doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Category: Uncategorized

The Art of Orgo

I have my fourth and final regular Organic Chemistry exam tomorrow on reaction mechanisms. In General Chemistry, we studied basic principles of chemistry, and how to mathematically work out many types of problems, but now we’re actually learning how different reactions happen, why, under what conditions, etc. It’s actually pretty interesting. Especially since there are so many pharmaceutical and biological applications for what we’re studying. Given that I want to do a PhD in Genetics, I know that knowing this will be helpful, at least for some of the graduate-level coursework (i.e., Biochemistry) that I will soon be taking.

In the beginning of the year, I used massive amounts of printer paper for doing practice problems. Then as I was cleaning out the basement of my old house, I rediscovered a giant dry erase board that I had bought years ago. I thought to myself, “We do practice problems on the dry erase boards in class; why not do the same at home?” So I lugged the dry erase board to my apartment, bought a big set of colored dry erase markers, and started drawing.

To my surprise, I found that I actually enjoyed doing the problems — drawing things out larger, and using different colors to symbolize bond cleavage and formation (for example) really helped me see the bigger “picture,” so to speak. So that’s how I’ve done my orgo homework ever since.

My drawing board has been especially helpful with reaction mechanisms — these problems have multiple steps, multiple bond breakings/makings, and having a large surface area (and again, many colors to differentiate things) has really made a difference in my learning process.

For kicks and giggles (and to further illustrate my nerdiness, not that that takes much doing), I’ve taken a picture of a practice problem from my textbook that I worked out on my dry erase board.

I know I’m not a doctor (yet), but if looking at this gives you a headache, I recommend taking two Aleve (a.k.a. naproxen sodium) and lying down for about 15 minutes. The blurred vision and pounding will go away soon, I promise.

I Have A Dream, Too

In addition to this blog, I also post frequently (and keep a “diary“) on OldPreMeds.com (OPM), a forum dedicated to non-traditional pre-med and med students. Recently, there was a thread on OPM about race and disparities in health care. This thread evoked strong emotions and opinions from many OPM members. It got me thinking about this issue, and brought up significant emotions in me, too. I don’t normally double-post things on both OPM and this blog, but I want to share here what I wrote on that thread, in the hopes that it will inspire people to think about this issue, and even more so, to do something about it, if only in small ways:

As I write this post, I am weeping. Because this thread has reminded me oh-so-clearly that we live in a world where inequality, rather than equality, is the rule. Where the color of a person’s skin, or how much money they have in the bank, determines so much about their quality of life, the quality of their education, the quality of their health care. That breaks my heart. Because it is absolutely not right. There is no arguing with that.

I want to thank you for bringing these issues up in our community here on OPM. Because we are a community, and one of the roles of a community is to come together – not necessarily in agreement, but at least in discussion – on significant issues. And this is one of those issues.

I am white. I cannot pretend to know what it is like to experience the hurt that people who are minorities experience, sometimes on a daily basis. The cumulative effect of that pain, I cannot even fathom. No platitudes I have to offer will make that disappear.

So this morning, I turn to someone who knew that pain, who lived with it day by day, and who chose to confront this issue of inequality in a way that was so offensive to the racist element of our country that he died for his cause.

We all know snippets of Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have A Dream” speech. But it had been years since I had really read these powerful words. I offer a lesser-known quotation from his speech in the hopes that his dream can become ours, and that we can work together, even in small ways, to bring it to pass. Someday. So that, as MLK said, “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Here is what I have to share from MLK’s speech. Here is what brought me to tears – tears which will not stop – this morning:

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Is this a pipe dream, an unachievable goal? I have to believe, to hope, that it is not.

Separately, we are each but one person. But together, we are a community. And like it or not, many of us will someday be in positions of influence and power, of some sort or another. I hope we each choose to use that influence and power wisely, so that it makes a positive impact, if not upon the world as a whole, at least upon individual lives. That is, at least, a place to start.

The Intersection of Science and Art

Some time ago, I posted pictures of photo prints from Allposters.com that I was drooling over. Well, Santa Claus (in the form of my lovely mother) agreed to buy four of them for me for Christmas. I purchased them yesterday during the Web site’s Cyber Monday 30% off sale. Here is what I chose:

Neurons: a human brain cognition synapse.

