How to Succeed in Anatomy and Phsiology at AVC

I am just reposting this entry from a couple of years ago to be useful to the masses once again…

How to Succeed in Anatomy and Physiology at AVC

Well, who am I to write about this? I have been in these classes and have done pretty well. Some students have asked me for advise, and so I will offer some suggestions of what has worked for me (and what I have seen work for others).

1) Try to take the introductory human biology class (Bio 100) with Dr. Ezzedine if you can. This is an acceptable prerequisite in lieu of general biology, though it might affect you qualifying for Microbiology in the future. Check with a counselor. Anyway, it covers much of the same info that is presented in the Bio 201 and 202 classes. It is more of an overview of the 2 semesters of A & P. I did this and felt like large portions of the Anatomy and Physiology classes were repeating this information. This will give you more time to process the info, and more times going over it. The benefit, you will probably do better in the class, and you will probably remember more of the core material in the long run.

2) Go to the learning center and have your learning style assessed. Work smarter not harder. If you are an auditory learner you are going make more progress in listening to lectures, and pod casts than in reading or other methods. We should all try to immerse ourselves in many different approaches so that we remember more of the material, but you may be able to save yourself a lot of heartache by focusing on your strengths. In my case, I am a listener, and in some portions of the curriculum I listened to the lectures on my iPod 2 or 3 times and that is all I needed to get it.

3) These are serious college classes, none of the sissy general ed. stuff. Plan accordingly. Often instructors say you should spend 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class, but in my experience that is more than you need. Not for these classes. Expect to put in your time; there is no way around it. That might mean that you have to only take 1 or 2 classes so that you can focus. If you have expectations that while taking anatomy you will also have plenty of time for TV watching and hobbies, you will end up feeling like you have been wronged. Just set your mind that learning human anatomy and physiology is one of the main purposes of your life for a couple semesters. It is called sacrifice. That is why the people who persevere and succeed make more money than the rest of us. If you expect to work hard and study you won’t be shocked or disappointed.

4) Remember why you are taking the class, especially when the going gets tough. If you keep your goals in mind (nursing school or whatever) that will keep things in focus when your inner slob is screaming, “why do I need to know this!” Remind your spouse of this often as well.

5) Take it from me, if you are going into the practice of medicine, you will need to understand this stuff. When you are training, your preceptors won’t talk in laymen’s terms. When you are going through CE’s (continuing education) in the future, your teachers will be speaking this lingo. When new drugs or procedures come out, they will be referring to the stuff you learned here. And when you are faced with a sick patient who doesn’t fit nicely into a recipe in some protocol, you will need to think your way through the problem, and all that you have learned will come back to you. I worked as a paramedic for many years and found this to be a lifesaver.

6) Go to the SI (Supplemental Instruction) sessions. They have these for classes with high failure and withdrawal rates for a reason. It is like having a study partner, but more structured. The SI leader communicates with your instructor. It is a great way to help. Students who use SI traditionally score 1 letter grade higher than those who do not.

7) DO NOT MISS ANY CLASSES. Sounds like common sense. But even if you attend all of the classes you will often still feel like you are behind. If you miss a class, you may feel like the task is impossible. Also show up early so that you don’t have added stress. Parking is usually a nightmare for the first 6 weeks.

8) EXPECT TO BE OVERWHELMED EVERYDAY. This has been my repeated experience. Most of us feel like quitting when we are overwhelmed, or at least avoiding the work that is before us. But I recommend that you tell yourself that every new class will give you information that you don’t understand, and that this will seem like an academic Everest. Be assured that this feeling of being “lost” will slowly erode as you go over the material again and again. I have been surprised by how many times this has happened to me. It helps me to tell myself that this feeling is normal, and that it will go away. Just think of when you learned to drive. Everything made you nervous: driving at night, checking your blind spot, getting lost, etc. But now you can do it with a Big Mac in one hand and the radio on. Why the change? Because you have done it many times.

9) See the instructors during office hours if you have questions or need help. They all say this every semester, yet very few students go in for help. But think about it, your instructors are really the best ones to help you through some confusing point. They are the experts; they are going to write the exams! Also, they will often see your effort and be willing to do more to help you if they see you are willing to stretch and sacrifice.

10) Do whatever extra credit is offered. It will help you learn and might push you over the edge on a borderline grade. Better to have more points than you need. If can do it, I recommend taking the time to do a Cadaver project. You can get lots of extra credit from this, and learn a lot about anatomy and yourself. If you do it you will know what I mean, MWAHAAHAA HAA! Also it is likely that several questions on the lab practical test will come from your work! Easy points! Also the teachers are eager to help you with this stuff.

