Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category


Year In Review.

In Goals,Misc. on July 11, 2011 by David

It’s been a little more than a year since I came to San Francisco. I arrived June 10th of last year to start research. This past year has been the hardest year I have ever had. I had a difficult time adjusting to San Francisco, felt far from home and alone, and was not sure about my identity. I really enjoyed medical school and my new peers, but throughout the first year, I felt a sense of turmoil – a tension and conflict between who I am, who I seek to be, and how others perceive me.

Coming to medical school as an MD/PhD, I thought a joint degree would be an opportunity to delay choice. I both love medicine and science, and was not sure what I really wanted to what I ultimately wanted to pursue. I felt privileged to have this great opportunity, but for me there was the constant tension of the realization that to do something great, one would need to specialize and ultimately choose one passion. I hoped that over the course of eight years, I would be able to better understand myself and can reevaluate my choices and options. I thought a joint degree would give me more exposure to both science and medicine, and the tools to pursue both.

But having finished my first year in medical school, I have conclusion that a joint degree is not simply the sum of medicine and science training. It is something different – in the middle yet entirely distinct. It is not equal parts medicine and research, it is an intersection that can only be described as medical research that takes elements from both but also rejects characteristics of both. And with this training comes the implicit expectation that one would end up doing medical research, not medicine or research. Although not entirely explicit, I felt MSTPs had a subtle sense of disapproval for those who ultimately ended up in solely medicine or solely science, so many graduates end up in the twilight zone I’ve termed medical research.

For me, being MSTP felt like a source of constant conflict. When doing research, I dream about being back in school and in clinic. When bored in class, I daydream about what I could do with these idle hands back at the lab. There was a tension, partially driven by a sense of urgency in knowing that the training is so long and wondering why I am wasting time, but mainly driven by a sense of mistaken identity.

Truth be told, I never felt truly comfortable in the role of MSTP. They are big shoes to fill. I never liked it when there were jokes about MSTPs being smart. In fact, I actively disagree. I think MDs are no different from MSTPs in terms of ability, just a different in interests and background. I squirm when singled out as an MSTP, because with the title comes expectations. An expectation that I enjoy all kinds of science and all types of research, when in fact developmental biology and other vast fields of science bore me to death. An expectation that I don’t enjoy the “touchy-feely” stuff, although like science, there are aspects I really like. The conflict has struck at the very heart of me – ultimately, this past year, I was not sure who I am and what my identity was.

Conversely, If there is anything I am sure about, it is that one needs to focus to succeed. To have too many fingers in too many projects, one will surely fail at them all. Throughout both high school and college, I always got myself involved into many projects, many interests, and many activities. I had a hard time distinguishing “many” from “too many”. Although I was fortunate to never crumple under the weight of too many responsibilities – things always worked out, I see now that this is a sign of immaturity. It is a sign that I do not know what I am truly called to do. I reminded of a good quote – “beware the barrenness of a busy life”. Despite the constant pressure to be busy and productive, I will take the next month to be still, to be calm, and rest before I start again.

I have decided that life is too short to live by other people’s expectations. There is a quote that really stuck with me – “The measure of a person is a how many uncomfortable conversations he or she can initiate.” In fact, I am glad that I had a difficult year. I had the opportunity to grow as a person and more realistically solidify my self-identity and expectations for the future. The discomfort is only a sign of growth.

I look forward to living for myself again.



West Vs. East: How Stanford Will Beat Harvard in 50 Years

In Misc. on January 3, 2011 by David Tagged: , , , , ,

To a first approximation, the quality of a university trends with economic power of the surrounding region. I think this is makes sense as the quality of a university is a product of the quality of students and faculty it can attract. Universities naturally tackle problems that are of interest to the community near them. Businesses actively recruit graduates from universities that are close and familiar to them. If these questions and these businesses are inherently important, prestigious, or high-impact, the university’s importance, prestige, and impact would go along with it. Silicon Valley is definitely a boon to Stanford, and being in the heart of colonial America was definitely beneficial to Harvard – but this says nothing about the lasting power of such quality.

One example could the relative respect and ranking of European universities and American universities. Going back to the 19th century, Europe, particularly England, was the center of the world – there is no doubt that Oxford and Cambridge were the undisputed centers of education and learning. Harvard would seem like a backward backwater professional school. As we progress to the 20th and 21st century, America’s relative standing in the world improved, and I think this coincided with a rise in names such at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. This might be due to my America-centric background, but I think these schools can hold their own against most others throughout the world.

