Friday, May 18, 2012

An Update

Hello (very) loyal audience!

It has been far too long since my last post and I actually feel really guilty about it.  I really enjoy(ed) writing in this blog.  So, rather than continuing to wait for a self-proclaimed profound thought worth sharing I figure I'll stop procrastinating and write a post about what I've been up to since my last post. 

So first and foremost, I have been working.  As most young professionals in my generation are discovering, saying that I have been working doesn't quite do it justice - it indicates that I have a job but doesn't quite give the flavor of reality that I'd like to offer for taste-testing.  I am currently involved in 5 biomechanics studies at work and I'll try to lay them out in non-engineering terms to try and maintain the image of being a normal, sociable, real, not nerdy person!  Disclaimer - I am very nerdy.

The first study I worked on when I started my job at HSS was called the Juvenile ACL reconstruction study.  The primary significance of the study is addressing the fact that adult ACL reconstruction techniques are inappropriate for juvenile patients because the growth plate of their skeletally immature bones (the part that causes the bones to elongate to full, mature length) would be disrupted with a drill tunnel, thus stunting the growth of the bone and dwarfing the patient.  The clinical alternatives generally involve methods that use extracortical fixation (a screw that enters from outside the bone and doesn't pass too deep) and wrapping the ACL graft around the back of the femur and then through a bone tunnel in the tibia, sparing the epiphysis (growth plate).  There are many surgical variations on this procedure and the Juvenile ACL study set out to evaluate two such techniques with the hopes of finding that one was more kinematically stable or reduced pressures in the joint relative to ACL-deficient knees, or both.  The testing is conducted with a large robotic arm that manipulates the knee in predetermined ways that are deemed relevant for recording measurements based on past literature and functional clinical exams.  All in all, 11 cadaveric knees were dissected, prepped, tested, operated on, and analyzed by yours truly, one of my coworkers named Carl, and a surgical resident named Moira.  Dissection and prep took place on the same day, testing generally took one 18 and one 12 hour day, and the surgeries were performed on testing days.  The study took us 8 weeks to complete from start to finish.  Doing some rough retrospective number crunching, I was involved in cutting up 11 knees, performing 22 ACL reconstructions, and 330 hours of testing - IN TWO MONTHS!    I've never been in a place that's so efficient and productive with its research.  Data processing took Carl and I about 3 weeks to munch through after which Moira turned an abstract around in about the same time.  The study has been finalized, a paper written and submitted, and plans are currently being made for designing future research thrusts based on our findings.

I suppose I should take a minute or two now and explain what testing is like.  It involves sitting in a room about the size of 4 H3 hummers with a huge robotic arm, 2 freezers full of..... parts....., the specimen you are currently working on (in the robot's grips), a computer cluster from which we researchers play God to the robot, and usually a coworker or medical resident to keep you awake and entertained.  Operating the robot is a matter of running specific house-written (MATLAB) computer codes, watching the readouts on the computer screen to ensure that you haven't told the robot to perform its own, violent surgery on the specimen accidentally, and keeping the specimen moist so the tissues don't dry out.  Needless to say, Carl, Moira, and I learned a lot about each other during those testing days.  On the really long days (nights) there always seemed to be a bewitching hour between 8-10pm that always rendered us slap-happy, irritable, and karaoke-prone for the rest of the testing day.  Carl gave brief introductory lessons on the finer (innapropriate) words in the German language, Moira continually demonstrated a desire to understand what was going on with testing but, frustratingly, not being able to grasp engineering concepts, and I blessed the crowd with a witty, satirical sense of humor that can only accurately be described as that of Jeff Tucker's.  Those of you that know my father (or maybe myself - .....scary) understand what it was like.

Another important aspect of this study that I have failed to mention up to this point is that a senior, attending surgeon from the main hospital, Dr. Frank Cordasco (Google him!  He's really cool!) came over to perform the surgeries with Moira, Carl, and myself.  Now that the study has been submitted, he will be writing me a letter of recommendation for medical school.

