March 7, 2014

The Challenges of an Out of State Medical School

Hello my Wizard of Oz-loving readers! Usually when I ask students where they would like to go to medical school, the answer is- wherever I get accepted. Now, while that's a great attitude, the truth is that an out of state medical school aka away from your family, friends and support system can have some additional challenges. 
Challenge 1- Most of your classmates will have a support system nearby. This was especially evident in my class (where over 2/3 of my classmates are in-state) after our last exam. It was a Friday exam and it was a fairly exhausting run up to the exam itself which meant that by the time we took the test, everyone was dead tired. When I talked to my classmates about what they were doing after the test, almost everyone was going to have dinner with their parents or spend the night with their non-med-school friends. We had all spent a plethora of hours together and my classmates were ready to blow off steam with people who they hadn't seen every day.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of recharging by hanging out with people who have known me for a significant portion of my life. Don't get my wrong, I made the most of it by chilling in my sweatpants and watching some Netflix, but there is a certain recharge factor that's missing if you can't spend the evening with people who have known you for more than six months. There's also less of a chance that someone will offer you a stress-free home-cooked meal like you may be able to score from your parents.
Challenge 2- Paying out of state tuition. If you go to a state school and it doesn't happen to be your state, you generally end up paying about 20,000 dollars per year more in tuition and fees. Yes, there are copious loans for you to take out, but medical school is already pretty expensive and as it turns out, you will eventually have to repay those loans. That means you spend a lot of time figuring out how to minimize expenses and live responsibly. Sometimes that can have an impact on whether or not you can go out with your friends and what kind of extra expenses you can afford to incur.
My advice- If you're going to go to medical school away from your family and friends, use Skype frequently to have virtual hangout sessions with your loved ones.  As far as budgeting for that out of state tuition goes, working during medical school is an option, as is living with roommates to reduce expenses and living frugally. Lastly, I suggest moving somewhere that has fairly cheap flights home so that if you do need some home time, you won't break the bank getting there. After all, there's no place like home.
Is anyone thinking about going to medical school out of state? Do you have any concerns?
Happy studying!
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April 18, 2013

To Patent or Not to Patent- That is the Question

The United States Supreme Court is hearing an interesting case this week regarding Myriad Genetics’ right to patent the cancer-causing genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA2. The court’s decision, when made, will have important implications for future physicians and researchers with regards to their ability to do research and work in the ever-evolving field of genetics. Basically, if you’re planning to practice medicine, as most of you reading this blog are, the outcome of this case is very important for your future practice!

The essential question at stake is whether or not you can patent a gene or a particular variant of a gene. Patent law is very clear about not being able to patent products solely found in nature; for instance, you can’t patent a tree. However, Myriad defends their ability to patent the genes and likens it to patenting a baseball bat. Yes, the bat comes from a tree, but human input changed it appreciably so that it can be patented.

The justices are hearing arguments and trying to decide if extracting and isolating a particular gene changes it enough so that it is possible to patent it. One of the key arguments is that if companies are not able to patent genes, they will have no incentive to do genetic research and funding could potentially drop. This would restrict the growing and increasingly important field of genetic research. On the other hand, patenting genes means that Myriad can refuse to allow other companies to work on those genes, which could potentially restrict research as well.

So, as the future scientists who lives will be dramatically impacted by this decision, what do you think? Should Myriad be allowed to keep their patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 or are genes inherently part of nature and thus not eligible to be patented?

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