Thursday, March 28, 2013

The visitation

March 18th – March 24th

Since I am writing this a bit late, Some of the details are a little bit fuzzy. That Monday, I came back from NYC! I had to get up super early in the morning again.  My friend and I got back around 12:30, bad some Fuddruckers, and then went our separate ways.

Tuesday was back to work! Well, after meeting with Congressman Jim Bridenstine. That was quite the experience! He was a fun guy to talk to. He was in a military subcommittee meeting, and had to be pulled out. When we went to where the meeting was, protesters were being detained! It was pretty sweet! But the main focus of our discussion were the negative aspects of ObamaCare. For starters, people cannot as personalized insurance plans; they will be what the government wants them to be. A good example is how a 90 year old lady will have to pay for contraceptives since they will be covered on her insurance plan. Also, It will be cheaper to pay the fee for not having insurance than paying the premiums themselves! A lot of companies wont insure their employees anymore because it will be more expensive than paying the fee. Some people will just get insurance when they get sick and then drop it once they are better and just keep paying the fee. It has been a few days since we talked about it, so I am a bit hazy on the details though. Don’t quote me on any of that. Haha Also, I believe it was that day that I met with Dr. Hull, one of the neuropsychologists at the VAMC. We just talked about what she does and her path to there. She works in the War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISC). It is pretty self explanatory as to what they study there. She conducts neuropsychological evaluations and interviews, and does research. She was very insightful about how graduate school works.  She told me about how I should do some research while still in my undergraduate, because that will help me get into graduate programs. Also, she told me about the matching process for getting a doctoral internship. I won’t go into the details, but it boils down to that you don’t pick the exact site, and the sites don’t pick the exact interns; an algorithm matches the site to the intern. She also informed me that for picking a doctorate program, I should look at the mentors in that program, see what research they do and if I would like it, and then see if they are taking students. She was very helpful about the whole graduate school process!

That Wednesday was a blur in the morning! I was just excited for my parents to get here. I left work early and picked them up around 2:30! After that, we trekked back to Silver Spring, got them checked in, ate at my favorite local restaurant, My Big Greek Café, and then just hung out and talked. It was so nice to see them! They are the fun type of parents that are fun to hang out with.

On Thursday, we went to Union Station and had crepes for breakfast, walked to the Capitol Building, went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, had lunch, went to the top of the Old Post Office Pavilion, hit up the Smithsonian American History Museum, and ended with the National Gallery. The National Gallery was possibly my favorite place that day. I got to see the only Da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere. I have seen a few of his other works at both the British National Gallery and the Louvre. On top of that, I say some lovely Impressionist paintings. I got to see some works by Cezanne, Monet, and Van Gogh. Van Gogh is probably my favorite Impressionist painter, especially when it comes to landscape works. I am not so big on his still-lifes or portraits. My favorite of his works there was “Olive Orchard.” Again, I have already seen several works by these works at the British National gallery and the Louvre. For Monet, I saw his famous Water Lilies at L’Orangerie in Paris. I think those are my favorite works by Monet. Anyways, this blog is not about my favorite pieces of art, so I shall go on.

Friday was the Caleb Demarais Death March. In the morning, I took my parents to the VAMC to meet my boss and coworker, Diane and Lauryn, as well as other people at the VA. They got to sit in on the SAVE training I coordinated. After Diane gave them a tour, we went to Arlington National Cemetery, which began the March. We walked from the guest center to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was a surreal experience. After that, we walked back. Then we walked to Georgetown, ate at a nice Italian place. From there, we walked to Foggy bottom, hopped on the Metro and got off at Federal Triangle. After that, we went from there to the George Washington Monument, passing the White House on the way, went to the Lincoln Memorial, walked to the MLK Memorial, walked around the tidal basin to the Jefferson Memorial, and ended at the Smithsonian Metro stop. That night, we went to Columbia Heights and walked to the Adams Morgan area to go the Bossa, my favorite club here. We got home around 1:30! We walked over 10 miles that day!

Saturday was not a death march day. Lol We slept in, got some food, hit up the Natural History Smithsonian, and split up so dad could go the Holocaust Museum and mom could go the National Gallery again. We didn’t have nearly enough time to see it all last time, so both her and I wanted to go back! That evening, we got some good food and just relaxed.

