PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

Much Ado About Sex

Scrolling through different social media platforms and watching people drop entertaining/funny freestyles to “for the dick/pussy” challenge, proved to me what I already know..our world is so obsessed with sex. And it is a bit out of control to say the least.

Sex is everywhere you go; there’s no escaping it. Everything is linked back to sex..the pictures, twerk videos, innuendos etc. Even when we are angry, one of the most common verbal expressions in the English language, “Fuck you!” subtly suggests sex. This makes me wonder if Oscar Wilde was right after all when he said, “Everything is about sex except sex, sex is about power.”

When I started blogging, one of the few pieces of advice I received was, “Dude, write about sex and relationships, that’s what people want to read about.” And he was right, blogs get more traffic when writers focus on such topics. Often, you hear people say that there’s more to life than sex/fun yet somehow they still join or follow the conversation.

The urge to join the conversation whenever the topic is about sex, love and relationships, is always there. Maybe because it is something we can all relate to. Maybe it is our deep craving to take a breather and relax our minds. Whatever it may be, sexual intimacy is at the core of our psychological needs.

Naturally, sex, love and affection are basic psychological needs (not wants) of every human being because we are biologically wired with hormones. These gonadal hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone), produced by the testes and ovaries, control brain chemistry and connections, and hence affect our emotions, mood and behaviour.

According to a scientist, Dr Daniel Amen, at the University of California, ‘enhancing oestrogen levels through regular sexual activity increases overall brain activity.’ Also, a recent study by German scientists has shown that brief viewing of pornography interferes with people’s working memory – the ability to pay attention and multi-task.

Either way, this alludes to us paying attention to what we feed our minds. The mind is so absorbent that it can soak up information from everything we do, see and hear: pictures, places, people, shows, movies, stories, ideas and opinions. What you feed your mind has a great impact on your brain capacity.

The brain has the capacity to create neural connections to your thoughts and experiences. So the mind can change the structure of your brain and relationships with others by creating patterns of the information it has absorbed. In the same vein, the brain can change the structure of the mind and relationships. And lastly, because we are tremendously influenced by others, relationships with others can change the mind and brain.

Feed your mind with empowering stuff. Cultivate relationships with people you can learn from. Value learning above everything. Hopefully, this will lead you to all the right moves in all the right places.

P.S. if you don’t like jokes about the genitalia, don’t bother watching the #FortheDick/Pussy” challenge videos.

Pay Attention To Your Feedback

image

As a Nigerian, I have come to realise that one of the things we, as a people, are often afraid of is people’s criticisms/negative feedback. No one likes to be criticised so we tend to develop strong resistance and reluctance to it.

Critiques often trigger strong emotions in us all. We tend to get bitter, angry or try to hurt people who have offered their critiques. We create a defensive stance to protect our self-worth which we feel is under vicious attack.

As a result, we try to disconnect from our social environment and prefer to live in our heads or associate with people who share our ideas and values. We develop an intemperate dislike for other people’s values/opinions and grow insensitive to people’s differences.

image

Our environment encompasses people from different cultures and backgrounds who we interact with on a daily basis. We fail to understand that paying attention to our environment is necessary for human survival.

Almost everything we do is for the public – large or small. For instance, an entrepreneur develops his/her products for public consumption, a teacher/lecturer does his job for his students (public), the students do their school work to impress their teachers (public), the public office holders serve the poor masses etc. Thus, no matter what you do, we depend on people’s feedback to forge ahead.

Your ideas/work may seem brilliant to you but without feedback from people, our ideas/endeavours become especial and illusions. Hear American Rapper 50 Cent, “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they are telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

image

image

I remember when I presented a scientific paper about a year ago. In my head, I did pretty Ok amid the response from the audience but the examiners thought otherwise. Although they commended my delivery, they critiqued the information. I was disappointed at first but after meeting with them privately, areas of the presentation that were flawed and needed to be worked on became magnified/clearer to me. 

Just as I had thought, we often deceive ourselves into thinking we have an insight into how the public feels about us/our work but this information is often tainted and false. This is because we prefer to surround ourselves with friends/family or sycophants who may envy or praise our every move thereby creating a distance between us and the real information out there (the public).

For example, our politicians/leaders/public office holders distance themselves from the people they represent, lecturers distance themselves from the students they teach, employers/superiors distance themselves from the employees/subordinates thereby creating a huge communication gap and thence false feedback from the public. Distancing yourself from the public can be tragic because feedback is so crucial to success. By bridging this gap, we encourage direct interaction with the public and allow them to voice their criticisms and feedback.

image

image

It is impossible to please everyone or control what other people will say, whether they’ll approve or share their opinions but the strength of interacting with the public does not come from the quantity but the quality of your feedback. If you have little or no access to the public, then how do you learn from your mistakes? How do you improve? How do you know you are ignorant? How do you know what the people want?

Criticisms and critiques are never easy to receive/accept but they give you an idea how people see you. Pay attention to your feedback, the most important information in the world, and transform it into an opportunity for personal growth, emotional development, time efficiency, improved relationships, and self-confidence.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Hopsital Combat II

The piece which am referring to is a well prepared article by a good author( we all took Mrs. Obiwulu’s English lessons together) and a long time friend. The piece contains a lot of truth which I must say, as a medical doctor by profession, hit the point. But I must beg to differ in some of his opinions because there are obviously two sides to this story, just like a coin.

