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Monthly Archives: August 2010

An elderly black lady approached my cash register one day. Caught in my routine of “customer service”, I robotically processed the transaction. Then my manager walked past me and commented on my customer’s tshirt.

“I like your Michael Jackson tshirt.”

My ears perked, my eyes removed their focus from her purchases, and my mind went sharp. It wasn’t a tshirt I would buy, but it made me very happy to see someone wearing a Michael Jackson tshirt. My manager and customer exchanged comments about the tshirt and Michael’s passing (and his recent death anniversary), and it broke my heart when the old lady said she “got all sad again” when the 25th rolled around. I didn’t say anything the entire time, and my mind was all over the place. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and scream “I LOVE MICHAEL JACKSON TOO! WE BOTH LOVE HIM. CAN I GIVE YOU A HUG?!” But, of course, I didn’t.

My roomate likes to surprise people — or me, at least. On my 20th birthday, he told me had a wonderful gift for me. He had it wrapped and it sat in our dorm room for about a week before I could open it. I’m not too fond of birthday gifts, so I really gave no bother to what it was. Honestly, I was more interested in hoping that my sister would show up with a copy of This Is It on Bluray. But, of course, that didn’t happen.

Then I was allowed to open the gift, and it was a wonderful gift — possibly the most wonderful gift a friend has ever given me. It was a framed copy of Thriller in vinyl. The record was his mother’s, and my roomie found it while cleaning out his family’s attic. I was shocked that his mother was willing to give it to me. I was even more shocked that I had it. I had it, the record that sent Michael into orbit (not that Off The Wall didn’t, but nothing will ever match Thriller). It was like history and power behind glass, and it was mine to gaze at forever. I told my roomie how fantastic I thought the gift was. I’m horrible at conveying my emotions, and I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed how grateful I am for the vinyl. It’s a material possession I will treasure forever.

These are two examples where I’ve encountered Michael Jackson in the real world. For as large as a celebrity as Michael is, I’ve had very minimal interaction with his fans in real life. In fact, I only have maybe two or three friends who are legitimate Michael Jackson fans. I treasure those encounters because they love Michael Jackson, and I do too. I love to share my love for Michael. To see him embraced by my customer, an elderly black woman, and my roomate’s mother, a younger white woman, was very precious. It reminded me that Michael’s influence and art spanned across race and class. His art and life broke social barriers. He didn’t accomplish these social feats alone, but he certainly expedited them. I wouldn’t liken him to Dr. Martin Luther King, but it would be remiss to remember Michael Jackson only for his music.

The first black artist to be prominently featured on the dominantly white MTV was a loud shout to an America emerging from racial strife: I AM YOUNG AND BLACK AND I CAN BE THE FACE OF MAINSTREAM AMERICA.

Michael, along with many other important social activists and artists, paved the way for me, an Asian American, to be in America today. I’m eternally grateful for these giants.

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Though I never did intend this blog to be primarily focused on my track toward a medical degree (I do, however, have a category of posts dedicated to the subject, but it is rarely updated), I figured it would be nice, firstly, for me to see what I’ve done so far and how much I have to go, and, secondly, for my readers to see as well.

I am entering my junior year of university and I have finished all of my pre-med prerequisites save for biology lab. I took calculus my first summer at a community college, and, note-to-self, I have yet to ask them to transfer the credits to my university. I plan to take biology lab in the fall of my senior year, and will finish off my major in theology these last four semesters. I would love to take up a second major in anthropology or sociology or a minor in film, but I believe I would be too late in starting on either major, and the classes that my university offer in film do not entirely entice me. Right now, my senior year will be very laid back, and I hope that I do not regret that; it’s a pleasure to do as you please, but it’s a bind to waste away playing Modern Warfare.

I have somewhat abruptly stopped volunteering at the hospital that I have been helping out at for the last year. It is mundane and clerical work, so I naturally have digressed. I have been intent on calling a free Christian clinic in the Milwaukee area to inquire about a volunteer post there. I would love to be in the company of a Christian doctor (even more, a bonafide Christian biologist!), and to experience medicine through that lens. I continue to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and each of my Littles from the past two years has left the school that I am posted at. This is a sad testament to the schools and parents in inner cities. Both of my Littles were premium children: Very well-behaved, and very courteous. If all of the “good” children keep leaving these inner city schools, of course the “bad” children will take over. Following that, the “good” teachers will go to where all the “good” children are. My experience with BBBS has allowed me a peek into the social constructs of inner city America. I’m certain that experience will be invaluable in the future.

