Posle USMLE-a: pozivi

Programi su pre nešto više od dve nedelje počeli da skidaju prijave sa ERAS-a. Ako vas je neko već pozvao, čestitam! Ako nije1, još nije vreme za brigu—većina programa pozivnice šalje u talasima, svake dve-tri nedelje, sve do kraja oktobra-sredine novembra.

Ako vam ni do tada ne stigne ništa, evo šta sigurno ne treba raditi—spemovati jadne direktore i njihove koordinatore generičkim molbama za intervju. U najboljem slučaju će ignorisati vaš mejl, u najgorem će vas skinuti sa spiska potencijalnih kandidata jer ne umete da pratite molbu sa sajta da ih ne kontaktirate za takve stvari.

Šta onda? Dve stvari: ako znate nekoga ko može garantovati za vas, zamolite ih da proslede vaše podatke koordinatoru ili direktoru koje poznaju2; i ako ste već u Americi, pošaljite mejl okolnim programima da ste dostupni u kratkom roku, za slučaj da neki kandidat otkaže razgovor dan-dva pre. Za tako nešto je dobro biti u mestima sa visokom koncentracijom programa koji primaju strance (čitaj: Istočna obala, Čikago). Naravno, prijavite se na te programa preko ERAS-a pre slanja mejla.

Ako ste završili sve stepove ali još niste dobili ECFMG sertifikat, slobodno se prijavite—programi to obično gledaju tek kad dođe vreme za rangiranje. Ako već morate da se prijavite bez svih stepova, Step 2 CK je najmanje bitan. CS je i dalje najlakši za prolaz, ali je njegovo padanje najveća crvena zastava koju nečija aplikacija može imati, tako da se stranci bez položenog CS-a obično ne pozivaju.

Sledeća bitna stavka su pisma preporuke. Nema svrhe plaćati prijavu za program koji na sajtu traži četiri pisma, a vi to četvrto još čekate. Srećom, većina je OK i sa tri, dok se poslednje može dodati naknadno. MSPE (“dekanovo pismo”) i transkript su neophodni, ali za strane kandidate nebitni pošto sistemi ocenjivanja nisu uporedivi. Na žalost, to je još jedna stavka za koju morati čekati na šalterima, hodnicima fakulteta, itd.


  1. Ili ako još niste poslali prijavu, u kom slučaju, šta kog đavola čekate‽ 

  2. Upozorenje: morate biti sigurni da su u dobrim odnosima. Postoje ljudi čija bi preporuka bila garancija za brisanje sa liste. 

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It’s well-known that most common knowledge is false

Did you hear the one about not prescribing angiotensin receptor blockers to patients with ACE inhibitor-induced angioedema? I’ve had heated debates with residents in my old clinic who did not want to even consider ARBs for a patient with worsening diabetic nephropathy who’s had lip swelling while on an ACE-I ten years ago.

Or the one about not giving these patients amlodipine, since there are two—yes, two—case reports on amlodipine-associated angioedema? Should we also stop giving them water?

Then there are shellfish allergies and iodine contrast, fever and atelectasis, morbid obesity and hypothyroidism… No matter how many studies show these associations to be too weak to be clinicaly significant, or just plain false, there will always be an attending somewhere giving them as his or her pearl of the day.

We need some medical mythbusting for physicians, not just the lay public.

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How to spend a Monday morning train ride

The GTD weekly review does a good of job keeping my task list managable, but not all tasks and projects are equal. It’s good to have a sense of when you might have time for deep thinking versus mindless task processing—-something GTD doesn’t trully account for. I had been doing a variant of weekly planning since high school, until internship destroyed any hope of having a daily, let alone weekly plan. It’s time to start again.

And if you are not following Cal Newport’s blog already, you should. The man is a machine.

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No, there’s nothing wrong with your attention span

After skimming through the fifth long-form article about the increase in bite-sized consumable writing made for the short-attention-span—-dare I say “millennial”—-crowd, I became scared for my own tenacity. Would the 15-year-old me, the one who had read the LotR cover to cover, be horrified by this balding humunculus with twice the age and—-if you’d believe the articles—-half the attention span?

No, he would not. I can write that with confidence of a man who has just burned through the first two Dark Tower books exclusively while riding the subway. Get in at Union Station, actually sit down to read at Gallery Place, blink and I’m done with a chapter or two and arriving at Bethesda.

Stephen King is a hell of a writer, you see, and most of what you can find online—-this blog post included—-is derivative crap at worst, well-written nonsense at best. My brain jumping from text to text was its way of saying Dude, why are you punishing me with this drivel? Just get us a good book. So I did, and the percieved length of my metro commute has decreased by two orders of magnitude. Which is a convoluted way of saying that time flies when you’re having fun1.

