Homeward Bound

First of all, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey was one of my all-time favorite movies as a child.  Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, on the other hand, was a pathetic and poorly-made sequel that should be buried and forgotten for the rest of time.

What was I talking about again?  Oh yeah, I'm heading home tonight to start my month-long Family Medicine rotation at Midlothian Medical Care with Dr. Reinhardt.  There are many reasons for me to be excited about this rotation: I'm interested in Family Medicine as a career option, I get to live at home and eat mom nomz for a month, and lunch is provided every day by drug reps.  I'm also terrified, because the office is less than ten minutes from my parents' house, which means a lot of my neighbors go to see Dr. Reinhardt as their primary care physician.  Hmm, this could be awkward...

Obstetrics & Gynecology Recap

Ah, the end of another month.  And arguably the most enjoyable month of third year.  I just finished my OB/GYN rotation, which I enjoyed for several reasons, but most importantly because it was the best-organized clerkship I've been on.  I really liked that they told you exactly was expected of you as a third year student, which kept me on task and motivated the entire rotation.  And now, for the usual:

- You get to deliver babies.  Enough said.
- You get to do surgery without having to round at 5am.  Win.
- You have the perfect mix of clinic time (real clinic, not just one day a week where you rush through all of your pre-op and post-op patients) and OR time (again, without having to be at the hospital every waking hour).

- Treating only female patients.  For the rest of your life.
- Working with almost only female colleagues.  For the rest of your life.
- Having to explain why you'd ever want to be an OB/GYN doctor to everyone you met.  For the rest of your life.

All in all, a very alluring field for the short term, but not a very practical one personally.  Oh well, at least it made for one of the most exciting and rewarding four weeks of my life.  Even if that mother never e-mailed me that picture we took together after I delivered her baby... what an ungrateful patient!

Why Are Shelves Called Shelves?

As you may recall, I have been pondering this question since last May.  The answer may have finally been revealed.

Lee:  Because you make Shelves out of Boards.

Ba-dum, chi!

Clinical Trial

Let's see, my favorite patient that I saw today was...

OH WAIT!  I didn't see any patients because the snow kept everyone from making it to their doctor's appointments.  And the fewer patients in clinic, the more time I get to study for the upcoming Shelf exam!

I don't really have all that much to brag about, though, because everyone rotating in Roanoke was sent back to Charlottesville this morning so they wouldn't get stuck in the storm.  As a result, they get today AND tomorrow off to prepare for the exam, whereas those of us who have been working here in town have to keep going to work.

I'm sorry, is there a molar pregnancy nearby?  Cuz I'm sensing a high level of beta-hCJealousy!

Tiger Mother

Sunny recently showed me the Wall Street Journal article Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, an excerpt from Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  The controversial viewpoints within have become a hot topic of discussion on countless forums and even claim the cover of this week's Time magazine.  Like Chua, I was raised by a tiger mother, and like Chua, I will one day become a tiger... er... parent.

I have to agree with Chua when she states, "Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently."  Growing up, I was never coddled into believing that no matter what I did or how I performed, I was special.  My parents scoffed when I told them that my classmates' parents would reward them with $10 for each A and $5 for each B on their report cards.  I wasn't rewarded for doing well, I was expected to do well.  We've all heard those stories about Chinese fathers who ask their kids, "97, huh?  What happened to the other three points?"  I lived that story every time I brought home a test.  As a result, I knew I had to meet high standards, and I pushed myself until I met them.

That's not to say that I was never rewarded, either.  When I won second place in the Richmond Bach piano competition despite being the youngest person in my age group, my parents lavished praise upon me.  The winner isn't allowed to compete again, so when I came home the next year with an honorable mention instead of the expected first place, they didn't console me or tell me that I was special anyway.  No, they made it very clear where I had gone wrong: I had let my prior success go to my head, and it was clear that I needed to practice more.

