Saturday, April 26, 2008

I sold a piece of my soul, but the wine sure was good

I finally went to my first drug company dinner last week. I really just wanted to get a free dinner at a yummy-sounding restaurant in town, as I always feel pretty guilty taking anything from drug reps (normally I don't even take pens or anything, just on principle). But the prospect of a free dinner got the better of me, and I justified it to my conscience by saying that they're selling a drug I'm never going to prescribe (it's for osteoporosis...and EM people don't really treat that chronically), and I could write about it here to sort of make up for it. (right??) It was pretty interesting, and overall pretty bizarre. The main speaker was (I think) an endocrinologist, and she told some made-up story about how her own mother was thrilled to learn about this new osteoporosis drug (which obviously I'm not naming here...I'm not doing free name-advertising for them). The whole thing made me pretty uncomfortable, what with the knowledge that drug companies spend almost 30 billion dollars (I can't even get my brain around that) a year on advertising, most of it directly to doctors (i.e. not direct-to-consumer advertising like on TV). And rising drug costs are at least partly responsible for the rising cost of health care and insurance, leading to fewer insured people, etc etc etc. But I digress. I enjoyed the dinner (it was actually pretty yummy, and had lots of free-flowing wine), but with every bite I could taste a little bit of guilt. It sucks that a for-profit industry is so entrenched in (and in a big way driving) what should be an essentially non-profit, for-the-greater-good industry and profession. If sales tactics didn't result in increased use and prescription of drugs, companies wouldn't take entire offices out to dinner or give stethoscope tags or free pens. The office where I had outpatient medicine had free lunch every single day sponsored by drug reps. One day I walked into the kitchen and the rep was holding up a big brochure and describing the effects of her new lipid-lowering medication, while trays of (literally, I am not making this up) KFC fried chicken and mac and cheese sat on the table. I guess she was trying to create future customers?? I'm going to stop here, before thoughts of the current state of health care in this country cause me to become apoplectic in public. I hope everyone is doing well!!

Adventures in the Berkshires

So to continue drinking up the Berkshires experience, last night we took a trip through the woods (literally) to the famous Dream Away Lodge in Becket, MA for some dinner and music. According to its website, it's a 200-year-old farmhouse that used to be a brothel and speakeasy. Now it's a restaurant/bar/lounge that appears to have few patrons but many children and dogs roaming about. Although the website says "reservations for dinner are very much in order," we (there were 11 of us) seemed to make up over half of the customers, though there were many other people standing around that appeared to live there (and our waitress took our order while holding her 5-week-old baby, just to give you some idea of the atmosphere). There was also some really good music by Heather Waters, and we ended up getting our own private concert while we lounged on comfy couches. The whole experience was kind of odd but very enjoyable. You seriously think you're in the middle of the woods when you come across the place. (The directions on the website say, "Turn right on Watson Road and proceed slowly for three winding miles through the forest.") I'd definitely recommend going there (but don't get the fixed price menu...the food's not good enough for the high price), and also checking out that singer, cause she was pretty good. (Where else but western MA can you get good music in an old farmhouse that used to be a speakeasy??)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Picture(s) of the day

Wow, this page needs a picture. Words can get boring. These are pics from the Berkshires, where I am currently doing my medicine rotation (fyi: 'medicine' means general adult medicine, as opposed to pediatrics or surgery). Living in the Berkshires for free during spring and summer is quite a sweet deal. Our school likes to call it "required third year clerkship at Berkshire Medical Center." We like to call it "summer camp" (but with sick people during the weekdays, alas). There is lots of fun to be had out here. I'd recommend either taking a trip out here (tanglewood! and hiking!) and/or doing a rotation out here (if you're at UMass). We all live in a giant med student frat house. Tis quite the experience. :) I feel vaguely guilty for not even knowing the Berkshires existed for nearly my entire life up until now (hey, what can you do, I'm from the total opposite end of the state, and my dad calls everything west of route 128 "the midwest"), so now I sort of feel like it's my duty to extoll its virtues to people who remain oblivious to the fact that it even exists. So please enjoy the pics!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The only thing I DO have: hypochondriasis