Neuromuscular synapse: The junction
between a nerve fiber and a muscle.

Red blood cells (erythrocytes) in a vein
showing their biconcave shape.

Neuron showing the axons and dendrites.
Hooray for science!

I Think I Can … I Think I Can …

I’ll be honest. I’m a bit stressed right now. The end of the semester is nearing, which is very exciting, but it’s going to be a busy next three weeks.

Between now and Dec. 16 (the day of my last final), I have:
– 2 regular exams (organic chemistry and genetics)
– 1 calculus quiz
– 3 genetics lab reports due (which will each be about 20 pages long)
– 3 final exams

Plus, I need to keep up with new course material for two weeks, and will have a smattering of regular homework assignments during that time.

If I step back and look at the whole picture, I become overwhelmed. So my strategy is to take things one assignment, one quiz, one lab report, one exam at a time. Of course, I need to think ahead in some respects to plan for what’s coming so I can properly prioritize my time. But my goal is to focus on what I need to do today, so that I don’t freak out.

Also, I am reminding myself that things will work out, that I will get my work done, I always do. It’s just a matter of putting my mind to it, which I am quite capable of doing.

I have a friend who is a second-year medical student now, and when she tells me about how much material she has to review for this or that exam, or how many exams she has in one week, I feel my eyebrows rise. But the fact of the matter is, she is doing it. I will be able to do it too. And all of the work that is piling up on me right now? Great practice for when I’m in medical school.

This reminds me of one of my favorite books when I was a child, “The Little Engine That Could.” No one believed that little engine could make it up the big hill, but he did it, thinking positively all the way:

“I think I can … I think I can … “

That’s my motto for today. Really, for the next three weeks. Or perhaps for the next several years, as I complete an MD/PhD program. And when I think about it, it’s a great motto just to have, for life in general.

MCAT Countdown!

If you’ve taken a look at my blog in the last week or so, you may have noticed a new graphic in the upper-right-hand corner: a “ticker” counting down the days until I take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).

That’s right, it’s official! I’m taking the MCAT at 1 p.m. sharp on April 28, 2012 at a testing center in the Western suburbs. Which, according to today’s ticker, is exactly 5 months and 5 days away.

As I move along in this process, this whole thing – my dream – is becoming more real. I finish the next-to-last semester of my post-bac pre-medical program this December. This coming spring semester IS my last semester of post-bac classes. I take the MCAT in late April. I will apply to medical school early next June – just over 6 months away. And hopefully by this time next year, I will have been interviewing at medical schools, or will have interviews lined up. Crazy. But oh-so exciting.

To all of you who are supporting me on this journey – thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.

“Putting on the Ritz”

A fashion show participant
who wore one of my hats.

I’m a bit scared of growing old. And I know I’m not alone in this thought. Becoming weaker, losing one’s faculties, potential diseases … doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But I was reminded yesterday that growing older doesn’t have to mean you stop having fun, or strutting your stuff.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend a fashion show, called “Putting on the Ritz,” at Norwood Crossing, an assisted living center where my mom (a hospice nurse) has had patients. It’s a beautiful facility, not like the typical “nursing home” you imagine, with dimly-lit, antiseptic-smelling halls and depressed residents wheeling themselves about. No, this is an amazing place with a fitness center, a cafe, an incredible arts program, and many more amenities. My mom has told me – and I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment – that if she ever has to go to an assisted living place, she wants to go there.

I was also lucky enough to help, albeit indirectly, with this fashion show. I collect vintage hats – I have about 80 of them, at last count – and when my mom heard the facility was putting on a fashion show, she asked me whether I would be willing to loan some of my hats to the ladies. “Of course!” I answered. I don’t get the opportunity to wear my hats much these days, although I used to when I worked in an office, so I was pleased that others would put them to good use, if only for an afternoon.

And let me tell you, these ladies (and gentlemen) looked sharp. The fashion show began with a woman reading the show’s manifesto, which the participants had written themselves. I found the manifesto quite meaningful, so I will share it here:

Older adults are excluded from so many things, just for being in their golden years. In many ways they’ve changed. In many ways, they haven’t. It’s like starting over – losing things, but gaining other things. Everyone still has their own personal “air.” They show it in the way they hold their head, in whatever they do with their chin.

