hanna-erickson

Hanna Erickson, "Almost" MD/PhD

Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

http://www.mdphdtobe.com

7 Subtly Romantic (and Medical) Ways to Say “I Love You”

There’s a lot of cheesy chemistry and biology pick up lines and ways to say I love you. A couple of my favorites are “I wish I were DNA helicase so I could unzip your genes” and “You’re the sodium to my chloride.” But what about more complex areas of science? In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s some ways to say you care on a physiological level.   1. You make me have premature ventricular contractions. In premature ventricular contraction, the ventricles contract before they maximally fill with blood making circulation inefficient. So basically, it’s a way of saying “You make my heart skip a beat.”   2. I get tachycardia when I’m around you. Tachycardia is a fast heart rate, above 100 bpm. Therefore, you’re saying, “You make my heart race.” This comes from the brain signaling to the adrenal gland to secrete hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine that cause the heart to beat faster and stronger.   3. You raise my oxytocin levels.   Oxytocin is a hormone that is associated with love. Its levels have been shown to increase when we hug or kiss someone, even when we are simply around someone whom we love. It may have a role in orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviors, giving it the name the “bonding hormone.”   4. You increase blood flow to...

A Doctor’s Guide to 13 Awesome Gifts For Him On Valentine’s Day

As medical students, we live and breathe science and medicine. So when it comes to gift giving, what better way to show that special medical savvy person in your life how much you care than by appealing to their nerdy passion? To help you be anatomically correct and raise oxytocin levels to the max, here’s some gift ideas to get you started.   1. Anatomical heart screen-printed tie, Etsy, $30 2. Nerd XY cologne, Eau de Nerd, $31.41 3. Medical Caduceus Cufflinks, Etsy, $40 4. Anatomical Heart Coffee Mug, Etsy, $25 5. Oxytocin Coffee Mug, Etsy, $25 6. Plush Heart, I Heart Guts, $20   7. Plush Heart Cell, Giant Microbes, $12.95 8. Unisex Valentine’s Day Oxytocin T-Shirt, Etsy, $9.99 9. Cardiology III Stethoscope in Red, 3M Littmann, $153.61 Even if they already have a stethoscope, they can carry this red one around the hospital and think of you each time they use it. 10. Blood of Grapes wine, your local liquor store   11. Educated Guess wine, your local liquor store   12. Anatomical Heart Wine Glass, Etsy, $12 You can drink your Blood of Grapes or Educated Guess wine in this anatomical heart wine glass!   13. Erlenmeyer flask, Amazon, $8.13 If you insist on giving flowers, add some nerd to it by using an Erlenmeyer flask as a vase. As you can see in the photo of roses I...

Yea, We’re Doctors. But None of Us Are Immune to Drug Abuse

A few years ago, one of my classmates passed away, and suddenly, my news feed was flooded with mourning. People spoke of what a great person they were and their lovable personality. They reflected on their times playing sports together and the great memories they made at college parties. They spoke of how – at a young age – this person had a bright future that they unfortunately do not get to see. What people didn’t speak of is that this person, though having recently gone to rehab, died of a heroin overdose. Upon hearing this, I was flooded with questions. What if someone had done more to help them? What if they had made a more conscious decision to fight their addiction? Why did their abuse of drugs start? Why did their rehab not work? Why did their life have to end at such a young age? What if there was something I could have done when we were classmates to prevent their life from ending up this way? Alas, these questions have no easy answers and in retrospect have no use for my classmate. Recently, many of them came racing back to my mind upon hearing of the death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. After more than two decades sobriety with a relapse and rehab last spring, he was found dead with a hypodermic needle in...

Face It, US Healthcare Sucks. But There’s Still Hope

America is a pretty great country. You may even think it’s the best. But it’s not.   I know you’re thinking, “This girl is so unpatriotic,” but I’m not at fault. There’s no denying the statistics. If you look to where the well-being of our people lie, the healthcare system, you’ll see we are nowhere near the top (well, except for health care costs). Where We Stand A 2013 survey published by The Commonwealth Fund showed that in comparison to 10 other industrialized nations, the United States fared the worst in terms of health care cost, access, and affordability. For example, 37% of US adults did not get the care they needed because of cost while 4% and 6% of United Kingdom and Sweden citizens faced the same issue. Also, 41% of those in the US spent $1,000 or more out-of-pocket regardless of insurance status while only 2% and 3% respectively of Sweden and United Kingdom citizens had to pay similar costs. You can see these data for these countries and others displayed in the graphs below. While our healthcare system is making it difficult for us to get adequate care and costing us a bundle, we’re also overall less healthy. We’re the second most obese of well-populated countries with 31.8% obesity only falling short to Mexico with nearly a third of its citizens packing the extra pounds according...

7 Keys to a Successful All-Nighter

Sleep is a wonderful thing. As we rest our eyes at the end of each day, our levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that increases throughout the day making us feel tired, decrease. Our memory enhances. Hormones that correspond to both sleepiness and appetite decrease, helping curb our calorie consumption thus enhancing our ability to maintain a healthy weight. Our stress level decreases. Sleeping well makes us less likely to be depressed and more likely to live a longer life. But as a student, sleep is the enemy. Imagine all that we could learn, all that we could do if only we didn’t have to give up some of each day to sleep! And so, we fight our need to catch some Z’s, and if the need arises and we are determined, we can pull what is notoriously known as an all-nighter. All-nighters aren’t just something you do. It takes preparation and careful planning to survive one and be able to face the coming day. As someone who has pulled more all-nighters than any person ever should, I’d like to share with you my best tips to help you with yours. 1. Cut-out Comfortable Clothes You may be tempted to throw on some baggy sweatpants and a loose shirt for studying all night, but you would be wrong. Those clothes scream, “It’s time to sleep!” And far too often...

How I’ve Handled Life as an MD/PhD Candidate

As Voltaire said, “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position,” and the transition to medical school or grad school (or both!) often comes with much uncertainty. For many of us, we move away from home, leaving loved ones and everything that we’ve known. If you’re like me, you went to college close to home so the transition wasn’t too bad. So this is really the first time on your own and this is the first time you’ve felt such a massive shift in your life. At the same time that we move away and start our new adventure, our undergrad friends get real jobs and start to figure out their lives in our absence. While we struggled to get into school before they started their job search, now they are the ones trying to figure things out while we are set for the next 4+ years or 8+ years for MD/PhD students – I like to call it “putting off getting a real job.” As we go in different directions with our lives, it can be hard to handle. But this is not our first rodeo. The same thing happened when we began college as we left our high school friends behind. We made new awesome friends who perhaps shared a major, career interest, extracurricular interest (for me, most of my friends were made through the marching band), or love of alcohol and...

Every Career in Medicine Begins With a Story…Here’s Mine

In his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee says, “Medicine … begins with storytelling. Patients tell stories to describe illness; doctors tell stories to understand it. Science tells its own story to explain diseases.” It is stories that give meaning to what we do, and so, I wish to tell you my grandmother’s story. I could barely recognize my grandmother’s frail body as she lay on a hospital bed in the room that was once her dining room. She asked what the weather was like outside. Fighting back tears, I told her it was a nice sunny day and there were robins on the bird feeders that she liked to watch on her deck. It was comforting to see her face light up at the thought, but I knew it was really a gloomy April day with no birds in sight. I did everything that I could to not think of the tumor growing in her bladder that day, but like a tumor in my mind, the realization that this was her end was growing into an overwhelming force. Each time she exhaled, there would be a long pause where I would stroke her hand fearing she would never breathe again. Her sister told her what I did not have the strength to: “You are dying.” The family knew since her diagnosis that...

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