My Medical Background

As the only son of asian immigrant parents, my future career was etched in stone the moment I was born. They decreed that I would be a Medical Doctor. I was interested, because I wanted to buy a BMW630i. I saw one in a showroom, and it was beautiful. My dad said the magic words, "you know, only Doctors can afford to drive those!"

So, I went into massive overachiever mode. I got a two jobs at Marina Mercy Hospital, one as an X-Ray assistant, and then part time in the Emergency Room. I loved working in the E.R. - you never knew what was going to come in... could be a man "wearing" a long-necked beer bottle on his penis, or PCP overdose, where I witnessed superhuman feats of strength as police officers were thrown across the room like rag dolls. 

When I got to UCLA however, my first love was Physics. I absolutely ate it all up. Not only did I get all A's, I got a 100 on an electricity and magnetism midterm, where the average score was 27 (UCLA graded on a curve). And Quantum Physics was fascinating to me. I love math, I'm definitely a math guy, but Quantum Physics let my imagination run wild. See, Physics (Newtonian, E&M, Lenses and Optics, etc.) can all be measured, observed, and put into law. You can't really do that with Quantum Physics, because when you are dealing with the behavior of subatomic particles, you can't really observe, measure, or prove your theories. That's because the photon is around the same size as the molecular scale, and, as described by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, by the time the photon hits the particle, it changes its' direction and its' momentum. Therefore, we can't really observe a subatomic particle reacting to its surrounding forces, because by the time you can observe it, you moved it. That just blew my mind. 

That's when Physics hits the right-brain playground. Your guess is as good as anyone's, so you could talk shop with a Nobel Laureate and not be out-gunned, because it's all about imagination. 

Being that I was headed to medical school, I got a job at the UCLA Medical School Pathology department as an assistant medical photographer. UCLA Med had a scanning electron microscope, so I was absolutely mesmerized by the images I was seeing. I immediately petitioned, and successfully enrolled in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at the UCLA Medical School. Radiology, Physics and Photography were merging for me, and I loved tending to all of these experiences and studies.

During my two years at UCLA, two of my friends committed suicide. One jumped off of the observation deck at Buenche Hall (on my way to class, the area was taped off as a crime scene, and the body outline was marked in chalk). The other suicide was my best friend from High School. After getting a C- in his Psych 10 midterm, he concluded that he would never be admitted to Medical School, so he brought a sawed-off shotgun in a burlap bag, walked out to the lawn in front of Kerchoff Hall, and literally blew his head off.

That was it for me. I needed to get out of UCLA. I applied to, and was accepted to the University Of California, Santa Barbara Pharmacology program.

It was a very competitive program, as they only accepted 13 students for the class of 1983. It is a very expensive program, we had state-of-the-art ultra centrifuges, Olympus microscopes, SDS Gel electrophoresis equipment, and best of all - Dr. Jacobs - a highly decorated MD/PhD as the head of the program. Best of all, it was right on the central coast of California - you could literally hear the waves crash as you stroll the campus. It had an amazing track record - 100% of all graduates were placed in accredited U.S. Medical Schools and graduate programs since the inception of the program a decade earlier.

I was a difficult student to have in the program. When we were learning about the class of drugs known as vasodilators for high blood pressure, Dr. Jacobs explained that the way to reduce blood pressure on would be to have a class of drugs that actually makes the arteries, veins and capillaries increase in diameter, so that the effect on the blood pressure cuff would be a lower reading. I asked, "so it's like, if your bicycle tire has too much air pressure, you make the tire larger so that the pressure goes down?" Correct assumption, said Dr. Jacobs. "But then, the wouldn't the heart have to work just as hard to push the blood volume around with a larger diameter vessel? Also, wouldn't increasing the diameter of the arteries loosen plaque, breaking chunks into the bloodstream, and increase the risk of stroke or heart attack? (Which is the case). He was irritated by my question, and didn't give a satisfactory answer.

When we learned about SSRI's as antidepressants, we were taught that the way they work is to slow the re-uptake of seratonin at the junction of two nerve cells. This conclusion, I was told, was because researchers found that people with higher levels of serotonin in the synapse (the bridge between two neuron cells) tended to be happier. So - the idea is, let's block the reuptake of serotonin by decreasing the permeability at the synaptic cleft, and voila! Serotonin can't enter, and therefore more pools up! My question was, "but if you do that, don't you dull nerve transmission throughout the brain? Wouldn't that make people feel like zombies?" (mind you, SSRI's were a new class of drug at the time, thus our discussion). He was irritated at that, and did not give any type of satisfactory answer. It turns out I was right, Prozac's most troubling side effect is muted mental acuity.

The more we learned about drug engineering, the more I realized that synthesizing chemicals that interfere with the body's natural processes were literally fighting synthetic toxicity with ... synthetic toxicity. We mostly learned about side effects. The last straw was when we read an FDA approved study attempting to show the Saccharine was biologically inert in humans, as the doses given to laboratory mice were the equivalent of ingesting a pound of synthetic sweetener per day. That's a circular argument, and it does not prove that saccharine was "biologically inert". Eventually, of course, it was taken off the market for its carcinogenic hazards.

So, I decided to become a photographer. At graduation, I accepted the diploma with Hasselblad camera in hand, to take a photo of the crowd. Though all of my friends went on to become MD's, I went on a different path with different rewards. But I always kept medicine as a hobby, combing through medical journals and staying in touch with my many M.D. friends. I'm more well versed in many areas of medicine than my practicing friends, as they are clinicians, who spend most of their day in patient care, and not keeping up to date on developments in medicine. With no time to look deeper into many controversial subjects, they get their information from who? The drug representatives. And that's where the problem is. The medical doctor becomes a merchant of pharmaceutical products - a representative of Pharma. And the information that they have to work with from the FDA is very fast-tracked, biased, and downright dangerous.

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