Much more than educational models and philosophies of teaching, the relative importance of the region that a university encompasses is the leading indicator of future success. That is not to say the educational mission is unimportant, but I think other factors pale in comparison to the irresistible attraction of proximity. Choosing a college a few years back, I had no idea what is really important. Apart from an ambiguous idea for “prestige” and the spectrum of unique but equally impressive architecture, I remained ultimately ignorant of the different characteristics of each institution – and I get the impression that I was not alone. With all else equal, I would imagine being close to family and friends would a significant pull to the empty vessels we call students. The law of large numbers would suggest regions that can attract intelligent adults will inevitably attract intelligent students.

The real question is: Where is this going? What implications does this have for the future? I think it is particularly telling that one of the major movies of the past year chronicles the journey of bright young student moving from the more traditional prestigious halls of education and power to a new area of excitement and potential. The Social Network, in part, described Mark Zuckerberg’s move from Boston, Massachusetts to Palo Alto, California, and foreshadows the gradual shift of America’s center of gravity towards the West.

It is difficult to predict the fall of hegemony – and Harvard is undoubtedly an educational hegemon. But just as we are transitioning into a multi-polar world and Facebook is challenging the internet dominance of Google, such shifts seem natural, almost inevitable, in hindsight. And that is my guess for the improvement of Stanford over Harvard in the near future. As the United States moves ever more towards an information-based economy and the traditional powers of finance and trading is seen as a pyramid of misaligned incentives, the center of gravity shifts towards the West. The importance of Silicon Valley will only increase and in turn, the significance of Stanford, UCSF, Caltech, Berkeley, and other schools in the west will continue to grow.


Interesting Reads

In Misc. on January 28, 2010 by David Tagged: , , ,

Hal Varian of Google recommends statistics as career.

A: If you are looking for a career where your services will be in high demand, you should find something where you provide a scarce, complementary service to something that is getting ubiquitous and cheap. So what’s getting ubiquitous and cheap? Data. And what is complementary to data? Analysis. So my recommendation is to take lots of courses about how to manipulate and analyze data: databases, machine learning, econometrics, statistics, visualization, and so on.

The Case for Open Immigration.

A: I think freedom of movement is one of the most basic human rights, as anyone who is denied it can confirm. It is abhorrent that the rich and the educated are allowed to circulate around the world more or less freely, while the poor are not — causing, in effect, a form of global apartheid….The economic case for open borders is as compelling as the moral one.When it comes to the domestic economy, politicians and policymakers are forever urging people to be more mobile, and to move to where the jobs are. But if it is a good thing for people to move from Kentucky to California in search of a better job, why is it so terrible for people to move from Mexico to the U.S. to work?

The Statue of Liberty is engraved with the quote “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Is it sad that in this modern age, this might be ironic?  Do we fear the influx of new ideas and individuals because they will take away jobs or opportunities?

One of the major arguments against immigration is the threat of terrorism, yet ironically this is one of the most effective strategies against terrorism. Travel to the United States tends to improve the individual’s perception of the United States, and subsequently advances the perception of America in the individual’s friends and family. This increased dialogue is only of the few effective ways of moderating extremist viewpoints.

Speaking about safety and terrorism, the adapting standards of privacy and security.

I remember being told as a child: “Never talk to strangers.” That’s actually stupid advice. If a child is lost or scared or alone, the smartest thing he can do is find a kindly looking stranger to talk to. The real advice is: “Don’t answer strangers who talk to you first.” The difference is important. In the first case, the child selects the stranger—and the odds of him selecting a bad person are pretty negligible. In the second case, the stranger selects the child; that’s more dangerous.

The SAT is interesting.


Summer 2009

In Misc. on July 21, 2009 by David Tagged: , , ,

Wow. Its been a long time since I felt the urge to write. And even longer since I decided to write on this blog. Time for an update of Summer 2009!

This summer has been going by really fast, in part due to amazing people, interesting work, and great weather. I really like the Bay Area. Fingers crossed for 4+ more years here? I am working in Wendell Lim’s lab. Quite an amazing lab, they do lots of really good work using synthetic biology to understand signal transduction. Their paper was showing that a scaffold protein (which have no catalytic domain and is thought just to bring to key players together) plays an active role in regulated the yeast MAP kinase cascades. Anyways, before I get distracted on a supernerdy tangent, I just want to say I’m having a great time and im totally impressed by all the smart, insightful, and HELPFUL people here.

Anyways, the poeple in the SRTP program are pretty awesome. They are such a hardworking and passionate bunch – really puts me to shame and makes me want to work harder. Yesterday, we got back to SF from Amgen conference in LA at 4PM and people started organizing a bus to drop us off at Mission Bay. After an action packed weekend, Myron, Laura, Nick, and etc were energetic enough and motivated enough to keep going to work. That totally energized me, and I ended up working for 3 more hours, leaving at eight. That is what I love about this program – that people are so motivated and ambitious. They will really go far in life. I want to be part of a community of such amazing poeple.

