In which I’m back in the lab

I spent a little over a year after college working for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health. There are 27 Institutes and Centers, mostly located in Bethesda, MD – I however was at one of the outliers (sometimes I joke that it was the “reject”) located in Research Triangle Park, NC. I look back at that time fondly, where I lived in a tiny apartment in south Durham and visited Jeff on the weekends when he was a 1L at Wake. It was a good gap year, filled with the moderate stress of applying to dental school and the milder stress of learning to be an independent adult.

My lab photo. I know this file is slightly corrupted - it was salvaged from my very old computer.

My lab photo. I know this file is slightly corrupted – it was salvaged from my very old computer and a lot of those pictures were sadly damaged.

Under my Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) I had several different projects in the Darryl Zeldin lab, the main one being a randomized control trial to look at reducing dust mite allergens in the homes of allergic children. This required spending hours driving all over eastern NC pre-GPS, vacuuming up dust from peoples’ homes and administering lengthy surveys whose questions I asked so often, I almost had them memorized.

2008 Elise carrying the very large vacuuming equipment bag.

2008 Elise carrying the very large vacuuming equipment bag.

Melanie (who visited us last summer) was my trusted companion during these sometimes long trips (and sometimes stalkerish ones – we had to wait outside a lot of houses until the participants finally showed up). We were a perfect match: I was applying to dental school at the time and she was applying to physician assisting school, we both had a love of public health, we both were in long term relationships (and ultimately end up marrying those boys), we could spend hours in the car lost in rural North Carolina and not panic and we both loved to detour to Krispy Kreme whenever it was close by.

On the trail for dust mites.

On the trail for dust mites.

Celebrating the end of our dust mite chasing career in Costa Rica before heading off to our respective schools.

Celebrating the end of our dust mite chasing career in Costa Rica before heading off to our respective schools.

Also, it was fun to have another girl to escape the lab with. When I wasn’t out sucking up dust from beds and carpets, I was analyzing it in the lab (using ELISA mostly). My fellow IRTAs were two guys: Will who is now a orthopedic resident and Chad who is a laboratory equipment rep (and for a time sold the brand of pipettes I use the most, so I think of him every time I pick one up).

End of the year picnic with Will on the left and Chad on the right.

End of the year picnic with Will on the left and Chad on the right.

I learned some great lab skills while there – skills I honestly thought I’d never use again. Sure, in dental school we had a microbiology lab, but that was only one quarter and it was pretty easy and as far as lab skills go, it was amateur stuff. Now that my research here at UW and SCH is picking up finally, I’m in the lab once more, processing samples to analyze them later for bacterial DNA, saliva pH and buffering capacity and little proteins called antimicrobial peptides which fight cavities. It’s appropriate that I’m once again working with spit because that was my other main project at NIEHS: collecting saliva samples and seeing if kids who had more cavity causing bacteria had lower rates of asthma and allergy.

Maybe I've been out too long, but there's something kind of beautiful about well placed lab equipment.

Maybe I’ve been out too long, but there’s something kind of beautiful about lab equipment.

Tiny labels make me happy.

Tiny labels make me happy.

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There's something soothing to lab work. Follow the recipe. Be precise. Don't mess up.

There’s something soothing to lab work. Follow the recipe. Be precise. Don’t mess up. Repeat.

Balancing the centrifuge is the tiny scale version of trying to balance the washer during the sheets and towels load.

Balancing the centrifuge is the tiny scale version of trying to balance the washer during the sheets and towels load.

I'm glad to be back in the lab again, I just need my pipetting thumb to regain it's old callous soon.

I’m glad to be back in the lab again, I just need my pipetting thumb to regain it’s old callous soon.

I’m a little slow right now, but things should start to pick up soon as I get more used to the new process and new environs. It’s good to be back.

