Monday, June 23, 2014

My First Ferrari

After working over a decade since graduating from medical school, countless sleepless nights, shortening my life trying to to save that of others, after saving for years, I could finally afford one. 
I finally went ahead and bought  it.
Yes, I bought my Ferrari.
It's for real. It's the original from Scuderia Ferrari.
After all, maybe I sound entitled, but I think I deserve this.
I deserve a Ferrari.
Though red would have been classic, I picked black.
Yes. I finally got my Ferrari.
My Ferrari T-shirt.
(What, you thought I was talking about a car??? I'm an endocrinologist, not a plastic surgeon!)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Endocrine Society Meeting

It has been a few years since I attended the Endo Society meeting, arguably the largest endo meeting (if you don't include the ADA) in North America. And unlike the AACE meetings, this has a major basic (versus clinical) track, so you get to hear about research from the leading basic/laboratory scientists.
Also, it was nice to meet up with my fellow alumni, and for a change we did not have to fret over presenting our abstracts/posters and could just relax and enjoy the meeting and the camaraderie.
Admittedly, it did make me feel aged when, in reminiscing, we realized that we began our careers in endocrinology in 2005, and graduated 6 years ago.
We were initially planning to make this a family trip, though in the end decided to spare the girls the trip to Chicago (we have another road trip coming up) and so I came alone, which made things a bit simpler. Having said that, this would be my VERY first trip without the wife and the 2 girls- so I'll admit I missed them terribly even as I was leaving home this morning at the ungodly hour of 4AM. Even now in my cosy hotel room, it seems too quiet.
Anyhow I'm not going to complain about my relative freedom, of not having to worry about 2 screaming kids, or a wife telling me to go to bed and not watch TV :P
And it will be a nice change not thinking about patients or work, but just to keep my mind open and learn about the exciting new discoveries in my specialty. The areas I'm particularly keen to find out more about are the new closed-loop continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion systems (aka 'bionic pancreas') for type 1 DM, and the new gene expression classifiers in the evaluation of thyroid nodules.
Needless to say, the food scene is always good here in Chicago!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sometimes, this job gets a bit thankless. After all, we work long hours, deal with crazy bureaucracy (having to deal with prior authorizations, insurance companies, auditors etc), to have little tangible benefit especially when many patients don't want to be there. It's easy to forget why we go into medicine. To heal; if not the body at least the spirit.
And so sometimes it's fun and a bit refreshing to do something different.
This week, Mr. N, one of my patients with metastatic thyroid cancer, ended up in the hospital for complications following a surgery. And though he is diabetic, he was craving a chocolate milkshake from McDonalds. I got blessings from his surgical team, and dropped off a milkshake and some car magazines for him (though it might seem hypocritical when your endocrinologist brings you a dessert!).
Also, Mr. J, whose wife has been struggling through complications of chemo in the last few months, was finally able to organize a trip for the two of them to the beach. He shared at his last office visit with me: "This was going to be our last trip together. I don't think she'll hang on much longer". It's heart-wrenching to see a 68 year old man cry, a reflection of the deep love they have between then. And so I was delighted to hear that they were able to make this trip- that she was feeling well enough. I was able to track down which hotel they were going to be staying at, and organized a dinner for them, on me (my compliments to Snapper Sea Grill at St. Pete's beach, whose team was so accomodating with my many phone calls). I had wanted to organize a limo ride from the airport, but found out they rented a car.
He said he has never had a physician do this for him. I'm not sure if he understood my response when I told him that this job has become too numbing, but that it was these little joys that bring so much pleasure to me, and makes this job feel human again. I thanked him for letting me indulge in this fun activity.
I imagine I'll see him in a month for follow up- I look forward to seeing pictures from his trip.
But truly, once in a while I think we need to do something fun for our patients, to remind us of the joys of being so involved in their lives.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Being a dad myself now, you see things in a whole new light. Things previously unfathomable to you suddenly become norm.
You're constantly on the lookout for things that could hurt your child.
When you see a cute cartoon character, you think "Ohh my kids would like that..."
You're always keeping tabs on your finances, asking if you're saving enough for their education.
You ask, "If something happens to me tomorrow, have we prepared enough so that their needs are looked after".
You think about wills, life insurance and all that morbid stuff.
You also suddenly realize that it's possible to be so mad at someone so little that you want to jump off the cliff, but yet at the same time love them so much that you can't bear the thought of your little ones one day leaving home.
It gives me a new understanding of what a huge role a father plays, and how thankful I am to have such a wonderful father figure. You also humbly realize that your achievements in life thus far, have less to do with what you have done, and more to do with the lessons your parents have given you.
So to all the dads out there, especially mine: Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2014