Another participant wearing one of my hats.

Our models come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone has their own way of moving – individual differences. It’s an opportunity to express ourselves.  But even walking across the street can put you in that same situation – it’s the way you move. Our builds are all different. We’re embracing the differences. Wearing clothes that fit one’s personality. Some people are serious-minded; some look like they’re happy. It shows the emotions. There’s room for every mood, build, and emotion. Fancy, dress-up, dress-down. We are heterogeneous and homogeneous. Age is not pertinent for what we are doing here. We are women and men.


It’s the person we are trying to project. Clothing is just another tool that we use to project a persona to others. At our stage in life, we have to be more accepting of who we are. We won’t be perfect – whether it’s in the therapy room, or in a fashion show. It isn’t necessarily what we’re wearing that’s the fashion, it’s who we are.

Then the women – dressed in their finest, some of them wearing my hats – and the men, dressed in tuxes – walked or wheeled their way through the rows of chairs to the music. And we’re talking fun music – “Pretty Woman,” for example. At the end, they all went to the front and danced. One woman really boogied, shaking her hips, shoulders, and head as she walked with her walker. I commented to my mom that she could really show me and my girlfriends a good time if she came out dancing with us on the weekends!

The postcard advertising the fashion show –
with my hats featured!

It was a good reminder that growing old doesn’t have to mean losing your sense of self, fashion, pride. It just means that you accept certain limitations of your body and work with those, still expressing all of the things that you did when you were younger.

I plan on enjoying my youth and middle age, doing what is possible during those eras of my life. But I saw yesterday that growing older doesn’t have to be so frightening after all. You’re still you, I will still be me. As the participants said in their manifesto, “Age is not pertinent for what we are doing here. We are women and men.”

I plan to take that sentiment with me, no matter how old – or young – I may be.

Halloween, Mutant-Fly-Style

My mutant fly costume – a dark-bodied,
curly-winged, wild-type-eyed fruit fly.

I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years. Just haven’t felt like it, or had any reason to. But this year, I was invited to two costume parties. I decided I better come up with something. Mind you, I’ve never been one to buy a costume. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always created a costume from bits and pieces of what I already owned, perhaps supplemented by a new prop or two. So while my friends were out buying their get-ups, I racked my brain for something I could piece together.

The answer came during a completely unrelated conversation with my mom. We were talking about my genetics class, specifically what I had been doing in lab lately (fly crosses), and my mom blurted out: “You should be a fruit fly for Halloween!”

At first, I discounted the idea as ridiculous. After all, who’s ever heard of anyone being a fruit fly for Halloween? But I gradually realized it was perfect – it encapsulates what I am doing right now, what I love, and it’s definitely off beat. Which is exactly what I wanted. Drosophila melanogaster it was.

Fruit flies with the curly wing mutation.

Next it was time to figure out how to put together this costume. My mom lent me a pair of silvery, sparkly antennae, which aren’t very fly-like, but are fun. Wild-type (normal) fruit flies have cream-colored bodies, reddish eyes, and near-transparent, oval-shaped wings. I do have red eye shadow, so I was set there. But I don’t have a cream dress, and I couldn’t find any plain fly-looking wings. So I decided to be a mutant fly. I did base my costume (slightly) on reality. I chose a black dress, to represent dark-bodied fruit flies (which we have indeed studied in our genetics class). The best wings I could find were curvy fairy wings, which corresponds to the curly-winged phenotype of fruit flies (again, we have studied these in class, and they really DO have curly wings). So I was to be a wild-type-eyed, dark-bodied, curly-winged fruit fly. To complete my costume, I wrote out the gene symbols for my genotype on a slip of paper and pinned it to my dress.

A fruit fly with the black body mutation.

I knew most (if not all) of the people I encountered would have no idea what I was, but I was OK with that. I’m quite confident in my nerdiness, and I would have fun just being a fruit fly. My friends, who know how enamored I am with genetics, loved the idea. So it would be a joke between all of us.

Yesterday, I had my night out on the town with my girlfriends. As I expected, no one “got” my costume. That was fine by me. I had found something creative, fun, weird, and scientific to be, and that was all that mattered.

