Tuesday, December 30, 2008

hungry lions in heat

It’s been quite a break from school stuff, although it’s never far from my mind. Last week was the Arizona Dept. of Health state inspection of the new hospital, which we passed, although there was quite a bit of chaos behind the scenes. The hospital had only received its temporary certificate of occupancy the week prior, which meant that there were only about 4 days between the time when we could start moving people, equipment, etc. in and the state coming. Of course, there was more than a year’s worth of work that went into the opening, but from a purely physical perspective, it was amazing to see how much was accomplished in a mere 96 hours. Today we received our first patients- a grand total of 3- which was actually relatively anticlimactic. In fact, I felt kind of sorry for the poor patients, who probably got more attention than they wanted, given the current staff to patient ratio of 50:1.

The holidays were lovely and relaxing, as always. For some reason, home has a powerful soporific effect on me, and it’s wonderful to sink into a sugar-and-trash-tv stupor for a couple of days. I even made it back to Ohio without incident, which was a pleasant surprise was given that O’Hare is like the Venus flytrap of airports, waiting to suck you in upon landing and gobble you down. It was lovely to be back home in the frosty white cold. As much as it seems ludicrous to complain when it’s 60 and sunny all the time, there’s something unnatural about skipping winter. As much as I complain, and as miserable as it can be not seeing the sun for almost five months, it has always seemed like winter forces a certain kind of introspection that seems vital to the human spirit (not to mention increased productivity- what else are you supposed to do?). Without it, I just seem to kind of merrily bounce along without giving pause or second thought to just about anything.

What is wrong with these jolly Arizona folk? They’re just so uncannily….happy! Still, I do believe they’re missing something. Perhaps it’s the strength of spirit that develops when it’s still blizzarding in April or the desperate cynicism that evolves when, after years of nursery rhymes, you learn the cruel lesson that March comes in like a lion…and out like one too. A hungry lion in heat, in fact. Although interestingly enough, Phoenicians still manage to weave the weather into every conversation: “What? What’s that you say? It’s going to drop to 55 degrees tomorrow?! Cripes, I’ve got to run- I’ve gotta pick up some down jackets and space heaters, stat- this is (insert expletive) unbelievable!”

Oh how I miss my windy, frozen city!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

finals envy?!

I just finished my latest online class, but it doesn't feel that way. I'm watching all my friends who are in graduate, law, or medical school kick and scream as they enter into weeks-long hibernation periods as they scramble to prepare for their finals, and strangely I feel.....jealous. As stressful as it was, I miss the feeling of holing up for days and applying so much brain-power and energy that you feel as though your brain is scrambled, and emerging from that period exhausted yet somehow triumphant. I miss the sense of creativity of writing papers, and the adrenaline rush of exam-taking. Somehow, the long hours I put in at work don't give me the same rush. At the end of the day, I mostly feel....exhausted. I think this is in part because although work is challenging, it doesn't require the same scholastic intellectual horsepower, and implementing change in such a massive bureaucratic system often feels akin to a never-ending sprint on a QVC treadmill. Perhaps selfishly, I had hoped that my job would endow me with a sense of meaning—with that rush that arrives in knowing that you’ve really helped someone. Instead, I have to settle for a very abstract hope that my process models, control charts, and Pareto diagrams might someday make someone’s life a bit easier, if and when my recommendations are ever implemented.

Ironically, is that I never felt so stymied as an undergrad, even though all my effort was channeled merely towards completion of the academic endeavor, without any expectation of change. I’m hoping that since I’m applying to MPH programs that will allow me to explore my academic area of interest (socio-behavioral health sciences) and also emphasize the application of research, that I’ll get to fuel both of my passions-- learning simply for the joy of it, but actually helping people as well.

Starting in January, I'll be taking Biostatistics as well as doing my Six Sigma Black Belt at U of M online this upcoming semester, so I'll be swimming in stats, which won't be fun, but at least it will be challenging. While I've enjoyed both my work and my online public health leadership classes, I am looking forward to that triumphant moment--however fleeting--when an obstinate equation is finally solved and a problem set completed.

Even more so, I'm looking forward to getting back to school. To whining about finals but secretly loving them. This time around, I will treasure the learning….but hopefully, I’ll also be equipped with the tools to actually help someone as a result of those finals (instead of just the profit margin at the late night coffee shop where I buy my pre-exam espresso!)