An example of why bigger is not better and only makes life impossibly complicated. Work has been 'growing' (and not necessarily in a good way) with clinics being bought out and merged with the health system. More and more committees, work groups, admins, VP are being added by the week. Things are getting outsourced, even IT (apparently to Indian). And so it's no longer a warm, familiar environment- some days it feels like you're a part of some bureaucratic institution.
And so, it brings me to my frustration at work today; recently work access to a news website was blocked because it apparently violates policy. What policies it doesn't make clear since news websites are allowable, even social media (which I think should be blocked). So it was probably some error on someone's part.
Now, when I log on to the Malaysian news, the page is blocked: "Request for review can be obtained if this occurred in error".
This necessitated 1 phone call (woo hoo, I got to talk to someone in India for free), two emails and now I'm being asked to fill in a form to submit to some committee. 

Somehow, all this trouble just doesn't seem worth it.
I'll just read the news on my iPhone, thank you very much. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014


I never saw myself as a particularly handy person. After all, unlike my brothers, I never changed my car's oil myself, or knew a lot about electrical systems. Heck, until I left Malaysia, I probably could fry an egg without screwing up. However, being in the USA where labor costs are so high (at least for a kiamsiap person like me. Fixing the bicycle brakes cost more than our cheapo bike itself!), and being a homeowner (if you are in this group, you know that it's a never ending project) tend to change things.
And so, I was thinking the other day about the DIY projects I have undertaken myself over the years:
  • Putting in a storm door (for you Malaysians- it's that glass door immediately outside of your main door)
  • Changing the wall switch for the lights
  • Mounting two LCD TVs on the wall. Thankfully the 47-inch one hasn't yet collapsed. I'm still not sure I mounted it right
  • Putting up 3 ceiling fans. And I'm most proud of the fact that I did this solo with no help as Kris was out of town that week. Now, try climbing a 9-foot ladder while trying to balance a 20-lb fan, and then trying to mount that sucker on the supports! And that was the first time I directly messed around with the electrical systems. I was half fearing I was going to fry myself
  • Painting
  • Painting
  • Staining the damn deck
  • Putting privacy laminates on the windows. This one ended in disaster. For a year, our windows had horrible air bubbles; our neighbors kept asking if a bird had flown into it and cracked it
  • Installing bidets into our three full bathrooms. One of my best pleasures at home, in a world when these ang mohs don't wash their butts- being able to clean myself!
  • Installing a blower into our fireplace
  • Putting in a pet-containment system aka invisible fence. Lasted 2 years until the lawn guy cut the wires by accident
  • Putting in a new toilet. Our old wasn't flushing, and the ceramic on the porcelain bowl was coming off (I guess our pee was too toxic?). And so we both one from Costco, a 90-lbs sucker that almost broke our backs carrying it upstairs. We ended up making 3 trips because the first two were broken. After a lot of Cantonese and Hokkien swear words and 3 hours later, we had a new, working, water-conserving dual-flush toilet. And yes, I refitted the bidet onto it.

Maybe I should think about quitting my dayjob someday if things don't work out. Not that I'm all that much handier, but I think I'd be proud of myself. And in large part thanks to Youtube, and Amazon. You'd be surprised of the videos you find online.