Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Beginnings

Hello, Blog. It's been a while.

I'm no longer in Auvergne, as the title "Nessages from Auvergne and Beyond" may suggest, and I'm no longer even in Detroit. I'm in Washington, DC, starting a new chapter. Time to blog again.

The summer after I graduated from K College, a random google search lead to me to the homepage of Georgetown University's Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Master's Degree program. I fell in love almost immediately - it seemed to perfectly combine my interests in holistic approaches to health and healing with my academic background in Science. I had always told myself I wanted to work for at least two years before going back to school, and I still had a couple of requirements to fulfill before I could apply to the program, so I started working downtown at the Women's Hospital, snuck in a few courses at Wayne State University, and took the GRE. Two years later, here I am, about to start my first class at Georgetown University tomorrow morning.

But what is CAM and why would anyone want a degree in it? CAM is exactly what it sounds like - nonconventional methods for dealing with disease that are either used alongside or in place of conventional medicine. Examples include acupuncture, massage, herbs and supplements, and mind-body interactions.

For those interested, the mission of our program is as follows:

"The intense consumer-driven interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and the increasing clinical integration of various CAM modalities, has led to the demand for well-informed and properly trained health care providers and scientists.

The goal of the innovative Complementary and Alternative Medicine Master of Science degree (CAM-MS) in Physiology is to provide advanced study in the science and philosophy of predominant CAM therapies and disciplines. This program offers an academically rigorous graduate education in CAM anchored in state-of-the-art biomedical science. Our objective is to educate open-minded health care providers and scientists eager to explore the state of the evidence in this field with objectivity and rigor. Graduates receive an M.S. degree in Physiology."

So where does my interest in CAM stem from? I have my own personal experiences with CAM, but at large, it is a rapidly expanding field that is becoming increasingly important as people continue to desire something more from their healthcare. The medical field must adapt to the evolving needs of its patients, and in my opinion, the integration of CAM modalities and mainstream medical practices are the future of medicine. It is therefore our responsibility as scientists to critically evaluate the safety and efficacy of CAM practices and to start implementing them alongside conventional medical practices to improve the overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the patient. Rigorous scientific research is absolutely necessary in order for CAM to gain support amongst the medical community and public alike.

What do I hope to do with this degree? My intent in completing this program is to give me a unique set of skills that will serve me in pursuing a research career in a CAM related field. Whether I do that as an MD, PhD, or both is TBD. Let's see how I do in this program ;)

The purpose of this blog is to keep in touch with friends and family while I'm away, as well as to share my new knowledge and hopefully spark interest in an exciting new field. Oh, and don't worry, there will be plenty of my random little anecdotes along the way. Thanks for tuning in. Feel free to post questions or comments. I'll try to update this blog at least once a week.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mmm, blood.

My job is so twisted.

I went to work today, and within my first 5 minutes of being there, I was asked to give up my non-pregnant female blood for one of my boss's studies. This is the second time in two months that I've been asked to give blood for one of her studies. Here's the thing; I hate giving blood. I have been so traumatized time and time again by nurses picking, poking and prodding at my skinny, little, deep veins that I hate, no, loathe, giving blood. I appreciate the Red Cross, but I cringe at and avoid every blood drive that crops up in my life. But when your boss asks you to give blood for one of her studies, what do you do? Suck it up.

Last time, I told her I had deep and difficult veins, so she refused to do it herself. We went to the clinic on the same floor of our hospital where a very nice nurse distracted me long enough to draw two vials. No biggy. She found blood and I hardly even noticed. She handed me the vials and sent me back to my lab. I walked back through the corridors of the hospital carrying two warm vials of my very own fresh blood. Twisted.

Today, one of our new Korean fellows volunteered to draw my blood. He's a doctor. I watched him draw three vials from one of my female coworkers. Three vials?! Two was pushing it. How was I ever going to give three vials without passing out??? I explained to him that I have deep veins, blah blah blah. I then sat there as he fumbled around feeling my arm up until he found what he thought might have been a vein. I then proceeded to watch him drive a needle deeper and deeper into my arm until I was convinced it was going to pop out the other side. No blood. Not even a drop. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he pulled the needle out and apologized. He was embarrassed, "I used to be an expert."