So as I lay in bed the other morning, awoken from sleep by back pain (am I really that old?) and sweating because of the extreme lack of temperature regulation in the house out here (which rendered the temperature in my room probably 85 degrees), all I could think about was that I would be dead of meningitis by the time the sun came up. I had pain on extension and flexion of my neck, fever and chills, and as soon as there was light there was no question I would also have photophobia. Obviously it's Sunday evening and I'm very much alive and meningitis-free. Which lead me to think of all the other horrible diseases I thought I've had at one point or another since med school started. Things like Hodgkin's lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis, appendicitis (x5), congenital malrotation (it's not even physiologically possible for me to have this), and of course leukemia (every time I'm feeling run down...which has been a lot over the last couple years). And yet I make fun of my mother for thinking that a small lump on her lower left abdomen is pancreatic cancer (Me: "Do you know where your pancreas is?" Mom: "No, not really." Me: God, what else do you worry about? Mom: [long pause] "Well, I worry that all the gin in the world will dry up"). Though I'm not entirely sure I deserve a DSM diagnosis of hypochondriasis, because I rarely if ever actually go to the doctor. The only medical professional I go to repeatedly is my dentist (dentist: "It's not a cracked tooth. You're a hypochondriac because you're in med school") because he is rather good looking (read: totally hot). Other than that I just stew about it in my own head (hmmm...let's add 'anxiety disorder' to that list...)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dead Horse Trampoline

So I had the pleasure of seeing Antje Duvekot (again) in concert tonight. She was, as always, completely fantastic. (Actually I've seen her a few times recently...I think I'm becoming quite a groupie and I don't want to be) (though tonight I got to meet her, which was quite cool - funny story for another post.) ANYHOODLE. She sang a hilarious song at the end called - I'm not making this up - Dead Horse Trampoline. And I with my twisted sense of humor thought it was endlessly amusing, and would so much like to share it with others. You can watch Justin Roth (who I believe wrote it) singing it on YouTube here, and you can read the lyrics here (personal favorite line: That's what he gets for being so mean, He was the victim of a dead horse trampoline). So I figured most people have likely never heard this song before (the YouTube video has had 185 views), and with the convenient medium of the blog (and all 3 readers! just kidding...I know more of you are reading than that), I decided to spread the joy. So please, enjoy. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Awesome names

There was a post the other day in TierneyLab, a blog of the nytimes, about the "Boy named Sue" theory: the idea that people with bad names turn out just fine, or even better off because of their bad name. [The winner of TierneyLab's bad names contest was a woman named Iona Knipl ("really? I have two!"), but this is besides the point.] In the comments section, someone posted about an OB/GYN in Fairfax, VA whose name is (and I'm not making this up, I did some googling): Harry Beaver. I mean, if that's your name, is there any profession other than obstetrics and gynecology that you could really go into?? And it made me remember reading something a while back about how people really do tend to go into professions suggested by their names, and it's actually been studied as something more than anecdotal evidence. There is a dentist in Salem named Dr. Fang, and dentists in Needham (they're in practice together) named Drs. Needleman and Yelland. Though a friend reminds me of the OB/GYN at UMass named Harrison Ball (he doesn't go by Harrison...and yet why not??) who maybe reacted against his name in choosing a specialty. In an awesome-sounding book called Bertha Venation: And Hundreds of Other Funny Names of Real People, Larry Ashmead talks about people like the environmental engineer Hugh Fish, and what happens when Ms. Gay marries Mr. Beech. (I heard about this book on NPR.) And there's some debate as to what comes first: is your name your destiny? According to the New York Times (really, where I get most of my information), people who study names (called onomastics), call it "nominitive determinism" when Dr. Fang grows up to be a dentist or Dr. Fish becomes an ichthyologist. Ashmead also wrote a chapter on funny names that arise when people marry each other, like Ms. Coffee marrying Mr. Bean, or Ms. Gay marrying Mr. Beech (she hyphenated it to Gay-Beech, according to the book, and didn't actually find it all that amusing). Luckily, Dr. Beaver's children say that they got many laughs out of their father's name (according to their posts on Dave Barry's blog, and he never makes stuff up). :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sleepy Sunday in Marblehead

