Saturday, September 29, 2012

Felt like a cornea.

That's the only way I can describe what the dorsal surface of a moon jellyfish feels like. And if you've never handled a cow cornea, then... Firm, cartilaginous, a lot harder than you'd think.

Anyway, Dr. Grigg and I had an incredible dive this morning. We were surrounded by dozens of moon jellies. She showed me how to pet them without being stung and took some photos at my request.

I've said it once and I'll say it again. My research is so awesome!!!

Exciting news!

One of the things Dr. Goodwin told me would be the best thing I could do for my career at this point is to take a week or so this coming winter break and network. Visit facilities, shake hands, and meet people who might be hiring when I graduate. Since I live in Spokane and two major lab animal facilities are just a short jaunt away in Seattle - the University of Washington's Comparative Medicine Department and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center - I decided to contact them about possible job shadowing opportunities.

UoW was very prompt to reply and although initially we were trying to arrange an externship where I would actually be on rotations (surgery, necropsy, etc.), the dates did not allow that as most of the faculty and staff would be away for the holidays. Instead we're arranging a week where I come and do a facility orientation and shadow the vets on their daily activities.

The Fred Hutchison Center has also been in contact but the director is away at a conference for the next few weeks, so we're supposed to speak again and make arrangements for a visit the same week I'm in Seattle at UoW when he gets back.

This is a hugely amazing opportunity and I am so grateful to Dr. Goodwin and both facilities for working with me to allow this to happen! Unfortunately it means I won't be seeing my family this break. The week that I originally would have spent at home with them I will now be in Seattle working. I had to call and cancel my flights and rebook new ones yesterday. The good news is that I have $300 in credit from Frontier that I can maybe use for a brief 2-3 day visit home if my budget allows it in December.

I'm nervous and thrilled at the same time. I want to learn a lot from this experience, but at the same time I have to impress future colleagues.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good and bad news.

The good news is not only did I pass all of my first block exams (Small Animal Medicine II, Large Animal Medicine, and Small Animal Surgery) I got A's on all of them. My best score was a 96% in LAM. I am very pleased that putting the extra effort in to really listen and be more of a participant during class is paying off.

The bad news is that today's Rossie surgical skills check lab didn't go well. It's the first of four skills check labs where we have to get signed off on our skills before being allowed to take the Rossie. There were five stations and we rotated in groups of three through them.

1. Aseptic gowning, gloving, quarter draping and draping. I verrrrry nearly passed this station, but failed on account of the front of my gown touching the table one time. I'm serious, that's how strict it is.

2. Ligation of a subcutaneous bleeder, abdominal wall incision and use of the snook hook to find and withdraw one of the ovarian horns. Again, almost passed this one. My ligation was perfect, my abdominal wall incision went pretty well, but I couldn't find my horn with the snook. The instructor walked me through what to do next time during the skills check and the Rossie if that happens. It's not an automatic fail if you can't find it, you just have to do something a little differently and now I know what to do.

3. This is the station that I totally bombed. The ligation and cutting of the ovarian and cervical pedicles. I don't have an excuse, I simply hadn't practiced this one enough and I forgot a lot of things.

4. Abdominal wall closure. Did fine on this, just got dinged for my sutures not being tight enough. Will correct that next time.

5. Subcutaneous tissue and skin closure. I almost passed this one, as well, but ran out of time before I could finish my last skin suture. I almost had it! The trouble is the monofilament doesn't stick to the fabric of the model like it does to skin, so it slips out of place really easily. I lost my tag a couple of times and had to start over and it cost me time.

Overall, it was a humbling lab. I felt pretty bummed afterward. It's hard to even focus right now on studying for the next round of blocks in a little over a week because I'm just kind of moody at the moment. I don't like sucking at things.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A jumbled update.

The first block exam is on Monday. I'm nervous. I hate blocks. I do not see the point of a combined exam for three classes. It just seems engineered to make people fail.