On Sunday, we went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for Palm Sunday! It was quite the enriching experience! That afternoon, I dropped them off and did nothing. I was sad to see them leave. As much as I hate to say it, I am a somewhat ready to go home. I have explored DC, seen the monuments, been to the museums, explored the nightlife, and had many great experiences! But it is weird not doing stuff like that without my family and friends from home. The saying “ you never really notice something until it’s gone” (or something like that) is true. I have an amazing family and group of friends! It is going to be weird going off to grad school after next year and having to find a new group of friends. But I already went on a rant about that in a previous blog. Once it warms up more, I will go and explore more parts of DC! I know the rest of my time here will just fly by. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New York, New York

March 11th to March 18th

Monday was awesome!!! My program went to the FAA headquarters to meet with the department that regulates and licenses privatized space flight! IT was so cool. I met some aerospace engineers and what not. No big deal. A lot of people think that NASA regulates American space travel, but that is not entirely true. The Air Force regulates military space stuff, NASA deals with civic space stuff like the International Space Station and experiments, and the FAA regulates privatized space travel. A lot of people give Obama flack for retiring the shuttle and say that he is limiting America’s future; I used to be one of those! In all actuality, what Obama did was push more for the private sector to take the lead. The government uses private companies now to ship stuff to the ISS and will eventually use them to send people. One of the things the FAA does is inspect launch sites and the space vehicles, including a spaceport in Oklahoma! That night, I also went to a comedy night at a local restaurant. It was pretty funny!

Tuesday was pretty interesting. Lauryn and I went on a trip with one of the veterans at the Community Living Center (CLC), which is pretty much just a nursing home. The guy had some brain trauma and had some problems with words, but he still functioned really well. We had to get him some ink for his printer. He is a phenomenal artist! He started using computer programs, hence the need for ink. Lol He was a super smart dude! It was really cool.

On Wednesday, it was just Lauryn and I manning the ship while Diane was out of the office. I was kinda nervous about it at first, but it was actually pretty easy. I made a flow chart for the Code Blue cart that we had worked on (see previous blogs), met with a neuropsychologist to talk about career options, paths, and possible shadowing opportunities, sat it on some meetings, worked on the Healthcare Equality Index stuff(again, see previous posts), and then called it quits. The veteran who we went to get some printer ink with the day before swung by and brought us some food to try that he made! He is a cool dude. Since the new Pope was elected, I walked down to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception! Diane recommended it. That place was amazing! There were reporters everywhere and it was super busy. I have been to a few cathedrals and basilicas in my day, and I have to say, that one is pretty high ranking! It was so ornate and decorated! You could tell that it was built a lot more recent then many of the ones I have been to. It just looked a lot newer and modern. There weren’t any flying buttresses or Gothic architectural features. That evening, I went to Union Station, got two fantastic crepes (I was starving, don’t judge), and then headed off to an event. I had the privilege of attending the opening ceremony for the building for a Student Veterans Association at George Washington University! It was pretty cool. I got to take a picture with General Casey, he was the Army Chief of Staff between 2007-2011 I believe. He has done a lot of other stuff too! It was an honor to meet him.

Thursday was spent ushering around the film crew again! They had to film my boss, Diane, and a little bit of the narrative medicine group meeting. I got so engulfed with it that I completely forgot my meeting with a staff psychologist! I felt so bad! What a crappy first impression. I sent an email that morning making sure he was on for that afternoon… I felt like a complete idiot. After apologizing profusely, I asked him if he would mind rescheduling; he agreed to reschedule! Friday was an interesting day. My boss, along with the programmers who were developing the app, presented the Mt Capitol VA mobile application to the director and the rest of the quadrad. That was an interesting experience. The app’s landing screen called it something along the lines of “The VA Healthcare Network,” which was not what he wanted. He really wanted it to say My Capitol VA. The application was being made for the DC VAMC first, and then it was going to be used as a template for the other VAMC’s. The generic landing screen was just so it could be used easier later on for the other locations. The director thought that we had developed an app for the whole VA and not just the DC VAMC, so he was not so happy since it was using DC VAMC money. Eventually, things got straightened out and he realized that it was being developed for the DC VAMC and then to be used as a template for the other VAMC’s. The DC VAMC is the center of innovation, so we do that a lot. The DC VAMC pioneered doctors using tablets for charting as well as using telecommuting for talking to doctors and getting a consult.

The weekend was the highlight of my week! I got up at the crack of 4:45, got ready, met my friend from Virginia, and then hopped on a Metro bus to Chinatown, where we boarded another bus to NEW YORK CITY!!!!!! A lot of friends from the RSU Honors Program were on a Study at Large trip to The Big Apple for spring break, so my friend and I decided to go visit them! It was a blast! I really missed those people, and it was great to see them again. My best friend Tommy was on the trip too, which was probably the best part! We arrived at Penn Station around noon, met up with the group, went to Time Square, ate some great food, went to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, went to Central Park, went back to their apartment and dropped off our bags, explored Brooklyn, ate at a pub, and then just hung out the rest of the night. It was snowing for a large part of the day, which made the parade and Central Park really beautiful! I got some great pictures. On Sunday, we went to the Natural History Museum and Planetarium, walked around some more, ate at a nice French Restaurant, and then hung out some more. I honestly think I was more excited about seeing my friends more then I was about seeing NYC! Two days was not enough to fully see NYC, obviously, so I knew I would have to make a trip back there in the future. But it was really fun to hang out, play cards, watch some movies, and explore with my peeps. It was fun hanging out with Dr. Ford and Dr. Gray, the Honors Director and his wife, who is also a professor at RSU. They were the ones chaperoning the trip! Got some good life lessons from the two of them! Haha All in all, the trip was amazing, the week was busy, and I am ready to kick the next week in the butt!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sentimental and stuff

