Tuesday, November 14, 2006

FCM, Hemoglobin Seminar, Class Meeting, and Anatomy Office Hours

We had a joint FCM session with Case today. Since we had complained a lot about being segregated by program last month when we went over there, the good news is that the powers that be assigned us to mixed small groups so that we could interact with the UP students. However, these excellent intentions were thwarted by the speaker, who droned on for the entire hour and a half. So, although we were in small groups with the UP students and physically sat next to them for the hour and a half, we did not get to actually discuss anything with them. This is the usual FCM pattern. The subject is important, the reading was decent, and the class itself somehow just never quite works out the way it is supposed to.

The hemoglobin seminar we had afterward was pretty good. We talked about the structure and function of hemoglobin, as well as how the genes for hemoglobin turn on and off during development. The coolest part, of course, is discussing the things that can go wrong with hemoglobin, which are called hemoglobinopathies. Hemoglobin is the protein in the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Some people don't make enough hemoglobin, and they have anemia due to a condition called thalessemia. Other people make normal amounts of hemoglobin, but their hemoglobin has too much affinity for oxygen or too little affinity for oxygen, and they either have problems with releasing oxygen to the tissues or loading oxygen in the lungs. The most famous hemoglobin problem is sickle-cell disease, which happens due to a mutation in the structure of the hemoglobin protein. The mutation changes the properties of the hemoglobin so that in situations where the affected person has low amounts of oxygen, the hemoglobins start polymerizing into long chains. When that happens, it warps the shape of the red blood cell. Normal red blood cells are round disks that have indentations on both sides, but sickle cells are long and thin to the point where they can get stuck in the tiny blood vessels of the body.

We had a class meeting after seminar. This was for all of the M1s. Dean Franco came to ask us what we could do to improve the seminars. Naturally, many of us wanted to talk about the problems we've been having with FCM, and we did for quite a while. But she really wanted to talk to us about the academic seminars, because some of my classmates have stopped attending them. This is kind of a sticky issue. On one hand, some of the seminars are kind of dry or otherwise not particularly helpful. But CCLCM is not like most medical schools where a lot of the students skip class, collect lecture packets, and read them at home to prepare for their exam. So I agree with Dean Franco that we all ought to attend the seminars. That being said, I also think that if some people want to skip them, they ought to be allowed to do that without getting emails sent to their PAs or otherwise being hassled for that choice. If we are adults, and we are, then we should be treated like adults. At the end of the class meeting, two of the M3s came and talked to us about applying for fellowships during our research years. We get stipends from CCF while we're doing our thesis year, but we can also apply for fellowships on top of that. I hadn't considered applying for a fellowship before this, but now I am planning to do it. So that was really useful.

In the afternoon, I went to the anatomy office hours. There was one other student there, and we went through all of the cadavers together with Dr. Drake. Even though we were doing early embryology this week, we are still working on the neck, so all of the prosections were of the neck. You wouldn't think that the neck would be so complicated because there aren't too many organs in the neck (just the thyroid mainly), but it actually is. There are really a lot of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues in there. I don't think I'll ever remember them all, but I'm still enjoying learning about them.

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