Category Archives: research

ah, summer (part 2)

Summer goes on, and I’m still inside, working on grant reviews. I’m about halfway through my stack, and have discovered a couple of tricks to help speed up the review process. It’s still taking me about 5 hours per application, which is really slow. I haven’t yet figured out if I’m being compulsive or inefficient. I suspect it’s both together :-S. I’m getting about 1.5 applications done per day, and am well-situated to be done with the reviews well in advance of the deadline. At any rate, as I’m now too brain-dead to work on reviews any longer, I’ll follow through on last week’s promise that I’d recount an ADD-related experience I had in my summer class.

It seems that each semester I have at least one student who has moderate to severe ADHD. My summer course was no exception; I had a student with ADHD that was sufficiently severe to require fairly intensive accommodations, which I was happy to provide in order to help them be successful in my course.

Outside of those accommodations, this student clearly had trouble in all the usual ways. They couldn’t sit still in class, had trouble coming to class on time, had trouble turning in work by deadlines, wouldn’t raise their hand before speaking, dominated the class discussion, went off on tangents, etc….. but really cared about the class and was clearly trying their darndest to do well.

My heart always goes out to these students, because they inevitably share stories of disappointments in classes and having to work so hard with professors who are less willing to follow their lists of accommodations (something I don’t understand, since these should be guaranteed to them by law).

I worked hard with this student, and was very proud of her performance by the end of the summer course. I observed a noticible improvement and substantial grasp of the course material, and saw how proud they were about their performance and enjoyment of the course. At the end of the term, my ADHD student thanked me profusely, saying that they’d planned to buy me a gift card for the local coffee shop in thanks for all my effort (of course I declined; no bribe needed, but the thoughtful gesture was definitely appreciated).

Unfortunately, on the last day of lecture, when my student went off on a tangent that took up quite a bit of course time. I did my best to divert them to get the class back on topic, and did fairly well…. but out of the corner of my eye, caught one of my neurotypically-normal students rolling their eyes and elbowing their friend in a clearly nasty way.

I almost lost it, not because of the nastiness, but because of the *nerve* it took to be nasty when this student has been nothing but open with their classmates about their disability, and asked for their patience with their quirks (something they didn’t need to do by any means). This same neurotypically-normal student had sent me an entitled message the night before challenging my grade on their paper, as well as my comments about their sloppy writing. When I replied that I stood by my comments, they indicated that I’d hurt their feelings and stomped on their pride.

It just goes to show that it’s not one’s strengths or weaknesses that determine their worth as a person. This “typical” student had the gall to be mean to somebody who has been nothing but kind and hardworking, as well as the guts to demand that I don’t “stomp on their pride” by giving valid criticism on their writing. All my student wtih ADHD wanted was to have adequate support to accommodate her learning needs, and was grateful to get it in a respectful fashion.

Now if only the rest of the world could understand this basic lesson…

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ah, summer….

I haven’t blogged in over two months, and of course the reason is that I’ve been busy. It’s a common misperception that academics “take the summer off.” I can assure you that this is definitely *not* the case.  I’ve been in this line of work for a decade, and even my mom still thinks this a little bit (i.e., she’s bugging me about coming for a visit, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it fit in my schedule without having to pull all-nighters. This would be very, very bad…).

How I spent my summer “vacation”: I taught a summer class in May and June (and will post about an experience in this class soon), dealt with 3-4 Masters theses, took a few days’ off last week before the 4th of July, and have spent this week working on a paper and doing grant reviews. I’ll do the same tasks next week, and then will spend a few days in DC finishing the grant reviews. The week after that, Hubby and I go to Hubby’s home country for a week-long holiday (badly needed!). Once we return, there’s only a couple of weeks until the new semester begins. I’ve taught my two fall semester classes before, but one requires a bit of reprep, an assignment requires fairly substantial revision, etc. All of this work takes time.

It feels like summer is over before it’s really even begun. I’m trying not to think about this too much because it makes me feel sad and burned out. It also makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything (totally untrue, but still…). For example, I’d planned to get at least 2 papers out this summer, but now I think I’m going to have to forego at least one because I’m doing these grant reviews.

