Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Another Day at the Office

On rough days Tom, the med student who sits behind me, sighs a lot.

This is how I know that the colorful squiggly lined slides that he stares at are getting the best of him.

A few weeks ago I asked him what he was puzzling over because all day he kept sighing these big deep sighs of resignation.

"Lay it on me, Tom. We can totally figure this out," I told him.

He's spending the summer doing research in Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, which is where I sit. So he told me that he's trying to figure out if this "aggregate" that collects in the heart forms because of heart disease, causes heart disease or is a byproduct of something else that happens in the body that may or may not be related to heart disease.

Well geez, why didn't you say so?!

"Ok, so is the aggregate good or bad," I ask him.

"It's not good. They think it's like Alzheimer's of the heart. Like how your brain develops this protein aggregate, so does your heart."

"No problem then, let's just make something that vacuums it out," I said.

He seemed skeptical. "Riiight... like a vacuum."

"Yes." Then I made a vacuum-y sounding noise while I pretended to vacuum out "aggregate" from my own heart.

"Or, maybe we could invent some sort of pill that the aggregate sticks to, or that breaks it down, and then you just pee it out, like extra calcium, only its aggregate."

"Or!" (and this is where I started to get really excited), "we'll create two kinds of mice. One will be the baseline aggregate mouse and the other one we'll give things to that we think might stop the aggregate, like coffee. Doesn't coffee help prevent Alzheimer's? And crosswords? Don't crosswords supposedly help brain function? We'll invent some sort of crossword puzzle for the heart."

Tom pretended to be on board with all of this. It's testament to his patience and why he will someday be an excellent physician - he'll be well practiced at humoring simpleminded patients.

"Yes... these are good ideas," he said. (Then he said something about how it's good to talk to people outside of what he's doing because sometimes "simple" things help you find your answer, but I'm just going to pretend he didn't mention that whole "simple" thing because all of this was pretty complex if you ask me. I mean, it's not like this stuff just comes to me, I had to think about it for a few minutes.) (Ok, it totally just came to me, but still.)

"Stick with me Tom. I'll make it rain in here. How long are you here? What's our time frame for this?"

"Eight weeks."

"Eight weeks. No problem. I think we can do it."

"You know, the Boss Man has spent much of his career on this." (Except he didn't say Boss Man.)

"Yeah, that seems excessive. No reason we can't wrap this up by the end of the summer, Tom. Just think how jealous your med-school classmates will be when this gets published!"

(Then in my head Tom thanked me during his speech at a some super fancy honorary dinner when he wins the laureate prize for his research, and he gets me a new scooter with the massive amounts of dough he'll rake in from his discovery. Wait, why just a scooter, Tom? Why not a big fancy house or something? You would have never thought of a heart vacuum without me. Ingrate.)

Anyway, I can only assume when Tom goes off to the lab now he's working on our aggregate vacuum/pill-where-you-pee-out-aggregate/coffee drinking mouse.

I'll keep you all posted on what's sure to be the scientific breakthrough of the summer.

No comments: