Saturday, October 10, 2009

Construction trouble

We've had a few troubles with our apt. We had our tub resurfaced, and I'm not sure what happened but it looked far worse after it was finished than before it was done. It went from peeling to have bits of the metal surface showing. So they came to do it again. However, we can't shower for 48 hours and have to vacate the premises for 6 hours.

Our apt does seem to have quite good customer service. They put us up in their guest suite (they rent it out like a hotel for $100-150/night) for 2 days while we waited. It had internet, a giant flat screen with cable so I wasn't going to complain.
Here it is:

Even though it's Atlanta, we don't really have to use our A/C because our place is surrounded by hills. However, we wanted to test it out a while ago and realized it doesn't blow cold air, only air. So we called about that and a guy came to fix it. After he came, it started to blow cold air but was dripping a decent amount from the vent.

He's been back since and has fixed that.

Let's hope for no problems for a while...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vacuums: Japan vs America

Has anyone done much vacuum shopping? Due to having a Japanese wife, I have done a LOT of research on the web, at least 4-5 hours of reading.

The average vacuum in Japan weighs about 7-12 lb. The ones advertised as lightweight are even less. In America, feather-light vacuums are about 14 lb.

But the biggest difference is canister vs upright vacuums. They ONLY use canister vacuums in Japan.

This is an example of a canister vacuum. So when the whole thing is 10 pounds, the part you are manipulating most of the time is much lighter. Canister vacuums in America are usually over 20 pounds. And most canister vacuums in the US are advertised being for large houses with lots of upholstery, stairs, and hard wood floors.

We live in a studio that's primarily carpet except the kitchen and bathroom. And canister vacuums are always more expensive.

By the way, the don't really have thick carpet like we do in Japan. At least traditionally, they only have hard wood floors and tatami. If there is carpet, it is like the really thin carpet you see in offices, so it's natural the vacuums would be different.

Anyways, I weighed our vacuum that works perfectly well: 17 lb's. The 3 lb difference than the lightest vacuums I could find is not close to enough to invest 100+ dollars. So I kept on looking. I found a random blog that was saying Eureka makes the lightest vacuum in the world. So I started to look at reviews for Eureka vacuums.

Then I found a vacuum with perfect reviews on multiple websites.

It is cordless and weighs 5.5 lb. It's kind of like an oversized dustbuster. But times have changed. I looked at all the reviews and while advertised as being used like a canister vacuum to clean furniture, rugs, etc., people are buying it for their college apartments, dorm rooms, and some for their larger houses. For us, this should work just fine. It seems to work for 20-30 min with one charge which is more than enough for our place. So I went and bought one.

Keiko seems to love, so life is good :)

This is a pic from her Japanese blog where she says she is rather impressed, despite it being American technology. She has lately been putting baking soda on the carpet to do something with the smell of carpet (don't ask me) and it sucked all the baking soda up.

When I vacuum, I'll still use the bigger one as it's wider and will take less time. But 17lb vs 5.5 lb and no cord to worry about... I can see how this works for Keiko.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is public health in my future? (plus a little public health 101)

I'll start off with the infamous analogy of public health:
A doctor is at a river bank. He notices a body floating down the river. He dives in, pulls the body out, does CPR, and saves the person's life. Soon as he is finished, another body floats down. So he jumps in again, repeats CPR, and saves another life. His friend, the public health epidemiologist walks up and sees the doctor. A third body floats down the river. The public health epidemiologist starts to walk off and the doctor says, "where are you going?" The epidemiologist replies "I am going upriver to see how these bodies are getting in the river."

Doctors have very important jobs. People get sick and they need somebody to help them. But a far smarter approach is to prevent the sickness in the first place. Sometimes this is works out great. Rather than treating millions of kids from getting measles, you can develop a vaccine so that no kids get measles. But when obesity is causing arthritis, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, etc. getting rid of obesity is easier said than done.

So here I am, at the public health center of the country at the CDC. I've been here long enough to get a taste of what it's like. I am sure 1 year is a lot longer than 6 weeks, but here are some thoughts so far.

It is so much more relaxing. I know of lots of doctors who ended up staying in public health because they didn't want to take call and avoid the stress. It is way less stressful so far. I have a 40 hour work week that I get to pick. I can work at home if I want. Last week I worked from 6:30am-3pm. (I was giving a high school boy a ride to seminary. His family is from Congo, his dad works graveyard shift, and our church has a class that starts at 6am from 9th-12th grade).
I get to see Keiko so much more than during medical school. It's definitely nice.

Doing projects where we use computer programming to analyze data is definitely something I am more of a natural at than memorizing. Medical school is all about memorizing lots and lots of facts and being able to put them together. I now depend on logic to solve problems. I definitely feel more of a natural at it and this has been reinforced by comments from my supervisors.

But you do feel a little distant after spending time in a hospital. I am mainly working with numbers and charts, rather than with people. I personally feel that you save far, far more lives through this kind of research than working in a hospital, but you don't meet the patient and their family so it's a little harder to feel the gratification.

So where does this leave me? If I absolutely love public health and working at the CDC I have a good plan:
-Finish at the CDC, finish 4th year at medical school, and apply to pediatrics.
-Do a pediatrics residency
-Possibly do a pediatric infectious disease fellowship
-Return to the CDC to work as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, which is a 2-yr program that almost all the people who work here start by getting trained through this program.

