Top 10 of 2010: School’s in

by Lorien E. Menhennett

OK, so I know I just did a post about my Top 10 of 2010. But that post was about my “personal” life. I’ve got another top 10 list — this one is related to school, education, that sort of thing. So here we go again.

Another drum roll please …

Top 10 of 2010: School’s In

10. Being chosen for a faculty assistant position.
About a month into my post-bac program, the director of the post-bac program approached me about coming on as a faculty assistant. There are a number of FA’s in the program, and they do things ranging from TA the anatomy course to organize the internship program. Clearly, I’m in no position to TA an anatomy or pathophysiology course. But I do have some skills that the program needed: writing and editing skills.

9. Physics I.
Those of you who keep up with me on Facebook are likely scratching your heads and furrowing your brows at this one. Because throughout the semester, I definitely did my fair share of griping about my physics class. Mostly how difficult the exams were and how impossibly long the lab reports took to write (my record was 18 pages and about 8-10 hours, if I remember correctly). However, that said … I found physics to be an incredibly valuable experience, all told. Unlike biology and chemistry, much of the material I learned in physics was new to me. And the material that I had touched on in high school physics we took to a whole new level. So I had to work my ass off in this class. I had to ask for help. I had to battle confusion. I had to work problems over and over and over. But in the end, I proved to myself that I could learn something new and challenging and outside of my “comfort zone,” so to speak. I gained confidence in my scholastic abilities. FYI, I’m taking physics again next semester. And I say: Bring it on.

8. Caritas et Veritas Symposium.
I like to pretend this symposium was Dominican University’s birthday present to me, because it fell directly on my 29th birthday. (Note: I did write a separate post about this symposium. See “Caritas et Veritas: Love and Truth,” posted on Oct. 3, 2010.) I was especially intrigued by a literature theory called consilience (the union of science and literature, in short), introduced to me by Dr. Ellen McManus at one of the lectures. I got in touch with Dr. McManus and she recommended two books for me to read on the subject. As I was incredibly busy with school during the semester, I have just now started the first one. But I am already enthralled. I’m sure I will be posting about it as I make my way through the book.

This online community, of which I am a member, has been a warm, welcoming place — as well as a great resource. I have met so many wonderful and fascinating people, and learned so much. I have also had the opportunity to share my own knowledge and expertise. In addition, OPM hosts an annual conference — and last summer it was (fortuitously) held in Chicago. I decided to attend at the last minute, and it was amazing. I met a woman who has turned into a dear friend, I was able to network with all kinds of people (including ADCOMS), and I learned a great deal about the application process and timetable. I can’t wait for the 2011 conference.

6. My blog.
Keeping this blog has been so wonderful for me — a chance to continue writing, a chance to tell my story, a chance to get feedback about what I am doing. Thank you to everyone who is following and reading. I hope you are enjoying yourself.

5. Superb Dominican faculty. 
One of the best things about being at Dominican University is that the class sizes are so small and you can get to know your professors personally. Of course, that would be useless if the professors weren’t any good. But my professors have been stellar. Thank you all: Dr. Scannicchio, Dr. Hughes, Dr. Kreher, Dr. Gulley, Dr. Sagerer, Dr. Andrei, and Prof. Buber. Thank you so much for your time, energy, effort, and help throughout the semester.

4. UIC lab research.
When I decided to embark on the journey toward medical school, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do research. Thanks to a very generous and helpful fellow UIUC alum (an anesthesiologist), I landed a job (albeit unpaid) as a research assistant at UIC. Those of you who read my posts over the last summer know how much I learned, and how excited I was about this position. It has inspired me to want to do research during my career as a physician (in addition to clinical work). Thanks especially to Olga and Rich Minshall for letting me tag along and soak up so much. And for giving me the chance to come back again in 2011. I can’t wait!

3. Volunteering as a Spanish medical translator.
This has been another amazing opportunity, chronicled (again) by a number of blog posts. It has been a chance to really help people, to empower them in their need for health care. And also a chance for me to learn about ambulatory medicine, Spanish medical terminology, and so much more. I look forward to continuing to work there in 2011.

Computer-generated 3-D protein structure

2. Proteins!
No, I’m not talking about a love of steak (although I do love a good filet mignon). I’m talking about the macromolecule. The intricate structure, the precise formation, the functional group interactions, the diverse processes … I find it all fascinating and amazing. Honestly, I can’t wait to take biochemistry and learn more about these little guys. (I know, I’m crazy. I have accepted this fact.)

1. Physician shadowing.
It’s one thing to watch “House” or “ER.” It’s another thing entirely to stand in the hall of the ICU as someone in the room in front of you is about to die. It’s another thing entirely to stand in the OR as a surgeon puts a metal pin in someone’s broken hand. I have witnessed these things. And I still want to become a physician. In fact, the shadowing I have done — in anesthesiology and critical care medicine (thus far) — has only intensified my interest in this career. I plan to spend more time in the hospital in the coming semester, thanks to the generosity of a local ICU director. And when I am a physician, I will return the favor to some budding pre-med student.