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In which there’s 12th man fever

It’s finally here, the day that’s been hyped for the last two weeks: Super Bowl Sunday! This is the first time I’ve lived in a city with a football team I could claim as my own. I was in high school getting ready to leave for college when we got the Titans and when I was in North Carolina, the Panthers had too many resemblances in color and name to UNC so I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for them. At best I cheered for the Steelers since Jeff grew up in Pittsburgh and I liked to keep a happy relationship. Now having moved out here, I feel like I can finally adopt the Seattle Seahawks team as my own.

Unfortunately I'm on call, but I'm hoping that the both the Seahawks and I have good luck this evening during the game.

Unfortunately I’m on call, but I’m hoping that the both the Seahawks and I have good luck this evening during the game.

These past two weeks in 12th man fever has turned this city into a small town. Signs, bought and homemade, abound on buildings and hardly anyone talks about anything else. Our little old neighbors have been flying a 12th man flag for two weeks now off their balcony. They’ve renamed Mt. Rainer to Mt. Seattle Seahawks. Issaquah, a nearby town is now 12saquah. Every time I see the flag on top of the Space Needle, my heart swells a little.

12 lit up on a dorm at UW

12 lit up on a dorm at UW

Roundabout in our neighborhood decorated in blue and green

Roundabout in our neighborhood decorated in blue and green

UW tower lit up in a 12. Forgive the picture, it's part of my artistic series of blurry iPhone photos.

UW tower lit up in a 12. Forgive the picture, it’s part of my artistic series with a blurry iPhone theme.

Even our local aquarium otter is getting in on the action this morning (though maybe it should be devouring a Bronco logo instead? Also, the fact that there’s a website called the dailyotter.org is AMAZING) :

On Friday I was taking a break from running code for class and decided that a coffee would really help things along. I drove to the local Starbucks and absentmindedly was listening to our local NPR station when they asked the question, “What is the nickname for Seattle’s defensive backs?”

 

In my head, I had already answered Legion of Boom before they gave the choices when I parked and turned off the car. I turned it back on quickly, wondering what the contest was and caught the number to call. I did and to my surprise a nice woman answered and asked if I knew the correct choice. When I gave her the answer she said that I had qualified for the weekly news quiz and I should make myself available in 20 minutes to be on the air! Ahh! I forgot about getting the coffee and raced home to study potential Seahawks questions and have Jeff nearby incase there was a stumper.

All my preparation was for naught because the questions were much harder than the ones I had anticipated (like “Who is the head coach?” “Which Seahawk is legally deaf?” “What division do the Seahawks play in?” – QUESTIONS I KNEW THE ANSWERS TO!), but I guessed well and got 2 out of 3. You can hear the radio interview here – the pauses are where Jeff and I are looking at each other and shrugging.

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Unfortunately my prize was not an all expense paid trip to the Super Bowl this afternoon, but I think the reward of being featured on their Facebook page photoshopped as a giant over the city  is a close second. Plus, I got to say “Go Seahawks!” on the radio the Friday before the Super Bowl which is pretty awesome. Thanks for letting me play, KUOW!

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I was talking via Voxer to my little brother this morning and he’s getting up at 4am Afghanistan time to watch the contest. I feel very similar to him, that if I wasn’t so caught up in 12th man fever in my new adopted city, I would be wearing some different colors this afternoon:

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I’ve loved Peyton since he played for Tennessee and he’s an excellent guy. It’s going to be a tough match up, and I have some orange in my blood, but my shirt and heart this afternoon are blue and green. Let’s go boys!

In which we MATCHed new residents!

MATCH day was Monday and I’m so excited to welcome a new class of excellent residents to UW! They’re the last class I’ll get to be co-residents with, so they hold a special place in my heart (though who are we kidding, I love all my co-ressies so much and they all have special places). Between the residency interview process and the Duke Alumni interviews I’ve been conducting over the past few weeks, I’m very thankful that I’m not on that end of either application cycle. So excited to meet our new co-ressies in June!

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From us: Kari, Ian, Matt, Jane, Karin, Tiara, myself, Kat, Gloria, Karen and Bri – WELCOME! We’ll try to find some sunshine before you get up here.

