doc w/ pen

a journalist becomes a doctor before your eyes

Month: January, 2010

Random things about me

I realized today that I never formally introduced myself here on my blog (just in case someone who doesn’t really know me discovers this one day). Oops. I’m awful with introductions. Better late than never, though, I suppose.

Name: Lorien Elisa Menhennett

Age: 28 (DOB: 9/28/1981)

And then some other random things about me:

50 Questions To Really Get To Know Someone
1) Are you a morning or night person? Morning – I get so much more done then.
2) Which do you prefer, sweet or salty foods? Can’t I have both?
3) Ninjas or pirates? Ninjas, for sure.
4) Ninjas vs pirates, discuss. It’s all about the martial arts.
5) Autobots or Decepticons? Um, I’m not a Transformers person, sorry.
6) What was your favorite childhood television program? 3-2-1 Contact. (Go PBS!)
7) Are you a collector of anything? All things vintage – hats, clothes, purses, jewelry, you name it.
8) If you could be any animal, what would you be? Dolphin
9) If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Invisibility
10) What is usually your first thought when you wake up? NEED COFFEE NOW
11) What do you usually think about right before falling asleep? I can’t wait until I have coffee with my husband Geoff tomorrow morning.
12) What’s your favorite color? Orange
13) What’s your favorite animal? Penguin
14) Do you believe in extraterrestrials or life on other planets? Sure, why not? The universe is pretty damn big.
15) Do you believe in ghosts? No to the physical kind, but yes to the psychological kind.
16) Ever been addicted to a video/computer game? Which one(s)? Yes – Mario Bros. 3 (NES), Barrack, Lemmings
17) You’re given 1 million dollars, what do you spend it on? Trips to as many different and amazing places as possible
18) Have any bad habits? Too much caffeine
19) Which bad habits, if any, drive you crazy? People who employ double-standards
20) List 3 of your best personality traits: Empathy, sense of humor, curiosity
21) List 3 of your worst personality traits: Impatience, impatience, impatience
22) Have any celebrity crushes? Johnny Depp
23) List 1 thing you wish you could change about yourself: Be more patient
24) Any tattoos or piercings? Ears are pierced
25) What’s the first thing you notice in the opposite sex? Eyes
26) What personality traits do you look for in a partner? Humor, sensitivity
27) What personality traits do you dislike in other people? Selfishness
28) Do you see yourself getting married in the next 5 years? Already married (have been for 5+ years! I love you, Geoff!)
29) Are you mostly a clean or messy person? I am an organized person, but sometimes my living space has random clutter in it (but all of the clutter has a place where it belongs)
30) If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Right here in Chicago
31) If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Costa Rica
32) List 5 goals on your life’s to-do list: 1. Become a doctor
2. Be a more loving and patient person
3. Travel around the world
4. Get a dog
5. Finish rehabbing our house
33) Name 1 regret you have: I don’t believe in regrets, just in learning from your past and your mistakes.
34) Name 1 thing you miss about being a kid: Not having to worry about money.
35) Name 1 thing you love about being an adult: Getting to drive yourself places whenever you want.
36) What’s your favorite song of the moment? “1,000,000” (yes, that’s the song title)
37) What’s your favorite song of all time? “Ruiner”
38) What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night? Champagne with good friends
39) What’s your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon? You’re lookin’ at it
40) Have any hidden talents? They’re not hidden, but I do have talents
41) You’re about to walk the green mile, what do you have as your last meal? Thai food
42) What would be your dream job? Dr. Menhennett
43) Which would you rather have, 100 million dollars or true love? True love (I know, I’m a sap)
44) If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be? 1. End hunger
2. Peace
3. Fix the damage we’ve done to the environment
45) Ever wish you were born the opposite sex? If so, why? Not really
46) Name 1 thing not many people know about you: I’m addicted to Chapstick
47) If you HAD to change your name, what would you change it to? Charlotte
48) Do you believe in the afterlife? No, what we see is what we get. So we better make the most of it.
49) On the topic of abortion, how do you feel about cookies? Not going there. Not here, at least.