It's true, there are some parts of Chua's story that go too far, like when she calls one of her daughters "garbage."  But she admits that she has made mistakes and wishes she could take those words back.  And I'm not saying that I would use every weapon in the tiger mother's arsenal.  After all, being raised to believe that "nothing is fun until you're good at it" while never being pushed to participate in team sports probably plays a large role in why I don't enjoy playing team sports today.

What I'm saying is that I don't think that my parents raised a perfect child.  In no way am I the most intelligent, most talented, or most artistic person I know (and we've already ruled out most athletic).  But I am certain that I have pushed myself to be best of what I can possibly be.  And I have a tiger mother and father to thank for that.

T9 Word

VMed Prom was two nights ago, but I'm still trying to put the evening together.  I continue to regret the fact that I didn't have my camera on the dance floor, because I'm pretty sure I would have captured some priceless moments, and I might have more of a clue as to what the heck happened that fateful night.

Thus far, my favorite pieces to the Puzzle of Prom have been the following string of text message that I sent:

To Richie, 10:44pm - Eunuegu
To Kathryn, 10:55pm - Wires are you
To Kathryn, 11:00pm - Were ere you
To Kathryn, 11:01pm - Where is you
To Kathryn, 11:02pm - TALK TO ME
To Kathryn, 11:17pm -
To Kathryn, 11:18pm -  a pool tables
To Richie, 11:49pm - Did you find my food for titan

Apparently aside from looking for my camera, I was also very concerned about finding Kathryn and dog food.  Hooray?

How To Trick Your Way Into a Prom Date

Earlier this week, Kathryn and I had planned on hanging out and catching up on Saturday night.  Having the memory of a goldfish, I had completely forgotten that the VMed Prom was scheduled for the same night.  So, on Thursday I sent her the following text message:

So, ive been so busy all week that i totally forgot that saturday night is actually the med school prom. Wanna go? Haha

I know, I'm a very classy gentleman.  To my delight, she responded with this:

Bahahahaha yes!!!

Prom this year was held at Club R2, a sketchy venue in the basement of the restaurant Rapture.  It had quite a different feel compared to the other two VMed Proms I've been to, which took place in the Newcomb Ballroom and at least had a semblance of dignity and class.  The only downside to the evening was that I misplaced my coat when we walked into the club, and my camera was in my coat pocket.  I didn't get it back till the end of the night, so for better or for worse, I don't have any photos of the night.  Luckily, I got someone to snap this picture of Kathryn and me at the pregame, so at least we have this:

Now, if I can only figure out who this Lancome Juicy Tubes lip gloss belongs to, and why I found it in my pocket this morning...

Do Not Pass Go

This morning, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Young at her clinic at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.  I'd never been to a jail before, and it isn't really at all like what I had imagined.  It's a strange setup that's almost like a commune or a self-sufficient town: the inmates make their own clothing in the tailoring shop, attend classes that offer them degrees in fields like heating/cooling and cosmetology, and participate in Pen Pals, a dog training program that makes shelter dogs more desirable for adoption.  Some Virginian prisons even have gardens, farms, and greenhouses.  Who knew?

Like most Americans, I went in imagining the worst about prison healthcare, but I found the opposite to be true.  The no-show rate in clinic is very low, because let's be honest, what more important things do the inmates have to do?  Compliance is excellent, because they have to go to the pill line to retrieve their medications at the appropriate time.  The patients all have excellent records, because, well, they're in prison.

Being a physician in a prison seems to be exciting as well.  I got to hear stories from the doctors about resuscitating patients who had tried to strangulate themselves and finding patients after they had given birth in their own beds.  The most incredible story was about an inmate who held her liquid methadone in her mouth, walked back to her building, spit it out into a cup, and sold it to another inmate, who then overdosed, vomited, aspirated, and went into respiratory arrest.  Um... wow.

EDIT: Matt has pointed out to me that although the term "jail" is frequently used synonymously with the term "prison," in the American penal system they actually mean two different things.  According to Wikipedia, jails are county or city administrated institutions which house both inmates awaiting trial on the local level and convicted misdemeanants serving a term of one year or less, while prisons are state or Federal facilities housing those awaiting trial on the state or Federal level and convicted felons serving a term of more than one year; thus, FCCW is a prison and not a jail.  My apologies.