Viva Drosophila!

An Overdue Update On Life, and Other Things

I realized as I went to my blog site this morning that I hadn’t posted in more than two months … unforgivable! Especially given so much that has happened in the last two months. So a warning: this post may be a bit long and rambling. But hopefully it will give you a good picture of where I am right now.

So, in no particular order, here is what’s been going on.

1. My living situation
Yes, I am still in my Oak Park apartment. But that was not a given, for a few stressful weeks. A little background: Because I am technically not an undergraduate student, I qualify for very little government loan money. Because I go to an expensive private school, I have a lot of expenses for both tuition and living. That means I have to get most of my money from private (and higher interest) loans. But I wasn’t able to get enough from those sources this year, either. We’re not talking about a few hundred bucks. No, I was short a LOT. Thousands. And because I no longer have a spouse contributing a salary, not having enough loan money means not having enough money to pay rent. So for a while, I was looking at having to move back in with my mom (and little sister, who also lives with my mom). Now, don’t get me wrong – I love my mom dearly. But I also love my space and privacy. I then turned to my extended family. Thankfully, a very generous family member agreed to loan me the money I needed. So I am staying put in my comfy apartment. Hooray!

2. Welcoming a new decade
That’s right, I hit the big 3-0 on September 28. While that freaks some people out, I am honestly thrilled to be 30 years old. I look at the next decade as an exciting adventure. I calculated how much longer I will be in school, and I realized I will finish around the time I am 40. So the adventure of schools really IS the entire next decade. Which might sound crazy, but I love school, and this whole process. You might be wondering, how does four years of medical school, plus starting med school in a year and a half (or so) add up to age 40? Well, that brings me to my next announcement …

3. A new career plan
Mud-phudder. Doctor squared. Double degree. MSTP. These are all different names for an extended schooling program: MD/PhD. That’s right, you earn both an MD and a PhD in the same schooling stint. Obviously, you can’t do that in four years – it takes seven or eight – which is where I get age 40 as the estimated year of completion. Clearly, to do school for that long takes a lot of dedication. But as you might have noticed, I’m pretty engaged with both research AND clinical medicine, and I have decided that I want to combine the two in a career in academic medicine where I can teach, research, and practice. I am honestly thrilled about this prospect, crazy as it may sound. These MSTPs (medical scientist training programs) are incredibly competitive to get into, which means I need to maintain my excellent grades and get a superb MCAT score (no pressure, right?!). One of the benefits, though, is that your ENTIRE schooling – all seven to eight years, med school + grad school – is completely paid for, plus you get a living stipend for each of those years. That means you don’t have to take out any loans. Now, this is not a reason to do this program, given that it puts off earning a living for four years, but it is definitely a benefit and incentive. But if I am to do grad school, that means I need to choose a field to study, right? Which brings me to my next update …

Fruit fly eye color is one of the things
we have been studying in genetics
lab. This photo shows the normal
fruit fly eye color (bottom left),
brown (bottom right), white (top
right), and scarlet (top left). The
different eye colors are caused
by gene mutations. 

4. School
School is definitely keeping me busy, for sure. I am taking calculus, the infamous organic chemistry, and genetics. Calculus is a breeze for me, given that I took it in high school. So why take it again? Some of the more competitive med schools require a calculus credit, and they don’t accept the Advanced Placement credit I earned in high school, even though I got college credit for that (two semesters of college calc credit, to be exact!). It’s a stupid rule, but it is what it is. Organic chemistry is a challenge, especially since I am not a very spatial thinker, and much of the course involves rotating molecules in your head. So I use my handy-dandy molecular modeling kit to help me do that. I also work out my problems on a big dry erase board that I have in my office, with different colored markers so that I can easily see the electron and proton movement, product formation, etc. It’s dorky for sure, but it really helps. It’s all about practice, practice, practice, just like physics was for me last year. That’s my strategy, at least. I hope it pays off!
Genetics is my pearl. I love that class. I love learning the concepts, I love working out the practice problems, I even love writing the lab reports. Crazy, I know, but there you have it. It’s doubly funny because most of the people I know who are in the class are taking it only because they have to, and they find my passion and interest completely incomprehensible. So I have decided that when I get to graduate school, genetics is the field I want to study. I am not certain what aspect of genetics I will study, but at least I have the general field decided upon.

