Reader's Choice

I recently had my picture taken by Jim Gitchell of Gitchell's Studio to be used as my Mulholland Society President portrait.  The proofs are up, and I've whittled my choices down to the following two, but I can't decide which headshot I like more.  So, that's where you come in.

Should I go with A) the mature, serious Sam?

Or should I go with B) the smiley, approachable Sam?

Personal What?

It must be musical week, because I just got back from watching the Waynesboro Players' presentation of A Little Night Music, featuring none other than my good friends Mark and Caitlin.  Actually, that's a lie, because it featured several other people as well.  The show was really fun to watch, but since Kendall and I had to drive half an hour each way, this is how far I've gotten on my personal statement:

I know it's supposed to be a "personal" statement, but I'm sure one of you knows me well enough to write one for me.  So, does anyone want to compose an essay that explains why I want to go into Pediatrics?  Anyone??

The Show Must Go On

The thunderstorm had passed.  The air was crisp and cool.  I was driving to the UVA Drama Department's presentation of Evita tonight with my windows rolled down, enjoying the vibrant smells of spring.  I stopped at the red light, looking for oncoming traffic before I made a right turn.  A car zoomed past me and SPLASH! I was hit with a wall of water that flew out from under its tires.  It was like a scene out of a movie, except instead of walking along a sidewalk, I was actually seated in a car.  I didn't even know this was possible!

Fast forward one hour.  We're halfway through the first act of Evita when the director walks onstage, calls for the house lights, and informs us that there's been a tornado sighting.  We spend the next 20 minutes crowded in the basement of the Culbreth Theater with 300 other patrons waiting for the storm to pass.

All I'm saying is that these better be the best flippin' May flowers I've ever seen in my entire life.

The Beginning of the End

As I start my fourth year of medical school and my final year of school for the rest of my life, I'm beginning to notice those "last" things I'll ever do.  For example: filling out the FAFSA and the UVA financial aid application forms.  So, here's a toast to never taking out another educational loan and hopefully paying them all back one day.  Cheers!

I Have Heard Your Cries

Apparently I was ready to switch to a new layout, but many of you were not.  And apparently some of you find the bamboo background to be too generic.  Well, I have already asked my friend Tina (who created my last layout) for her assistance, so it all depends on whether she has the time and energy to design a new one for me.  If you want to give her a nudge in the right direction, you can call her at --haha, just kidding, I won't post her phone number for the whole world to see.  For now.

Maxed Out

First, I organized all of my binders from third year.

Second, I cleaned my bedroom.

Third, I dusted my desk and TV stand.

Fourth, I put away all of my winter clothes and brought out my summer clothes.

Fifth, I hung up new pictures on the living room walls.

Sixth, I tried to patch up the living room couch using 4-0 Prolene.  Hey, you would too if you didn't have any needle and thread laying around but had numerous opened suture packets, a needle holder, and a pair of tweezers sitting on your coffee table.  Apparently I can only do five productive things in one day, though, because after throwing just a few stitches, I became irritated and gave up altogether.

So, a needle pulling thread...

A New Beginning!

I just finished my first day as a fourth year medical student.  It's time for my blog to reflect this new chapter in my life.  Because, you know, I'm gonna make like bamboo and shoot first, ask questions later.

Oh yeah?  Well maybe I was trying to not make any sense.  Whaddaya think of that, huh??

Surgery Recap

I took my Surgery shelf exam yesterday, which means two things: I'm officially done with third year (well, minus that pesky Internal Medicine shelf exam that I had postponed earlier and need to make up in June), and more excitingly for you, it's time for a recap of the pros and cons of being a surgeon.

Those of you whom I've talked to about this know that my thoughts on surgery flip flop approximately once every two hours.  Although I'm beyond ecstatic about my decision to pursue a career in Pediatrics, I'm sure I'll always wonder what it would have been like to go into Surgery instead.  And in another life, I think I would have made a great one.  But putting my baseless pride aside, there are still many reasons why I should or should not become a surgeon:

- There's no doubt about it: surgery is pretty freaking awesome.  You get to identify a problem and fix it immediately.  For the most part, people love and admire their surgeons for what they do.  You know just as well as I do that I crave people's love and admiration.
- I enjoy suturing, and I think that I'm pretty good at it, too.  I like playing instruments, so it's not surprising that I also like playing with surgical instruments.
- Surgical clinics are awesome because they're so problem-focused.  No need to mull over all of the patient's medical problems, because that's why they have their primary care provider.