March 4th – March 10th

Well Monday was rather uneventful. I wasted a bit of money today on the Metro… more so than I really should have. Lol I had a meeting with my program advisor at 10:30, so I was going to just stay at the Residential and Academic Facility (RAF) until the seminar started at 1. Unfortunately, I forgot that the seminar’s dress code was business professional; I was just wearing jeans and a polo. Needless to say, I went back to Solaire and changed into a suit! The seminar didn’t seem to apply to what I plan on going into at all, so I thought it was boring. It was just about some White House Fellowship thing. That evening was rather relaxing. I worked out, ate, read, did some shopping, and watched a movie. When I was trolling about on Facebook, I came across a post from a friend. She posted a song from my band, Brother Rabbit (which all of you should go check out). I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. I got caught up in the memories of my favorite gigs, fun jam sessions, and recording. I really miss playing with them. The sad thing, however, is that even when I go back and start playing with them again, it won’t be the same. Ryon (lead guitar/vocals) and Joel (Lead guitar as well) both moved away. I will still have Gabe and Susie, but it won’t be the old band since two key members are gone. I hear the replacements are great, so I am excited about getting to jam with them! The whole feeling of reminiscing a past life made me think of all the different stages of life I have been through. I have had so many phases of life characterized by certain events and people; its fun, and sad at the same time, to just think back at my journey of life so far. I have had so many friends who have come and gone. I have gone on so many trips. I have had so many life experiences. I have been so fortunate to live the life that I have lived, met the people I have met, and done the things that I have done. If I had skipped anyone or any experience, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. After that, I got thinking about my life to come. I am mostly done with my junior year. It is so crazy to think that around two and a half years ago I was just beginning my college career; time seems to go buy so much quicker the older you get. Soon, I will be off to graduate school, and then a career after that.  It is so weird to think that soon I will not see the same people I have seen almost everyday for two and a half years in a row. Sadly enough, most of them will just float on into my past like those who did from high school and elementary school before. I feel like this whole trip to D.C. is a training session of what is to come. Here, I do not see my best friends everyday of the week. I cannot just go chill at home with my family and play with the dogs. I am temporarily cut off from all of them for three months, well I guess just two months now. I feel like I will be able to handle my long-term separation from those I love after I graduate.

The rest of the week was really uneventful. My weeks are running together. The only thing that I really remember doing is helping a resident of the Community Living Center (CLC), which is essentially a nursing home, print off some of his artwork. The printer in his room ran out of ink, so we had to find him another way to print it. We got it figured out, and we also found out a way for him to get more ink for his printer! The CLC residents can leave the CLC with a responsible adult, so Lauryn and I talked to the powers at be to take him out on an excursion. That will be next Tuesday. The only other thing I really remember was making a spreadsheet of the grad school programs for Industrial Organizational Psychology that I am interested in on Friday. Lauryn went home for the weekend, and it was a slow day, so I did that most of the day; Diane let me go home early too, which was nice!

That weekend, I went a friend’s house out near Vienna, Virginia, and explored that area. We finished season 1 of Modern Family, which is hilarious, played video games, went to some thrift shops, saw Oz, and drove around George Mason University, which is one of the grad schools I am interested in. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Narrative Medicine, Jazz, and Shuttle Buses

Feb 25th – March 3rd

This week has been quite the action-packed week, or so it seems looking back. On Monday, my program, Science, Technology, and Society, went to the US Green Building Council. We took a tour of the place, which was freaking awesome, learned about their green building rating system, and then learned how they are involved on campuses. For starters, the two floors of the building they are in was freaking awesome. It had a platinum rating on being environmental friendly (of course), and was very modern. For one, they had a break room with a Wii and PS3. I have never seen an office building that had a kitchen that modern and green. They even had showers there since they promote people to ride bikes and walk to work! The rating system was fairly straightforward. They have different scales for the types of building, age of building, etc. There school involvement was pretty cool! They had student organizations and promoted building green schools. Apparently, it really is not that much more to build an environmentally friendly house as opposed to the regular, earth killing, polar bear displacing houses the rest of America makes. Haha If that really is true, I will build green if I ever build a house.

