The Return – Part 1

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Today is the last day of my summer break in Malaysia.

It is also the first in a sequence of events that marks my return to the world of medical research, as I board the plane for Heathrow, London via Dubai tonight. The next few weeks will see me alternating between London, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, before I officially commence my studies in October. 

More updates to come soon!

Summer ’08 thus far….

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My blog has been idle since the earlier part of this year. Between then and now, many things have transpired, and somewhere in between, I lost my inspiration and motivation (and above all, TIME!) to blog.

This is going to be a short blogpost of what I’ve been up to thus far, which is definitely anything but profound! (and I’m referring to both the blogpost and the things I’ve been up to…)

From April until June, I completed my General Medical & Surgical Junior Clerkships at Southend University Hospital. The hospital was great, but the sand and sea were better! 😀 

During one of the Bank holiday long weekends, I escaped from my hospital work and travelled up north to Scotland to visit the IMU gang in Edinburgh. Glen was there too. Visited loads of tourist attractions in the Lothian city, did lots of touristy stuff etc. etc.

Right after the clerkships, I returned to London for my end of year examination. Kudos to the Dawson Hall transfer crew for for our effort in practicing for the OSCE exam! It was good fun. Really.

I returned to Muuuutherland on 17th August. The gym junkie in me ensured that the first thing I did when I arrived back home was to join the local gym. In between burning off calories, I was piling on the carbs, and to this end, Malaysian food pretty much hit home.

I originally had quite a lot of things lined up for the summer, but somehow, ‘administrative work’ and a lot of unexpected turns in my life seemed to get the better of my time. The things I had to miss out: white water rafting in Gopeng with Amanda et al. (sorry Amanda!), and trip to Bentong and Genting Highlands with David and Nicholas (sorry guys!!) 

The things I did do:

1) Annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Penang (a.k.a. late nights out, sleepovers, and generally, bugging the hell out of Yew Ewe and co. at Penang Medical College). This year’s Penang trip proved to be much more eventful and fun compared to previous years. (*nudge* *nudge* *wink* *wink*). It felt really refreshing to reconnect with people from my past.

2) 2nd UKEC Malaysian Students Leaders Summit (MSLS)2008 in KL. I had my (not-so) little sister joining me for this event. Some of the talks/forums were compellingly engaging, while some were just downright bo-ring. I sometimes felt a bit out of place, due to the fact that an overwhelming majority of the participants were either undergraduates or pre-university students(OK la.. I’m NOT that old…). But the post-MSLS BBQ in PJ was good fun, and gave me the chance to get to know more people. Thanks to Chen Chow for letting me in on this!

(Productive) Things that I’ve trying to do:

1)Read up my pre-course notes on animal surgery and anaesthesia for my upcoming UK Home Office Animal License training course in London. 

2) New developments in the area of my research project that have taken place in the last three months. I’ve been trying to learn 3D mathematical modelling in order to understand the work of a rival group from Oxford working on a similiar topic. Not fun. It amazes me what four years of medical school can do to deteriorate one’s mathematical acumen. I swear I knew more when I was studying for A-level math, whereas now, I can’t even do simple trigonometric differentials to save my life! (There’s always the scientific calculator, no? :D)

3) Deutsche Sprache learnen. On my own. No classes. Just from books. And have I ever told you that German grammar is insane? No? Well, it sure is. Thus far, I cannot yet string a proper sentence beyond four words. 😛 So much for DIY language-learning.

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(Not-so) Little Sister is coming back from KL today. I’m looking forward to see her again! Yay~

  

  

  

  

A Strange Turn of Events, A Moment of Existentialism

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Scene 1

Time: Late February 2007

Place: Royal Free Hospital, Camden, London, UK

Occasion: Interview for entry into Royal Free & University College Medical School

Friend: Shen-Han, do you know what is the best way to predict whether you will be accepted into a school or not?

Me: No, I don’t. How?

Friend: Very easy, actually. Just look around you when you’re in the school. Do you feel at home there? Do you feel like you’re welcomed there? Do you get THAT feeling, just by being there?

Me: Whoa… really? Man, I don’t really feel nice in this place. And I don’t think the interviewers liked me. Must be something I said….

Friend: Whoops…..

Me: Shite.

True enough, three days later, I got a nice, succint one-page R-letter, nicely signed by the Faculty Tutor. Blergh. In hindsight, it was a good thing to happen. Instead, I got accepted by Barts & The London School of Medicine.