At least the weather is nice, and I get to enjoy it because I’m doing most of my work from home! If only the weather and summer could last just a couple weeks’ longer…

the end is nigh

It’s the last week of the semester. Hooray 🙂 I anticipated getting to do some research this week, but things haven’t quite worked out as I’d planned.

Instead, in the 400-level class for majors, I have:

  • Graded 40 papers
  • Caught 8 students plagiarizing on their papers
  • Rebuked 4 of them in person over their offenses
  • Been impressed by their maturity when meeting with me about their plagiarism (two even apologized for making my job harder!)
  • Offered an incomplete and extra help to a crying student completely unprepared to do work at the 400-level
  • Given 1 exam
  • Not yet graded 5×40 short-answer questions

In the next 48 hours, I will

  • Grade those pesky short answer questions
  • Give an exam in my 100-level course
  • Calculate & post grades for both courses
  • Finish assembling my first year review packet
  • Finish commenting on a draft of a masters’ thesis
  • Make notes on my syllabi so I remember how I want to change them for next semester/year
  • Return to the research paper I last worked on about 2 months ago & hopefully finish it enough to send it back to the 2nd author
  • Halfheartedly clean the house in anticipation of my brother-in-law’s arrival on Sunday
  • Do all of our holiday shopping (three cheers for the internet!)

a clarification on my November post about knowing more than my doctor

I *loved* this comment from PreMedAA so much that I’m going to write a whole post in response to it. This comment followed my early-November post about my annoyance with my new psychiatrist.

The background for readers who don’t want to refer back to old posts (plus filling in some gaps I’ve previously omitted to help hide my real identity): I switched shrinks when I moved to a new state over the summer. Hubby and I knew that we wanted to start to try for a family sometime this autumn, which was my first in a faculty position after 3 years in a health sciences postdoc. Having discussed the issue of medication and pregnancy at length with my old shrink (a fellow in geriatric psychiatry at one of the best psychiatric hospitals in the nation who I very much  miss), I was keenly invested in seeking the best care possible in my new setting. My old shrink was supportive, and asked me to keep in touch with her about my treatment in this new setting. My old shrink appreciated that since Hubby and I have started talking seriously about kids, two limitations have been foremost on my mind: a) I’m able to work up to my full potential because of ritalin, and taking a 2-year break from it in order to conceive could potentially tank my chances for tenure, and b) having spent 9 years in pre- and postdoctoral training, I’m no longer a spring chicken. If we’re going to start a family, we need to start trying soon, or we risk running out of time.

S0, imagine my dismay when I called for an appointment at my new university’s med center specialty AD/HD clinic (in July) and found out I’d have to wait 2 months in order to get an appointment (September). My dismay was further magnified when I met my new doc and discovered how inexperienced she was. I brought up the pregnancy & meds issue at our first appointment in September. She promised to do research before our next appointment, and wrote me a prescription for the SSRI I take for PMDD (note: she wrote it for the bi-weekly dosing, which is quite standard for treating PMDD). When I came back in October, she hadn’t yet done any research on pregnancy & ritalin. I brought up the research I’d done on my own and with my old doc. She promised to look into it and get back to me. When I came back in November, she still hadn’t done any research and seemed to have forgotten about the bi-weekly dosing of SSRIs for PMDD (despite having written the prescription herself just weeks before). She promised to consult with her network of supervisors and colleagues, and assured me she would call me in a week. I had to call her a week later to remind her of our phone appointment. She was rather unprepared when she called me back, and asked me to come in before Thanksgiving for a short chat in person about the literature & promised to bring an important research publication. I made (& paid for) the extra appointment, for which she ran 30 minutes late. She forgot to bring the article (promised to fax it, but it still hasn’t happened & I’m not holding my breath), but still couldn’t say anything conclusive or provide me any strong evidence for any option during pregnancy. She pushed really, really  hard for my trying fish oil, which apparently shows decent efficacy with young children (alas, if I were only in the 2nd grade and just learning simple multiplication instead of spending my days doing matrix algebra…).  So I’m still on hold, and yet can’t get another appointment in the clinic until  early January.

