Sorry, everyone for the blogging blackout – I suffered from post first-year fatigue syndrome and had to let the swelling in my brain go down… And of course I had to soak up my LAST SUMMER EVER. But my new (lofty) goal is to post something every single week, so you all get a sense of what med school life is all about – plus some of my personal rants, of course. So watch out for my posts EVERY Monday! – AND CHECK MY TWITTER/INSTAGRAM! —–>>>
Q: Ryan, I heard you wanted to soak up your last summer ever. What did you do for your last summer break ever?
A: Well, I suppose I could have gone on a cruise, or hiked the Appalachian Trail, or visited Iceland? I really should have gone on a road trip, or backpacked Europe, or at least gone to Dollywood 🙂 …. but instead I stayed at school and researched lipid metabolism. But it was actually pretty cool! And sometimes is was even fun!
Here are some pictures of the lab I was working in this summer at DCOM:
This summer I took advantage of a medical student research fellowship offered by LMU-DCOM. I worked on a research project with Dr. Paul Wood, PhD – a specialist in the field of metabolomics. Studying the subtle changes in lipid levels is actually a subset of metabolomics called lipidomics. We are using sophisticated devices to measure over 600 lipids in a single blood sample, all in about 5 minutes (not including cell culture, extraction, and data crunching). It is a really exciting field and an exciting project to be learning more about. However, my favorite part of doing research this summer was learning from Dr. Wood about how to be a good scientist and an efficient researcher.
Research is important. That being said, those of you who have had the chance to do research knows that it’s hard, slow, tedious, and lonely. If you are inclined to working on complex problems doing (often) complex tasks requiring dexterity and precision in (often) veritable solitude, then research is for you. If you are like me and you are interested in the idea of research and solving complex problems, being driven by a challenge, working on a noble endeavor, but are not so interested in doing it in silent solitude then you may be more interested in clinical research.
I had the opportunity to experience both simultaneously during the two years I worked as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University. We had a large lab consisting entirely of laboratory scientists (mostly biochemists) working on elucidating the mysteries of peripheral nerve diseases. However, our lab was directed by a physician scientist (MD PhD) who had a love for science and discovery and found fascination in everything he studied both in the lab and in the clinic. He was (is) a great mentor and allowed me to coordinate his clinical research studies at Vanderbilt. This was actually the first experience I had with a patient one-on-one. Clinical research seemed like the perfect balance of science and medicine without losing human interaction.
I hope as some of you pursue medicine you consider incorporating research into your careers. It is time consuming and challenging, but I view it as the duty of a physician – one of the only people in the world who has access to both the fund of knowledge necessary to study diseases as well as the patients who actually have those diseases. Physicians are in a unique position whereby they are able to notice trends, patterns, or anomalies in a disease presentation or progression that deserve to be explored more in depth. However, if the physician who notices these things in the clinic never follows through with forming a hypothesis and testing it, then a potential advance in the treatment of that disease is lost. In other words, a laboratory scientist who studies a particular form or cancer may never actually even see a patient with that cancer and is therefore at a disadvantage in understanding all the nuances of that disease. Physicians should participate in research.
On another note, don’t waste your last summer ever. I happen to enjoy research and would have been terribly bored lying on my couch all day watching Hulu. However, if your dream summer is laying by the pool then you better lay by the pool all summer because there are no more breaks from here on out.
Yay for science.