Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Foreign Language Website/App Review: Duolingo = EXCELLENT!

Alright, so I feel like I have to post about a foreign language app you can download, which has an interactive website as well. It’s called Duolingo and I was first introduced to this gem in the iTunes stores. I’ve always had an interest in Spanish so I created an account and decided to give this app a shot. If I had to describe my feelings towards it in a single word, I think I’d keep it simple and go with “excellent”!

  1. First and most importantly, the app works. Obviously this is the most important aspect of any foreign language software. According to the Duolingo website, they have evidence that 32 hours of their program is equivalent to an entire semester of taking a Spanish class. Although I can’t validate this and it could obviously be statistical propaganda, it definitely is a worthwhile program.
  2. A major selling point for me and I’m sure many other users is that this application is completely FREE! Even better news is you shouldn’t expect that to change. The website explicitly discusses how it’s currently free and will always be free… forever!
  3. A third huge selling point for this application is the social aspect. You can invite friends from Facebook and/or Twitter and compete with each other in learning a language. Each lesson you complete gives points based on how well you did. Anyone you’re friends with through the Duolingo program can follow your progress and vice versa. There is even a leaderboard where you can see who amongst you is #1. Who doesn’t love some friendly competition to make things a little more intriguing? One of the hardest parts of learning a foreign language in my opinion is persistence, and the social aspect of this program will make you more determined to keep up the hard work.

I’ve only had this app for 2 days now, but I already am in love with it. Anyone with an interest in learning a foreign language should give it a shot. Honestly, you have no reason not to give it a try. It’s completely free so if you somehow don’t like it, a quick delete and you can act like it never existed. Try it out!


Salmonella Infection is a Battle in the Gut

Salmonella Infection is a Battle in the Gut.


Salmonella Infection.    Image: Nathan Johnson, Brooke Kaiser, PNNL

A Systematic Assessment of Pain – SOCRATES

The acronym SOCRATES can be used as a systematic method of assessment to complaints of pain. 

Site – Where is the pain located?

Onset – When did it start and how? Gradual, intermittent, rapid, etc.

Character – Describe the pain (stabbing, dull, tight, sore, etc.).

Radiation – Does the pain spread into other areas? 

Associated symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, jaundice, etc.

Timing – Does it occur after specific activities or actions? 

Exacerbating or relieving factors – What makes it worse? Breathing, moving, sitting, etc. 

Surgical history – Previous surgeries or interventions? 



Oxford American Handbook of Surgery 

Edited by David L. Berger, MD with Greg McLatchie, Neil Borley, & Joanna Chikwe

Oxford University Press, 2009.

Study Maybe – “Call Me Maybe” Med School Parody

Another great medical school parody video to the tune of “Call me Maybe”. Enjoy!

University of Maryland School of Medicine 2015 Freshman Follies (5/21/12)

Med School Musical – A Disney Parody – University of Alberta

Here is a good video for any premed or med students if you need some humor in your life!

Barefoot Running

This video demonstrates proper form for barefoot running, as well as shows the added benefits of it compared to conventional running practices. A statistic that immediately jumps out from the video is that 60 – 85% of runners are injured every year, oftentimes due to improper form while running. Multiple exercises are demonstrated that are intended to correct heel striking, as well as posture when running.

I am a proponent of barefoot running and own a pair of Vibram shoes myself. It is unbelievable how much more of a calf workout you get compared to conventional running shoes. I can tell a drastic different in the strength of my calves since I started barefoot running, and I enjoy running much more too. Although I can’t attest to any long-term benefits yet, this style of running is supposed to help prevent injuries as well (if done correctly!). For anyone who hasn’t given barefoot running a chance, I suggest you give it a try!

Latest Bird Flu Strain a Possible Pandemic Threat

Latest bird flu strain ‘kills more than a third’

An article on Yahoo regarding the most recent strain of bird flu H7N9 has raised some reasons for concerns. The newest strain first arose in China this past March, killing 37 people of the 130 infected. Scientists have declared the death rate to be about 36 percent. Although this is lower than the rate of 70 percent for the H5N1 strain, H7N9 has been shown to spread faster. Since it’s more deadly than swine flu, the cause of a global pandemic in 2009, the risk of a pandemic is very serious.

Although much of the global population focuses on the fatality rate for serious illness, the rate of infection is of paramount importance as well. Although a disease could be 100% fatal, if it doesn’t spread easily, it is more likely to be contained.

