imaz-athar

Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.

6 Books for Future Doctors to Read, Part 2

Medical students and aspiring health professionals may already read their fair share of literature, but check out these books for future doctors. Click here to check out Part 1! “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” by Sam Quinones The opioid epidemic is perhaps our greatest public health crisis. To put this in perspective, overdoses claim more lives in the U.S. annually than car accidents. As a doctor, you’ll very likely see patients who are struggling with addiction. In “Dreamland,” Sam Quinones humanizes these patients by depicting how powerful opioids lay claim on our nervous systems. Quinones also delves deep into the forces that have driven the epidemic, including pharmaceutical companies’ heavy reliance on barebones research to support the widespread usage of pain meds. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi Paul Kalanithi was an accomplished neurosurgery resident, well on his way to becoming a prominent surgeon-researcher. But, his life plans completely changed when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. In “When Breath Becomes Air,” Kalanithi examines the meaning of life when on the brink of death. Although Kalanithi passed away in 2015, his memory lives on with his beautifully written, insightful memoir. “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery” by Henry Marsh In “Do No Harm,” Henry Marsh talks about his life as a neurosurgeon. Aspiring doctors will learn a ton from...

4 Medicine & Science Podcasts to Check Out

Radiolab Radiolab is the holy grail of science podcasts. It’s consistently ranked in the top five on iTunes, and for good reason. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the two-time Peabody Award-winner uses sound effects and music to bring great science reporting to life. Often, Abumrad and Krulwich will invite a guest to talk about the issues and raise questions that you probably hadn’t thought to ask. If you’re interested in listening, check out these two episodes: “Update: CRISPR” and “Radiolab Extra: Henrietta Lacks.” The Show About Science The Show About Science is hosted by a six-year-old—yes, you read that right. Nate Butkus started the show when he was five years old, and he’s serious about science. In each episode, Nate invites a guest to talk about their research. For example, MIT’s Kevin Esvelt recently came on the show to talk about gene editing. The great thing about Nate’s podcast is that guests often explain things as if they were talking to a six year old (which they actually are), and this makes science much easier to understand for listeners. Nate already has the quite the following after 28 episodes—check him out on Ellen: Hidden Brain NPR’s Hidden Brain is one of my favorite podcasts. Host Shankar Vedantam uses a blend of science and storytelling to uncover how our unconscious drives our behavior. Vedantam focuses on large-scope issues such as the...

How to Find The Best Medical School For You

With so many factors to consider when applying to medical school, it’s difficult to figure out what school is truly the best fit for you. I didn’t fully realize what I was looking for in my best fit medical school until I started interviewing. Sure, any medical school’s website will give you lots of important details, but after actually seeing the school in person and talking to students about the program, the real differences between schools begin to crystallize. So, for everyone out there who’s applying to med school, I’m going to try to make your selection process easier. Based on my experiences interviewing and interacting with med schools, here are 4 factors to consider when figuring out what med school’s the best fit for you: MD vs. DO There are two types of medical schools: MD (allopathic) and DO (osteopathic). Choosing between MD and DO will likely be the first step in your med school selection process. While both schools teach the same basic curricula, DO schools also teach osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). MD also schools tend to require higher GPA and MCAT scores from applicants than DO schools. MD schools may also offer additional research opportunities for their students. Despite these differences between schools, remember that one isn’t necessarily more or less than the other. Whether you attend an MD or DO school, you’ll still come out...

PODCAST: How Do We Treat Psychiatric Disorders?

