Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There and back again

Hey Everyone!

It's always hard to dive back into blogging, especially after totally failing at doing so for over a month. There are a number of half completed blog posts on the back-burner, and hopefully soon I can crank those out, because there's much I have yet to discuss. This post is sort of to get me going at it again, but I won't delve to deep into many of the big issues I have encountered or thought about over the past few months. So where was I all this time? Well, I spent the first 10 days of November working my butt off at my lab here in Sarawak. In the previous 10 days I had processed plants collected on my super cool expedition to Paya Maga, and now I needed to purify all the exotic fungi growing out of those plant tissue I had put onto specialized jello-like fungus food. Not only that but I had to make sure my fungi would be preserved over my month long interview circuit in the U.S.

So then I came to the U.S. (Nov.11), prepped for my interviews (basically had to tackle big questions like "why practice medicine?" or "why the hell are you in the jungle and how does that relate to you why you want to practice medicine?") while having some epic reunions with some great people and spending quality time with the family. Even got to see my mom teaching her lil munchkin (my sister, Becky) how to play the piano (if I could capture cuteness and bottle it, surely I would tap into that experience). The best I can do is put up some photos and you decide for yourself Speaking of photos, I got a macro lens which means I can take much better portrait and close-up shots of Borneo's bio-beauty.

Back to med school: I could not have been more anxious than I was during my first few interviews, but then I got my "story" down and it was kind of smooth sailing from there on. So what is this "story" I speak of? It's why I'm going to be a doctor, or rather a doctor doctor(MD+PhD). It's how i came to this decision that I want to subject my mind and body to a world of stress, loss, and suffering (my own, but more-so the patients'). I can post my med school essays, but no one wants to read that. I don't even want to read those again, until I'm a retiree on a beach in Hawaii reminiscing about my journey into and through the medical world (ironically, but not accidentally, the following spiel will end up sounding much like a medical school essay). But I'll say this: There is not one day (probably not even an hour) that goes by without my thinking about some aspect of the human mind, specifically how our brain/mind interface with chemical networks of the world. Most tantalizing to me is understanding how and why some of the secretory chemistry of other living things (plants, fungi and bacteria are most prominent in my mind) happen to affect our mind so deeply. Such chemicals are often called "natural products", and they have shaped the world as we see it today. Think spice trade during the Age of Discovery, coffee houses during the Enlightenment, and natural product drug discovery during the 20th/21st centuries (half of all the pharmaceutical drugs out there are derived from natural origins). Our lives fully depend on the chemistry that goes on in these other organisms, so it would be a shame to not appreciate or learn more from the complexity and connectivity we share. I want to probe these questions deeper, by taking advantage of these interactions to figure out how our brain works when it's at it's best, and how things get sour with disease. But there's more to this.

I feel as though "technologization" is leaving us (at least in very developed places) with much anxiety, suppressed unhappiness, and detachment from the natural world. Our increasing physical and mental distance from our "worldly wonders" may have a chemical, as much as psychological, role in some of the neuro- and psychological illnesses we see on the rise in the present day. Sure we are still using all the jewels of nature at our leisure, but without the context of, well, nature, something is lost (think about how processed food is these days, and how much of the original organisms' chemistry is destroyed by the time we ingest/apply a natural product). So this gets at my reasons for pursuing the research side of things, but patient care is not so disconnected, or should not be at least. With thinking about these brainy problems naturally comes thinking about people, with their brainy creations, and brainy illnesses. And, well, a lot of people are suffering from psychological or neurological disease. i know a lot of the most brilliant creations came from the recesses of psychological disturbed minds, but i just can't stand to see so many unhappy faces out there. I think we need to reevaluate how we approach treating these people, and to do that we have to be more aware of how our environment and chemiculture has changed drastically in previous decades (centuries?).


I was happy that things went the way they did, and that I still had some time with the people i care about most. By the end of it all, I was pretty exhausted, but relieved to have this huge burden off my shoulders (especially because I know for sure I have some school to go to next year). Also I was super psyched for getting back to my adventures, and now nothing was holding me back. (Got back to Borneo on Dec. 13th)

Last thing: Do you think flight attendants use their power over beverages and snacks to give you an idea of how much they like you? It's a lot of power for a few human beings on a plane to wield, don't you think?

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