But if you’ve never read a book in your life and are now devouring Buzzfeed like a horsefly in a manure factory—-sorry, there is no help. It is you.

  1. See above re: quality of online writing. 

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Which opioids are safe in kidney and liver failure?

Many times during residency I looked for a table like this online. There weren’t any, so I decided to create one.

Ye’r welcome.

Source: Induru RR, et al. Managing Cancer Pain: Frequently Asked Questions. Cleveland Clinic Journal Of Medicine. 2011;78(7).

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What I learned and unlearned on bone marrow transplants

The average heme/onc fellowship program doesn’t have many “tough” rotations. The one that is universally feared is the erroneously named Bone marrow transplant service2. After spending six weeks on such rotation fresh out of (Chief) residency, I think I can understand—-though not agree with—-the reasons why.

It is not easy. The patients are either already, or about to become, extraordinarily sick, with little outward signs or symptoms to show it. Having cancer while not having an immune system is not a good combination, even if it is temporary. The ones who are months or years out from a successful transplant and still need to be hospitalized are usually miserable from longstanding severe graft versus host disease1. It makes for a tough bunch of humans to deal with day-to-day.

Then again, being on transplant service in an academic center can be the apex of your inpatient career. Months of residency spent on acute care floors and in intensive care units should have given you all the skills you need to do well. These are, in no particular order:

  • Clarifying ambiguity: The rounds are over, attendings and consultants have dispersed, and you have just heard more facts about T-cell activation than you realized existed. But—-do you know if that febrile-but-not-neutropenic patient should get an antibiotic? What’s that other patient’s target Tacro level? Send CSF for flow, or just give intrathecal Methotrexate? If those aren’t clear, you should have asked more questions, and not of the “Which cells have IL-6 receptors?” kind.
  • Identify attending priority: This is often the biggest cause of ambiguity. Between the floor attending, the study PI, staff ID consultant, and various other consulting services, whose advice do you heed? Not always the same person’s, and not even in the same order. Not much you can do, except be aware of it, and not follow everyone’s advice as soon as you hear it.
  • Asserting your autonomy: With all this asking and following, you may rightly ask if you were anything more than a glorified intern. In the field of hematology, oncology, and infections that affect this population, you most certainly are—-you are, after all, still in training. Not so for most other matters of internal medicine. Blood pressures, fingerstick, TSH levels—-if you are comfortable managing them, let the team know.
  • Being there early: An important trait often forgotten by senior IM residents. Just getting there an hour earlier than anyone else to get the work done makes you look like a superstar. One hour in the early morning save three in the late afternoon.
  • Dictating right away: Like, pronto. The answer to “How many pending dictations do you have” should always be “Zero”. It’s easier for you, and is just good patient care. No excuses.
  • Writing everything down: This is How to be an intern 101, but being at least two years removed from internship can make you stupid. Carry the patient list and a good pen with you at all times. Yes, that includes the restroom.

Nothing here is particular to transplants—-it is just good inpatient medicine. Which may be why so many oncology fellows loathe it—-it is, after all, an outpatient specialty. Then again, stem cell transplants are one of the few therapies we have that can cure cancer.

  1. Which is not to say that everyone who had a stem cell transplant is miserable—-a mistaken belief many oncology fellows have after the rotation, and a clear example of selection bias. 

  2. Most stem cells used for transplants are now harvested from the peripheral blood, not the bone marrow. 

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What is the evidence for that?

This has become the mantra of every medical student, intern, and resident wanting to appear smart on rounds and conferences, of every attending intent on shooting down a team member’s suggestion. Five, ten years ago it might have have signaled genuine interest. Now it means, usually, “I don’t know anything about the subject, but I’m still calling you out on (what I think is) your BS. Here, look at me! I am evidence-based!”

No, nobody has posed me that question in quite a while, and I don’t remember ever asking it in any context1. But, honestly, except for a few very well-known examples listed in this excellent post, you can find “evidence” in the medical literature to back up any claim. Off-the-cuff conversations during lectures and rounds are not the best place to dissect them, especially when one side has seniority.

  1. Although I understand asking questions means showing interest, I’ve always preferred looking things up myself. This would make me appear either very smart or very dumb, depending on whatever subcontious impression I made on the person in the first few minutes of us meeting. Try to use the halo effect to your advantage. 

