Monday, January 14, 2008

The Call of the Sirens (Part 1)

Now is the winter of my content. I am at peace. I am back to normal after the flurry of the past several months. I am dull.

No complaints. No sir. But, well, there's precious little to write about if one's days are a nice placid counting of the hours. The kids are fine. The pets are fine. Most of the appliances are fine (we'll see about the bread maker in a few days).

So that leaves me with no alternative but to trot out the past.

Yes, I've decided to take a page out of our Dumdad's book, not to mention the head of our Rotten Correspondent and the rest who've regaled us with tales of their mischief and misdeeds of yore.

It's time to shamelessly prattle on about my love affair (and not always an emotionally healthy affair) with medicine. I've also got a nice, young (lord, but she is young) newly minted nurse practitioner who's mentoring with me a bit for the next several Tuesdays. As she really doesn't need to trail me around seeing mostly sore throats and coughs (the season being what it is), today we'll work on her suturing and skin biopsying techniques. To what end I could be found at 6am in a grocery store buying a packet of turkey wings and a couple of dozen doughnuts. (The clinic needed doughnuts. I could tell.) Teaching always makes me feel nostalgic about my profession. It's that young idealistic look in their eyes that takes me back away from the growly, jadedness of life as usual at the clinic. We do love what we do but it's nice to be reminded.

So. High school finished. College finished. 8 years potentially wasted on nose-to-the-grindstone studying and solid afternoon after solid afternoon in various very smelly labs while all other normal college students were off getting drunk and sitting under trees with (I'm sure) other attractive college students pondering the merits of whatever they thought needed pondering. I wouldn't know. I was seriously studying. Science-y things. Very seriously. And doing extra lab work for those all important letters of recommendation. I may not be much fun but I'm a single minded little thing when driven. And, boy-howdy, was I driven.

Then came the time to put all this silliness to the test and actually interview: MCAT scores, letters of recommendation and rather good grades in hand. In my combination of financial hardship and either witless optimism or downright arrogance, I only applied to 2 med schools, one of which I shouldn't have wasted my time on as they only took in-state applicants and a few required students from states that didn't have a med school. (I spit on you U-Dub. You could have let us applicants know and saved me the time and the fee. Oh. I get it. You want the free money. Bastardos.) So in reality, only one school applied for: OHSU. Oregon's own and only med school with a nice, relatively modest, public university tuition.

In due course, I was invited to come for an interview. It was pretty standard fare with tour and two sit-downs with two faculty persons. One I don't recall at all, but the second one stuck in my mind as I was certain that she was some sort of cyborg, with the interview questions printed on a virtual screen centered on my person. As she went down the list in a humorless monotone, her eyes went from a space about 2 cm above my head, to my forehead, to my upper lip, to several places down my neck (several short questions), to finally end, with question #20, on my upper abdomen. I soon realized that my breezy manner of speaking and trying to establish rapport was futile and just answered her questions concisely.

I was not surprised to find that she was a pathologist.

All that formaldehyde, in my experience, seems to have one of two effects on the human being: It either causes chemical lobotomies or makes them loopier than a rum-soaked fruitcake. Social skills are apparently a minus in the profession, at least if they are in a teaching institution, or at least if they are in any teaching institution that I've had the honor of working in. (There, that should cover my libel bases.)

In any case, about 2 months later, one cold, gray February, I happened to be at my mom's house getting their mail (I think they were at the beach) and I saw that a thin letter had come for me. 'Twas from OHSU and I just remember things swimming and swirling around the driveway. I'm not one to freak, but I figured the occasion deserved it, so freak I did, in my quiet, 'let's not cause a scene' WASP way, which basically was me standing in the driveway, quietly shaking.

After a bit, I decided that the damn envelope wasn't going to tremble itself open, so I helped it along and read something along the lines of, "We wish to offer you a place in the School of Medicine class of 1991...."

So I shook some more, as clearly there was more freaking out that should be done. I may have teared up. Perhaps even emitted some "Eep! Eep!" sounds. There were certainly large smiles. All I remember clearly thinking was that I was going to get to do what I'd dreamed of doing with all that single minded focus for almost 8 years, and that perhaps it was all going to be worth it.




Blogger Babs said...

Ha!! First!!

Now I forgot what I was going to say, dammit.

Ah yes!!

