Lazy attack on atheism

October 27, 2006

The God Delusion

There is a new book out by Richard Dawkins called “The God Delusion.” His mission is to bring the discussion of atheism out in the open and to make a case for it and against the belief in God. has a great write-up of Dawkins’ work and his new book. Readers of the medical blogosphere may notice that atheism has been popping up lately. Dr. Herbert wrote a piece about an atheist patient of his. The Neonatal Doc wonders what is said at an atheist funeral. As an atheist, I’m sensitive to pieces like these because I wonder exactly what I’m going to do when caring, not for the atheist, but for the religious. What am I going to say when a family asks me “Do you pray, doctor?” or “Will you say a prayer for my loved one?” Read the rest of this entry »



October 24, 2006

I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month about two years ago.  The idea is to write 50,000 words, a novel, in a month.  I filed it away under “great ideas that I should, but will never, do” right next to “running a marathon.”  Jarrad over at Veritography just told me that Michael Crichton wrote novels while he was in medical school (Harvard, no less).

In the month of November, I have: four exams, a research paper to finish, a Student’s Guide to Grenada to edit, tshirts to sell, and 50,000 words to write.  Should be fun.

Here’s to committing to a bad idea, but in the write spirit.  topher.

Millions for Millions

October 23, 2006

This is a wonderful idea and a well written piece from The New Yorker. Full article.

Yunus, a silver-haired man of sixty-six with a round, luminous countenance, is a highly gifted interlocutor between the extremely poor in the developing world and the West, and for years he had been seen as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. (This December, he will go to Oslo to receive it.) During the famine of 1974 in Bangladesh, when the dying lined the doorsteps of the better-off in Dhaka, Yunus, an economics professor at Chittagong University, found the theories he was teaching maddeningly irrelevant; so he went into a neighboring village and began talking to the poor. He experimented with ways of helping them—initially, he lent twenty-seven dollars to a group of forty-two villagers—and before long he became convinced that he had a remedy for their condition: providing very small individual loans to the impoverished to start activities ranging from making bamboo stools to buying a dairy cow. In 1976, after local banks refused his entreaties to make the loans, he resolved to do it himself, and he founded the Grameen Bank.

Role Models

October 23, 2006

I remember getting up early on Sunday mornings to watch The Human Body on PBS. I remember watching blood shoot through vessels on a microscope, bundles of sticks dancing inside cells as they split in two, and sperm swimming furiously. I remember seeing the “Miracle of Life” Nova special and being absolutely mesmerized.

I remember skinning my knee as a small child and asking my Dad how a scab forms. Sitting there, watching him put the band-aid on, I was waiting for a story about the clotting cascade and other interstitial magic. He answered, “The blood dries and you have a scab.” I was incredibly disappointed.

As a kid, I never knew that I wanted to be a doctor. I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be one, but I knew that I loved science. My family knew it too and encouraged me. I still remember a Thanksgiving dinner when I was waist-high to the adults, walking around, desperately asking everyone if they wanted to know how clouds created lightening or why the sky was blue. I had memorized the explanations from the fantastic book “Ask me Why?” and they were worth more to me than gold. I don’t know if he remembers it, but after watching several of my aunts turn me down with “not now”, my uncle Laurence (MD) indulged me. I always liked him after that.

I don’t remember there being many science role models. There was Donatello (the smart Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon character) and there was Beakman and Bill Nye the Science Guy (the adult cartoon characters). Sure, you could watch them and marvel at the greatness of science, but I never wanted to grow up to be anything like them. And that’s where my father comes in again.

My parents couldn’t agree on which movies were appropriate for me to watch. My father was by far the more lenient and I would sneak into the den to watch rentals with him. My first memory of a such a “sneak peek” was THE FLY. This was my introduction to the greatest film actor alive:

JEFF GOLDBLUM. Read the rest of this entry »

Books for St. Vincent

October 22, 2006

For current, updated information about attending SGU, review of SGU textbooks, and access to more SGU resources, please visit the Welcome to Grenada site.


4th term was the exception in that you could pitch your tent with one book and live in it. That’s pretty much over now. You have three classes to worry about this term. Pathophys, Pharm, and Hospital (clinical skills).