In which we had MLK Jr. weekend

Last year we made our three day weekend stretch into a quick trip down to Portland, but with Seattle playing for a chance at the Superbowl, Jeff and I decided to stay in town.

Glad we did! That was an exciting and well fought game against the 49ers. So pumped that my new town's team is headed to the Superbowl!

Glad we did! That was an exciting and well fought game against the 49ers. So pumped that my new town’s team is headed to the Superbowl! This is a reading of the seismographs UW placed under CenturyLink field (so clearly we win nerdiest football city on top of the NFC championship).

In fun rivalry news: The fans of the 49ers and Seahawks tried to out do each other in raising money for their opponents’ children’s hospitals, with the respecting football teams matching the funds. Seattle managed to raise $73, 941 for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and the Niners fans raised $34, 412 for Seattle Children’s. Love this.

Monday promised clouds, but no rain, so we headed up to Deception Pass State Park to hike the trails on the other side of the bridge. We were rewarded with stunning views of Mount Baker, the Sound and not a cloud in the sky (love when the weather forecast is that kind of wrong!). It was perfect:

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Looking across to where we hiked last time

Looking across to where we hiked last time

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So nice to be able to celebrate freedom in such glorious sunshine. To end, my favorite MLK, Jr. quote (when it’s difficult to chose from so many good ones):

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him” – MLK, Jr. 

In which it’s beginning to feel like Thanksgiving

How is it mostly through November already? When planning things I’ve felt like Thanksgiving has been a moving target and now all of a sudden its snuck up on me and will be here next.week. Bring on the sweet potatoes, cranberry apple casserole and heaping loads of ham and tryptophan! I can tell it’s close, my heart is constantly swelling with gratitude and happiness.

A brief update:

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I’ve been on my cardiology rotation at SCH. So thankful there are heart docs out there because every time they asked me if I could hear the murmur I just kind of had to nod, smile and trust their judgement that it was there. I’ll stick with things I can see (like teeth), thank you.

We had some sunshine! And it's projected to go through the weekend!

We had some sunshine! And it’s projected to go through the weekend! But seriously, this fall hasn’t been as bad as last year and I’m very thankful for that (but it still doesn’t stop me from wanting to snap a picture of it though).

I wandered over to the main section of UW's campus for a talk by the esteemed Amy Cuddy. Her TED talk is here and it's worth a listen: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

I wandered over to the main section of UW’s campus for a talk by the esteemed Amy Cuddy. Her TED talk is here and it’s worth a listen: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

Suzzallo library on main campus makes me homesick for a certain Gothic Wonderland

Suzzallo library on main campus makes me simultaneously homesick and warmed my heart for reminding me about a certain Gothic Wonderland. Also Duke football is AMAZING!

This season is one of my favorite. Good food. Gratefulness. Fall smells. It’s just delicious. My dear mother instilled a solid sense of civic mindedness in us and since I can remember I’ve loved having opportunities to volunteer. My schedule recently hasn’t allowed me the flexibility to go exotic places or take part in large scale projects, but that’s the nice thing about giving, it can be done very well in your own backyard in very small amounts. You could argue that that just may be the best kind of volunteering.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 12.08.23 AMI joined the Junior League of Seattle this year as a Provisional and so far the experience has an amazing outlet for me. My mom was in Junior League in Knoxville once upon a time and I have cousins in the Memphis league. Far from being the petty organization portrayed in The Help, for me, it’s the perfect combination of fellowship with wonderful women and easy packaged opportunities to do good. On Saturday I helped out with a work crew at Green Plate Special installing their new garden space in Rainier Valley Seattle. They’re an organization that specializes in curriculum based food growing and cooking skills for middle schoolers. My public health heart just swooned.

Freshly dug carrots

Freshly dug carrots

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They’ve just moved to a fantastic new facility. We helped disassemble parts of the old garden and set up the new (pictured here

Seeds ready for planting.

Seeds ready for planting.

They asked us to do a crazy picture.. and um, this is what we came up with.