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Moj prvi dan na poslu

Između spremanja Stepova i iscrpljujućih unutrašnjih monologa o smislu USMLE-a, univerzuma, i svega ostalog, različite tehnike vizualizacije konačnog ishoda mogu vam pomoći da savladavate unutrašnji otpor prema uspehu.

Vizualizujte ovo: veliki metalni čekić koji vam ritmički razbija lobanju u komadiće—-frontalna kost na jednu stranu, zigomatična na drugu, gle, delići sive materije lete ka plafonu; sumo rvač koji vitla tim čekićem dok vam sedi na leđima koristi svoju drugu, slobodnu ruku da vas golica ispod pazuha, dok na raskrvavljeno uvo šapuće stihove Bodlera—-na latinskom; kolega čiji je čekić stoji pored vas i preti da će vas tužiti ako mu odmah—-Odmah!—-ne vratite isti; a vama se piški.

Dakle, moj prvi dan.

Hteo sam da dođem bar jedan sat pre početka smene, ali sam se izgubio, lutao bolnicom, i jedva stigao na vreme. Poneo sam mantil, ali ne i stetoskop. Čekalo me je devetoro pacijenata koje je trebalo da upoznam, pregledam, dokumentujem, itd. za nepunih sat i po. Bili su raštrkani na tri zgrade i četiri sprata, skoro svi na kontaktnoj izolaciji1.

Od tih devetoro, najduži boravak imala je pacijentkinja sa već trideset i nešto dana bolničkog staža. Za dodatnih dvadeset koliko sam je ja pratio, završila je na dijalizi, dobila manji infarkt, dva stenta, masivni šlog, i napustila bolnicu sa balom na bradi i cevčicom u stomaku. Diktiranje njene otpusne liste trajalo je dva sata.

Desetog pacijenta primio sam istog dana oko četiri popodne. Bio je mršav, žut, sa transplantiranom jetrom koja otkazuje i ženom koja radi u bolnici. Skoro dve nedelje ležao je u sobi 6012—-da, još uvek pamtim broj—-da bi sâm kraj života proveo u hospisu. Ovo tada nisam znao: ako ste u bolnici, dve stvari koje vam nikako ne trebaju su loša jetra i rodbinske veze. Još nešto što nisam znao: šta je kog đavola hospis?

Dan koji je počeo u 5:30 ujutru završio se nešto posle 11 uveče. Do odlaska kući počeo sam da mrzim: pejdžere, kontaktnu izolaciju, kompjuterski sistem, papirnu dokumentaciju. Zavoleo sam: …

Ništa. Prvog, a ni sledećeg, ni onog posle. Doručak je bio u 5 ujutru, večera u 10, ručak sam preskakao. Vikend je bio dan za pranje veša, kupovinu hrane, i spavanje. Srećom, samo prvih par nedelja.

U jednom trenutku—negde oko 4. jula, kada se zbog praznika smanjio broj pacijenata—shvatio sam da imam vremena za kafu pre vizite2, pa i za podnevna predavanja uz—-besplatan!—-ručak. Počeo sam da pronalazim prečice između spratova, naučio da nikada ne treba koristiti lift. Na trogodišnjoj specijalizaciji, dve-tri nedelje za upoznavanje sistema i nije tako mnogo. Ne bi bilo ni dva-tri meseca.

Zato, ne dozvolite da vas spremanje USMLE-a previše potrese. Najgore tek sledi.

  1. U vreme kad sam ja bio student—-ne znam da li je tako i sada—-neki hirurzi su zaboravljali da operu ruke i navuku sterilne rukavice pre postavljanja centralne linije. Gel-odora-rukavice pre ulaska u svaku sobu bio je kulturološki šok sa jedne strane, gubljenje dragocenih sekundi sa druge. 

  2. Vizita = “rounds”, možda, valjda. I da, “imati vremena za kafu” znači 5 minuta za kupovinu kafe za poneti, ne pola sata-sat za divanjenje uz cigarete. 

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Farewell, Squarespace.

Starting tomorrow, miljko.org will no longer be on Squarespace. Instead, it will be a Pelican-generated static site hosted free of charge on GitHub Pages.

Squarespace is an excellent service, for those who don’t have the knowledge, time, or ambition to muck around with self-hosted websites, but have enough readers to justify the $8/month subscription. My long commute gives me more time to play with Python, git, vim, etc, and the $96 renewal charge was due this month. It was an easy decision to make.

Having most of my posts saved as markdown files payed off, as it is currently impossible to get a clean conversion of old Squarespace articles to Pelican. Some links will be dead, some images temporarily unavailable, and the three of you reading this via RSS will need to resubscribe.

That is all.

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