11) Buy and listen to the lectures a second time. When I took the class I listened to Professor Langjahr’s lectures, even though I was not taking his class. I did it, and helped me immensely to hear the same material covered by 2 different teachers. Professor Langjahr is probably the best teacher I have ever had. He is tough, but if you want to learn you will enjoy the work. In any case you can buy the CD’s in the IMC, or get them off of the pod cast site. Just ask him.

12) Spend some time focusing on effective methods for memory. Things like acrostics, mneumonics, flash cards, etc. may seem like voodoo or tricks, but applied properly these memory aids can not only help you remember the material, but do it with much less work!

Paramedic Lessons on Motivation in Learning

This is a photo taken by a friend of mine of a pile up on the Cajon Pass that happened when I was working in Victorville. If you have ever wondered why you should pay attention in class this picture is worth a thousand words.

After several years as a paramedic I decided to get involved with training. Many of the classes I took to become an EMS instructor spent a lot of time on theories of “adult learning.” Adults learn different than children. One important emphasis is on motivation. If adult students don’t see any value in learning the material you are presenting, then most of them will drift off. I had this theory drummed into my head, and tasted it in the many classes I taught.

I personally had sat through so many lectures and CE classes (continuing education) that were a form of legalized torture. The teacher was boring and ineffective. The students were rowdy and everyone wished they could go home. Often it was worse than a just a waste of time because there were few precious hours available to “raise the bar” of health care provided by EMT’s and Paramedics. I hated sitting through classes like this, and probably muttered a vow to myself that I would never teach a class like that. My classes would be worthwhile….My students would learn…My students would even enjoy it! Easy to say, hard to do.

I have always had good grades, from the elementary years, through high school, and into college. But much of the time I still felt like I was faking it, not really learning. It was not until I went to paramedic school at Mt. Sac in 1995 that I feel like I really “learned how to learn.” For the first time in my life I felt like I had to remember something that was for more than just an exam. Our instructors intentionally rattled our cages with a healthy amount of stress. Stand and Deliver. I felt like I needed to know this stuff or people might die. And that was true. So I studied and buried myself in the material. My Goal: mastery. Well of course you can’t master anything until you have gone out and done it for a while. But my hard work in school did pay off, and many years later I was still reaping the benefits of the knowledge I had gained. Some of it was above and beyond. But there were many times when I was able to pick up on some piece of information in an assessment, from a patient’s history or medication list that might have gotten missed. And it was because I had worked hard in the class room. And after School I was committed to keep on learning. And when I became an instructor I was determined that I would keep my students interested.

I mention this because I have often heard people belly-ache in various classes about what they have to learn. Even if they pass, they leave ignorant because they are not convinced that it matters. Who needs to know that stuff. It is stupid. I don’t want to deal with all of these details, I want the glory! Yeah, uhuh. And who wants you to come to their rescue, Mr. I just barely passed by the skin of my teeth.

I read some of the Horatio Hornblower books several years ago and a statement in one of the books has stuck in my mind. One of the sailors said, “for every 2 minutes of excitement in battle, there are 2 weeks (or was it months?) of monotony at sea.” This is definitely true of medicine, and EMS in particular. Much of it is routine, even boring. But it is in those in-between hours of average work, of routine, of study, and diligence in mundane things that no one notices; this is what really defines who you are as a person, and a professional. It will define your reputation, and establish the habits (or ruts) that will bleed over (pardon the pun) when the heat of battle rages on. You may only get one shot to make it big.

Sadly, I have had many instructors who do not make the subject matter exciting. They have lost connection with the idea of motivation and purpose. Want to be successful? Convince yourself that you NEED TO LEARN when you are taking classes. Ineffective teacher? In my opinion, it is during these times that we have to motivate ourselves with a sense of the significance of study, and remind ourselves why we are learning. Furthermore, being able to learn from a bad teacher might be the most valuable thing you gain. If you can learn from a clod, you can teach yourself. Stay motivated, even if you have to tell yourself a lie like, “I really need to know this for the future! Maybe there will be a job interview question about this someday.” Truth is, it probably isn’t a lie. I have heard of stories about that, “oh I see on your resume, that you have taken a class in XXXX, tell us about YYYY…”

Stay motivated. This is one of the keys for learning for adults ( and I think kids too).

Getting Ready for the BIG TEST


Few of us enjoy tests. I am supposed to be on spring break right now. I am supposed to be enjoying a little time of mental relaxation, unbending my tired mind so that future studies will be more effective. But instead, I am thinking about the upcoming microbiology test. It kind of hangs over my head, and is there in the back of my mind. Even when I try to think of other things, it won’t go away. I feel stress because I don’t want to fail….because I know I need to study more….because I want to pass the test, and I don’t want to retake the course. This stress can have the positive effective of helping me decide what is important and what is a waste of time. Simply put, it can help me prepare. The other day one of my professors reminded the class what was going to be on the exam. He told us what would be covered and what kind of questions would be on the test.

