Intro Round - Done and Dusted

Saturday, 4 February 2012
Finally after much ado, I have gotten every question answered and every paper signed. Queues? They turned out to be no match for my powers of standing still for prolonged periods of time. Next week, classes will start and I'll be using my newly acquired student card to gain access to the rest of my life.

Over the course of the last week, I have given some thought to the challenges of student life. Below, I have listed some common guidelines that the wanna be cum laude student should employ.

Know which study methods work for you
If your current study method resembles this, you are going to have a problem:

The volume of work that will be covered is much higher than ever before. In addition, lecturers are not just going to be testing if you know the work, they will also be testing how well you understand it. They do this by seeing if you can apply what you have learnt to different scenarios. The implication is that your current study methods (if they exist) will have to be adapted and refined to suite the requirements of a university education. You might even have to learn a few new methods to reinforce your current study techniques. In the end, books know things but people are the movers and shapers of the world.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Preparing for your lectures, practicals and everything else is essential to your survival as a student. The more the work becomes a part your daily routine, the easier you will be able to recall it. Preparation helps give you an idea of how easily you will understand the work. It also gives you opportunity to start outlining your notes. Doing this will give you more time in class to focus, listen and learn.

Know how to take notes
Try to develop your own style of shorthand; even though some lecturers provide students with access to the slides online, it is still important to take down additional information (be it new examples or notarizing which sections of the work are relevant for evaluations). The pace and volume of lectures will be such that you will not be able to write down everything that is said. But remember that despite the fact that shorter is faster and ultimately 'better', care should be taken to ensure that you will be able to decode your abbreviations and handwriting at a later stage.

Review work often
Your brain, albeit powerful, will not allow you to simply recall any information at any point in time. You might be able to remember all your work now, but over time, your recollection of the content will fade. Reviewing work will give your brain the opportunity to create new, and strengthen old pathways in the metaphorical superhighway of your brain.

Attend lectures
The year is only just beginning and optimism levels are at an all time high. But as the year progresses it will become blatantly obvious that direct repercussions of bunking are non-existent. Lecturers love surprise quizzes and although these bare minimal weight, they will be relevant to work discussed recently. Hence they should provide you with an opportunity for some "free" marks which can ultimately help raise your final score.

Make friends with the people in your class
Many of your friends might be studying at the same campus but might not necessarily be in the same course or groups/classes as you. Having someone you can count on will provide you with a fail-safe should something impede your ability to attend a class. They might be able to tell you what was discussed and whether any administrative information was given. Also, it never hurts having a study buddy.

Don't procrastinate
Procrastination is the assassination of motivation and motivation leads to the cultivation of a student that gets things done. It might seem harmless to put off doing 1 or 2 assignments, but come tomorrow: "Oh wait, this is more work than I thought!", and WHAM an F for each half-assed assignment. Remember, lowering your semester mark leads to the possibility of the faculty denying you entry into the exams.

Take care of you
You are not a robot, but if you think you think that you can keep cramming information and alcohol into your system, you will turn into one. And not the cool kind mind you, think Marvin from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Make use of the guidance counselors and support staff at your campus, should you wish to talk about the challenges of adapting to this new lifestyle, the death of a loved one or any general turmoil that may be brewing inside you. Also attempt to eat healthy and remember to get enough sleep.

I’ve tried to keep my study techniques simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. Most students however haven’t given much thought to the way they'll tackle student life, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their marks reflect this. What advice do you have for the folks out there trying to get it all together this semester?

Netter's Anatomy Flash Cards - for Mac, Droid, BB and Windows Mobile 
iStore Medical Apps
Top 5 Medical Apps for the iPad
Android Market - Free Medical Applications
Medical flashcards Android Apps
Anki - Digital flashcard creator / browser
Study Style - Discover your Learning Style Quiz
Medical Mnemonics

How to Take Good Notes
Tips for Surviving Medical School
Advice for Students: Taking Notes that Work
The Best Way To Learn & Study
How to Study and Prepare for Finals This Year
5 Bad Study Habits

Progress Report: Test Subject 'ME'

Wednesday, 18 January 2012
For the past week I have been experiencing 'Phase 1' of my transition from worker-bee to student.
  • With the removal of menial corporate tasks from her daily regime, the subject has shown positive signs of self-improvement.
  • Outbursts of rage have reduced greatly and insomnia has been rendered nearly non-existent.
  • The subject is responding well (albeit not overzealously) to the newly implemented morning exercise routine and healthier diet.
  • Increased exposure to the sun has yielded good results and the subject is showing good levels of bronzing. 
  • Overall, the subject is stable and docile for large parts of the day. However, during lapses of diminished optimism, the subject seeks comfort in safer activities including, but not limited to, watching episodes of her favourite series', surfing the web and playing computer games.
  • Since classes do not officially start until early February, prolonged exposure to comfort activities might cause the subject to relapse into uncontrolled MMO-RPGing.
  • The current exercise and diet regime will be maintained for the remainder of the transformation.
  • Daily doses of preparation and planning will be administered to counteract signs of brain-lag and / or diminished conversational capacity..
  • In emergent cases of de-motivation, 10cc doses of optimism will be administered every three hours until subject stabilizes.
As you should be able to deduce from the report, everything seems to be going according to schedule and I am well on my way to becoming a university student (again). If you are a first time university student I hope that you too are running on schedule.

Living the Nightmare

Saturday, 7 January 2012

In the shade of a kubwa tree, clouds start to roll in over the great African plain while a woman watches from afar as her child nods off to sleep. But her face is pained, for she knows that pleasant dreams won’t soon come for him. Like many of his friends, he is suffering from the strange and unexplained symptoms of Nodding Disease. She has been neglecting her duties for days now and food and water supplies are running dangerously low. Leaving him unattended isn’t a risk that she takes lightly; the burns on his body still bear mute witness to the seizure that had left him helpless in the flames of their cooking fire. She would have to tie him up inside the hut before leaving for the fields so that he doesn’t wander off.