Someone taught MJ bad habits when I was petsitting multiple kitties over break. Whereas before he never did this, he now opens and slams my kitchen cabinets between 4-5am every morning to wake me up so I'll come feed him. If that doesn't work, he now will get onto the shelf in my bathroom where I keep my cosmetics and knock things onto the floor. I have put hair ties on the cabinets and close the bathroom door before bed. I'm sure it'll only be a matter of days before he invents some new way of annoying the crap out of me.

We've done a few run throughs of practicing aseptic gowning, gloving and draping for surgery labs. It's fun, but damn, it is intense. You put your hand one inch too low or too high, you touch something or someone touches you, and BAM! Start over, you're not sterile anymore. Craziness.

The Rossie exam is this semester. I have to spay a model in one hour. I am crapping myself in fear.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Someone at your back.

If you're at all interested in lab animal medicine, Ross University is a very good place to be. Dr. Bradford Goodwin acts as the professional adviser for the RUSVM student chapter of ASLAP (American Society of Lab Animal Practitioners) and teaches two lab animal medicine electives. He also has his fingers in practically every honey pot of the field, has sat on pretty much every influential board within the industry - including for the American College of Lab Animal Medicine board certification exam. He's a very, very good friend to have.

A classmate and I just sat down for a one-on-one powow with him over sushi, asking about externships, residencies, what salary we can expect to make just out of vet school, etc. It was an incredible opportunity. And he reassured us and helped calm our fears quite a bit. I left feeling so much more confident and relieved about my professional future. He's got our back, all the way.

I think it's funny that my classmate and I are both very, very interested in pursuing lab animal medicine and so you'd think we would be fiercely competitive, but we actually want to go into different aspects of the field. She wants to focus on the medical aspect and particularly on primate medicine, whereas I am more of a rodent person and less interested in medicine so much as administration. The funny thing is, I never told Dr. Goodwin that. He totally called it, though. He pointed to me and said, "And this one wants to do admin."

Working in more of an administration capacity means that I'd be doing rounds and treatment less, but I would be the one making the rules, determining protocols, writing the standard husbandry procedures for my facility. In other words, I would be the person who decides how my animals are treated by everyone from the caretaker husbandry staff to the researchers performing the study. That is what I want. I want to have the final say so in the welfare and treatment of animals used in research.

It sucks loving mice and rats and working in research sometimes. Your heart will be broken every day, knowing that they will be euthanized at the end of their study. But people who care, who love these animals, are necessary to make sure that they aren't exploited, suffering or sacrificed unnecessarily. Every time someone asks me, "How can you work with lab animals? Doesn't it upset you? Don't you love animals?" I work in lab animal medicine because I love animals so much that I want to personally make sure that they're given the very best treatment possible.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mr. Ross shenanigans.

Last night was the sixth Mr. RUSVM contest since I moved to the island. I've attended three of them thus far and last night's was definitely the best show (apart from the sweltering hot new venue, which was truly awful). The skits are always raunchy and involve a lot of swearing, cross-dressing, stripping and hypersexual humor, so if you go you're already signing up for some pretty low brow entertainment. And I'm fine with that, I laugh just as hard as everyone else. Never in a million years would I have thought that while attending vet school I would see my pathology professor smearing cherries on a student's chest, my epidemiology professor spank another student with a stuffed, pink penis, and my clinical pathology professor having her face, neck and chest stroked by the tail of a male student wearing a Halle Berry's catwoman costume.

Although, let me point out to any incoming firsties, hoping foul language and penis jokes will carry your skits without any actual witty dialogue or concepts never works because the crowd sees right through it.

But last night was my first Mr. RUSVM which I spent stone cold sober. Mind you, I never get raging drunk at these events. I'm just not the sort of person who enjoys being a sloppy hot mess in public, especially in front of my professors (who attend and judge this contest). Usually I have a few drinks and maintain a pleasant buzz throughout the evening that makes the jokes funnier. Last night, though, all I had to drink was a bottled water. Two reasons: 1. I had a dive this morning and didn't want to be hung over. 2. It was very, very hot in there and I felt like the combination of heat + alcohol was an almost perfect recipe for vomiting. If the smell of the ladies bathroom was any indication, I was right.