Well, that’s probably enough for now. I do plan to keep up better with my blog as the school year rolls on, so watch for more frequent updates from here on out.

MCAT: Friend Or Foe?

“The MCAT is your friend.”

This is what Richard Levy, who runs OldPreMeds.org, is very fond of saying about the Medical College Admissions Test, which is required to get into medical school. His philosophy is a good one. Befriend the exam, and the process of preparing for it, or succumb to what he calls FUD – “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.” And if you fall prey to that, you are less likely to do well. Which can kill your chances of getting in.

I don’t plan on taking the MCAT until next April or so. But I have decided to start studying, slowly but surely, beginning now, in my own effort to make the MCAT a dear friend. Why? Because this exam tests your knowledge, comprehension, understanding, and ability to analyze and synthesize four year-long college science courses: General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics. That’s eight (count them, 8) semesters of hard-core, scientific material.

The test is divided into four sections. For each section, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) posts a content outline that describes what you’re supposed to have learned in your courses. Below are the test sections, with links to the content outlines on the AAMC’s Web site.

1) Biological Sciences (BS)
2) Physical Sciences (PS)
3) Verbal Reasoning (VR)
4) Writing

That’s pretty helpful information, at first glance. But if you take a closer look, things can easily become overwhelming. The Biological Sciences PDF outline is a whopping 17 pages long, and the Physical Sciences PDF is 10 pages. Quite a bit to know! And the exam doesn’t just test your recall – you are presented with passages to read, and then questions associated with those passages. So you really have to understand the concepts, not just have memorized equations or defintions.

The BS, PS, and VR sections are each worth 15 points, for a top possible score of 45. The writing portion is graded on a letter scale, between a J (the lowest) and a T (the highest). In 2010, according to the AAMC, the mean MCAT score was a 25, and the 50th percentile writing score was an O.

That score likely won’t get you into medical school. You really need around a 30 or so, at least, to be competitive. Upper-tier schools such as Harvard probably won’t give you a second glance without a score in the mid-30s. For MD/PhD programs, which I am seriously considering, the mean score of accepted students is about a 35, from what I have read. That’s a tough score to achieve. Hence starting to study now.

In terms of preparing, myriad options exist. There are several test prep companies that offer formal courses (which can put you out as much as $2,000). Yikes. Another way to go is the self-study route, which is what I’m doing. Many companies put out MCAT study books on the various subjects, including practice questions. However, these books are not cheap. Luckily, I have a dear friend who took the MCAT a couple of years ago and saved her study books – more than a dozen of them – and gifted them to me. This saved me hundreds of dollars, literally. And I can study at my own pace. This might not work for everyone, but I am a very self-motivated person, and good with utilizing my free time. So I think I will be OK.

I’m also a good test-taker, fortunately. While I get nervous like everyone else, it doesn’t affect my score – once I get in there, sit down, and have the exam in front of me, I can focus and get the job done. In addition, I did very well (straight A’s) in all of my coursework so far, and hopefully a good bit of that material has stuck. I’ve taken everything except Organic Chemistry, which I will take this coming year. So this summer and fall, I will be reviewing what I took last year (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics).

But more than that, I will be learning about the MCAT itself, what kinds of questions there are, how to approach the exam in terms of time management (you have just over a minute for each question!), that sort of thing. So that hopefully, when April comes, the MCAT and I will indeed be friends of the most familiar sort. That’s the goal, at least. I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress.

Nigerian Medical Conference Update

Traditional Nigerian clothing
and head wrap, similar to
what I saw at the gala

The Nigerian medical conference I went to last weekend, put on by the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA), was incredible. I truly felt welcomed by the Nigerian medical community, never more so than at Saturday night’s gala and banquet. Everyone was dressed to the nines – including many people in traditional Nigerian clothing – and there was fantastic food and dancing to African music. My friend Nneka and I left around 12 p.m., and the party was apparently just getting started!