The disease, mainly affecting children between the ages of 5 and 15, is named after its most noticeable symptom. Children appear to be nodding off, their eyes closing and their heads getting heavy despite them being wide awake. This behaviour has been linked to seizure activity that usually begins when the affected eats food or, in some cases, when they are cold. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to:
  • seemingly permanent stunted growth
  • brain atrophy
  • difficulty focusing and concentrating in class
  • body stiffness
  • running nose and saliva
  • occasional defecation and urination during an attack
Many of the affected children are malnourished, a direct consequence of their parents being afraid to feed them lest it induces a seizure. Nutrition isn't the only aspect of their lives taking a turn for the worst; some 1500 children in the Acholi sub-region have dropped out of their schools as a result of the disease.

Chronologically, the reported occurrences of the disease are:
1960’s:Several children with attacks of “Nodding Head” were observed in Mahenge Village in southern Tanzania by L. Jilek-Aall.
2003:Approximately 300 cases were reported in South Sudan’s Mundri District alone.
2009:The disease spreads to Uganda’s Kitgum District and the Ugandan Ministry of Health declared more than 2000 children affected.
2012:Outbreaks have been reported in the Kitgum, Pader, Gulu and Lamwo districts with roughly 4000 affected and 200 children dead.

Health experts and local leaders have been unable to pinpoint the cause or mode of transmission of the disease and very few children are said to have recovered from it. Some say the disease may be caused by the effects of the biological and chemical weapons used during the two-decade insurgency in the area. Another possible cause is said to be consumption of tainted food such as spoiled plants or meat, especially monkey meat.

Other investigations have shown that there might be a connection between Nodding Disease and infestations of the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, which is prevalent in all outbreak areas and is known for causing Onchocerciasis (also known as River Blindness). The WHO’s Dr. Emmanuel Tenywa has noted that almost all of the affected children have Onchocerciasis. In a 2008 study researchers published that something they called “Head Nodding Syndrome”, might possibly be a new form of epilepsy disorder in sub-Saharan Africa.
“MRI lesions and their association with positive skin PCR for O. volvulus despite negative PCR of the CSF is intriguing and deserves attention. “
Relatively little is still known about the disease and authorities have only recently started taking notice of it. Health Ministry officials have finally agreed to visit affected areas and assess the situation a week after the Acholi Parliamentary Group warned that they would camp at the Ministry’s headquarters to mourn the children. The governmental team is expected to deliver medicine to health centres, carry out epilepsy check-ups, intensify training of health workers and sensitise more people on how to handle the sufferers.

Nodding Disease may not been seen as one of the notorious diseases of our time but it has a disastrous impact on the lives of thousands of families every day. I sincerely hope that this article will help spread awareness about this mysterious disease and the horrible effects that it has on the people in its path.

Global Health Frontline News
Wiley Online Library
World Health Organization
The Saturday Monitor - Nodding Disease: MPs threaten to ferry ill children to Kampala
The Saturday Monitor - Officials to visit Nodding hit areas
H5N1 Blog
Wikipedia - Nodding Disease
Wikipedia - Onchocera Volvus


2012: Out with the Old and in with the New

Thursday, 5 January 2012

As another year dawns, we find ourselves filled with new resolutions (and possibly newly acquired 'holiday handles'). We may still be used to vacation sleeping patterns and the year is already picking up pace, but the holidays have also left us with renewed vitality. For me, this is going to be a year filled with change and challenges and tomorrow marks my last as part of the working class. By the end of it, I will no longer go under the old title of 'Senior Software Test Analyst'  and assume a brand new one: Tuks Undergrad'.

Luckily, the hustle and bustle of administrative tasks, registration, sorting out of schedules and accumulation of stationery will only start towards the end of the month, by which time I hope to have adjusted from being an opinionated, mid-twenty-something desk junky to a fun and focused undergrad (It's very likely that I will still be opinionated to a very high degree). With a little bit of luck, this transformation will render me less of a Hyde  and more of a Jekyll. I will keep you updated on how that unfolds.

The journey I am about to undertake will surely be filled with Tachycardia and Dyspnea but I am confident that as soon as I know how to pronounce those words (this should happen round about the same time that I master the signs and treatments thereof - one can only hope) my vitals will have stabilized and I will once again appear 'normal'.

I have been working on a piece that I hope to complete soon, so dust of your thinking caps and spring clean your brain for a great many interesting posts awaiting your thoughts, comments and input.


Hello Blog-o-tubes!

Friday, 16 December 2011
I never know how to start things like this so I'm hoping this sentence will serve the purpose well enough. Having gotten that out of the way, allow me to say that I've spent a depressingly large part of my adult life slaving away in the IT industry (which in itself wouldn't seem so bad unless you've actually been in QA or Sales). It was from the depths of a cubicle induced stupor that the realization dawned upon me; this shit isn't gonna fly.

After some soul-searching, I became certain of 3 things:
  1. I am extremely interested in Biological Sciences
  2. I love interacting with people (both professionally and socially)
  3. Some other thing to make it 3
Now as we all know;
  a + b + c = medicine
and after many extended lunches, countless E-Mail conversations and tons of paperwork I am officially enrolled as a student at one of South Africa's top universities. Unfortunately, due to a few academical mishaps by my younger, less responsible self (who thought she wanted to practice Law), I will not be able to go directly into Medicine. Instead, I will be attempting a BSc bridge into Medicine.

I will be using this blog to share my experiences, discuss new research and maybe later I'll add features for a
Word of the Day and a How 2 Guide.

So bookmark this page, check back in the new year and wish me luck.