So being the only sober one at the party, it allowed me to get a good look at how a lot of people were acting. I have to say, the current 1st and 3rd semester classes were the perpetrators of the worst behavior throughout the evening. I had a girl in 3rd who was already drunk partway into the first (of four) acts spill beer in my lap and then act completely nonchalant when I turned around to confront her about it. Another 3rd student who had taken part in a skit where he had cherries smeared all over his chest stood next to me and kept pressing his sticky, hairy belly into the back of one of my classmate's head, and was asked repeatedly to stop and only leered drunkenly at us and kept on doing it. A gaggle of first semester girls stood in front of my row and the rows directly in front of  and behind me, blocking about a dozen people from being able to see the stage. Repeated requests to either move or sit down were met with eye rolls, lip smacks and complete dismissal.

Blogger has a feature which allows me to see which words and phrases are being put into search engines to find this blog, so I know when future Rossies are reading due to the uptick in things like "Ross student blog" and "Ross vet student." Which I'm getting a lot of right now. So to any future Rossies reading this... DON'T BE THESE PEOPLE! It's rude, disrespectful, and mostly just tacky and unprofessional behavior. Yes, it's a contest full of naked men and dick jokes. That's okay, you can still have fun and behave as though you have self respect and respect for those around you. If in doubt, look to the behavior of the 6th and 7th semester students for an example. Invariably they are not the ones falling over, spilling drinks and acting a fool.

P.S. As a Broadwayphile, seeing Avenue Q butchered by people who didn't bother to learn the lyrics made my soul hurt. When the first notes came on I was like an ADHD kid on pixie sticks, bouncing in my chair and squealing. It turned into disappointment and tears.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Island hair.

When I moved down to the island, I had shoulder-length, permed hair. I cut it off into a pixie within months of moving here because the constant wind and salt mist make permed hair a tangled rat's nest. I maintained the pixie pretty much my entire time down here until recently, because I want it to get long enough to wear in a ponytail for surgery.

In growing my hair back out, I got a surprise. You see, I have always had straight hair. In high school I had to wake up at 5am to blow out my hair and use hot rollers to give my pin-straight, lifeless hair any body whatsoever. Later I got perms. When my mom was visiting last week, she couldn't get over how my hair looked. It looks like this:

I promise, no curling irons or hot rollers went into this. This is just how my hair dries now. I don't even know how, but somehow the island has gifted me with naturally curly hair. Dr. Carter calls it "island hair". She says no woman looks like herself down here, and it's actually quite funny to hear comments from people who met down here once they get to clinics in the States because our hair goes back to its natural state from the frizzed out, crazy mess it exists in down here and we start looking normal again.

I dunno, though. I kind of don't want to lose the curl. I've grown to like it, and it's cheaper and easier than getting it permed (although less predictable).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Best petsitter ever!

I stay on island each August and always wind up petsitting for my friends cats. This break I also took on a dog for the first time. I tend to take lots of photos and tag their owners to provide updates on their pet, and also just because I like taking pictures of cute animals.

This break I had Mama and MJ, of course, but I also got back Sparrow (formerly Amelia) and Suna (formerly Dolly), two of Mama's kittens, as well as Darcy (formerly Cookie) who I fostered for PAWS a couple of semesters ago. Brody is the dog, who belongs to a friend in my semester.

Suna and MJ

Sparrow and MJ

Suna being the first brave kitty to check Brody out.

Darcy and Sparrow

MJ investigating this strange "dog" thing

Darcy did much better with Brody than any of us expected given her exceedingly shy nature.

Sparrow hasn't changed a bit from kittenhood. Still a daredevil who gets into things she shouldn't and not terribly bright.


I love this photo.

Mama was not a fan of Brody. She spent most of the two weeks he was here on top of the fridge. She came down last night after he left with his owner and promptly slept for 13+ hours in her favorite chair, then had some serious playtime with MJ burning off fourteen days of pent up energy, and now she's being super affectionate with me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm an atheist.