Work on Tuesday was a bit hectic. We got the VA’s Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Patients (SHEP) scores as well as the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) scores from November (because they are 3 months delayed), so we had to put it on the powerpoint for the Director’s morning report the following day. We were originally going to put them side by side with the TruthPoint inpatient and outpatient surveys to see if TruthPoint was a good indicator of what SHEP and PCMH scores showed since TruthPoint comes out monthly, but that did not work out. Diane had us interns work on that while she did other things, and we were confused on what to do. She couldn’t really show us what exactly to do, though, because she was busy doing more important things. We eventually just scrapped the whole comparison thing; TruthPoint wasn’t a very good indicator of what was going on with SHEP and PCMH.

Wednesday was a lot easier. The main thing Lauryn, the other intern, and I did that is worth putting in this blog is that we ran an errand to get a Equal Healthcare Index. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell, the LGBT community will steadily grow at the VAMC. Obviously it was not a huge presence before since people could not be openly gay in the military, but the times have changed! Because of that, the office of Patient-Centered Care and Equal Employment Opportunity office are working together to develop policies and procedures on how to handle certain situations with the LGBT community. For instance, if Olga is in the process of transition from a man to a woman and considers herself to be a women while still having the male genitalia, does she room with a male or a female? What if a male patient does not want to room with a gay man? These are the type of things that we will address with the new policies. Once they are written, then the staff will be trained on how to handle those situations!

Thursday was a really good day. The highlight of my day was getting to sit in on a narrative medicine meeting; I believe I talked about narrative medicine in a previous blog. Essentially, narrative medicine is when the doctor takes more time to listen to the patient’s story and possibly write it down; the doctor might keep a journal of his or her thoughts on the patients and situations. This helps the doctor to really get to know their patient, get a better-rounded story to diagnose, and gain empathy towards the patient and situation. Dr. Kheirbek (I probably just butcher the spelling of her name), who is the assistant chief of staff, is the person spearheading this new way of practicing medicine. The meeting was about doctors sharing their different stories and struggles throughout the week. They started by watching a YouTube clip from a movie where a doctor tells a professor that she has stage 4 ovarian cancer, and that there is a treatment she can do which could also be used as research; the doctor was so blunt and matter of fact. The professor seemed fine with it at first. Later, after her treatment, when she was close to dying, she wished that someone would just be kind to her and show her compassion. After that, they read a poem from a book of poems solely based on the medical field. The book is called On Doctoring. They all took turns reading a poem (I know, sounds like a middle school classroom) about a man who is given the news that he is going to die. We discussed that for a while and then reflected on a time when we, or they I should say, had a difficult encounter with a patient. Some of the doctors told some very surreal, sad stories. A lot of them were so surprised at how macabre and blunt they could be at times. Some of them talked about how they just bluntly told patients “you don’t get it, you’re going to die” when they aren’t accepting it or something; they were mortified with themselves. It seemed almost like a group therapy or debriefing session. One of the doctors there was a psychiatrist, so she shed some light on how some of those people need the blunt response; that made some doctors feel better. I felt so fortunate to be able to be apart of that meeting.

Friday was fairly easy as well. The only two things I really did was coordinate a SAVE training session, which is a training program for suicide recognition and prevention. That should be very interesting. The other thing I did was start looking into shadowing a psychologist. The VAMC has around 27 psychologists, so I have a good selection to choose from! I emailed a neuropsychologist and asked him if I could shadow him. That would be epic! The highlight of Friday, however, was going to Blues Alley. Mike Stern, one of my favorite jazz guitar players, and Dave Weckl, one of the best drummers of all times, were there; it was amazing. I had to go alone since no one here really likes that type of music, but it was totally worth it! I made some new friends while there, so it was fine. I had to take the Metro to a stop and then walk 1.5 miles to Blues Alley, which was in Georgetown. I made that trek in a full suit, overcoat, winter attire, and dress shoes; I think it is fair to call myself a jazz enthusiast.

The weekend was pretty mellow. I met up with a friend and went to the Smithsonian zoo, Hot and Juicy Crawfish, and then a movie. The zoo was awesome! Like every other Smithsonian facility, it was extremely well done. They have two pandas!!!! I think my favorite thing may have been the Think Tank, which is a facility where they do research on the great apes; a lot of the research is cognitive. The Cajun place was awesome! We split a huge platter, which was actually served in a bag, that had a pound of crawfish, a pound of shrimp, 12 sausage, 2 cobs of corn, and 2 potatoes. My hands still smell like the garlic butter sauce. It was so messy, but it was amazing. On Sunday, I just chilled around the apartment, finished the book Ender’s Game, got caught up on Community, and watched some other stuff. I didn’t go out and about because the red line was shut down for maintenance between Takoma and Noma, which is like 4 or 5 stops. They have a free shuttle system, but it adds around 45 minutes to the commute. Overall, it was a good week!