Below is a short thought-experiment demonstrating the important of infection rates.

Say that a deadly disease infected 100,000 people who all died as a result. Obviously, there is a casualty rate of 100,000 people. On the other hand, a flu strain that is 36 percent deadly and spreads to 1 million people (10 times more infectious) would leave 360,000 dead in its wake, as well as the 640,000 people requiring medical treatment. The strain that infected 10 times more people, although about 1/3 as fatal, caused massive destruction in comparison to the 100 percent fatal disease. If you total up the costs, the more highly infectious disease is also the most costly.

People should realize that infection rates and fatality rates must be considered in tandem. The risk of a global pandemic is highly dependent on both sets of data. Hopefully, the latest strain of bird flu will be contained as much as possible. However, the risk of a pandemic is always present.

Author Claims “Monogamy is Unnatural”

I just found an article titled Face it: Monogamy is unnatural on written by Meghan Laslocky, author of The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages. According to the writer, “It’s time for our culture to wake up and smell the sex pheromones: monogamy is not natural for many, or probably even most, humans.” She then goes on to give various points of support for her argument.

However, as a young married man with parents who have maintained a monogamous relationship, as well as in-laws who have done the same, this article was disconcerting. Personally, it seems that some gross generalizations have been made and although I’m sure I could find many details to discuss, I’d like to reflect on a few major points. Furthermore, although I am a person of faith, I intend to construct my answers in a way that both religious and non-religious persons are able to agree.

1) According to the author, we must only look at other animal species for proof of appropriate relationships, because humans are merely animals themselves.

The biggest glaring opposition that immediately comes to mind with this statement is the generalization in declaring humans animals. Although humans are ultimately a type of animals species, declaring us on the same intellectual and emotional playing fields of birds is a bold idea. Most, if not all, can attest to our having more specialized cognitive functioning due to advanced brain development. An advanced prefrontal cortex developed over time through evolutionary changes makes humans different from other animals.

Although numerous studies have shown other animals to use tools and possess similar DNA to us, we need only look around to see the advanced nature of humans. We are the dominant species on the planet, and there is a reason. Our cognitive function, physician capabilities, social behavior, and emotional states of mind are individualized to the human species. Thus, generalizing humans as just another animal species is a poor premise to construct any conclusion on, let alone something controversial.

2) The author claims that due to increased longevity in human life expectancy, it’s unrealistic to expect 50 years of monogamous relationships. 

It used to be that people would die much younger, and as a result, more sexual variety was possible in the form of remarrying. Now that people live into their 70s on average, the author feels fidelity throughout a 50 year marriage is near impossible. Although I don’t claim it should be easy by any means, to deem it impossible is poor judgement.

Essentially, the author indirectly claims that humans should be free to form relationships with whomever they please, whenever they please. However, as pointed out in article comments, humans are still similar to animals in their tendency to be territorial. We’ve all seen, heard of, or even been guilty of jealousy when someone advances towards our significant other. What often happens with “swinger” relationships? Controversy, jealousy and disintegration of relationship is often the result. Despite polygamous physical urges, we ultimately tend to think and feel in a more monogamous nature.

Humans refrain from fighting/killing each other, and structured laws are in place in order to regulate appropriate behavior. Why? Because we have developed beyond the capacities of other animals species and developed moral/ethical codes. Claiming we are the same as them in our relationships is poor judgement with little support.

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, MD

Checklists… one of the simplest methods of organization. In a world with exponential growth of complex products, ideas, processes, and professions, the importance of something so minute seems infinitesimal. Yet, Atul Gawande demonstrates how the simplest of solutions can lead to dramatic results. This book explains how checklists can benefit someone undertaking any endeavor, with a specific regard to it’s much-needed use in medicine. Numerous stories are provided to substantiate the drastic effects of using checklists, and the evidence is so compelling it’s hard not to feel like you should adopt a checklist in aspect of your life immediately.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to all readers, not just medical students and physicians. The techniques employed with a simple checklist can help various areas of specialty, and several fields are discussed throughout the book. As the book discusses, we have tendencies to avoid seemingly mundane tasks such as checklists, but the use of them can drastically change lives. In my opinion, this should be required reading for all medical professionals.

“We have an opp…

“We have an opportunity before us, not just in medicine but in virtually any endeavor. Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in place.”

– From The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, MD

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