From the days of Freud, psychotherapy had been a dominant form of treating psychiatric disorders. But more recently, psychotherapy use has declined in favor of medications. In fact, according to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving only psychotherapy fell from 15.9 percent to 10.5 percent from 1998 to 2007, while the number of patients receiving only medication rose from 44.1 percent to 57.4 percent. Now, there are a number of reasons behind this shift. On the one hand, many in the science community look down to psychotherapy as an unstandardized mode of treatment. Meanwhile, to these critics, medications have proven to be safe and efficacious after numerous clinical trials. These criticisms seem sound, but is a decline in psychotherapy use for the better? Does the use of medication alone ignore the social and cultural components unique to psychiatric disorders? In the first episode of The Void Podcast, I talk to psychiatrist Dr. Loren Sobel to answer these questions. Dr. Sobel practices psychodynamic therapy—a form of psychotherapy that seeks to uncover the psychological roots of patient’s mental illness. In addition to discussing the effects of the shift from psychotherapy to medication, Dr. Sobel and I speak at-length about the causes—including the scientific community’s greater dependence a biological model of disease. Have a...

Do Fidget Spinners Actually Work?

Fidget spinners have become one of the best-selling toys in the nation, sweeping elementary and middle schools, while demanding attention of concerned parents and teachers. The ubiquitous toy—which consists of a small blades that spin around a core—has been banned in many classrooms because they’re viewed as a distraction. But, it turns out fidget spinners are intended to have the opposite effect. The toys are actually meant to relieve lack of focus and restlessness common in individuals with ADHD, anxiety, and autism. Fidget spinners are among a long line of fidget toys—such as stress balls and ballpoint pens—that help limit distraction and improve performance. The utility of fidgeting can be explained using the famous Yerkes-Dodson law of arousal. According to the law, an individual requires a certain level of arousal, or stimulation, to achieve optimal performance. Based on the Yerkes-Dodson law, the spinning blades of a fidget spinner draws the eyes of its user and may provide the individual with an optimal level of arousal—which then helps lead to peak performance on a given task. So, imagine someone’s working on an assignment but, with all the loud noises, their classroom environment is too uncomfortable. There’s too many distractions, or stimuli, which prevent the student from performing well on their assignment. This person might use the a fidget spinner as a way to limit the distractions and reach a level...

How To Study for the MCAT

Studying for the MCAT is daunting, but it’s something that nearly everyone who aspires to go to medical school has to do. The act of studying itself is grueling but, for me, figuring out where to start was another hurdle to overcome. What books should I use? How much time each day should I dedicate to studying? What practice questions should I use? I’m here to help you answer these questions. Because, once you figure out how you should study for the MCAT, everything else becomes pretty straightforward. Books: There are tons of companies out there that provide great material. When I studied for the MCAT in 2015, I primarily used Kaplan. At the time, I found them to be the most comprehensive and the easiest to read. The Princeton Review (PR) books, for instance, were also great for certain subjects (particularly biology), but the series lacked a lot of the necessary biochemistry material that Kaplan had an abundance of. While studying, I followed the study guide provided by AAMC. After studying an item on the list, I checked it off. I did this for every item on the list, which made the whole process of studying much easier. The good thing about the Kaplan books is that a lot of their sections and headings match up very well with the headings in the study guide. Ultimately, it could...

Are Older Doctors Worse Than Younger Ones?

If you’re a patient, would you trust older doctors, or younger ones? Perhaps you’d pick an older one because you think they’re more seasoned and knowledgeable. Or, maybe you’d choose a younger one because you think they’re more up to date with modern treatments. Deciding between doctors can be tricky, but a recent BMJ study has elucidated a key difference in performance between younger and older doctors. The study—led by Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School—took a random sample of Medicare data for more than 700,000 hospital admissions from 2011 to 2014, and found that doctors age 50 and above have higher patient mortality rates than doctors under age 50. The results are summarized in the table below: Doctor age range Patient mortality rate 40 and under 10.8% 40-49 11.1% 50-59 11.3% 60 and above 12.1% The differences are small, but they’re meaningful. The study controlled for a number of factors, including the possibility that the sickest patients were assigned to older physicians on any given day. Jena suggests that older doctors have worse outcomes because they’re less up to date with the newest medical technologies. “There’s a fear that as doctors get further away from residency, they might be out of touch with new technologies and treatments,” Jena told STAT news. Studies support Jena’s claim—a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that over half of...

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