCal is.  It's been a year and a half here, and the one thing I cannot get over about this place are the advertisements for plastic surgery.  It's not that I can't believe how common it is.  It's that I cannot believe that somebody would choose a surgeon based off of a billboard or catchy jingle.  The advertising must work, because it's everywhere, but really?  Picking somebody to do an invasive surgery off of their ad copy?  Apparently agrees with me.  

Tomorrow, I have an equine rectal palpation lab.  We're expected to be able to talk about how we would safely sedate and handle a horse for a rectal palpation, then walk through how to do it on a teaching model.  It's a pass/fail thing, which would be fine - if we'd ever been able to practice it before.  Everybody I talk to who's already done the lab has said it was really laid back and fun, but I'll let my guard down once it's over.  

Oh, and Tyler's sick.  Of course he is - he's been working his butt off long hours in a crowded Guitar Center full of the general public and their germs.  I'm trying to stay as far away from my vector-husband for the time being so I don't end up sick for finals.  I'm so caring.  "Here's a cup of tea and some cough drops.  Let me know if you need anything else, but stay on that side of the room."  

Monday, November 28, 2011

What is a reasonable time frame to wait for a test to be graded?

Well, we're on week 8, the last week before finals.  Which means it's been 8 weeks since mid-terms.  Which means our entire class has been waiting two months for our ACT exams to be graded.  It's a little bit unsettling going into finals not knowing where you stand, especially on a test that's worth 20% of your semester grade.

And I've really tried to be understanding.  The faculty decided this year to have both the first and second years take the ACT during midterms, to avoid last year's disaster of not getting our grades back until the first week of February. Last year, the people who had failed first semester didn't find out until a month into second semester.

Anyway, so that means that they've had to grade 200 tests, each about 8 pages long.  I get it.  That's a massive amount of grading.  I've been whining to my husband and my parents for the past month about not having a grade, and my patience is really starting to wear thin.  Partially because the 1st years got their ACT grades a week and a half ago.  So we had to wait until February last year, and this year, even though ours were originally supposed to be taken during midterms, we still have to wait even longer for our grades?  It seems to me that it would be more fair to not make our class wait freakishly long two years in a row.

Even worse is that faculty keeps telling us that finding out our grades shouldn't affect how we study for finals.  Personally, it doesn't really affect how I study, but for some people it might.  A blanket platitude may not apply to the entire class.  Think about it - you have a class of 100 people who are used to being good students and obsessed about their grades - that's how they qualified to get here in the first place.  Telling them to not worry about something isn't going to work, because that goes against the personality type that admissions selects for.

And while it doesn't effect my study habits, it does give me an unknown to stress over.  I've had a blank spot in my excel spreadsheet of my grades that's just sitting there mocking me.  I can fill it in with hypothetical values, so I can get rough numbers of the percentages I need to get on finals to get X grade, but when it affects 20% of my overall grade, the numbers are barely more than wild-ass guesses.    

Or another way to think about how irritating the 2 month wait is, is in dollars.  Tuition is 22k a semester here. The class that had the ACT exam is 16 credit hours out of 22 credit hours.  That means that class costs 16k. That basically means the test that's worth 20% of our overall grade is worth $3200 in tuition per person.  Multiply that by 95 classmates, and that's $300,000 going towards our class's ACT exam.  And yes, I know it's disingenuous to assign test grades a monetary value like that, but when you're putting yourself in debt up to your eyeballs, you expect to get value for your dollar, or feel like you're getting what you're paying for.

Or here's another way to think about why waiting 2 months is so annoying.  8 weeks = 56 days, or 40 days if you don't count weekends.  If they're grading both classes, that would mean they should grade a minimum of 5 tests per day, or if we're only looking at our class's tests, 2.3 per day.  I don't really feel like that's a reasonable pace.  In undergrad, professors taught multiple classes of 100 students, and managed to get grades back quickly.

And then telling us a week and a half ago that we'd get them back "just after thanksgiving break" isn't true, when JUST after thanksgiving break is Monday, which is today, and there are no grades.  Telling us today that we "should" have them by Wednesday doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, when we "should" have had them back weeks ago.