Crisis Resolved

My 48-hour life crisis has come to an end.  For a moment there, I was actually entertaining the idea of doing OB/GYN, mostly because of the surgical aspect.  I've always said that I wish I could do surgery without having to live the life of a surgeon, and OB/GYN is the closest I've come to seeing that dream become a reality.

But some things are better off as dreams.  I think I'm just caught up in the heat of the moment.  I need something meatier to last me the rest of my life.  So, the quartet quandary is down to a trio torment: will it be Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, or Pediatrics?

If you pick Family Medicine, turn to page 27.
If you pick Emergency Medicine, turn to page 33.
If you pick Pediatrics, turn to page 54.


Help! I Need Somebody

If you've talked to me anytime in the past 24 hours, you've probably noticed that I've been even more animated than usual.  AND THAT'S BECAUSE I'M HAVING A LIFE CRISIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact, I feel something like this:

When I created my fourth year schedule earlier this month, I did a beautiful job of planning my rotations to help me decide whether I wanted to go into Family Medicine or Emergency Medicine when I grow up.  Over the past few days, however, I've fallen more and more in love with OB/GYN and Pediatrics.  Now, instead of having to decide between two possible careers, I'm torn between four.  What am I supposed to do??  How do I choose?!?  And what if I make the wrong decision and regret it for the rest of my life???

Oh well, no time to think about it now.  I have to go finish a presentation that I'm supposed to give to my team tomorrow on the effects of metformin and simvastatin on polycystic ovary syndrome.  Okay, that's one strike against OB/GYN...

Dog Days Are Over

Lisa, my friend from the dog park, was out of town for the weekend, and I got to babysit her dog, Radley.  Luckily, Radley and Titan are BFF.  They're both ridiculously energetic and play together really well.

Surprisingly, taking care of two dogs is actually easier than taking care of one.  Instead of having to take Titan for a walk in the morning and to the dog park in the evening, I could just put the two of them in the yard all afternoon.  I didn't have to feel bad about not being home, because they could keep each other company.  Best of all, they wore each other out, so they were tired (and therefore extremely well-behaved) whenever they were inside the house.

Lisa came by last night to take Radley home, and I think Titan was sad to see her go.  I know I was: now I have to take time again to exercise him every day.  But I am le tired!

Four Is Roar

There's nothing quite like hanging out with undergrad friends on the Corner.  Case in point: Saturday night after Emily and Anthony's wedding.  Good times were had by all.  That is, until I lost to Holby in a best out of three Connect Four match.  That's right, we're so cool that we play Connect Four at the bar.  Note that I am trying to be a good sport by shaking Holby's hand, but my face gives away my distaste.

Unpictured: Molly, whom I partially blame for my loss.  HOW COULD YOU LET HIM LULL ME INTO SUCH A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY!?

The following is not a particularly interesting story, but I wanted to document it somewhere so that one day, when I'm old and fat, I can look back and point to the exact day I began my irreversible plunge into obesity.

Later that night, six of us went to find late night food at the White Spot.  Altogether, we managed to consume nine Gus burgers, six plates of French fries, and two servings of Grills withs.  Seriously, guys, what the heck is wrong with us??

Home Theater

Holy poop.  I just saw Black Swan last night, and it was nothing short of amazing.  And the rumors were all true: Natalie Portman's performance was out of this world.  The best part of it was that instead of paying $9 each to see it in at the movie theater, Lee, Matt, and I watched it at home for a total of 75¢, the amount I spent to buy the pirated DVD in China.

I would tell you more about the movie, but nothing I say could be as well-put as the synopsis on the DVD jacket:

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a New York ballet dancer, and her mother want to live in a dominantTogether. Her mother was also a ballet dancer, for her to impose a suffocating control. In the new season"Swan Lake" performed before the art director decided to replaced principal dancer Beth He has two candidates: Nina and Lily The play requires a performance thatWhite Swan Black Swan innocence and cunning dissolute actress. Nina for the White Swan, and Lilyls simply the embo diment of the black swan. They developed in the competition section of twisted friendship. Nina started moreThe discovery of his own dark side, which may destroy her.