Scene 2

Time: February 2007

Place: Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Li Ka-Shing Centre, Cambridge, UK

Occasion: Lunch at the Cafeteria

Me: Whoa…….. this place rocks. Sparkling new research centre.

Friend: Shen-Han, you’re so superficial.

Me: Tell me about it…..

Friend: It’s the research going on in this place that counts la…..

Me: Don’t care. It’s nice. That’s all I care. You’re lucky to be able to do your Part II project here, dude. Man, I wish Iwas doing a cancer-related Part II project at this place.

The strangest things do happen. And sometimes, you get more than what you bargained for.

Scene 3

Time: December 2007

Place: Dawson Hall, Charterhouse Square, London, UK

I had an epiphany.

A sudden realisation.

It occured to me that I was still in love with her. Science. I cannot forget her, no matter how much I try. The excitement that she stirs in me is just too intense. Passionate. Full of life and energy. We first met when I was an impressionable young student. I admired her in her many forms. Physics, Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics – each of them representing different parts of the perfection that is her.

I used to hold dearly to the motto of the University of Michigan. Artes Scientia Veritas. And yet, I held strongly to the rhetorics of the German pathologist, Rudolf Virchow who argued against ‘science for the sake of science’ (Virchow believed that everything in science is applied, and there is no merit in pursuing ‘science for the sake of science’. The purists might disagree…).

Yet, I was still commited to my first love. Medicine. For as far back as I could ever remember, I have always longed for her. She was the one thing that brought light to the destitute, and hope to the despaired. She was the one that everyone turned to when they were at their bleakest hours of their lives. She gave, selflessly, without discrimnating creed or color.

What if I wanted both of them? Could they co-exist in harmony? More importantly, was I able to envision myself spending the rest of my life with the both of them?

(pardon the romantic personification of science and medicine. *how nerdy can I get, huh?*)

I thought long and hard. It was a moment of existentialism.

Follow your heart.

Follow your heart.

My mind was flooded with flashes of conversations that I had earlier that day, with a few different people, one being the abovementioned friend and another medical school-mate in the same hospital. (Refer to my previous post on ‘An Epiphany’)

On one end of the spectrum:

‘A good scientist can never be a good clinician’

‘A doctor who spends too much time with his patients can never produce ‘world-changing’ scientific work’

On the other end of the spectrum:

‘The thought of finding something new everyday gives you a reason to live’

‘Some of the clinician-scientist I’ve worked with are the best clinicians in the hospital’

Fast forward to present time.

As I am typing this post today, I can  only ponder with bemusement at all these events that have transpired over the past year. Certainly a lot has happened since then. I am only glad that I’ve finally made up my mind. There is some truth in what my friend had said. The thing about that good feeling you get when you’re applying to a school for admission.

Moses Judah Folkman, MD (1933 – 2008)

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Reports here . More about the man here and here. Detailed biography here.

M. Judah Folkman, the legend behind the theory of angiogenesis in the development of cancer, has died. A clinician-scientist par excellence who weathered through the storm of skepticism in the early days of his career, Dr Folkman leaves behind a legacy of using anti-angiogenesis drugs to make cancer a manageable disease, very much like diabetes and ischaemic heart disease. Having read his works, publications, reflections, and memoirs during the ‘Pharmacology of Inflammation and Angiogenesis’ module of my Part II undergraduate course in Pharmacology at Cambridge, I count Dr Folkman as one of my heroes in science and medicine.

May you rest in peace, Dr Folkman. 

The Future of Medicine, according to Dr Zerhouni

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London’s Medical Student Newspaper recently ran a feature interview of Dr Elias Zerhouni, the big guy of that obscenely cash-abundant institution just to the northwest of D.C. Read the full piece of work here.

One thing that caught my eye was the last part of the interview, when Dr Zerhouni was asked of his views on where the future of medicine lies. He replied:

“Well, fasten your seat belt because it’s going to be fun. Medicine is going to change more than ever; firstly its knowledge content is going to improve tremendously. Also, instead of being curative and intervening when patients are sick you are going to have to intervene much before the disease actually strikes.   We will be in era of 4 P’s.  Predictive medicine, 

Personalisation regarding genetic variation,

Pre-emption, the natural consequence of knowledge, and finally

Participatory, the patients will be more involved in their own health care.” 

His words really got me very, very excited. Excited that the future holds so much promise!

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