Can you tell it's the week before finals, and I'm stressed and I'm grumpy?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Long weekend

I had a wonderful thanksgiving yesterday.  I cooked a big feast for myself and Tyler, so we're probably going to live off of nothing but turkey leftovers until finals are over.  Even though I spent most of Wednesday after class, and Thursday morning cooking, having thanksgiving with only the two of us is so much nicer than the usual guilt trips, manipulation, and awful conversation that comes along with visiting extended family.  Now, that's not from my side of the family - it's pretty much all from my crazy mother-in-law.  Basically, the formula for a great holiday is doing absolutely anything that doesn't include her.  I know that sounds like a terrible way to speak of somebody, but if you met her, you'd understand immediately.

One of the great things about Tyler is how he turns everything into a joke.  After dinner, the two of us were ripping up the turkey carcass and putting all the meat in tupperware containers.  He'd pull off a piece and say "What's this?  Is it food?" before putting it with the leftovers or trash.

So he grabs this branched piece and holds it up.
Tyler:  "What the hell is this?"
Me: "Umm, that kind of looks like the aortic arch."
Tyler: "So it's food?"
Me: "Eww, no!"
Tyler: "So you're saying you don't want to eat it?"
Me (gagging): "Please throw that away."
Tyler shoves the aortic arch in his mouth and starts chewing on it with his mouth open. "mmm.  rubbery."  He then pulls it out of his mouth and holds it at me.  "Want some?"
And that is how I almost threw up on a turkey carcass yesterday.

I still have 3 more days of my long weekend.  Our last 3 cases have been female repro cases, so I figured since I have some time, that I would read the entire "Pathways to Pregnancy and Parturition" textbook.  About 3 chapters in, my attention span has gone on the fritz.  Hopefully it will come back sometime soon so I can finish the other 12 chapters.

Friday, November 18, 2011

About that spay study I mentioned yesterday

I got a little bit more information about the study I signed up for.  I found out today that there will be the two groups - an open spay group, and a laporascopic spay group.  The open spay group will be taught to do an OVE (spay removing just the ovaries, instead of the more "traditional" american way of removing the ovaries and uterus,) and the other group will do a laporascopic OVE.  If we're randomized into the open spay group, but still want to learn the laporascopic technique, the professor doing the study promised to teach that group laporascopic technique once the study's over.  If all goes well, by the time we're in 4th year, the school should be offering a laporascopic surgery rotation.  How cool is that?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spay Goodness

Awhile ago, I signed up for this study that's being done by one of our professors.  The study's looking at the feasibility of teaching 2nd year students to do laparoscopic spays vs. the traditional abdominal incision spays.  I just got an email this morning saying I'd been selected to participate in the study.  I don't yet know what group I'll be assigned to, but I should find out soon.  I'm happy with either.  If I get to learn laparoscopic techniques, that will be really exciting, but if I'm assigned into the "normal" spay group, it will be nice to get additional training in that as well.

I also had my VACS rotation this afternoon.  I got to scrub in on a spay, assist, and do parts of the procedure.  Next block, I'll get to do even more.  Last night, I was rather terrified about it.  I spent the whole time from when I got home from school to just before I went to sleep studying the surgical procedures over and over.  When I got to VACS, instead of being terrifying, the way Dr. Bossong walked you through everything, it was a confidence building experience.  I'm excited for next time.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I've been debating whether or not to post about this

In the Nov. 1st issue of JAVMA, there was a pretty scathing letter written by Dr. Robert Marshak about how WesternU, Ross, and UNAM don't deserve to be accredited.  For reference, the AVMA's accreditation requirements can be found here. 

Basically, his argument comes down to a couple poorly supported points, which I'll point out below.  However, I've spent enough time on the internet to know that the #1 rule is YOU DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. And I kind of feel like I'm breaking that rule by even giving his letter the time of day.    

He doesn't think that a college that solely concentrates on health sciences counts as an "institution of higher learning," according to a definition that he says " generally accepted that an institution of higher learning is a community of scholars with many branches of advanced learning, including the foundational sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology), the humanities, and the arts."

Now, an institution of higher learning has a pretty strict legal definition that can be found here.  According to that definition, DeVry is an institution of higher learning.  Pima is an institute of higher learning.  Pretty much any college or vocational program that grants degrees is, not just the standard public or private universities that you typically picture when you think of a college.  The legal definition for that is pretty low - I mean, red-flag schools that advertise on late-night cable meet the legal definition.  But Dr. Marshak made up his own definition, then decided that WesternU didn't meet it.  In constructing arguments, is there a logical fallacy name for blatantly making shit up?  It's the same kind of dishonest arguments creationists use when they whine "but evolution's just a theory!"