Merck ManualPathophysiology is not Pathology or Physiology. In Path, everything that was going to go wrong pretty much did and you were left to memorize buzz words. In Physiology, you were an idiot trying to understand the magic of breathing. PathoPhys is much more clinical and could have been named “What do you do with a patient’s chart?” In other words, if you learned Path and Phys, we can assume you know a lot already and can skip the easy stuff. You’ll be given stacks of notes for Renal, Cardio, etc. There is no need to buy a surgery textbook for the surgery lectures, or the Atlas of Diagnostic Imaging for the radiology lectures, and so on. I recommend… Read the rest of this entry »

I’d make a poor Flea

October 15, 2006

If I could have been anything, I might have become a physicist or mathematician. The logic, the rules, the exploration of things you can’t see but can prove are real has always been incredibly attractive. I have books on math and physics that I read for pleasure, two of my heroes are Feynman and Erdos, and I’m certain that Isaac Newton was a genius without parallel. So I feel really bad when I convince a kid that he has eleven fingers. I’ll explain.

Working with kids as patients, I try to make them comfortable with jokes and tricks. I have different tricks that I can do like float my thumb, pull my eyebrows and lips around with invisible string, etc. One of my favorite tricks, though, is the eleven-fingers trick. Here’s how you do it. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this really happening?

October 13, 2006

It’s OBGYN week.  Besides rotating through the hospital specialties, we have VIPs come to the island to give clinical lectures.  This is usually a forty minute lecture on the physical exam, a twenty minute demonstration on a patient, and then an hour of small group work with patients.  Monkeys see, monkeys do.

I usually sleep right through these lectures.  It’s no direct reflection on the lecturer but on my learning style.  My ears are morons; I can’t learn with them.  I’ve been in lecture where I thought the guy was fantastic, interesting, comfortable with the crowd.  And I sleep ten minutes in.  It’s Aural Disinterest Disorder, not Attention Deficit.

I have found the cure for this disease: a pregnant woman being escorted to the front of the room with a terrified look on her face.  Better than coffee.

As he lectures on measuring fundal height, the use of a speculum, the bi-manual exam, my eyes are darting saucers between him and the woman.  Are you telling me that I get to do a pelvic exam today?!  Is that what you’re telling me?  He finishes the lecture.  The woman is lying on the table.  He turns to us (100+ students), lifts his arms like a maestro, and gestures “come on down.”  In my head: The Price is Right theme music.

Imagine it, one hundred students crowded around and quiet, angling for the best view.  Hand to God, some of them are standing on the tables.  Several students are looking back and forth to each other, each asking the same question.  I turn to my roommate.

“Is this really happening?”
“I have no idea.”

Flash Rave

October 13, 2006

Things like this make me so happy. When a bunch of people organize online to appear in a given area at a given time, it’s called a “flash mob.” Then they’re all listening to their own iPods, dancing to their own music, it’s called a “flash rave.” I can’t imagine how much fun this was and how much the rest of the week will be a let-down.

Flash Rave


October 8, 2006

It just took me 15 minutes to outsmart a mosquito in my room. The bastard has been getting fat, happy, and maybe a little buzzed off me the last few nights. I lit a citronella candle in the room and discovered that the mosquito has a higher tolerance for that smog than I do. Mosquitos don’t wear belts nearly as well as I do, so it all balanced out.

It hasn’t been a productive day or week, so I might as well be the writing-kind of nonproductive. Some of my favorite lessons from the term:

If you ever take an oral estrogen pill, there’s a chance it contains equilin, which is obtained from a pregnant mare’s urine. Nocebo means ‘I will do harm’ and someone needs to name their next dog “nocebo”. Amaurosis Fugax is my new favorite term though I’ve forgotten what it means. Crazy people have hypomarble-emia (joke courtesy of roommate Kelly). The pharmacology course has taught me that a shot of expresso before a pot of coffee in an afternoon is properly termed a loading and maintenance dose of caffeine. It’s nice to have fancy words. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming attractions

October 8, 2006

I was riding hypomania for a while and that’s very much over.  Hard to get moving these days, hard to write much.  Well, I figure it’s time I finished the drunk driving post.  It’s also time to write a little something about arriving, living and studying in St. Vincent for anyone coming here next term.  It’s also time to do something I haven’t done in a while: write a good joke.  So for anyone that checks by here and has been disappointed the last week or so, let’s hope for hypomania once again.

Cheers, topher.