Dreamreader. . . or Dreamwriter

I typically don’t spend much time analyzing my dreams. Usually, if I wake up remembering clearly the details of a dream, it means that I’ve slept well and my body has been working on making a dent in my sleep debt. I generally feel grateful and move on with the day. But over the past few months I’ve had a recurring dream that distresses me as it plays out and leaves me feeling unsettled the next morning.

In the dream, I’m back in college, enrolled in a full load of courses, one of which is an upper-level French seminar that is critical for my major. I suddenly realize that, while I’ve been keeping up with biology and my other classes, for this one I have not only neglected all of the reading but also forgotten that a major paper analyzing this reading is due in just a few days. (In progressive iterations of the dream, the due date moves closer and closer. Last night, I dreamed that it had already passed.) And of course the class is being taught by my favorite professor.

Perhaps this is just a personalized version of the classic today’s-the-final-exam-and-I-forgot-to-study nightmare. But I’m not so sure. I typically don’t have those dreams, and the fact that the oversight involves reading and writing strikes me as significant. In July I began my year as chief resident and had high hopes that the more relaxed schedule would allow me more time to devote to my literary interests. In truth, I have had the time but haven’t allocated it accordingly. Yes, there have been other demands on my attention – acclimating to my new role, launching a new component of our curriculum, preparing for the pediatrics board-certification exam, parenting a toddler – but there remain enough hours in each week to spend at least a few on the activities that really nourish my soul. I have been sensing a void in my life recently, and, despite having a wonderful family and adoring my job, feeling less than fulfilled. Perhaps my subconscious realized that it needed to send me a clearer message.

This time I heard it.

It’s time to write.

Tools for Survival

My poetry book, “Tools for Survival,” is available for pre-sale!! If you are thinking of buying a copy, please do it now because the number sold during this period will determine the actual press run. Thanks for your support!

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My first book of poetry!

I’m thrilled to announce that Finishing Line Press will be publishing a chapbook of my poetry entitled Tools for Survival in early 2015.  Prepublication sales will take place from November 25 – January 23.  Stay tuned for information as the date gets closer!

Tools for Survival cover.jpg


The Comfortable Conferencegoer

Recently I attended a national academic conference, and while I’ll admit that, having brought my husband and son along for the trip, the balance of time spent was skewed more toward pool and beach activities than academic sessions, I did indeed attend several and overall they were of good quality. One left me somewhat disappointed, though, because although it addressed what I would consider an important topic within my field, it didn’t really add much new to my knowledge. And while that sentiment might initially make me seem too self-assured, it actually got me thinking about what we gain from conferences and how we might be able to gain even more. 

As a resident, I am far from an expert in anything, including the topic of the conference session in question. But the topic is an area of great interest for me; I have read numerous articles about it and devoted elective time during medical school and residency to exploring it further. So, I gathered from the comments made during the session, had the majority of my fellow attendees. Many offered thoughtful input beginning with phrases such as, “In my experience,” and, “Whenever I face this issue.” It was clear that people were there because they were interested, but perhaps they stood to gain less that day because their interest had already spurred them to develop a knowledge base of their own. 

I began thinking, are they [we] really the ones who need to be at this particular session?  There were, more than likely, numerous other physicians out there who would benefit from either an introductory or refresher course on the topic, and they might not even have considered setting foot in that room. Similarly, there were many other topics about which I have much to learn, but whose sessions I had not chosen to attend. Most of the attendees at the meeting were probably clustering into conference rooms to listen to lectures and partake in discussions surrounding areas about which they already knew a fair amount, while bypassing others where the topics being treated felt more foreign, and from which, therefore, they had even more to gain. It would seem that in selecting how we spend our continuing education time, we might not be continuing our educations in the most meaningful and fruitful manner. 

Conferences are already somewhat self-selecting events. There is the obvious and logical level of self-selection: pediatricians attend conferences on pediatrics, oncologists, conferences on oncology, and so forth. But when it comes to which specific conferences under the umbrella of our specialty we choose to attend, and which particular sessions offered there, I would wager that the choices made have less to do with where our weaknesses lie and more with where our comfort does.  As a result, there is a large deficit between how much we stand to gain and how much we actually do.

During medical school we are indoctrinated that as physicians we must be life-long learners. Once we have completed our training, much of this learning is, by necessity, self-directed. But before we conclude our efforts simply by attending an academic conference and relaxing in the comfort of meeting up with old friends and colleagues and listening to lectures on our particular areas of interest, I challenge us all to take the additional step to explore a topic with which we feel less familiar – uncomfortable, even – and in doing so to expand the boundaries of our comfort and, most importantly, our medical knowledge.