His next problem with Western's vet program is that we don't have an on-campus teaching hospital.  However, the accreditation standards say a school must have "[a]n accredited college must maintain an on-campus veterinary teaching hospital(s), or have formal affiliation with one or more off-campus veterinary hospitals used for teaching."  I really do understand the concern that we don't have an official teaching hospital. However, as wonderful as it would be to have top of the line technology at your fingertips, I don't necessarily think that the teaching hospital model is superior.  What good is learning to diagnose with full access to MRIs and computed tomography, when in real life day-to-day practice, your clients won't be able to afford that standard of care?  We do rotate through specialty practices that have all the bells and whistles, so we'll have exposure to it, but we're exposed to real world veterinary medicine with its peaks and pitfalls.  He may see it as a downfall.  It's one of the main reasons I chose to go here instead of the other veterinary school I was accepted to with its shiny updated teaching hospital.  I don't want to be crippled by relying on diagnostic tools that I won't have access to 99.9% of the time.  

One of Dr. Marshak's other problems is our on-campus Banfield.  Yes, we do have a Banfield on campus.  No, I'm not crazy about the idea of mixing corporations with education.  However, from my rotations there, there are only two things about the clinic that scream "corporate medicine!"  One is the sign on the outside of the building.  The second is Banfield's charting and practice management software.  Contrary to popular belief, the software does not dictate treatment.  The veterinarians on staff do, just as any other veterinarian decides a treatment plan.  We use it only for the medical charting. I have my own beefs with the software. Mainly, the fact that I like to imagine the code was written by troglodytes who haven't touched a computer since they owned a Commodore 64, and don't know logical keyboard shortcuts, or the concept of user-friendliness.  I spend a total of 8 hours a semester there, and third year will spend a few weeks there.  I'm not being indoctrinated into the cult of corporate medicine.  If anything, it's teaching me why I will never work at a Banfield, so I don't get desperate and make that mistake once I graduate.  

He then complains that "as far as he is aware," we don't have PhD, masters or residency programs that tie into the vet school.  Now, we may not have as many as other schools, but we do have a partnership with the University of Minnesota for a masters of public health degree, and WesternU offers masters in biomedical sciences and pharmaceutical sciences.  As far as residencies, I only know of one veterinarian who is working on her radiology residency here, but as somebody who keeps their head down and doesn't know what's going on around me half the time, just because I'm only aware of one person, doesn't mean there aren't more hiding where I don't see them (and it doesn't mean that there are others.)  Unlike Dr. Marshak, I don't just get to say "as far as I'm aware," then make shit up instead of looking it up.  Or maybe I should, this could be a fun game.  "As far as I'm aware, Dr. Marshak doesn't NOT have a tail."  Yeah, not the soundest argument.  I think I learned that you can't plead ignorance as a debate tool when I was in middle school.  

Dr. Marshak's next argument is the obligatory jab at our problem based learning curriculum, based off of an appeal to tradition.  Or as he puts it, "I question that such heavy emphasis on the problem-based learning method can provide, in a discipline-based, orderly, and concise manner, the solid foundation that students need when they enter clinical training."  Basically, the "Hey you young whippersnappers, get offa my lawn" argument.  I get it.  It's new.  It's scary.  It's why I came here.  Yes, there are days when I would kill just to be told what I'm expected to know, and be spoonfed a lecture on certain topics.  But those days are few and far between.  I'm sure if I were at KSU instead, I'd be struggling to stay awake during lectures, and tempted to skip class and catch up on my own.  There's no one solution for everybody.  Different strategies work for different people, and if you haven't experienced it, it's hard to understand it.  

When WesternU was brand-spankin' new, our NAVLE (national board) scores were looked at under a microscope.  The first class had a pass rate of 86%.  The next two to graduate had a pass rate of 93%.  Last year's class had a rate of 97%.  Dr. Marshak begs the question, and has decided that since there's such high pass rates, that obviously the test must be too easy, and isn't a good representation of the education we get here.  It's been considered adequate for years upon years - until we do well at it.  Then it's suddenly a bad measure of competency.  I don't know if I can roll my eyes hard enough.  

Dr. Marshak then goes on to make some common sense arguments for transparency and accountability in the process of accrediting vet schools.  Which would have been a fine couple of paragraphs on their own, that don't necessarily relate to his massive bashing of a few select schools that preceded it.  