If I think i might want to do public health, but want to do a residency first, I probably will stick with the same plan.

If I don't really want to do public health...
-I may switch to surgery. I am kind of thinking pediatrics vs surgery. I haven't met a surgeon at the CDC yet.

We shall see... we shall see...

Monday, October 5, 2009

My job at the CDC

I have been here a little bit now. I'm starting to know what I will be doing here the whole year. I have a few different activities.

1. Outbreak investigations
This is probably the most exciting part. I am on the tuberculosis team and when there is an outbreak of tuberculosis and they request the CDC's assistance, then I accompany the team. We try and find out who has the disease, how much it has spread, and get people started on treatment and look for ways to control for outbreaks in the future. These trips are usually in the US, but can be anywhere in the world. (Tuberculosis outbreaks happen in the US more than I thought, often in homeless shelters or prisons.)

I am actually leaving for 4 weeks to investigate an outbreak on some small islands in the middle of the Pacific, leaving in mid-Oct. Keiko will be visiting her family in Japan during that time.

2. Analytic Epidemiology
This means I analyze data to try and come up ways to solve public health problems. The most common thing I have seen is people look for risk factors for diseases. For example, the CDC found out that lacking folic acid was a risk factor for many types of birth defects (mostly dealing with the spine). Now folic acid is in many cereals and lots of foods and those birth defects have drastically dropped.
All tuberculosis cases have data reported to the CDC from the whole country. It's a lot of data. My job is to look at it and try and find ways to help improve tuberculosis prevention. I have a few projects going on right now.
Most of the actual work for this is using computer programming, which I get to use more of my engineering hat for which is a nice break from the straight memorizing of medical school.

3. Surveillance
These are projects where we collect data or monitor a disease. I will be doing a project of doing tuberculosis surveillance of islands in the Pacific.

4. Public health education
We have many classes and seminars to help us learn. It's kind of up to us what to take. I can take classes on Microsoft Excel or computer programming, etc. I can go to conferences to learn about tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the dates don't work out for almost all the conferences my supervisor had planned for me.

5. Publications and presentations
I am supposed to present and write about the research I do. I hopefully will be able to fly to a research conference in New Orleans this spring and present some research and get an article published in a medical journal. Maybe even more than one.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

CDC museum and some CDC history

The CDC had a museum day recently. I decided to take Keiko to show her the only part of CDC that has any interest to see. It has many campuses. The one I am on is only office buildings with cubicles and offices, truly nothing interesting to see as far as I can tell. The original campus has some impressive buildings, a museum, and a bunch of things that are pretty cool to see but you need special permission to get into, like the emergency operations center or microbiology labs.

This is the current logo for the dept of health and human services and the CDC. They have a few, but I was hoping this was the one they would have for clothes to sell but this wasn't it.

There was one item that used something similar: anyone want a CDC onesie?

Here are some pics of the main entrance.

They check your car for bombs by looking in the trunk, hood. I was a little surprised. We went to the museum and these were pics Keiko found interesting.

The CDC started out as a branch of service that was purely for the military. It was also originally purely for malaria control. It was costing a lot of money to the military as they had lots of malaria problems in their training camps. While most of these organizations were in DC, the CDC decided to form home base where the problem was the worst, the south. Emory Univ donated a bunch of land and the CDC has been in Atlanta ever since. It eventually branched out into other infectious disease and now does all public health problems, including obesity, asthma, and works in many other countries.

The first is of a poster of a public health message to soldiers to drink only clean water.

This is a machine that was known as the iron lung. It was one of the first artificial breathing machines. It was very common when polio was a common disease and all the children who were paralyzed (including breathing muscles) had to be put on these until they died or regained control. FDR made this disease famous (that's why he was in a wheelchair).
The CDC has helped eliminate polio from most of the world. It remains in only a few countries where 100% vaccination has prevented it from being eliminated.

All CDC entrances have security guards and airport style security places. Keiko can't get into many buildings because she isn't a US citizen. She can't even visit me at work.

This kind of shows what I do on outbreaks for tuberculosis or HIV. We found people who have the disease, interview them to find people they might have given to or received from and then go to all those people to test them for the disease. Anyone who test positive gets interviewed and we branch out to find more people. You can then find out who has the disease and treat them. You can also find certain places like churches, bars, homes where disease like tuberculosis might be spreading.

Keiko is out to save the day from a terrible ebola virus outbreak!!!

We are making pals with mosquitos, a diplomatic way to control malaria.

This poster explains how dangerous diseases are transported. There are a lot of layers.

Keiko was interested in small pox. As you may know, it was a terrible disease for a long time. It was also the first disease to have a vaccine. A farmer and doctor noticed people who got cowpox from the cows on the farm never got small pox and figured it out from there.

Small pox still exists in labs and some are afraid that some countries or militant groups may want to use it as a weapon so the CDC still stocks vaccines and has to be prepared for it.

If anyone has a question about the CDC, feel free to ask.

Here is the emergency operations center. I got a tour of it. It looks like NASA's central command. This is where they manage emergencies, like swine fly or 9/11. It was rather impressive looking.