A funny thing happened. 10 whole minutes later, not 1 minute, not 2 minutes, I thought I was going to pass out. I didn't even lose a drop of blood, but that whole scenario was enough to induce a physiological effect on me 10 minutes after the fact. Why? I'm not afraid of needles, necessarily. I have no problem getting a vaccine, and the actual poking part of having my blood drawn doesn't normally affect me. But for some reason, watching him drive the needle in really freaked me out. And I want to be a doctor, ha!

We're supposed to try again tomorrow. I think I'll pass. Maybe next week we can go back to the clinic and have the nice nurse distract me again. Doctors aren't such hot shots after all.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hidden Talents You Never Knew You Had

I recently discovered a new talent of mine.

I spent a few nights last week teenagersitting for a family friend. It was kind of an emergency situation, which meant that I threw enough random articles of clothing in a bag to get me by for a few days. I realized that I didn't pack any socks, which is a common mistake of mine, and given that it was near 40 degrees F, I really felt that I wouldn't be comfortable working on my feet all day long without a foot to shoe barrier. This being the situation, I decided to stop by the drugstore on my way to work to pick up a cheapo pair of socks. Roadwork on the street outside my place of employment was causing me to be even more late for work, so I decided to save time by attempting to put on my socks while driving - a stupid idea, really, since driving involves careful control of your feet. I expertly managed to put on a pair of knee-high socks from underneath the steering-wheel while switching feet to manage the gas/break pedals. I was impressed. All day long, however, I felt an odd pinching pressure on my right ankle, almost as if my sock was falling down. The pinch faded in and out of my awareness throughout the course of my day, but it was never uncomfortable enough to actually take a look at my leg to see what was going on. Later that night, as I was undressing, I found a hair-tie on my ankle, underneath my sock. What? I was so confused, I almost started to panic. How was this possible? I then realized that everyday, without even thinking about it anymore, I wear a hair-tie around my wrist in case I desire to pull my hair back during the day. I've done it for so many years that I don't even think about it anymore. I just always have one on me. Somehow, without even noticing it, I managed to displace my hair-tie from my wrist to my ankle while struggling to put my socks on underneath the steering-wheel that morning. That, my friends, is pure talent. I was impressed, aren't you??

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


For those of you who don't know, I work as a research assistant in a pathology lab in a women's hospital. What does that mean? Well, it means a variety of hellish things. On a good day, it means that I do experiments to see what's happening on a genetic level to cause preterm labor pregnancies. I like this part of my job. I get to use my brain and do mildly important things. On a bad day, it means working in what is called the "minilab" (which really isn't so mini, so I don't get it), which means that I collect biological specimens and prepare them for other people's experiments. Plainly put, I sort and aliquot the blood, pee and vaginal fluids of pregnant women (eww). Without the samples, there are no experiments, so even though my boss forces me to work in the minilab 2 days a week, I feel indebted to the minilab because without the samples, there would be no experiments. Yesterday was my day to help out and it sucked royally because 2 guys were out, leaving me and one other person to do the work of really, about 5 people, because we are understaffed as it is (hence me helping out 2 days a week). SUCKED. It sucked so much that I was actually dreaming about it all night long. SOooo many vials of blood and urine in my dreams last night, which I think is just terribly wrong. So wrong, that it makes a girl drink wine and eat chocolate for dinner. Ugh.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Rosemary Biscuit Topping

Says one Topping to another, reading from Bon Appetit:

Littlest Topping (Me): Ooh, Mom! Listen to this recipe - sounds delish! Roasted Root Vegetable and Mushroom Pie with Rosemary Biscuit...Topping.

Mumma Topping: Rosemary Biscuit Topping? Well hell, that sounds like one of us!!!

I don't normally find Topping jokes funny. Growing up, I heard them all. Pizza places have hung up the phone on me because they think I'm kidding around when I tell them my last name is Topping. For some reason though, the thought of having a relative named Rosemary Biscuit Topping was just too much to handle.

I'm going to name my child Biscuit.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Once, there was a stranger in a restaurant that drew a picture of me...

A couple of coworkers and I went to lunch today at the 'Olympic Grill', a little place on Warren in Detroit. Just as we were finishing lunch, a man who had been sitting at a table approached our table and handed me this:

This, my friends, if you could not tell, is a picture of me. Please note the Detroit city skyline in the background.

First, let me start by showing you what I actually looked like today:

This is me, 6 days into a flu bug of which I cannot seem to rid myself.

I haven't laughed so hard in such a long time.

Now if you ask me, the artiste must have started with the shirt's neckline, which seems to be the only accurate part of the portrait. I think he got a little carried away while concentrating so hard on my neckline that he decided I would look better as a double-D vixen than as a plain Jane with no cleavage, glasses, and the flu.