Speaking about amazing poeple, this past weekend was the Amgen Scholars Symposium. It was a pretty amazing experience, with important industry leaders such as Joe Miletich (the senior VP of R&D at Amgen) and academic giants such as Owen Witte (HHMI and NAS professor at UCLA). Everyone there was so helpful – offering advice and suggestions about what a career in science and medicine means.  My take-home conclusion has been that you have to enjoy where you are – regardless where you are, and don’t try to plan too far in the future. Have faith in God/chance/luck/yourself, and simply seize the opportunities before you. (In a similar vein, I am reminded of this essay by Paul Graham.) The greatest people, in looking back, had no idea their lives would turn out the way it did, and simply did what they enjoyed. I was really happy to hear this, and want to structure my life that way.

This summer, I am really taking time to enjoy what I am doing, just chilling out, doing work that I am passionate about, and trying not to think too often about what is ahead in the horizon. Too often in the past, I had the mentality of “head down and plow through this” instead of stopping to smell the roses. In high school, I was “Aite, lets get through SATs and all this junk. If I sacrifice now, I can chill out in college.” Then, in an abrupt about-face, in college, I was “OK. I’ll just dominate MCAT and hurdles, I’ll find more time to relax in med school.” How short-sighted am I? What’s next, hardcore through med school, so I can “chill” in residency? Life is a journey, and its quite a beautiful and exciting one at that.

This summer is the epitome of my new perspective. I had no problem with hard work – but I’m staying late and occasionally coming in on weekends not to push a objective; but because I enjoy it. I am spending more time just chilling out with poeple; after all interaction with people is the root of my medical ambitions. This summer is really cool, chilling out with SRTP people and even getting to hang out with TAMS people (Dustin is at Google and Paul/JJ are at Berkeley. Jeff is coming up this weekend?). I went bull riding in LA! I have an awesome video. Haha. Before I go to med school, I want to: Work for a company (I don’t think I’ll ever have a stereotypical cubical job as a physician), travel around the world (will it ever become anything more than a blue sky dream?), play more bball (finally be able to touch the rim), and do more stuff with MUN (gah, every time I talk with a debator/person interested in policy, I am reminded how much I miss policy debate).


Hmmm. Random Goals.

In Misc. on April 6, 2009 by David Tagged:

OK. After I get into Med School, I want to:
1. Run a marathon.
2. Get a girlfriend.
3. Play Starcraft 2.
4. Lounge around in my boxers for a whole day.
5. Learn to play a new instrument.
6. Plan my Around The World Expedition. See previous posts.



In Misc. on February 7, 2009 by David Tagged:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.



In Misc. on January 10, 2009 by David

Wow. I really love reading blogs. Especially about people you don’t know, so there’s no preconceptions, no first impressions, just an amazing look at the progression of someone through life. It’s amazing what people say, how much insight you get into poeple’s lives, and how amazing and/or tragic life is.

It makes me see how amazing people are. I might not know them, but I love them. Not in a romantic or emotional sense, but just an overwhelming sense of how great people are. They make me smile. Not of a particular thing they did, but the very fact that they are. Of their being. How happy I am to see them being alive. To read about thier triumphs. To hear about thier problems. To laugh at their jokes.  Reading through the blogs, you see a sense of progression – maturation, development, and growth throughout their lives. And it’s amazing. I guess its the feeling a parent would feel towards a child, but I feel such a sense of joy seeing how there is such a world out there, of loving, feeling poeple who are growing and learning.

Recently, I have been reading blogs written by physicians. Attendings, residents, med students, all these titles that I want to have in the future. It makes me think. It puts a human perspective, from the other side of the white coat. These blogs have such interesting perspectives and reveals much more about their professions and personalities than can be obtained by a transient or even long conversation. Yet it’s tragic. To see how much sometimes the medical profession takes away. Medicine takes away so much time, time away from your kids, your wife, your parents, your siblings. Medicine changes you. Molded by the harsh hours and strigent pressures, your thoughts and habits are no longer your own. Reading this blog/article and this article, I am struck by how much medicine can/will change my habits. Doctors shoulder a heavy burden, who can’t help but be changed a little by that?

Medicine is a great committment, requiring a great passion, and withstanding much pain. I understand that. One blog states it this way. “As priorities go, I think most doctors find that the only important things are God, family, and medicine. The problems come that the order of those three is often not as clear. I know several doctors and medical students who celebrated the births of their children by taking an afternoon off.” That’s scary. I’m fluid – currently in a state of flux. (On a sidenote, I think my flexibility is one of my best characteristics). I can change, am easily molded, but do I want to be? Right now, my priorities are God, family, and career. For me, will career and medicine be synonymous? Will it be hard for me to prioritize these things in the future?