Math lessons

Use row operations to find the multiplicative inverse of the following matrix. 

Those were my instructions from my precalculus review book. Multiplicative? Inverse? Matrix? Say what?

Don’t get me wrong. I really do enjoy math. And I’m pretty good at it: I got through calculus in high school, and even got college credit for it by taking the Advanced Placement exam (I got the highest possible score of 5).

Why the regression to precalculus? Well, I haven’t been in a math class for more than a decade – it was last century, as a matter of fact (1999) – so I’m a little rusty. And I need calculus for physics, which I hope to take next year. So I started with the basics (college algebra) and now am about two-thirds through precalc.

I had no problems with combination functions, rate of decay, or slant asymptopes. (I really do like that word, asymptopes …) But something about matrices just gets me all hung up like an old coiled plastic telephone cord. It’s terribly aggravating.

But even more frustrating than not understanding something right off the bat is not having anyone to help me. I’m on my own. Me and my (McGraw-Hill!) review book. Which, in this weather, seems to be worth more as kindling than as a curriculum. (And no, that’s not ex-employee bitterness. At least, I don’t think so.)

I need a flesh-and-blood teacher. Someone who can see where I’m going wrong and can help me work through it. Books can’t anticipate everyone’s difficulties, meaning they can’t address everyone’s difficulties, either. That’s just how it works.

I will make it through matrices and on to conic sections. And I will make it through conic sections too, and trigonometry, and the chapter on series and sequences. And then I will be done with precalculus and ready for *gulp* calculus (again).

I will make it through not as much because I’m intelligent (although I am, and that definitely helps), but because I am determined and resourceful. I keep trying, even when things are hard. And when something doesn’t make sense, I keep searching for the right teaching/learning method that will make sense to me. If I had a human teacher, that would be much easier. But since I am on my own until this fall, that means searching for a teacher whose name begins with “http://www.” Which is better than nothing, but pales in comparison to a real person who can work with me and help me understand what I don’t.

Teachers are invaluable. I am fortunate that along with giving me a solid educational foundation (one that is slowly returning to life), mine taught me to not give up. That’s a lesson you don’t forget.

Go Illini

Good things do not come to those who wait.

I don’t believe so, anyway. You must plumb the deepest depths, travel every street and avenue. I learned that as a journalist – the stories certainly didn’t come to me; I had to hunt them down like a bloodhound. And I developed a good sense of smell.

It’s coming in handy now. Because unfortunately, as they say, it’s often not what you know, it’s who(m) you know. That’s how you get opportunities – from good stories to good shadowing or volunteer opportunities. And I don’t know many people in medicine. So I’m trying to find some. I’m trying to create educational opportunities for myself. I want to learn. I just need a venue. First, I need someone to believe in me – to trust that I am honest, serious, motivated, trustworthy, reliable. You don’t get that if you cold-call a doctor’s office and ask whether you can shadow one of the physicians. Why would they agree? They wouldn’t know me from, well, Eve.

So where can I connect? The other day it dawned on me: my alma mater. UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for those who don’t know) has an extended network of people from all walks of life (including doctors) who live in the Chicago area. How to contact them … wait, I’m a member of Always Illinois, UIUC’s equivalent of LinkedIn. So I went online and searched for health care practitioners who were willing to offer career advice or opportunities (that’s one of the search filters you can apply), nixed the veterinarians, and was left with three or four MDs in the Chicago region. And we’re talking high profile, well-respected, experienced physicians who have been doing their thing for a good while. I messaged them all, briefly explaining my situation/background and asking whether they had any advice or help to offer a fellow UIUC alum on volunteering or career shadowing in medicine. The way I figure, I have nothing to lose. Even if they all completely ignore my message, I have neither gained nor lost anything. And they all willingly put down on their profiles that they were willing to share career advice, so I’m just taking them up on their offer.

I heard back from one of the alums within an hour. By the next day (today), after looking at my CV, he had offered to meet with me. He gave me his assistant’s e-mail address and told me to set something up.

Go Illini.

