Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Psychedelic Babbels

Hi everyone, my name is Vicky, and I’m a pharmacist rotating through mdBriefCase for the next 5 weeks. I’m very excited to learn about the world of medical writing, and content development. This blog will be my baby for the next few weeks, and I will be chatting to you about various topics that I find interesting.

But first, a little bit about me: I’ve been a practicing pharmacist for 5 years. I started out in community pharmacy, working for independent pharmacies that emphasized on patient care. A chance encounter placed me at the outpatient transplant pharmacy in London, Ontario where I was engrossed in all things solid-organ transplant related. That was also where I developed a fondness for nephrology and thrombosis.

A couple years later, I wanted to push myself therapeutically and took on the role of inpatient orthopedic surgery pharmacist. It was a big change for me to go from the fast-paced commercial world filled with patient interaction and drugs in nice packaging, to an equally fast-paced world filled with surgeons with swagger, bleary eyed medical residents, intravenous drugs, and patients so sick that code blues were called on the regular. It was like Greys Anatomy with none of the sexiness. I loved every minute of it.

Fast forward another couple of years when I met my husband in Toronto, and we decided that long-distance was not the key to happiness and longevity. I moved back to Toronto, taking on the position of float pharmacist at Humber River Hospital. As a float pharmacist, I covered everything from ICU/emergency/ nephrology/cardiology, to rehabilitation/ internal medicine. Humber was where I started writing policies and procedures for the hospital, and developing hospital specific guidelines. While I loved working at Humber, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that there’s more for me to learn and to take on in this world. I heard about Medical Science Liaison (MSL) through a good friend of mine, and thought it would be something I could potentially be very good at. A chance encounter placed me in contact with Paladin pharmaceuticals, which was looking for someone to be the MSL for a new transplant medication. The world came in full circle, and I’m happy to say that I will be starting a new career as a MSL with Paladin.
It’s hard to believe that 5 years went by so fast, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities that have awarded me with such rich experiences. If there are interesting tidbits and experiences that I can share, they would be:
  • Orthopedic surgeries are bloody. Nails, hammers and bone saws are regularly used.
  • On the opposite of the spectrum, open heart surgeries are delicate and long. Patients sometimes have to be chilled slowly to preserve organ function, and warmed up slowly after the surgery.
  • Kidney, heart, and liver transplant patients are very different from one another. Kidney patients are usually healthy-ish except for the fact that they need dialysis or they’ll die. Heart patients are so sick they’re at the precipices of dying by the time they receive their transplant. And liver patients all have some degree of brain damage because of the ammonia that accumulates in their blood.
  • Internal medicine is not sexy. There’s a book called House of God that took a satirical approach at internal medicine. While terms like “gomers” (stand for Get Out of My Emergency Room) and “buff and turf” are mostly tongue-in-cheek, what’s not satirical is how brutal on-call hours can be for the newly initiated. A resident on call can be awake from 6 am of day 1 all the way to 10 am of day 2. Now multiple that by 3 days a week, for 4 - 6 years.
  •   Also not satirical is the emotional toll internal medicine can have on doctors. Dark humor was something we used to get on with our day in spite of the daily tragedies. One of my favourite books, When Breath Becomes Air, written by a late neurosurgery resident who discovered that he had terminal lung cancer, has a brilliant passage on how cynical all medical professionals become. The author, Paul Kalanithi, had just been paged out of his lunch – a diet coke and ice cream sandwich – to help a 22-year-old man with major head injury. He spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to save the patient, and then:
    • “I slipped out of the trauma bay just as the family was brought in to view the body. Then I remembered my Diet Coke, my ice cream sandwich . . . and the sweltering heat of the trauma bay. With one of the ER residents covering for me, I slipped back in, ghostlike, to save the ice cream sandwich in front of the corpse of the son I could not. Thirty minutes in the freezer resuscitated the sandwich. Pretty tasty, I thought, picking chocolate chips out of my teeth as the family said its last goodbyes.”

Outside of work, I’m a prolific reader, and a dancer. Some of the most awesome experiences I’ve had in the world of dance include when I went back to China for their Olympics of Chinese dance - Tao Li Cup, and when I auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance Canada.  Come talk to me about anything anthropology, history, sociology and spirituality related. I’d love to share ideas and learn from you. 

And that’s all for now. Stay tuned for the next issue!

 - Vicky