He then concludes his letter with a "sky is falling," xenophobic, bleak view of the future of the profession, and ends with a slippery slope argument that somehow we're paving the way for the profession to go to hell in a handbasket.  

Ok, I get it.  New ways of doing things scare Dr. Marshak.  Hell, he's from the University of Pennsylvania, where I hear from SDN that they still teach their first years in a (poorly climate controlled) brick room that was around when the school opened 100 years ago.  Change scares him.  But the veterinary world is not static, thank god, or else we'd still be in the dark ages, instead of close on the heels of the best human medicine.  WesternU's an experiment in progress.  Will this school get everything perfect, all the time?  Hell no, it's run by fallible humans.  But I can sure as hell guarantee that every single school in this country has its flaws, along with their strengths.  Our vet program has only had 4 graduating classes to date.  It will take years for enough of us to get out into practice, and prove ourselves.  But by then, it might be too late for old curmudgeons to realize that they've been left in the dust.   

I probably shouldn't have even acknowledged that letter.  I don't think it deserved the 30 minutes it took to type that response.  But at least 1500 people read this blog every month.  Some of those might be veterinarians, or students at other schools with access to the original JAVMA article, who might want to get a glimpse into the faults of Dr. Marshak's arguments.  And now 1500 people can realize that sometimes I can't resist feeding the trolls.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Random stuff

Remember me complaining about my next door neighbors, and their propensity to shake my house with 100 decibel mariachi music?  I swear, they must have earned me some "good neighbor" karma, because my neighbors on the other side of me are awesome.

They're 2nd year DO students.  They're quiet.  They have super-sweet puppies that I get to love on.  We exchange cookies.  And best of all?  They yelled at the bad neighbors on the other side of me over the weekend, and they haven't blared music since. (Which I'm sure is only a temporary reprieve, but I'll take what I can get.)

Anyway, their level of awesomeness is pretty proportional to the other neighbor's shittiness.  I'll be sad when their rotations start next year, and they move away.

Our case this week is a reproduction case with a clouded leopard.  One of the issues brought up in the case was stress, and how it affects repro.  Anyway, I was reading about the adrenal glands, and reviewing Cushing's and Addison's diseases, when it kind of clicked for me.  I wonder what the signs of Cushings are in humans?  So I ended up looking that up, and it pretty much exactly matches one of my good friends back home - the potbelly with skinny legs, the moon face, dry hands, skin tags, acne, stretch marks, and diabetes.  So I sent him a quick email basically saying "not to butt in, but maybe you should read this and mention it to your doctor." Anyway, it kind of got me thinking about where exactly that line is that should not be crossed into human medicine.  Is saying what I did to a close friend about mentioning something specific to their doctor crossing a line?

And because we have a clouded leopard case this week, I need to promote an awesome website.  Zooborns is a blog that posts pictures of newborn animals from zoos all over the world.  If you need some "aww" injected into your day, that's the place to do it.  (Pic below of a clouded leopard cub at the Point Defiance Zoo.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Izzy update

It's been 4 days since Izmere's surgery.  The difference between how she was acting last week, and how she's acting this week is astonishing.  Last week, she was only getting up when she had to, she was depressed, she stopped eating, and she was hurting.  This week, she's wagging her little tail nubbin again, she's giving kisses, and she keeps trying to run and play, and I ended up having to lock Skwisgaar up in a different room so she would stop play-bowing at him.

One of the strange things about her the past few weeks has been her attitude towards me.  She's always preferred Tyler over me, and I'm pretty convinced the only reason she tolerates me is because she knows she'll get in trouble for trying to pull the whole alpha bitch thing again.  Anyway, she's been sick, and guess who she's been demanding cuddles from?  I'm a little skeptical of her being so nice to me.  When she starts feeling better, is she going to go back to trying to wedge herself between me and Tyler when we're watching TV, then trying to kick me off the couch? Even if it is a transient niceness, I'll take it while I can get it.

Today in our Molecular and Cellular Biology class, our group had to give a presentation on how VEGF interacts with angiogenesis in portosystemic shunt surgeries.  I hate how no matter how much I practice the night and morning before a presentation, I get in front of a group, and my mind blanks, and I feel like I sound like an idiot.  At least it's over for this block, and I'll only have to do 2 more MCB presentations this year.