In the post-2008 Beijing Olympics and post-2010 Shanghai World Expo era, nearly all of the ridiculous Engrish signs in China have been replaced with accurately translated texts.  I'm glad to see that the tradition still lives on in the form of bootleg DVDs.

VMed's Got Talent

Last night was the annual VMed Talent Show, and I have to say without reservation that this was the best one we've had in the entire three years I've been here.  From Andrew's performance of Erik Mongrain's AirTap! to the Rolling Neutrophil Band's original song "Girl in the White Coat" to Punjabi MD's bhangra performance and every act in between, I was amazed.  In my mind, the UVA School of Medicine is, without a doubt, the most talented medical school in the country.

Oh, did I say "the most talented"?  I meant "the hardest partying."

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Colleen:  I saw you in the ED the otheer day.  What were you doing?
Me:  I didn't see you, but I was probably doing a consult with OB/Gyn.  I can't imagine I was doing anything else, haha.
Colleen:  Yeah, I figured you weren't doing your ED rotation because you were dressed up.
Me:  Wait, I was dressed up?  I've been wearing scrubs all week...  Are you sure you didn't see someone else who just looked like me?
Colleen:  I could've sworn it was you.
Me:  HAHA, well, if he was dressed up, then it definitely wasn't me.

I could make fun of Colleen for not being able to tell the difference between two Asians, but in reality, we really do all look same.  God knows I can't even pick out my aunts or uncles in a crowded train station.  I mean, what am I supposed to be looking for?  Someone with a small build, straight black hair, brown eyes, and who wears glasses?  Oh, good, I only described 1.3 billion people.

Speaking of Asians, here is an article on why college students are like Pokemon.  Which one were you?

Terrible Twos

Since I was in China for winter break, I missed the second anniversary of Titan's adoption.  I can hardly believe that I've had him for two years already.  It feels like just yesterday that Catmo and I went to the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter and took home this tiny ball of destruction for the small price of $10.

Over the past two years, Titan has learned some valuable skills.  For example: not peeing in the house, not chewing the remote control, not eating furniture, not jumping on people, not bolting out the door at every opportunity.

While these skills are wonderful and much appreciated on my part, Titan has also picked up on some bad habits.  For example: climbing into my bed when I'm not home, barking at strangers when they approach the house, humping other dogs at the dog park.

Here's to two years of highs and lows with my best friend in the whole wide world, and to the many more to come!

What's My Age Again?

Every year when I interview at the Richmond Region Jefferson Scholar Competition, I walk away with a sense of awe.  I'm always amazed at what these high school students have been able to accomplish in their short lives.

Today I walked away with a different feeling.  The interviews are held at Hunton & Williams LLP, which means that we need our parking passes validated before we leave the building.  While stamping my pass, the secretary asked me how everything went.  "Oh, it was great!  I had a lot of fun," I replied.  It wasn't until I turned around to walk away that I realized the secretary had thought I was one of the 17-year-old high school seniors interviewing for the scholarship.

I used to think that people believed me to be younger than I actually was because Chinese people tend to look youthful anyway.  But apparently that's not all.  Several people I met in China over my winter break also asked me what grade I was in high school.  When, when will I finally look my age??

Back to Life

Ah, finally!  I just made the switch from night float back to... uhh... day float?  Is that even an English phrase?

Anyway, there was some Divine planning involved in my scheduling, because lo and behold, we had a Chinese couple directly admitted with severe pre-eclampsia last night.  Mom and Dad both spoke English, but only to a limited degree.  Luckily, I was there to translate all day, and I ended up staying for the entire delivery, which lasted from 3pm until 6pm.  Although I didn't get to catch this baby, I ended up doing all of the coaching during the labor process.  Let me tell you: counting from 1 to 10 three times every two minutes for three hours is probably the most exhausting thing I've ever done in my life, both physically and emotionally.  I literally feel like I just gave birth myself.