The title says it all, really. Don't worry, I'm not about to get all self-righteous and preachy on anyone. It's just that something happened recently that kind of made me want to talk about this.

Like most atheists, I started out religious. I went to church with my grandma as a kid when no one else in my family did. And I regularly attended youth group through high school. I never really bought everything my pastor said, and I disagreed strongly with some Biblical teachings, but overall I had this warm and fuzzy notion of God as someone who was looking out for me and had my back. Eventually I left the Christian faith after I couldn't reconcile my personal beliefs and feelings with the dogma, but I still called myself an agnostic (which now I realize I was using that term inappropriately). Basically I still believed in my warm and fuzzy higher power, but I didn't have any associated dogma, ritual or religion associated with that. I just lived my life as I normally would and kind of/sort of believed in God. Until one day I realized I was kidding myself, I didn't really believe in an all powerful, all knowing, invisible wizard in the sky and I was only clinging to that belief out of habit and fear. Since the moment I realized that I didn't believe anymore, I took a more scholarly approach to the existence of God, examining the evidence, listening to arguments from both sides, and nothing has won me back over to the side of belief.

Anyway, so that's my spiritual journey into atheism. What I want to talk about is the public perception of atheism, and how people get it wrong.

First of all, agnosticism is not Atheist Light. I hear people say a lot that they "don't mind agnostics, it's those atheists that bug me!" People seem to interpret agnosticism as saying, "I don't know if there's a God or not." versus atheism as, "I know there isn't a God." That isn't true. Agnosticism is a position of knowing. It is saying, "I don't know for sure." It says nothing about belief in God. You can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic believer. An example of what those two things would look like:

Atheist: "I don't believe in God but I can't be sure he doesn't exist."
Christian: "I believe in God but I'm not 100% certain."

That clear? Okay, moving on.

This was all spearheaded by a friend and I talking about a TV show, Supernatural, which we're both fans of. She asked me which season I was on and I said that I had finished all of them. She said, "Oh, okay. I didn't know if maybe you stopped watching when, y'know, all the angels and stuff started happening." I was taken aback. Why would I stop watching a TV show because it happened to have angels in it? And then I realized, she thought that my atheism would make me turn away in disgust from anything having to do with religion.

That's a little something that we call anti-theism, and yeah, there are anti-theistic atheists. But I'm not really one of them. Sure, I think religion is silly, but I don't begrudge anyone their right to worship or believe as they wish, so long as it doesn't harm others. And I certainly am not going to stop watching an entertaining, fictional show because they bring elements of Judeo Christian mythology into it.

People have this view of atheists as these angry, belligerent bullies. Some are, but so are some Christians. Overall, we just don't believe in God. That's it. We're not going to hate you if you do believe in God, and we're not going to boycott anything with even a whiff of religiosity about it. We don't bite, kick puppies or eat babies, either. So calm down.

Back at it, again.

Sorry for the long gap without an update. My mom was here visiting and I alternated between busy and doing absolutely nothing and enjoying my break. I gave my mom her first taste of Indian food, which she loved. We also went out to the French restaurant on the island, La Belle Vie, which is always amazing. She finally got to try Sweet Cane (my favorite restaurant) and Mama Moore's johnny cakes. We went on a catamaran tour and spent a day at the spa getting facials and massages. It was a good time.

Sixth semester starts tomorrow. Ugh. Not only do I have the Rossie to worry about, but also block exams. I don't know why they do this to us in sixth and no other semester. Block exams are where the midterms for all of our classes are combined into one hour and a half-long block exam. It's ridiculous, I don't know what the point is. And then there's the Rossie itself, which is terrifying. We have a model called a "Rossie" that resembles an abdomen with a "uterus" inside that looks like this:

The Rossie exam has you perform a spay on the model from start to finish with full sterile technique, gowning, gloving, ligating and cutting the uterus and associated blood vessels, and finally closing the abdomen. If you don't pass this exam, you repeat it. If you fail the repeated exam, you repeat sixth semester. It doesn't matter how well you're doing in your other classes, you repeat the whole semester.

So no pressure!