Jul 23, 2008

Genetics Alliance Conference

A few weekends ago, I was up at the Bethesda North (read: Rockville) Marriott and Conference Center, attending the annual Genetics Alliance conference. Here was my chance to hob-nob with some of the biggest names in genetics advocacy, including Francis Collins (*swoon*). Did I conduct myself dignity, as is befitting a young woman of my intelligence and training? Lord, no.

On the first night, there was a dinner to celebrate the passage of GINA (the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act), complete with appreciation awards to all the participating congresspeople. I walked in right before the staffer accepting the award on behalf of Senator Kennedy broke into tears. It was all very touching and heartfelt. Afterwards, we were forced to sing along as the band played "G.I.N.A.," sung to the tune of (you guessed it) Y.M.C.A. It was painfully awkward, so of course I was having a great time. And then Christie and I recruited a few members of the younger crowd to dance like maniacs to the cover band, which composed entirely of genetics professionals. It was like Nerd Heaven.

But I did more than shake my money maker - I shook my connections maker. Or... something. Which is the whole point of these conferences, anyway. Hey, peeps in DC - who wants to let me sleep on their couch if I get an unpaid internship with the Genetics Alliance next year? Don't all talk at once.

The most interesting part of the conference was that Dr. Bod(1), the clinical director of my graduate school program, was there to accept an award. For those of you not in the know, Dr. Bod is a five-foot tall, white-haired, clog-wearing dynamo of genetics. She's so smart that her brain waves beam out in all directions, interfering with the navigation systems of low-flying aircraft and causing grad students to wet themselves. In other words, intimidating as all get-out. She doesn't mean to be - she actually has a quite friendly demeanor, which I noticed for the first time at this conference. It was weird to see her and not have the instant fear response that colored the majority of our interactions when I was a student. We acted almost like ... colleagues, as unbelievable as that was to me. Even though I feel like I'm spinning my wheels in this job, seems like I've made some progress. Go me.


(1) Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent blogger.

Jul 11, 2008

DIY schadenfreude

I was stopped at a light by the skate park yesterday when this little boy in roller blades skated past. He was so tiny that his helmet, knee- and elbow-pads looked about a size too big for him - the "ankles" of his blades were almost to his knees. In a word, adorable. He was trying to get going by skating down a small ramp and rolling up a big ramp. The physicists in the audience can see what's coming. He basically got enough momentum to get half-way up the big ramp before he wiped out. Every. Single. Time. He did this at least three times before the light changed. All the while, he was watching the other skaters, cruising blithely by, with ill-disguised jealousy.

I could not stop laughing.

Happily, I am not alone in deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others. I went to a interesting seminar not too long ago about what makes things 'funny.' The lecturer claimed that the key to most humor is distance (as Mel Brooks said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.") He went on to say that we can be amused at our own 'tragedies' once time has given us the proper distance - the We'll Look Back On This And Laugh effect. And then he asked a good question ... why wait? Why wait for time and tide, when we can give ourselves mental distance now?

In other words, don't be the kid in the blades. Be the woman sitting in her car, laughing her fool head off. And when the light turns green and you can just drive away.

Jul 9, 2008

This doesn't violate HIPPA, does it?

Awesome Things Patients Have Said To Me (Volume One)

Me (to the patient's husband): Do you have any children with a previous partner?
Husband #1: Ha! Not that I know of.

Me: Is there any chance the two of you could be related by blood, as in cousins?
Patient #2: God, no. Though, we are from West Virginia...

Me: Any questions?
Husband #3: No, you explained that very well.
Patient #3: We are so proud of you!
Me: Um ... thanks?

Me (in my End of the Day monotone): So- those- are- your- screening- options- in- a- nutshell. Does- that- all- make- sense?
Patient and partner #4: *laugh in my face*
Me: Heh. Sorry.