To start with, I want to make a bold point that we all (I mean doctors, medical laboratory scientists and nurses) all work for a common goal and that is “To care for the sick”.
This “motto” is what should be borne in mind whether you have an MBBS or a Bsc in Medical Laboratory Science or a Diploma or Bsc in Nursing Science.
Everyone knows their role. I must say so because none of these three departments cannot work without the other. As the common Igbo saying goes, “I gaghi aku aku na-agba agba” ,so it is in this situation.

But then I must point out that in every institution, there MUST be a leader otherwise the system will go into anarchy and everything will just be a mere charade. And that leader in this context is the Doctor. It is a well known and incontrovertible fact which is why the Chief Medical Director of any hospital is a doctor. At this point, I must dare to say that most doctors are egotistical, perhaps this is mostly due to the fact that most doctors bearing in mind that “the doctor is the head of the medical team”, take it too far by imposing there authority on others. This, I must say is VERY wrong as it undermines the common goal of the medical team as I have stated above.

Again, I would want to correct the author that it is the Doctors that makes a diagnosis and go further to proffer solutions to the problem. I must make reference to the medical curriculum (3rd MBBS to be more precise), doctors do a full and complete course in pathology which we know is the backbone of all laboratory courses done by the Medical Laboratory Science students. In essence, we are trained to use that knowledge and our clinical skills to come up with a diagnosis. At this point, I must say that the MLScientists still go a lot further to study the technical details in coming up with laboratory results which contribute to the eventual diagnosis. So I think it’s pretty explanatory why a Consultant Pathologist who is a doctor must control the laboratory departments. He is not just a newbie doctor who has passed all his MBBS exams but has gone ahead to obtain a 4 year Fellowship in a specific aspect of pathology.

As I said before, all these don’t matter at all if (and actually if) we have in mind that we are working for the common goal of the patient. Sadly, it is only in Nigeria we have all these problems. Abroad, everyone knows there role and they play it well knowing fully well their target.

In conclusion, I would also, like the author of the original piece and my very good friend, reiterate the Emmy Award winning Peter Dinklage in “The Game of Thrones” as Tyrion ‘the imp’ Lannister:
“Never forget who you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used against you.”

Thank you.
Alex Onyemeh (MD)

Hospital Combat

Recently, I was banned from a Facebook group (Scientists in Development) for dropping provocative yet honest comments on the page.
Yeah, I know some of you don’t know this but I’m actually a medical laboratory scientist by profession and there’s an ongoing war between doctors and laboratory scientists in hospitals across the nation.

The fight for supremacy in hospitals has reached its apogee; the doctors see themselves as the messiah, the laboratory scientists want to be level with doctors and the nurses, well, they complete the triad.

This face-off makes me laugh rather than agitate me, I guess now you understand why I was banished from the Facebook group.

I do comprehend the plight of my colleagues; the doctors are egotistical. I don’t know if it’s a personal thing or they were taught that in Ethics class. Well, I must admit not all of them are conceited; my elder sister and my friend, Oseyi are both doctors but they are among the down-to-earth people I’ve met.

Doctors often feel superior to everybody and expect others to tremble at the sound of their voice. They head a lot of departments in the hospital and they are also threatening to take over the laboratory department too. Wait! What am I even saying! They have already taken over the laboratory. Consultant pathologists control laboratory departments in Teaching Hospitals across the nation.

When I asked a friend why they would boss the lab, he smugly replied “because we are doctors”. Another friend went further and said they don’t hanker for the Pharmacy because they are the only ones who perform, apart from them, of course! Imagine!!!!

Albert Einstein made a very important statement: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I told my colleagues they are the problem not the doctors and only if they fight the problem would they gain respect. Omo the kind abuse wey I receive no b here oh. Most senior scientists I’ve come by have no masters or doctorate degree; they are contented with just a bachelor’s degree. They feel substandard to doctors, who write exams every year to get to the acme of their profession and often shudder with fear in the presence of doctors. They are yet to recognize their worth. I mean, diagnosis is the bedrock of medicine. When I did my internship program, I squared off against a Consultant; you don’t come to my duty post and tell me what to do. I know my worth, my role and I play it well!

Some of the male scientists lie about having an MBBS when they woo girls because they already have it at the back of their minds that doctors are better than them. British actor, Peter Dinklage alias the Dwarf/Tyrion Lannister in the TV hit series “The Game of Thrones” once said “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used against you.”

The title “doctor” doesn’t make one better or more intelligent than you; forget all these medical jargons they spit all the time – even in clubs/bars. For instance, a proud doctor would rather use the word ‘masticate’ than ‘chew’ just to let you know a doctor is in your midst. One day, I was out drinking with some colleagues and a doctor friend. Suddenly, the doctor deviated from our gist about money and women and started talking about the link between alcoholism and cytochrome p450, an enzyme that catalyses the oxidation of organic substances in the body; I hate when people do that, life is not all about medicine you know. One of the scientist guys cut him off midway and gave him a proper lecture.

In spite of this, we all can learn from one another and need each other for the betterment of the patients but here we are, fighting over nothing. When a patient visits a hospital, a nurse takes his or her vital signs and sends him/her to a doctor, who clerks the patient and sends him/her to a lab scientist to diagnose and ascertain what’s amiss; after the diagnosis, the lab scientist sends the result back to the doctor to prescribe some drugs, after which the patient heads to the pharmacy where the pharmacist dispenses the drugs to him. You see, it’s an interwoven web or should I say, a merry-go-round and they all need each other.