They asked us to do a crazy picture.. and um, this is what we came up with.

Also, sadly without pictures because I’m a dunce and forgot; Jeff and I got to catch up with our friend Rebecca Fairchild while she was in Seattle for work. On Friday we took her to one of my favorite places in Belltown, Local 360, and got a chance to reminisce about the 10 or so odd years it’s been since we were all freshman together in Bassett. Thanks for a fun evening Rebecca! And it was nice to meet your sweet friend Jen too! So because I sucked and didn’t get pictures, here’s some throwbacks:

Rebecca, Kuppy and I senior year at Duke

Rebecca, Kuppy and I senior year at Duke

Rebecca and I top row left, freshman dorm powderpuff football

Rebecca and I top row left, freshman dorm powderpuff football

In which there’ve been midterms

 

For disclosure - not take-out soup, but it was made from a lot of cans.

For disclosure – not take-out, but it was made from a lot of cans.

I’ve been in midterms for the past two weeks and then to round out the spectacularity of being in the twenty-second grade, I was on call with an incessant pager and worked the holiday. There’s something about it all piling on at once that can crush your soul a bit.

Each time that I find myself so exhausted that I want to take a nap in my car in the few moments between class and clinic or want to complain that I have to go in to the hospital again right when I just.sat.down to eat the dinner I was interrupted from three hours ago for another call or when I’ve had problem sets due every day and sometimes on lectures we haven’t had yet or when I’ve spent several precious hours researching medical complexities on patients who then don’t make their appointments or how it’s now the second day I haven’t seen sunlight because our nights are so, so long or when I realize we’re eating take-out again because I can’t find a moment to do adult-like activities like grocery shopping…

I just take a good, deep breath of our cool, rainy air. This is all part of it. No one reminds you when you tell them your plans that it’s going to be a long string of tired. It’s going to be many weeks of constantly feeling like you should always be doing something and lots of take-out food. But if this is anything like dental school was, there is the sweet, sweet amnestic healing that comes with being another semester (or quarter or even half quarter) closer to your goal. You forget how stressful the last push was and continue onward.

As I hurry between buildings on campus, I find myself quietly rejoicing that I am fortunate enough to have a coveted parking spot so I can drive between class and clinic. When I walk into the Emergency Department I remember how blessed I am to be on call for such a great hospital, and how I’m so very, very thankful to be in this program I fought so hard to continue. I am grateful that I can work in this fun, little waterlogged corner of our country. I feel like I’ve made it. I feel like I have so far to go.

Beyond anything else, I feel so incredibly lucky to be living my dream.

Thanks.

In which I had my last first day of school

I’ve had a few first days of school:

Kindergarten at Ball Camp Elementary School in Knoxville, TN

Kindergarten at Ball Camp Elementary School in Knoxville, TN
(thanks Mom for sending the picture and for dressing me in a appliqué ticking stripped dress).

Not pictured: My first day of school in a new town, third grade at Woodland Elementary in Oak Ridge, TN.

First day of college at Duke (ugh, yes, I really was that pale)

First day of college at Duke (ugh, yes, I really was that pale)

First day of dental school (Yes, I know it's my badge, but I went to a concert the night before and didn't pull myself together the next morning enough to take a full shot and this was taken on the first day. Coincidentally I made great friends with Kevin Ricker, our future class president, because we bonded over having gone to that concert).

First day of dental school
(Yes, I know it’s my badge, but I went to The Hold Steady concert the night before and didn’t pull myself together the next morning enough to take a full shot and this photo technically was taken on the first day. Coincidentally I made great friends with Kevin Ricker, our future class president, because we bonded over not being able to hear anything since he too had gone to that same concert).

And my other last first day:

First day of residency with my awesome co-residents.

First day of residency with my awesome co-residents.

First day of classes in residency - all dressed down to go to anatomy lab.

First day of classes in residency – all dressed down to go to anatomy lab.

And now maybe, just maybe.. really, my LAST first day of school:

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Starting MPH classes at the School of Public Health