So, my hubby and I have put off trying to conceive for an additional 6-7 months, and 4 months of that delay is due to my new shrink being inexperienced and inefficient. I’ve also wasted a total of 4 hours of my semester in the waiting room filled with people who function at a far, far lower level than I do… and to put this in practical terms, 4 hours = the preparation of 1 full lecture or 4 written pages of a research article.  The bottom line is that I sought a specialty clinic thinking it would save me time and effort, and I probably could have received better treatment from a GP.

(I suspect that quite a few ADDer readers have had similar treatment experiences. My situation is anything but unique.)

So, now I’ll deal with PreMedAA’s lovely comments…

Would you have preferred for the resident to attempt to cover her ignorance and simply take her ‘best educated guess’?

A physician at any level may not have confident answers on the tip of their tongue, especially if their patient has a keen grasp of pharmacology and medicine.

I agree with you; no, I wouldn’t want her to ‘cover’ by making a guess, but a competent medical professional in a specialty clinic shouldn’t need 3-4 months to come up with an answer to this sort of question, regardless of who the patient is, or how threatening the patient’s competence is to the physician’s ego. It’s not like ADD is a new condition, and I’m hardly the first woman who wants to get pregnant without tanking her career by going totally med-free.

Stating that you know more about something than a doctor may or may not be true. Your ‘knowledge’ may have been garnered from secondary sources or your educational background may be insufficient to properly digest the primary pharmacodynamics proposed by the manufacturing company. Your doctor is not a CPS or PDR, if they were, those compendiums wouldn’t exist.

Actually, I have a Ph.D. in the health sciences, and my research specialty is self-regulation, the set of skills directly impacted by the medical condition of AD/HD. It takes longer to get a Ph.D. in  my field than it does for a M.D. to complete medical school, and I have 3+ years of postdoctoral training on top of that. Furthermore, I’m 2+ years past diagnosis, and have been very actively involved in my treatment. This has included spending a great deal of my free time reading the literature on AD/HD and medication. Yes, I read the primary sources, and yes, I understand them, even the “yucky” stats part in the middle. In short, I have more years of research training in the field, and unless my doc has ADD herself, then most likely I also have more first-hand experience.

If you were particularly impatient, which you claim to be, then perhaps stating your acceptance of her consultation of her reference books in your presence would have saved you both time, as its likely that she didn’t feel dragging out the books in front of you would inspire much confidence, which you could have offered to alleviate.

For pete’s sake… the November post as just a blog entry, not a direct transcript of my conversation with my doctor. I actually would respect her more if she had dragged out her reference books. Of course I consented to allow her to consult with colleagues and do further independent research. I’ve repeatedly told her that I understand that residents are still training, and have also repeatedly expressed a desire to consult about primary references (i.e., current research). She’s the one who’s not been willing or able to meet me halfway on this. How much more open, supportive, and non ego-threatening can I really be? How long should someone be reasonably expected to wait?

You claim to know more about treating ADD/ADHD than your 1st year psychiatry resident-attending physician which is unlikely unless your a physician yourself and in the case of Adderall…at least a pharmacologist.

I’m not writing anything else about my specific academic credentials because I risk outing myself, and that’s  not a good thing pre-tenure.  Just a few points… a) she’s a 1st year resident, not an attending; b) it’s “you’re,” not “your,” and your sentence structure doesn’t make much sense; c) finally, if you’d bothered to read any of my other entries, you’d realize that I take ritalin, not adderall.

But since you don’t have time to permit your physician to ensure the validity of her counsel, then perhaps you ought to consult with a pharmacist about the possible effects of your drug regime on pregnancy…and perhaps they would be familiar with your atypical SSRI rotation.

The possibility that you havn’t done this already on your own suggests that such comments in regard to having a superior clinical knowledge of your diagnosis may not be advisable on your part, especially towards a medical professional.