Picture yourself lying in bed on a Sunday morning (at your parents' house, because you no longer have an apartment): the distant sounds of NPR, the smell of brewing coffee, the smell of smoke from the fireplace....the sound of smoke alarms, then the sight of lots of smoke from a fire. Then the realization: shit, there's something on fire. That something being: the chimney and fireplace. Cue the call to the fire department (from a neighbor who saw flames leaping out of the chimney), the arrival of 3 (three!) firetrucks and a police car, and an improptu gathering of neighbors on the street wearing sweatshirts and pajama pants and wondering what the heck was going on. I can't decide if it's good or bad that my second thought, after it's smoky: we should get out of here, was god it looks cold out, I wonder where my fuzzy shoes are? Then I spent a minute in the mess of boxes and open suitcases that is my bedroom attempting to locate said shoes and my down vest. Long story short: the chimney and fireplace caught fire and was put out in about an hour. Apparently, the floor of the ash pit of the fireplace was made out of wood. Hello?? I've heard stories about the insane level of cheapness of the person that built this house (an uncle of a current neighbor, I think), but I think lining an ash pit with wood is taking cheap to a new level. The fire department said we were really lucky the living room didn't catch on fire. It's a little disconcerting to go from the normal lazy Sunday of coffee and the new york times to being happy that your house is standing. Although, really, I guess we should always be happy for stuff like an intact house on normal days; though obviously no one really thinks about that sort of thing on a daily basis. It was pretty nice seeing all my neighbors, some of whom I've known for my entire life. And lord knows I enjoy watching the firemen parade around with their equipment. And I was also enjoying taking zillions of pictures with my new camera (that I love). One fireman said, "Are you from the Reporter?" and I said, "eh?" and he said, "oh, there's a new girl who works for the Reporter," and I looked down at my blue fleece pajama pants with the white snowflakes and thought, hm, she must dress casually. So aside from the fact that my parents almost got to downsize real quick and now the house smells like soot and is covered in a fine white chemical powder, this has been quite an interesting (and dare I say enjoyable?) day. And the fleet of cleanup crews arrives tomorrow.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Saludos de Puerto Rico

You may be wondering why I'm in my hotel room on my computer in San Juan instead of at the beach. I'll tell you why: it's been raining/cloudy all day. Although one of only two full days we have here is far from being a beach day (and yesterday was pretty windy and cloudy as well for parts of it), we had fun anyway. Right? Right! We walked around, browsed in fancy shops next to many sunburned white people (I shouldn't poke fun...yours truly managed to get a sunburn yesterday through a frickin blanket of clouds), and ate and drank frequently. Oh, and visited the church where Ponce de Leon is buried, just to say we took in a little history/culture. It was a bit rough getting here, as our plane took off, flew for a while, then turned around and landed at Logan again (something with the oil filter, I think? Something that probably could have been dealt with before we took off? Something for which there must have been some kind of warning light on in the cockpit while we were still on the ground?), but it's been a very relaxing few days. Back to freezing Boston tomorrow, alas. And while we're all thoroughly enjoying ourselves, it's unfortunate that we have two days of interclerkships looming over our collective heads for when we return on Monday. Oh, and three months of medicine (for me). And before you say I'm being negative for thinking about school when I'm on vacation, I have seen 8 (eight!) of my classmates since I've been in San Juan, only one of whom I actually came down with. All in all, PR seems to be quite a nice place to be. So for people in snowy, cold, work-filled places, please enjoy the pictures. :)