I hope this makes up for the umbilical cord I avulsed during delivery of a placenta today.  Sigh, you win some, you lose some.

北京 (Beijing)

Ah, life in the big city.  Beijing has always been an exciting place to be.  Most importantly, the apartment complexes are required by law to have heating, allowing me to dress normally and to shower in my grandparents' own house.  This is in contrast to the homes Zhenze, which don't have heating, forcing me to wear five layers even while I'm indoors and to shower at the bathhouses.

My time in Beijing was perfectly planned out for me, with activities with a different member of the family each day.  There was my shopping day with Mao Gu Gu, an aunt who I swear has the sharpest eye and is the best bargainer in the entire world.  She found me a new leather wallet for 20RMB ($3), two pairs of new dress shoes for 316RMB ($48), and countless other deals.  There was my cultural day with Ying Xi Shu Shu, an uncle who is a graphics and layout designer who shares my appreciation for the arts.  We toured several exhibits, explored some of the old streets of Beijing, and ate at the most famous Peking Roast Duck restaurant in the world, Quan Ju De.

I spent the most time with Chen Gu Gu, whose only goal in life, I think, is to make me fat.  She purchased over 5kg (11lbs.) worth of Asian snacks for me to eat over the course of six days.  Needless to say, I couldn't finish it off, so I brought all of the leftovers back with me to the States.  She took me out to a different famous Beijing eatery every day, making sure I tried as many of the city's countless delicacies as time (and stomach) allowed before I left.  My favorite meal was one at a restaurant where everyone gets personal hot pots and shuan yang rou (flying lamb slices).  Mmm, ramb is dericious!

As with the South, I didn't do much touristy stuff while I was in the North, either.  I've been to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and all of the other notable sites in Beijing numerous times.  But there were two new tourist destinations that I had to visit: the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube, sites of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.  I decided to walk over to the Olympic Village one night, a short 15 minute stroll from my Ye Ye's apartment.  Trust me, I'm still upset that the Beijing Olympics took place during the first two weeks of medical school.  I COULD HAVE BEEN SO CLOSE!

Having not grown up there, the sentiments I have toward Beijing are not as strong as those that I have toward Zhenze.  My family in Beijing is also more proper and less rambunctious than my family in Zhenze.  But I still love seeing them all, especially my Ye Ye.  He was hospitalized for pneumonitis the entire time I was there, so I made sure to visit him every day.  It's a special hospital, too: the first hospital that practiced Western medicine in Beijing, the hospital where my Ye Ye was Chair of the Orthopedics Department for many years, and the hospital where my two older cousins and I were born.

The interesting thing about my Ye Ye is that even though his memory is failing due to Alzheimer's, there are two things that he hasn't forgotten: his faith and his career.  In fact, he continues to talk about his trust in God every single day, and people in the hospital still come to him to ask him about treatment algorithms for various musculoskeletal injuries.  I'm not gonna lie, it's kind of daunting to follow in his medical footsteps, but at least I'm lucky enough to have the world's greatest role model in my own family tree.

I Just Delivered a Baby

That is all.

震泽 (Zhenze)

Lest you think my trip to China was an entirely depressing experience, I've decided to share some of my more uplifting memories.

We'll begin with Zhenze, the village that my mom's family comes from and where I spent the first three years of my life.  Although, it's not really fair to call it a village anymore: we now have traffic lights and a public transportation system!  And I'm not just talking about rickshaws, I'm talking about autobuses that stop at several locations before driving to the next village!  Perhaps even more shocking was when I turned on my computer and realized that one of our neighbors now has a wireless router.  Wireless internet in Zhenze!?  THE FUTURE IS HERE!!

The village hasn't just modernized; it's also revamped the old residence for tourist purposes.  My childhood home has been restored to its original Qing Dynasty glory.  Of course, our family only occupied the kitchen and one sitting room, which had been requartered into one housing unit.  The rest of the complex housed dozens of other families.  Now, it has been reunified and looks so much more beautiful...