- The hours.  I'm not talking about the 2002 Nicole Kidman movie, I'm talking about the ridiculously long work hours and the insanely frequent call nights.  Sure, I can do it now when I'm 24, but will I still want to be doing it when I'm 42?  I honestly don't know, but chances are that I won't.
- The strong personalities.  Don't get me wrong: I think it takes someone who is Type A to run a good operating room, but I don't know if I can work with such intense people on a daily basis.
- The patient contact.  I prefer to spend more time with my patients awake than asleep.  I also like getting to know them over a long period of time, not just during their brief preoperative and postoperative visits.

Welp, there's no denying that a part of me will always love the idea of surgery.  So if that's what you happen to be going into, you can bet that I'm going to try to live vicariously through you.

Beau of the Ball

I love spring for many reasons.  The weather is nice, the flowers are in bloom, and the Foxfield Races are just around the Corner (pun intended).  But let's not forget the last reason I love spring at the University: it's the season for banquets.

I have to admit, though: getting dressed for these events always creates a bit of a quandary.  I love black tie events, but I honestly hate dressing up in a tuxedo.  Not because it's uncomfortable, but because every time I put one on, I feel like I'm getting ready to go onstage for a concert.  I've been trained to associate tuxedos with either sitting at a piano bench or standing in the choir risers.  So I decided to spice things up tonight by wearing... gasp... a purple bow tie.

It was no easy decision.  I consulted the fashion triumvirate of Mary Virginia, Christin, and Harris: three people who know a lot more about dressing nicely than myself.  With their blessings (and the help of Rule #5 at, I stepped out of my comfort zone this evening and donned one of Timmy's purple bow ties paired with a classic black cummerbund.

I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.  And oh, I do.

Paradoxical Effect

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that is a psychoactive stimulant.  Why, then, is it making me sleepier the more I drink?  What is it about incarcerated vs. strangulated bowel that fails to excite me?  Why am I not mesmerized by the algorithm used to determine the source of a gastrointestinal bleed?  Shouldn't I be more intrigued by the surgical management of congenital heart defects?

Maybe it's the fact that I feel like I've been reading the same content over and over again, just written using different words.  Or maybe it's the fact that after seeing a mini cannon firing at targets, nothing will ever enthrall me in the same way.

Credit goes to Genevieve's ever-captivating Gchat status.

Tiger Cub

It appears as though Amy Chua, notorious author of the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, raised a daughter not too unlike herself.  Sophia, self-dubbed "Tiger Cub," is testing her skills at writing as well: she has started a blog by the name of new tiger in town.  The posts so far are pretty good, so here's to hoping that she keeps it up!

Then again, she might not have to... I just read this article, which reminded me that Skynet was scheduled to go live last night, which means Judgment Day will be tomorrow, April 21, 2011.

Good thing I subscribe to the John Connor philosophy: The future's not set.  There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

Gah, I'm such a geek.


I went to the optometrist this afternoon to get a new prescription, because the glasses that I've been wearing since third year of college just don't quite cut it for me anymore.  It's all that hard studying, I tell ya!  Or is it the gallon of moonshine mixed with antifreeze that I just chugged?

Anyway, my pupils are still dilated, so I can't really focus on anything.  I guess that means I'll have to postpone studying and watch another episode of V online.  Ah, the sacrifices I make...

Make Feast, Not Famine

Last week, Garrett informed me in a very urgent e-mail that the Tavern would be closing soon.  How an alum in Japan knew about this before a current student in Charlottesville is a little surprising, but then again, Garrett is no ordinary alum.  He's actually an alien from Mars.