As I sat here and reflected on this I thought of several things that Jesus said. Right now I am thinking about a little test with small consequences, but he spoke of a test of much greater import: the judgment day. If people don’t enjoy thinking about midterms, they certainly don’t want to think about a day when they will stand before their maker. But I can’t help but see an interesting connection. I could ignore all those nagging thoughts about an upcoming test on malaria and fungi, and then fail the test when it came because I failed to prepare. Ignoring the upcoming test would be academic suicide. Ignoring the judgment day is spiritual suicide. Like my microbiology professor, Jesus has given us some advance warning about what is going to be on the big test. So I thought I would share a few of the things that Jesus has given us about the coming judgment:

John 5: 26-28 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice.”

Matthew 12:35-37 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

John 3:16-17, 36 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

HOLD YOUR HORSES!!!!!

STOP RIGHT NOW!

Everything you have heard about evolution is a lie!!! in a new book, which I admit I haven’t read, but I did get a good chuckle out of the synopsis, Dr. Aaron G. Filler is going to set the record straight. For all of you who chucked your bible in the garbage because you believed that you descended from Apes, prepare for the shock of it all: you believed a lie!

There is now COMPELLING EVIDENCE, even more compelling that the indisputable evidence we had before, but threw away so we could sell more books, compelling evidence that things happened the other way around. APES ACTUALLY DESCENDED FROM US! This explains a lot, especially if you watch wrestling on TV.

I actually am not making this up. look for yourself on Amazon

I agree with Malcom Muggeridge who said that in the future a retrospecitve glance at evolution will view the whole thing as one of the great jokes of history.

Bertrand Russell on "Why Study Philosophy"

In his article on “The Value of Philosophy,” Bertrand Russell attempts to make a case that the enterprise of philosophy is worthwhile for several reasons. It is interesting that this essay comes at the conclusion of a rather lengthy discussion of the problems of philosophy. Specifically, that there are a significant number of questions in the realm of philosophy that have not been adequately settled. Indeed, Russell is careful to tell us that certainty in philosophy is not really possible. So one of his major arguments is that philosophy is not important because of the answers, but because of the questions. It is not the destination but the journey. As far as he is concerned there is no real destination. “…it cannot be maintained that philosophy has had any very great measure of success in its attempts to provide definite answers to its questions. (p. 23)” He is careful to admit that in the areas where we have attained to certainty, we are no longer in the realm of the philosopher but of the scientist. This of course gives us some clue as to his definite conclusions with regard to numerous philosophical questions such as the nature of the material world, the reliability of the empirical method for obtaining knowledge, and the uniformity of nature.

He goes on at some length to discuss how the philosophical enterprise is a way to make life worth living; that is frees the mind from tradition and prejudice; and that it unites us with the world around us. Incredibly he makes these assertions dogmatically while decrying dogmatism. He speaks of “liberating uncertainty”, and that it is “unwise to pronounce dogmatically.” Furthermore, he seems to deprecate those practical sort of people who just live in the world, content with their assumptions unwilling to question the status quo. Whether or not philosophy has given us certainty on this issue, we know for certain Russell’s conviction on this matter. He definitely seems to look down on these simpletons. Concerning the unhappy life of people with convictions, uninterested in philosophy, he insists that if we are to be “great and free, we must escape this prison and this strife. (p. 25)”

While I agree that there is some utility in a continual quest for knowledge, and definite value in seeking the answer to philosophical questions, I disagree with the notion that certainty is unattainable. And if it is beyond reach, the philosophical enterprise might be satisfying to him, and to others but it is by no means obligatory or superior just because he seems to enjoy it. To insist otherwise would be a return to certainty. This whole perspective reminds me of my big german shepherd. He is very large, very loud, and can be frightening. But it is positively ridiculous to watch him chase his tail.

I disagree with Russell because he seems to contradict himself at so many points. I find it difficult to believe that he really believes what he is saying. He wants his readers to revel in questions with no answer, in a journey with no end, and in arguments without conclusion. All the while he makes numerous definite propositions about asserting the self, and “uniting the self with non-self”, “a wrong conception of the end [goal] of life,” that speculative interest is “killed by confining ourselves to definitely ascertainable knowledge.” (p. 26) He says, “philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the question s themselves. (p. 26)” Yet in the previous paragraph he speaks of an “unalloyed desire for truth.” Which is it? Truth or liberating uncertainty?

Thankfully I have my own motivations for studying philosophy, for if I was left with Bertrand Russell I would definitely not choose this perpetual frustration as my life’s pursuit. I would rather shovel cow clap, though if we follow Russell’s path there is not much difference in outcome or expectation of success.