Friday, May 29, 2009

new url

Switched to a new url:

Not sure if that matters or not, but I'll throw it out there!

good-bye, mando!

Today my lil sister packs up her bags and begins her days-long journey to Seattle, Washington, where she will begin law school at Seattle University this summer. I'm proud of her, for graduating at the top of her class from DePaul University, and for taking the leap to embark on such a big adventure.

Perhaps most of all, though, I am scared for her. Scared because she's about to spend 4 days in a Uhaul with this guy:

(Nels, Mandy)

That's our dad, who apparently thinks he is Madonna and is also attempting to rock a new fashion trend by stringing more than one pair of specs around his neck (his record is three). He may be goofy, but the man's a saint. Between Mandy and I, he and my mom will have moved us over 15 times in the past 5 years, crossing the entire country thriceover in the process. The two of them are packing up and taking off this afternoon and taking 90 west until they reach Mandy's new city, and her new life as a law student.

I have no doubt that my sister will be tremendously successful in law school. Her energy, passion and intelligence will make her a formidable lawyer, and I feel sorry for any sorry schmuck who has to come up against her in court!I hope her years in law school are filled with adventures and long as she doesn't learn how to out-argue me!

It's been really wonderful having Mandy so close to me in Chicago the last four years, and I feel like our relationship has finally evolved from the love-hate immaturity of high school to the deep friendship it was truly meant to be. Sadly, our combined moves means the distance between us will jump from 1 mile to 2,928 miles, but I am sure we will remain as close as ever!

Good luck, Mando. I'll miss you, but I can't wait to hear all about your new adventure!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

newsflash: giving presents to people influences them

Today, the New York Times released an article showing that medical students' preference for a certain drug was influenced when they received even small promotional gifts displaying the name of said drug:

What I find more interesting than the study itself is why this comes as a surprise to anyone. We already know that giving meals and gifts to doctors makes them more likely to prescribe medications. Otherwise, the pharmaeceutical companies, who surely have done their research, wouldn't waste so much time or money producing logo-ridden pens, mugs, and clipboards. I think part of the reason why this issue is still so debated is because physicians think that, with their extensive training, presumable intelligence, and stringenet moral code, can rise above the influence marketing. Yet, according to Gerald Zaltman, Harvard Business School professor, 95% of cognition occurs in the subconscious mind. In fact, according to Zaltman, "(Studies) often reveal that what consumers actually believe or think, as measured by unconscious physical reactions, contradicts what they say when asked directly."

So of course docs are influenced--without knowing it--by the seemingly harmless "flare" pushed in their faces. Even the highest level of education can't, unfortunately, trump the subconscious. If it didn't work, Big Pharma wouldn't do it.

So if doctors are prescribing more expensive drugs for any other reason than efficacy, even unconsciously, might this drive up costs? Massachussetts law makers seemed to think so when they banned all gifts from pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to curb healthcare spending:

What I'm really curious to learn is whether or not this shift in legislation actually changed physician prescribing behavior. Did prescribing patterns change? Did cost decrease? Are people better or worse off for it?

I know I'm not a physician, but if anyone is looking to give me a gift anyway, here's something on my wishlist:

Ok, Ok, I know it's a shameless plug, but I'm turning 24 in a month and I need something to ease the pain!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

take me down to paradise city

Also known as Port Clinton, Ohio. Skeptical?

View from my parent's lakeside condo:

Ok, I'll fess up. I didn't take this photo, but it is Lake Erie, the most beautiful place on earth (through my rose-colored lenses, anyway) and the place where I am gladdest (is that a word? dunno but it's how I feel).

I am heading home tomorrow to spend my holiday weekend there. It's my last weekend with my baby sis before she moves to Seattle to law school, so we better make it good!

rockin out

This is what I feel like today:

Work and life have been kind of stressful the last few days: got in a minor fender bender over lunch hour the other day when I was rushing to get to the pond to read my book in the sun. The man I bumped was the ideal person to run into, however- he just kept saying, "No worries, it's just plastic and metal." If only everyone could be that easy-going! But of course, my cell phone broke and my rearview mirror fell off on the commute home last night, so it's been a one-two (and three) punch.

Not to mention, I'm currently working on a project at work that is stirring up a political s*storm. It's fascinating from an objective point of view: business administrators attempting to drive physician behavior change. Not an easy task. Honestly, I doubt it will be effective. Everyone's heart is in the right place, but that doesn't make this less messy. Physicians learn best from other physicians, and although marketing is attempting to construct a facade that shows otherwise, it is my unsettling suspicion that all this effort will be for nought when the docs perceive this educational effort as an attept by marketing to increase patient acquisition. Hopefully my pessimism is unfounded, but who knows!

I'm trying to be patient, though. Like all businesses, be they hospitals, universities, or othewrise, this is a flawed organization, made up of flawed individuals. After two years, I do believe that everyone is trying to do their best by the patients. In spite of financial and business constraints (and honestly, a smidge of avarice for some) most people deeply care about patients and each other. I have to remember that when it feels like everything is crashing down around me. It may not be the pretty picture I once envisioned it, but after you wipe away the grime, the beauty of the effort still shines through.