But of course, while the gala was fun, there was so much more to the conference – so much substance. The first day’s symposium focused on women’s health. There were three presentations that especially made an impression on me. The first was on bleeding disorders in women, and it focused mostly on Von Willebrand Disease. One of the researchers in the lab where I am actually works on this topic, and presented her most recent findings a couple of weeks ago. So I was familiar with the disorder. (I had previously never heard of it.) Apparently, it is a cause of postpartum hemorrhage, and a factor in maternal death in Nigeria – which is a huge (and preventable) problem in the country.

Another presenter focused on the issue on maternal health in Nigeria, specifically how much progress has been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goal #5 (which has to do with improving worldwide maternal health in specific ways by 2015). She quoted some statistics that were just horrible, including:
– 358,000 maternal deaths in 2008 (and she said most of those occur in the developing world)
– 50,000 maternal deaths in Nigeria in that year
– the majority of those deaths are related to hemorrhage and hypertension, which are completely preventable given the proper medical care and proper medical access (which she said were very much lacking in rural Nigeria)

There were two Nigerian Ministry of Health representatives who were at the conference, and they took exception to this presentation on maternal health. One of them got up during the Q&A and (in a very emotional way) blasted the presenter for not giving Nigeria credit for the strides it has taken to improve maternal health and for focusing on the negatives. So the whole thing got very political, very quickly. Which made my Nigerian friend Nneka a bit uncomfortable, but I found quite interesting – to see different sides and perspectives on an issue, both the outside and the inside view. (The presenter was Nigerian, but had come to the United States at age 2, so was not seen to really have a true “Nigerian” perspective.)

The other presentation I found to be especially interesting that day was on breast cancer, and was given by a professor from the University of Chicago. She talked about cancer in general in the developing world, and how it is so much more likely to cause death because of the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment, as well as the prevalence of ER- breast cancer (which is an especially lethal type of breast cancer) in younger African and African-American women.

The Day 2 seminar that I went to focused on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which is federal U.S. legislation that was enacted in 1977. The purpose of the seminar was to educate the Nigerian physicians on how to appropriately do business between Nigeria and the United States without running afoul of this law.

The FCPA basically prohibits bribery, aka “corrupt payments,” to government officials in order to gain some sort of business advantage, influence decisions, obtain/retain business, etc. That sounds simple enough, but the law is actually very complex. And it is made all the more tricky because corruption in Nigeria is a big issue – according to the presenters (who were all lawyers), Nigeria ranks 134 out of 178 on a world-recognized corruption perception index.

What makes the law so difficult, in part, is that these improper payments can include charitable donations, political contributions, and other non-monetary gifts such as travel, entertainment, and food. Also, the definition of a government/foreign official is very broad – it can include employees of state-owned companies, which in many countries where health care is partially or completely public, includes physicians of state-owned hospitals and clinics.

Apparently, the U.S. government is pretty serious about enforcing this law, too. The presenters included a list of fines that several major companies had paid, and they were in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

One thing I found especially interesting was that while the law is very detailed, there is still a lot of gray there, which is complicated by local practices. For example, one Nigerian physician brought up the issue of gift-giving, which is a cultural practice in Nigeria. One of the lawyers said that if the gifts were of little value and not likely to influence decisions, it’s OK. For example, giving away a notepad is fine; handing out a gold watch is a no-no. That’s a pretty clear-cut case. But where do you draw that line?

Another interesting aspect that an audience member brought up was that while the United States has this legislation, other countries – such as China – do not. Which allows them to go in and basically develop monopolies in the area, because they aren’t held to the same legal/ethical standards.

A troubling facet of this presentation was that according to the presenters, there is a huge number of pharmaceutical and medical device companies that are being investigated under this law. I guess this isn’t really surprising, but it is indeed troubling.

After the conference was over, I sent thank-you notes to the president of ANPA and the chair of the Chicago/northwest Indiana chapter of ANPA. I received responses within hours, from both of them. Both men thanked me for the feedback, welcomed me to any future ANPA events, and encouraged me in my future medical career. I was even invited to participate in medical missions to Nigeria at some point!

I’ve always thought of myself as going to Latin America in the future, and I still intend to do so. But after this conference, I have definitely developed a new interest in Africa as well. I would love to visit there, as a start. Now if only flights were just a tad more affordable …