Between my last visit and this visit, my uncle decided to stop selling rice and start a restaurant (Asian stereotypes FTW!), following in my Dia Dia's culinary footsteps.  I can't say I'm very upset with his decision; I had many a delicious meal at his riverside eatery.

Food is always one of my favorite parts about visiting China.  But even I can only take so much.  With four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and ye xiao, the Chinese equivalent of the midnight meal), it actually came to the point where eating was no longer a joy but a labor.  It would offend my family if I turned down their food, so I had no choice but to do the respectful thing and swallow another bite, even if my stomach was at full distention.  Then, whenever I would go pay my respects to family friends (Asian stereotypes FTW, again!), I would have to eat with them as well.  But one dish that I'll never get tired of?  Snails.  So freaking good!

The only really touristy thing I did while I was in the South was visit the China Pavilion, which is all that remains from last year's Shanghai World Expo.  It was fun, but not as fun as later that night when I tried to go home.  The aforementioned public transportation had stopped running and I had no way to get back from the city of Wujiang to my village, but luckily, my uncle and cousin had been invited to a wedding in the same city that night.  And that's how I ended up crashing a Chinese wedding ceremony.  ZOMG, I was so tempted to take pictures, but my conscience told me I shouldn't since I didn't know the bride or the groom.  It was a tough decision, especially when the MC of the reception started yelling out Asian Poses for the newlyweds to imitate (Asian stereotypes FTW, again!).

Of course, the best part of my stay in Zhenze was getting to see my family, especially my Dia Dia.  A close second would be still being recognized as Peiling's son when I walked by the market.  When it's been 22 years since you've moved away and people still recognize you, you know you're truly from a small village.  You know you're truly at home.

Memoirs of a Sam-sha

First of all, thanks to Russell and Kathryn for keeping this blog going in my absence.  Let's be honest, you had big shoes to fill.  HAHA!  No, seriously, I wear size 14.

The past two weeks seem like a blur.  It was a whirlwind visit to China, the shortest trip I've ever taken, that left me with only week with each side of the family.

Something about this trip was different from every other one I've taken.  My cousins, who are the closest things I have to siblings, have all grown up.  I stayed in my grandparents' homes as I always do, but neither of my grandmothers, the two people I love more than anyone else, were there with me.  Sometime between my last visit in 2007 and this past month, my family also decided that I was old enough to be included in all of our important family discussions, despite my own doubts regarding my maturity.

So, for the first time in my life, I didn't want to come back to my life in America.  For the first time in my life, I thought that perhaps my place has always been in China with my family, where I'm needed.  For the first time in my life, I wanted to leave behind the comfort, the freedom, and the opportunity that I've grown up with so that I can be closer to the people that really matter.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever as simple as I want it to be.  I can't just choose one life over another, because in reality, I have a place on both sides of this world.  And so, I have learned to treasure the little time I get with my family in China.  I wish I could do more to comfort my Dia Dia, who never stops thinking about my Niang Niang and cries every time he sees her picture.  I wish I could do more to help my Ye Ye, whose Alzheimer's dementia has significantly worsened over the past few months to the point where he only recognized me half of the time I was there.  But it's useless to beat myself up over things that aren't under my control.  What I should do is count every visit a blessing, an opportunity to shower my family with the love that I've been building up and unable to express to them over the many years when I'm away.  Easier said than done.

Here I am, working at the hospital again, sleeping in my own bed again, signing on to Facebook again, watching The Sing Off again, blogging again, playing with Titan again.  Maybe it's not where I want to be right now, but it's where I should be.  My Dia Dia and my Ye Ye both made their hopes for me very clear: not to sit by their bed and keep them company, but to be a strong Christian, to be a kind person, and to be a good doctor.  So, this New Year, I resolve to do all of the above.  I also resolve to think about, pray for, and call my family more often this year.  And it doesn't take a resolution to remind me to go back at my next opportunity.