Friday, October 16, 2009

The more I learn the less I know

So exams are over, for a while. I am doing my best to really stay on top of my game in the coming weeks so that I don't feel so incredibly overwhelmed when exams come around. I saw some interesting research regarding how much more information one retains when you look over your notes every night, versus just every once in a while. So, that's what I'm trying to do...but its still really hard. Looking over notes for 22 hours worth of classes every night doesn't give you much time to do any assignments for those classes, or anything else for that matter. So far I am seeing an improvement in my comprehension though. Usually I study stuff before the exam and as I am studying I know that it will really take 3-4 more days for these concepts to fully "sink in". I am trying to avoid that for our next round of exams...that starts a week from Monday.

On that note, I used to be really irritated about having multiple exams on a day, or in one week. But this last round of tests was spread out over 3 weeks and it gave me very very little time for anything else. And, though I was thankful I didn't have any weekend events that prevented me from studying, the distraction might have been nice. Marathon studying makes me feel like a zombie, and I think it's making me vitamin D deficient.

Overall though I am continually amazed at how little I actually knew before I got to vet school, how much and how quickly I am learning things now, and how I really feel like the more I learn, the less I know.

I really did feel like I had a good grasp on things before I got to vet school. I had quite a bit of animal experience, and I understood stuff...I thought. Turns out that was not really the case. I am amazed at how little tidbits of information completely change my perspective of the way I used to see things. It feels like I have been let out of a box, and I am slowly able to see more and more of the complete picture of veterinary medicine. Before, I did things because I was told to, or because it was a pattern of the way things had been done before, now I am slowly learning the why behind each of those things. And from a big picture I suppose it makes things more complicated--because there is more at stake, and more to think about. But for me it makes things much easier to understand, I know the "why" behind them, its easier to justify doing it.

And, I am continually amazed at just how sharp this learning curve called vet school is. I find myself watching "Grey's Anatomy" and "House" with new found understanding. "I know why that potassium overdose made that lady die." or "Hey, I know why a papillary muscle rupture would kill you!" or even simple things like "I know where the hepatic artery/T1 pedicle/brachial plexus is!" Its simple information, after all we spend our first year just learning normal. They don't even introduce us to disease processes and pathology until 2nd year. But even just knowing what normal is, and how things work makes me start to feel like a real doctor, and I really like that feeling.

But, all this knowledge comes with a price. The more things we learn, the more things we have to learn. There is a puzzle concept called a fractal, in which the puzzle itself gets infinitely more complex with each layer you solve and the details just get more and more detailed. I think that is the perfect analogy of learning medicine. I want to fully understand all of the concepts that are being taught to me, to know the how and when and why to everything. The really frustrating part is that I will never get there, no one will. The body is so infinitely complex we will never fully understand it. I suppose that's a good thing though, because if we did, we wouldn't need medicine anymore.

I am trying not to get too caught up in all the minute details, just to learn the concepts. I mean that really is enough to learn considering I have to learn all these concepts for at least 6 different species (and trust me, NO, they are not all the same). I have a LOT more to learn already...some homework that is mocking me right now as I type and put it off for 10 more minutes. After all, it is a REALLY gorgeous day, and I am running low on my vitamin D.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I fixed it, so anyone can now leave comments...if you so feel led...

never thought I would be here...

I got to thinking the other day about just how much my life has not at all turned out like I expected it to, but exactly how I wanted it to.

It was exactly four years ago this month that I made my final decision to quit working in the restaurant and go back to school. For some inane (hindsight being 20/20 and all) reason I had always kinda toyed with the idea of staying in the restaurant business. Looking back I can't even see how people put up with me back then, I was a very different person and not very nice to some of the closest people in my life. Either way, reason intervened and I made a concrete decision to quit and FINALLY go back to school. Though I had only been out for three years, going back seemed like a scary scary thought. And, no possible way was I going to still pursue a veterinary career. After all I'd tried that and those classes were waaaaay too hard, I failed them and I just wasn't capable of that kind of work.

So I went back, taking courses at a community college that I could hardly afford (in fact I'm pretty sure I still owe my grandparents for a semester) majoring in Mass Communications. What I was going to do with that degree I will never know, it only lasted about a semester. I got really bored with the coursework, though I have always been very grateful to be back in school. I started thinking about maybe giving those impossible pre-vet classes one more go. I really really struggled with this decision, and looking back I'm not sure why. Either way I changed my major and my school. I started my coursework at Texas Tech. This was, to date, my lifelong dream. I HATED my previous institution and I think I hated it so much simply because I wanted to be at Tech so badly. It is where I had always envisioned myself. I saw myself at football games, getting chummy with Coach Knight, walking across the stage to get my red and black diploma. That degree, and that dream were in reach for the first time in five years. I had lived in Lubbock, at that time, for 3 years with all the intentions of actually going to school, and bills/residency/jobs/boys/life kept getting in my way. Now that I had actually put my foot down and I was responsible for realizing my own dream. It was a really powerful feeling.

Then, almost exactly a year after I had quit my job, and only halfway into my first semester at Tech I got a phone call. I had met a guy on my last opening for the restaurant, and while I thought he was perfectly nice, I hadn't really given him a second thought...until he called a year later. I think we talked well into the 3-4 am range...I was supposed to be writing a paper. He called again the next day, and the next and 7 days later he drove from Tyler to Lubbock to surprise me...and it was over. I was hooked, addicted madly deeply truly curl your toes kinda love. That was October, we were engaged in April and married in June.