I think half my family must've been exposed to formaldehyde. Rum-soaked fruitcake version, natch :P

3:24 AM  
Blogger PixelPi said...

I would have started with "Eep, eep" and quickly moved into vague dance steps with louder Eeps. But the neighbors probably would have called the cops (I mean, your parents weren't home and you could be a burglar), and upon hearing of your arrest your offer would be immediately rescinded.

However, your Eeeps are apparently sedate enough not to get you in trouble.

And YES! Another saga. I do love sagas.

And YES! Formaldehyde made me pass out once, or maybe it was just the tiny little chin hairs on my fetal pig.

8:02 AM  
Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

Damn it. Blogger just slurped up my comment.

I am so thrilled you're doing this story and I want more.

And I totally agree. Pathologists are just weird.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

I look forward to more "prattling" on this subject....

11:50 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Why am I not surprised that U-Dub has a bastardo rule like that? Oregon would never do that.

Great tale, and so cool that you are now mentoring someone. Bringing doughnuts into work is also very cool.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Ariella. said...

Haha, this story reminds me so much of when I was accepted to law school. I applied late and didn't hear anything for several months, so I called the school. Normally they don't tell you anything over the phone, but I told the guy I was trying to make a decision between my school and Rutgers, and he was like, "I am happy to tell you that you will be happy with the offer in the letter we sent you, as well as the possibility of a scholarship package."

Best. Feeling. Ever.

8:08 AM  
Blogger listie said...

A story! I love stories! Keep 'em coming.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I would happily keep reading these, if you'd keep posting them. I love having your backstory filled in for me.

You could also write up one heck of a taxonomy of doc types--a "how can you spot an OBGYN in the cereal aisle" kind of thing!

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Dana said...

Eep indeed! I love stories! Yay!

"how can you spot an OBGYN in the cereal aisle" kind of thing? Now I am intrigued!

I think I will say eep when I am excited now. It should be entertaining at work.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Babs- I find the formaldehyde theory explains much.

PixelPi- Wow. Just think how close I could have been to jepardizing my whole career had I started careening around the driveway, "Wooting" and doing handsprings. Those chin hairs on fetal pigs are terribly skeevy, yes?

RC- Damn blogger. Damn pathologists.

Dumdad- If there's one thing you can be assured of, it's me prattling.

Rozanne- Um. Er....So does OHSU. I learned my first year, talking to the few out of state classmates that those states with their own public med schools don't want to take many students outside of their own states given the high price of training a physician relative to the cost of tuition. There were, I think, 2 out of state students taken each from Alaska and Wyoming at OHSU, their home states ponied up part of their money on top of their (I think) higher tuition. So OHSU was bastardly, too, but as they were my home state, they took me.

Ariella- That feeling just shoots you over the moon, doesn't it? And you got money, too? Extra nice!

Listie- You got it!

Jocelyn- Heh. You think ObGyns have the time to shop for cereal? Waaaaay too busy. Any cereal shopping is done by a third party.

Dana- Funny, I'd pegged you as an 'Eeper' all this time. You should try it on for size.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

More prattling! More! Your prattling is interesting!

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Christie said...

We're on a roll at work right now. My little PA student (who is an absolute doll FYI) got to put 20stitches in a head this week, freeze multiple this and that's off, and deal with I can't remember how many broken feet, toes, and fingers....She was so excited about the head I was afraid she'd start giggling half way through. Here love of all things gross makes me proud.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

I have always wondered what drives someone to such a profession - the hours, the constant contact with bodily fluids, the patients (I can barely deal with my husband's whining when he is sick, much less a strangers!) - can you write about that, too?

Love, love, LOVE the theory about pathologists. For my high school bio II class we went to a university to see cadavers - it was amazing to me that someone could work all the time with that chemical.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I'm glad they showed some sense and accepted you as you have obviously proved to be a deserving candidate! I'm also glad tht you still enjoy what you do and have a passion for it..many don't.

It's kind of the same in teaching when I look at all the young "kids" coming into it and I think they look like I've just taught them in Gr.7!

3:13 PM  
Anonymous The Ole RF-er said...

Oh yes, I remember you calling me as if it were yesterday. We both could not stop laughing and crying at once. I finally managed to get out tha you should see your grandparents about the news. Truly a wonderful experience.

Love, The Ole RF-er

11:54 PM  

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