I continue to be a part of the university orchestra, and I see no reason why I will ever put my cello down. She’s been with me since the 5th grade, and she’ll be with me until the joints in my arm and fingers tire. At that point, I’ll lovingly hand her down to a grandchild and share with him or her the legacy of my cello and of cellos and cellists that have passed. My cello, Rory, will outlive me, and I think that’s the beautiful thing about classical stringed instruments. They appreciate in value over time. My affection for the cello is also the origin of my affection for art. A great part of my pursuit of a medical degree is based on my perception of medicine as an art. I think I am an artist applying to be a doctor because I am definitely not a scientist applying to be one.

I have only shadowed my primary care physician once — and he is the only doctor I’ve shadowed. He expressed an interest in having me back, but for whatever reason I never contacted him this past summer. I plan to contact him again so I can more fully experience the workings of a PCP in a clinic. I’ve also been able to network to contact other physicians through friends. There is an oncologist and surgeon — both Christians — that I would love to shadow. I must sound neurotic or obsessive for wanting to shadow a Christian doctor, but you must understand: I have never been in the company of a Christian scientist (to my knowledge) since I’ve attended university. I think non-Christian biologists are the most frightening.

I am scheduled to take the MCAT in early September. My plan was to study the entire summer, but that did not happen; it is very different to study during the summer than it is during school. I’m hoping to finish up my biology review before the weekend, and then devoting the interim until the test to chemistry and organic chemistry. I will not review physics because it will be futile. I did not understand it in lecture, and I surely won’t understand it on my own; I hope that I can make up for my physics deficiency with my performance in chemistry. I hope I don’t have to take the test again.

I’m planning to take a year off before I apply to any schools. By year off, I mean I’ll apply the next cycle after I graduate. Although, maybe waiting for the second cycle after graduation could be a possibility, but only if I have secured a job in the medical field. With the extra time, I hope to work fulltime to pay off what I can of my undergraduate debts, continue to shadow doctors and gain clinical experience, hopefully obtain an internship in Bioethics with the local medical college, participate in a missions trip that focuses on teaching English in Asian countries (hopefully I will be able to go to Laos, my homeland!), and hopefully participate in a cost-effective archaeological dig somehow related to theology and preferably somewhere in the middle east. I originally planned on applying as a traditional applicant, but there are a few things I’d like to experience before I apply to schools. I would highly recommend putting off medical school if there are things you want to do in life yet. If you truly want to become a doctor, the chance will always be there. The chance to be 22, however, will only come once.

I think it will be hardest for me to receive a strong recommendation from a professor in the sciences. I wasn’t that fantastic of a student in my prerequisite courses (AB/B average, BC/C in physics), and I only attended office hours sparingly. I don’t have that strong of a relationship with my science professors, but I’ve identified two that I think might be willing to write a letter for me. I’ve yet to approach them. I do, however, feel very confident about receiving letters from faculty and professionals outside of academic science. This only strengthens the maxim that I am truly a nonscience premed. There’s scarcely a trace of hard science in my blood; I process and manipulate the discipline, but I don’t breathe it (though I did love organic chemistry and enjoyed the depth of biochemistry).

Before I graduate, I’d like to participate in some type of research in theology. It will be the last chance I have to participate in academic theology, and I don’t want it to slip by. I have a genuine love for the subject, and I’d like to be able to have some type of material to showcase my love. Perhaps my thesis will suffice, but I want more than a thesis. I want to integrate theology and medicine at some level. I’m very interested in the intersection of naturalism and theology. I often wonder whether we perceive God more supernaturally than we ought to, that God is more natural than we consider. One point of interest is worship and prayer: what happens anatomically and biologically when a Christian enters worship or prayer? What would those results mean theologically? It would ultimately add to the study of naturalism and spirituality, and I would be a very happy camper if I could add to that.

At this point, I feel that I am honestly only doing medically related things to gain a better understanding of what I am hoping to pursue, and also to put them on my application. My heart is elsewhere, but that isn’t to say that I don’t want to do anything medically related. Rather, I think I am building a résumé that displays what I believe a doctor is — that a doctor isn’t science through-and-through. I am a truly a nonscience premed.