And so, the rock-out picture. This is what I do on my way to and from work every day: my battle cry of sorts. I cruise in after my commute, sun streaming through the open window, crank up the jams, and play a little air guitar. It makes me feel more alive- and so much more me- before I enter the storm.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

to my coworkers: may i ask a favor

to my kind coworkers:

after a few years of knowing you, i feel like we've achieved a certain level of intimacy: long past the formal email salutations, we've shared countless birthday cakes, the occasional eye-roll during long-winded meetings, and awkward hellos in bathrooms and hallways. i've learned far too much about your elective cosmetic surgeries, reproductive cycles, and digestive tracts, and you've probably grown tired of my incessant spilling, indie itunes mixes, and caustic quips. by now, i feel comfortable with you--too comfortable, in fact. and so i'd like to ask just a couple of favors. Just minor things, really:

- i know my cube is right outside the bathroom. i know your desk is 20 long yards away. but really, must you use my desk as a holding spot for your laptop/lunch/cell phone while you use the restroom? truly, I don't mind. just as, I assume, you don't mind when I help myself to a bite of your Portobello Mushroom Linguine or to a quick international call on your mobile. yes, it really is unfortunate your wife stumbled across those adult websites while rifling through your internet history, but hey

- bathroom etiquette: i can hear you. smell you. see you. please close the bathroom door. and while you're at it, when you come out of the bathroom with a toothbrush perpetually behind your ear I start to wonder if there's something more going on in the men's room than simple dental hygiene.

- it's wrong to lie. it's even more wrong to force your coworkers to lie when you shove your smelly, wrinkly baby in their faces and insist they tell you how cute "she" is. guess what? she's not.

- the freezer. It’s packed with lean cuisines. the conundrum: if your cuisine is so lean, why aren’t you? Let’s face the facts: you bypass your Frozen Chicken Parts on Pasta each day in favor of the irresistible panera/portillos/name-your-poison-fast-food-joint a mile down the road. Stop fooling yourself! Leave the Lean to me (and the freezer space, too).

thanks in advance...your consideration is so appreciated.

(End note)

Anyways, it’s a beautiful day here, so I used my lunch hour to read “A History of Love,” by Nicole Krauss by the pond near the office. The book (not chick lit like it sounds, but beautifully written, poignant prose) and the company (baby geese) were wonderful, and it was so refreshing to see and feel spring for a change. Hopefully that continues tonight at the White Sox game- here's to beating the traffic from the far north to the south side of the city in time for the first inning!

Monday, May 18, 2009

return from the figurative dead

Well, I've taken quite a hiatus from this blog, which is unfortunate, considering it is supposed to be about my grad school process and most of my activity on that front has occurred in the last month. For me, it got to be an overwhelming balance of thinking/talking about the decision all the time (and probably driving everyone, including myself, insane) and not being comfortable with sharing the details of such a personal choice with the anonymous viewership. (Partially because of my acute sensitivity of anyone from work reading or misinterpreting this blog). In any case, here's a quick rundown:

- It was a tough choice. At the end of the day, I was deciding between Brown, who has an amazingly fluid, multi-disciplinary degree but whose program seemed very inchoate in terms of the overall picture; Columbia, which is a public health powerhouse (but I was afraid it was a bit of an MPH-mill...not to mention the hefty pricetag), and Yale, who had the right balance of class size, research opportunity, and faculty interests that I was looking for. Plus, I really liked their approach of tackling social/behavioral health issues through the lens of epidemiology, something that the other programs just didn't have. So, off to Yale it is.

- I will be studying chronic disease epidemiology and social/behavioral sciences. Basically what that means is that I will be learning about and researching the confluence of behavioral, societal/cultural, organizational, and physicological factors on health. For anyone who knows my academic interests, this is a dream come true: a real combination of my passion for healthcare and my profound curiousity about what makes people act (and interact) the way they do. Why public health? Not only because of its interdisciplinary nature, as I just noted, but because more so than other disciplines (in my humble opinion), public health research is dynamic, relevent to the real world in real time (swine flu, anyone?), and the results can and are translated into programs that actually help people...not just bound in leather and stuffed into a remote library corner. Not to say other disciplines don't do these things as well, of course, it's just that for me, public health has just the right mix of pedagogy and practice).

Anyway, I'm sure I'm being overly idealistic about this, as I am with everything, and I'm trying to temper my excitement to avoid the inevitable bubble-bursting, but let's face it: I. am. pumped!

So the nature of this blog will be changing a bit. I want to blog about grad school, still, since that is and will become even more so a bigger part of my life, but I don't want to the focus to revolve around that...I'ts tiresome to constantly think about it on this blog when it consumes so much of my waking time otherwise! Instead, I'm going to aim for a combo of relevant health-related news, off-the-cuff thoughts about work, and the process of transitioning from the full-time workplace into the land of horn-rimmed glasses and over-used library cards....and walks of shame (more to come!)

This is a hasitly-scribbled, pretty boring post to start off my foray back into the blogging world, but I hope to be back with more and better material in the near future!