What do you think? The likeness is uncanny, isn't it?


But more importantly, um, random?? He also drew my buddy Chris, who has actually had his picture drawn by this same guy before at another restaurant Downtown.

He didn't even charge us money, although he did ask for a donation, which we did supply. I mean, come on, how could you not? That picture made my day. The beggars around here are getting smarter. Now, if the beggar who hangs out around the McDonald's drive-thru starts drawing portraits of people in their cars, I don't know what I'm going to do.

Oh, Detroit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day from Hell

I've always loved the anticipation of a big snow storm. Maybe its a Midwest thing, but Snow never fails to get people talking. And everyone is always their own weatherman.

As a kid, you went to bed praying, "Dear God, if you're really out there, prove it to me and please, please, PLEASE let's have a snow day." Even in high school, it was, "Alright God, look, I really can't take that Calc test tomorrow. We HAVE to have a snow day. That's just the way its going to be." And then you couldn't sleep at night, because you would lie awake thinking about all the things you were going to do if school actually did get canceled.

Even though snow days don't often exist in the working world, I still went to bed last night with that same anticipation ; I couldn't wait to get up this morning and throw open the blinds to see the snow that had fallen while I had been dreaming. At day's end, I wish that today itself had been a dream. Instead of waking up and venturing out into a wintry apocalypse, busting my ass to get to work in one piece, I wish that I had woken up in a winter wonderland of sledding and snow forts, hot cocoa, candy canes and santa's elves themselves.

My day started at 7 am when the snow/ice blowing into my window woke me up. I got up, threw open the blinds and muttered something like, "holy *$*#ing snow". Wintry apocalypse it was. Not used to being up so early, I scrubbed the kitchen sink, stove, toilet, and shower, because, I mean, what else does one do so early in the morning. After getting ready for work, I stood in front of my window for a long time, watching car after car get stuck trying to leave the parking lot. They had shovels.

It was finally my turn to go. I made a game plan in my head. "Ok, if I just throw it in reverse and gun it, I should be able to blast over that hump and at least get out of my spot. I'll worry about the rest after I get that far." I bundled up and headed downstairs. God, was it shitty out there! I managed to blast out of my spot, as planned. I never really made it much farther than that. My car got stuck almost immediately. Since I had no shovel, I got out of my car to kick some snow around. I then proceded to do that about 8 more times, as I made a royal mess out of the parking lot. I couldn't get my car to do anything. I finally (by some act of God) made it back to a parking space and decided to call it quits. I was going to have to walk.

I went back upstairs and pulled out my winter armor. Longjohns over tights and under another pair of pants, wool socks on top of that, a thick sweater, boots (with the fur), hair tucked into my hat, scarf wrapped around my face, and a big, puffy feather coat. I looked ridiculous. I trudged all the way to work, and about 3/4 of the way there, I realized I forgot my badge that swipes me in to everywhere I need to go in the hospital. Rarrr! Screw that! I wasn't going back. I would get a visitor's pass and use my key to get around. As I approached the hospital, I took my hat off, thinking it might help my goofy appearance somewhat. I walked up to the security desk to get my pass. The woman looked at me like I was nucking futs. I told her my story and she said "Ok, but when you get upstairs, you might wanna check yourself..." Huh? "You got mascara running all over your face." Great. I get upstairs, only to realize I came up the back way to the door without a keylock, so I couldn't use my key to get in. I had to bang on the door until my coworker let me in. He started in on me and my ridiculous appearance almost immediately. I ran to the bathroom to "check myself" only to find that I had mascara all over my upper and lower eyelids, running along my cheek bones and down to my MOUTH. HOT. On top of that, I was soaked through with sweat from my treck.

Once I finally got settled, the day proceeded fairly normally. I worked all day on a boring project that I couldn't put off any longer. I told my boss I was going to leave as soon as the sun started to set because I didn't want to walk home in the dark. He understood. About 15 mins before I was planning on leaving, my work computer just randomly decided to restart itself. I hadn't saved anything that I had been working on all day because I thought the autosave function was working. WRONG. As the icing on my shitty little cake of a day, I lost everything that I had worked on all day, making my day at work an absolute 100% a waste of my time. YAY!!! It pains me to think about it. To top it off, nobody even offered me a ride home!


Long gone are the snow days of yore. I'm going to go buy a snow shovel tomorrow. That's that.