Uhh, anyway... Garrett couldn't be here for the U-Singers reunion this weekend, but those of us who were still in town this morning fulfilled his wish of eating breakfast where students, tourists, and townspeople meet.  They've changed the menu since I'd last visited, and it no longer contains abhorrent misuse of quotation marks like made with "NATURAL" ingredients and try the house "SYRUP."  I ended up going with the bacon waffle, because what could be more delicious than a Belgian waffle?  A BELGIAN "WAFFLE" WITH BACON STUFFED INSIDE, DUH!

I went through a few hours of withdrawal after everyone left town, but luckily I was able to coerce some other friends to join me for the second baseball game against Duke this afternoon.  To be quite honest, it didn't take much coercing; apparently people aren't very resistant towards box seats that come with free food and beer.  The team made it worth our time, too, crushing Duke 18-4.  I'd like to think it was because of our strong support, SO PLEASE DON'T TELL ME OTHERWISE.

Before you say anything, I know: I hate posed pictures too, but both of these were just too classic for me not to share.  AND YOU WILL LOVE THEM BECAUSE I TOLD YOU TO.

Hmm, that was a lot of all-caps for one blog post.  Crap, am I becoming hypomanic again?

Sam and Sam Do Yoga

One of my best friends from undergrad, Sam, is in town this weekend for the University Singers Slon 10th Anniversary Concert.  We have an alumni brunch at 11am, but since Other Sam (don't ever let him tell you that I'm the "Other Sam") has been doing P90X for over a month now, he wanted to make sure he got his workout in before we met up with everyone else.  And that's why I woke up at 8am to do Sam's yoga DVD with him.

I've never done P90X before.  Heck, I've never even done yoga before.  It turns out that trying both on the same day involves significant amounts amount of me yelling, "Holy crap!" before tumbling to the ground.  It apparently also involves a lot of contorting my body in ways I never thought possible and then keeping it there for 30 seconds or longer.  And isn't yoga supposed to be a meditative practice?  Why, then, was I sweating my bollocks off?  More importantly, who even uses the word "bollocks"?

My favorite pose, the savasana.  Mmm, it makes me so sleepy...

Do It for the Kids

I did it.

Today, I met with Dr. Keeley, and I plotted out my course to becoming a pediatrician.  It frightens me to even say it out loud, let alone publish it on the interwebz.  But here we are, and there you have it.  I'm going into Pediatrics!  Why?  Because it's my dream to one day be this guy:


That's right, I want to be an old, wizened doctor with a head full of white hair.  You would believe everything I told you.

Now all that's left is to inform Dr. Reed, my Family Medicine advisor, that I'm going to be changing career paths.  ZOMG, I'm so nervous!  What if he hates me and never wants to talk to me again??

Call Me Irresponsible

Sigh.  I had such grand plans for the weekend, the least of which was to finish my presentation on New-Onset Diabetes After Transplant.  But the sunny and 77 degree weather got the best of me, so instead, Josh, Neil, and I trudged out to Starr Hill Brewery for some free beer tasting yesterday afternoon.

And, having made it that far, we decided that we might as well hit up Blue Mountain Brewery too.

By the time we were ready to leave, it was clear that we had no choice but to finish off the beer tasting trifecta and drive down the road to Devils Backbone Brewing Company as well.  It was our first time visiting the rustic mountain lodge, but definitely not our last.

By that point it was ridiculous for us to attempt to do any real work, so the logical thing to do was drive back to Charlottesville and enjoy some pizza (and some more beer) at Mellow Mushroom.  Should we have done this on a Sunday afternoon?  Probably not.  Am I going to do this every Sunday afternoon of fourth year?  Absolutely.

Used Trauma

The only downside to the trauma case I saw on call the other night was that it was, as it is referred to in the Emergency Department, a "used trauma."  The patient had in fact already been seen, assessed, and even intubated at an outside hospital before arriving at UVA.  What's even left for us to do?

Say, outside hospital... is there a Youtube video about that?  Yes, there is.