A patient, for now

One day I will be a doctor. For now, I am a patient.

And, good doctor, my head hurts.

D(x): Migraines. Ones that don’t respond to the usual medication regimen. I can pop midrin like candy, to no avail. Imitrex might as well be a sugar pill.

R(x): 100 mg of Topamax every day (a very expensive drug recently made available as the generic topiramate). Topamax is very effective when it comes to migraine prophylaxis, at least in my case. I still get a headache here and there, but nothing a quickly dispensed dose of fioricet can’t handle. This has worked for the last couple of years.

Problem is, Topamax is (in some circles) also referred to as “dopamax.” It makes you (well, me) sleepy. Case in point: when I was on 200 mg of Topamax (twice the dose I’m on now), I fell asleep at a Neil Young concert. No, I’m not kidding. I only wish I were. Those tickets set Geoff and me back at least $100 apiece. The 100 mg dose is better, but in recent months I’ve found myself nodding off at inconvenient times and craving a nap every few hours. Which is not particularly helpful when I’m trying to prepare for a calculus placement exam in the next few weeks. Especially given that I’ve had 10 years to forget all the calculus I ever learned, so need all the brainpower I can muster to reteach myself how to find a function’s asymptotes, take the derivative of an equation, and all that related jollity I will need for physics come this fall.

Per doctor’s orders, I’ve cut my Topamax dose, but now I’m getting migraines again (waking up at 2 a.m. with a screeching headache is not an acceptable trade-off for foregoing daytime naps). Clearly, I’ve run into an all-too-common patient problem: the cure for my problem is worse than the disease (or at least, it’s a toss-up).

Thankfully, the doctor who is managing my migraines is very sensitive to side effects. Once she heard about how exhausted I’d been, she immediately drew up a potential list of alternative medications, ones that wouldn’t make me sleepy. And I’m confident that once she hears about the return of the headaches, she’ll help me find the best alternative for my particular situation.

Her responsiveness, compassion, and “let’s-work-together” attitude – in both this situation, and in others – are traits I want to emulate when I become a physician.  

Ready, set, go

When it comes to writing, once I’ve got a plan, I fly. But right now I don’t have any plan. A writing plan for this first blog post, that is. Everything that comes to mind is a cliche (and I refuse to publish anything containing cliches): “Life is full of surprises.” “Things they are a-changing.” “It’s time to move on.” Ugh.

But while my current writing plan may be full of cliches (please forgive me, my journalism mentors), I’m pretty sure that what I’m planning to do with my life is not a cliche.

OK, well maybe it is, in a way. But I’ll bet you a million bucks (ha! another one!) that the path I’m taking there isn’t.

I better stop beating around the bush, for I can’t dodge this bullet forever. (Yes, I will burn in hell for those last two.)

I’m going to medical school.

But not by the traditional route. I’m going via journalism school and jobs as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and textbook editor. And then (hopefully starting fall 2010), via a local university’s post baccalaureate pre-medical program, which will prepare me (academically, at least) for *gulp* medical school.


A few reasons: Because it is time to move on. Because I miss science. Because medicine fascinates me. Because I want to directly help people. Because this has always been my dream. Because a dream deferred sags like a heavy load … or does it explode?

No explosions, please.

But I want to have my cake and eat it too: I want to pursue medicine and to continue writing. Which is one of the reasons I am keeping this blog. I am also doing this to keep an honest record of my experiences. I believe that writing about what happens to me and what I think about it allows me to access a deeper understanding of those experiences. Doing so also can show me where I have been, and the progress I have (hopefully) made. It also can highlight what I need to work on. In short, I believe in the power of reflection. If people read it, great. If not, that’s fine too. (Note: I do welcome comments, so feel free to leave your own thoughts if that strikes your fancy.)

I have heard the journey to and through medical school compared to a marathon. Unlike my sister Sarah, I am no *real* marathon runner (best wishes for Boston!). But I think I am ready for this long race. With the help and support of my husband, family, and friends, I think I can make it. Because I’m in for the long haul.

Runner, take your mark …