(dramatic pause)

You did read that correctly.  I am, yet again applying to medical school.  If there is one thing that I have learned from my experience so far at this job, it is that I LOVE surgery!  I generally don't take well to being held back and I would generally hold a grudge against medical schools and spite them for not accepting me in the past but I have found a real passion here and I am throwing my hat in the ring again one last time. 

Note - at this point I am realizing that I will have to tell you about my other studies in another post (but at least the topics for future posts are decided so I have no more excuses to not write!)

I spent a large part of the day today filling out the all-too-familiar-to-me common application for AMCAS which opens up for submissions on June 5.  I will be submitting my application on June 5th and, therefore, will be quite busy between now and then with work, applications, and continuing to study for the MCAT, which I intend to take in late July this year.  To further belabor myself (and much to my surprise), I will be applying to some schools for their MD/PhD program, adding more years onto the time it would take me to graduate.  I have developed a soft spot for research since starting this job and would like to stay involved throughout my career (or at least that's how I feel now).  So that's the long-put off update - stay tuned as I intend to get back on the horse and post more regularly!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Late Nights/Early Mornings

So here's the deal with New York City: you can't sleep full nights and experience what the city has to offer, period.  I am fortunate to be in the city at the ripe age of 23 while I can still occasionally get away with missing an entire night (week) of sleep and survive.  And by survive I mean drag my non-coffee drinking, groggy butt into the office to be harangued by my secretary who immediately notices that I am wearing my glasses.  She follows her bemused facial expression with something like: "somebody needs to learn how to handle the city... Bendito!"  I still tend to be the earliest one in the mornings, however, so I normally have time to make it look at least like I've been rubbing my eyes to cure some terrible itch rather than look like the only one who can't make it in the big city.  Fortunately, my office is full of 'young professionals' such as Julie, my housemate, and myself and, therefore, it is not uncommon for someone to show up late and/or look a tad (understatement) under the weather.

One of the most important things to realize about partying in this city is that the party don't start till I walk in - Terrible Ke$ha lyrics that come into my head every time I hear the words 'party start'.  Where I was really going with that is that the parties don't start until 10:30PM at the earliest!  What this means is that if you want to be cool and hang out with your friends out at the bar, you're going to be out until at least 2AM but probably more like 4.  On top of that, you will be paying the princely sum of $6 for any single beverage you order - unless you would like a mixed drink in which case you can safely double that number.  Summary: Overtired, broke, and still uncool.

On the more positive side of the nightlife in Astoria is that I have met and continue to meet some of the most interesting people I have encountered this far in life!  One of them, my new friend, Newell, gave me the idea for this post's subject (here is my shameful apology for having not maintained my blog since November - I should spend less time out and more time in doing productive, self-developmental things like blogging).  I have developed a simple methodology for meeting new friends - I go out with my housemate.  Julie talks to everyone and this provides great opportunity for me to overcome the awkwardness inherent in all engineers and magnified in myself.  I wait for a break in their conversation and then poke my head closer to Julie's which causes her to both remember that I exist and introduce me to her/our new friend(s).  The surprising part of our nocturnal endeavors is how friendly everyone is that we have met.  Regardless of where we go, we leave having met amazing people who we are surely going to meet up with again in the near future.  This has, for me, disproved the widely-held belief that New Yorkers are rude.  I would say that such a sentiment comes from travelers and tourists who spend short spurts of time in this beautiful city and see a few monuments and museums (full of rude tourists), ride the subways during peak travel hours (full of disgruntled, uncomfortable workers and hobos), and dine in fancy restaurants (undoubtedly feeling pretentious).  In fact, some of the nicest people I have encountered so far in life have been random run-ins or eye-catches or people that Julie has fallen onto (don't hate me for that one, Julie)! 

As is only appropriate for this post, it is 12:30AM and I have to get up for work at 6AM.  Looks like the score still stands:  New York - 1, Scott - 0.  And with that, I wish you goodnight!