Marrying him though, meant I had to give up on what I thought was my dream--that degree from Texas Tech. I do remember fretting over it some, grieving that loss. But, ultimately realizing that my dream was to get in, go to, and finish vet school--which was a dream my husband shared with me. In the end, I don't think it was the actual campus or tradition or anything else about Tech that drew me there, it was the assertion of my independence to go-to finally make the decision and follow my dream. A dream I wasn't being asked to give up--just a school.

So, as I sit here now--remembering that string of decisions over for years that have led me to this place, I not only feel nostalgic, but unimaginably blessed.

I moved from Lubbock willingly (mind you not because I really like Tyler, or Houston) because we wanted something bigger for both of us, for our lives together. It really amazes me sometimes how blessed I am that I have a husband who is letting me do this. He is financing, my entire education (ok Uncle Sam helps too) he works 60+ hour weeks, pays the bills (like he actually writes the checks, not just puts money in the bank) he helps clean the house, he does the dishes, he cooks dinner on nights I have to study. And he really asks nothing of me in return. I think the thing I love the most is that he doesn't just finance me, and put up with all my gross stories he doesn't want to hear, and the smell of anatomy lab, and complaining about lack of sleep....he actually shares this dream with me. He shares my joys, my struggles, and my failures with me, and I will consider this degree to be as much his as it is mine.

I guess it just hit me today how very very different this little life of mine would be if I hadn't gone back to school, if I hadn't changed my major and most of all if he hadn't picked up the phone that day. I would be in a tiny apartment, studying constantly with no relief. I would be even broker than we are now. I would be cooking for one. But mostly, I would be alone, with no one to share this with. As hard as it is trying to maintain a good marriage and go to school at the same time--I absolutely can't imagine it any other way. Giving up my little dream of Tech to focus on the bigger one of vet school turned out to not actually be that big of a deal...the big prize is still the same. Or, maybe it's better, because I get to share it with him.

So, in the end when I started this journey almost exactly four years ago, I really never thought I would be here...but I am exactly where I want to be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I love Tuesday's. I know I've mentioned this before, I just thought maybe I would re-iterate the point. Today was another one of those days.

I've been fighting off the "October Crud" as I call it. I'm not sure exactly what it is, some kind of cold, crappiness, funkiness that I always contract in October. I would say it has to do with the weather change, but it was a chilly 92 degrees here in good ol' Aggieland today so I highly doubt that is the issue. I just know I've been fighting this October battle since about the third grade. I'll get the same shit again in March--watch out! So in short this basically means that I spent all weekend huddled in a blanket on the floor with the cats studying physiology. Yeah, that's 17 hours of my life I'll never get back. I was horribly ill for the exam yesterday, I went home at noon, but I did make it through the exam. And, after all that studying and preparing and fretting, I only did one point better on this exam than I did on the last one, crap. Oh well, my last grade was actually not bad, and so neither is this one, I just hoped to do better. It seems that part of vet school is learning that you can study till the cows come home and inevitably there will be one (or many) question on the exam that makes you go, "What? Calmaudulin, I didn't read that anywhere, what the hell does calmaudulin have to do with anything." It's so frustrating, but with the volume of material we are responsible for learning, there is just no possible way you could possibly internalize it all. Well, at least I can't. Even so, I am still pretty pleased with my overall performance this semester. My grades are really pretty good, and I am learning how to force myself to study (cause I really would rather watch reality tv) and how to manage my time. Ok enough of that, exams are depressing and I have another one in two days...can't ya tell, I'm writing this instead of studying. (Yeah, its histology and I REALLY hate histology so I'm gonna put it off as long as possible)

While unfortunately this Tuesday didn't involve any live animals we did have a pretty good day. We modeled the heart wearing rain coats and chefs hats--trust me you just had to be there--and while that sounds slightly elementary it was amazingly complicated and really really informative. And, as it turns out I really like cardiology. Its pretty straight forward, and it's one of the things that is mostly all figured out in medicine. Unlike neurology or immunology where most of the time we are told, "We're not sure why this works this way, just know that it does" nice, thanks. Cardiology is not simple--but it is when you understand it, and it saves lives, my favorite part of the job. So maybe if I don't get that residency in nutrition I'll just move on to cardio...or maybe I should wait 'till 4th year, it's a little early yet.

Then we had a panel discussion with several clinicians from the teaching hospital. I love listening to them, I want to be them. But, the best part was watching a certain food animal clinician (whom I idolize) wreak havoc on a very prim and proper British feline practitioner...yes just cats who the hell would want to do that? If you've never had the pleasure of meeting a food animal vet let me paint you a little picture: They live in a different world than the small animal folk, and for the most part practice very different medicine. Their clients are typically not emotionally attached to the animals and they are more worried about withdrawl time for vaccines before slaughter than whether or not FiFi is going in the litter box. They are crass, usually loud, messy and very to the point. They are the "good ol' boys" and I love it. Food animal medicine is what I want to do and I can't wait to be one of them. Ok, so the highlight of the whole panel was watching the look on Dr. Feline's face when he was talking about how to gently handle a maniac cat as Dr. Pig jumps in and says "Gentle, hell I'm sure I've gotta squeeze chute we could fit a cat in" It was awesome. Dr. Feline didn't appreciate it, but I sure did.

Can't you just picture it? Fifi in a squeeze chute? Ahhhhhhhhh, I love Tuesdays.