Today I had the honor of celebrating the life of Kathryn "Tootsie" Payne.  Tootsie was a soft-spoken but compelling woman who made everyone she spoke to feel like he or she was the most important person in the world.  Coincidentally, she was the same age as my Niang Niang, so it's only fitting that she and her good friend Billie became like surrogate grandmothers to me.  I would go out to lunch with them after church, they would buy me presents every year for my birthday and for Christmas, and like all grandmothers do, they made sure that I was stuffed full of food at all times.  Billie passed away a few years ago, and earlier this week, Tootsie left us to be with her Lord and Savior as well.

I know this is weird, and perhaps even a little bit wrong, but I appropriated much of Tootsie's memorial service today and placed it in the context of my own Niang Niang.  I think the hardest part about my own grandmother's death was never having the chance to properly send her off.  But many of the words said about Tootsie today might just as well have been said about Niang Niang, and they struck me in a very powerful way.  I all but broke down after playing the Lord's Prayer at the end of the ceremony, and I'm sure the people in the congregation were wondering why I was crying more than Tootsie's own grandchildren.  Yet only half of my tears were for her, the other half were tears of acceptance as I let go of my Niang Niang just a little bit more, something I am still learning to do every day.

Tootsie, thank you for sharing your love with all of us.  I know you never knew my grandmothers while you were alive in this world, but when you see them and Billie in Heaven, give all three of them a hug from me.

The Great Debate

Every day these past two months, I have seen something that reminds me why I came in to medical school wanting to be a surgeon.  But then I see something else that reminds me why that would be the worst idea in the world.  So, using today as an example, here is a glimpse of what goes on inside my head on a daily basis:

- I come into work at 5:30, and I'm not early, I'm actually half an hour late.  HATE.
- Rounds start at 6:15 instead of the usual 6:00 so I end up having enough time to preround, plus we're done seeing all of our patients by the time the OR opens at 7:15.  LOVE.
- The one surgery we have will take something between six and 12 hours.  HATE.
- We use the Argon laser cauterizer.  LOVE.
- When I come back from surgical pathology, I have to do another full scrub because I'm allergic to the Avagard lotion.  HATE.
- While on call, I get to participate on a burn trauma.  LOVE.

So it all balanced out to a net experience of zero.  Welp, at least I'm ending the night on a good note!

How to Save a Life

What are the basic principles of hepatic resection?

The basic principles of hepatic resection are complete removal of the lesion without patient death.

Jarrell, Bruce E. NMS Surgery Casebook. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003: 197.

All Is Fair in Love and Surgery

Well, not entirely.  But after having to work for 12 hours on Sunday, it was nothing short of a relief to find out this morning that our only scheduled surgery for the day had been postponed until Thursday.  And do you know what that means?  IT'S ONLY 10:30AM AND I'M DONE WITH WORK, WHAT WHAT!

Which means I have the rest of the day off... to study.  Just three more weeks of third year, Sammas.  You can do it!

EDIT: Nothing is without a purpose.  Is it simply coincidence that today also marks the DVD release of Tron: Legacy?  Nay, it is divine will.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.


Nothing in life is perfect.  Not even my weekend workday, which I envisioned starting at 6am and ending at 11am.  But nooo, I could not have been more mistaken.  We acquired two cadaver kidneys overnight, which meant we got to do two kidney transplants today.  Exciting?  Yes.  Exhausting?  Definitely yes.  I didn't get out of the hospital until 6pm, which is waaay too late to be staying on the weekends.

But it was not all in vain, because today also happened to be one of the coolest days I've had in the OR.  Dr. Brayman and I dissected out the common iliac artery together and he even let me cauterize with the Bovie set at 60/60.  60/60!!  It was a dream come true for me, and possibly a nightmare come true for Smokey Bear.

Okay, under further contemplation, I need to take back what I said earlier.  There is something perfect in this life, and that thing is the following cover of Rebecca Black's Friday.

Child Prodigy

By all accounts, my mother started teaching me how to play piano at the age of four.  But after a recent perusal through our family photo albums (of the real, hardback variety, not the digital, Facebook variety), I found evidence of me playing a keyboard (the poor man's piano) at a much younger age.  And so, without further ado, here it is:

[cue awws from the audience]  Feel free to leave comments telling me what a cute infant I was.  Please refrain from leaving comments telling me that I looked like a girl.