Doctors are not gods, and the rest of us are not “lesser” beings.  Contrary to the belief of many MDs, they don’t know everything, they do make mistakes, their time is no more valuable than anybody else’s, and they don’t deserve to be treated any better or worse than anyone else.  I’ve given her plenty of time, and she’s wasted it. As a faculty member who is currently working 60+ hour weeks, I don’t have time or the patience to train somebody how to do their job OR remind them about how they’ve treated my condition at previous appointments. In these circumstances, I shouldn’t have to bend over backwards or jeopardize any aspect of my future in order to keep them from feeling badly about themselves or their abilities.

grant is submitted

Earlier in this busy semester, my application for a grantwriting seminar was accepted. I was very disappointed about this, because I really didn’t want to do the grantwriting seminar in my first semester as a new faculty member. I knew that writing the grant on top of everything else would just be too much. But, I couldn’t back out because I’d signed a contract stating I’d submit the stupid thing by 25 November or somebody would have to pick up the tab, so to speak.

I’m proud to say that this very afternoon, I submitted a mostly-complete first draft of the grant (all except the budget & narrative). It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever written, but I held up my end of the bargain. I can stop thinking about the application, and can get back to focusing on making it through my first semester!

Just 1 week & finals week left to go….

1 week finished and 14 weeks left to go

Whew! All I can say is that these last 3-4 weeks have flown by. They’ve been fun while being so busy, and I cannot fully express how *happy* I am in this tenure-track position in comparison to my postdoc. This clearly says something about my postdoctoral environment, as well as my new department!

Teaching. Classes started last Monday, and I’ve now taught two lectures from each of my two classes. I think it’s going as well as can be expected so far. Most of the time my students stare up at me blankly, but occasionally something I say gets a small chuckle. I think I’m coming across as sufficiently approachable, because I’ve had a slew of student emails over the past week, and one of the small groups in one class had a serious discussion about the virtues of “country-grown” marijuana versus “city-bought” pot (I pretended to put my fingers in my ears and said “I’m not hearing this” in a sing-song voice).

There was a glitch in my class preparation process, however, and I’m not as prepared for the second class as I would like. When I was negotiating my contract for this position, the chair of my department promised that I could teach class #2 “out of the box” because the class is well-developed and “most of the preparation will have been done” for me. Alas, this is not the case, and I’m still having to do quite a bit of prep. I think I can handle it, but it’s going to make this semester a bit more stressful than I’d anticipated. One problem I’ve run into is that it takes me too long to prepare my lectures. Ideally I’d get 1 lecture (1 hour & 15 minutes) finished in 3 hours of prep time, but it’s probably taking me 4 hours to get it done. This hour might not seem like a lot, but cumulatively, this means an extra 30 hours per semester for each class. Do any readers who are educators have ideas for how to cut this time without cutting corners? (Admittedly, this is part and parcel of being a new professor, and things will be better next semester when I’m only having to prep 1 class instead of two).

Research. This will cut into my research time this semester, but I think I can ride out my postdoctoral momentum enough to get a good evaluation this year. Last summer’s “forced march” paper has been conditionally accepted for publication pending minor changes; I’ve made all but two of the changes and can probably send it back late next week. I have another “revise and resubmit” that needs to be finished before December, and a couple of other papers in the works with various co-authors.

I really, really wanted to start collecting pilot data for my next research study this autumn, but yesterday I found out that I probably won’t be able to do so until the winter. This is because my application for a grantwriting workshop has been accepted, although I didn’t really want it to be. What this means is that for the next two months (while prepping for two classes, keeping up with the pubs I’d started in Postdoc City, and just generally learning how to be a professor), I’ll write a full grant with the intent of submitting it to NIH in February. I’ll also participate in one-on-one critique sessions with a nationally-known grantwriting guru, and work with other faculty at my university in this workshop. I should be excited about this, because the selection process was competitive, and it’s an honor to be chosen to participate. However, I’m not very keen on it because I’ve already got so much going on. This is just one more thing to do in the next two months, and I’m afraid it’s going to entirely upset the balance of the apple-cart. I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize: This program will force me to get the grant written sooner rather than later, which can only help a procrastinating Adder like me. Plus, I’ll get helpful feedback from a grantwriting pro, which will hopefully lead to a better score and better chances of getting federal funding (translation for non-academics: getting millions of dollars from NIH or NSF is a very, very good thing for doing good research and will go a long way towards my getting tenure). “No pain, no gain” will just have to be my motto for the next two months.

Being an educator with ADD. Managing my medication in order to get through my classes has worked out ok. I teach both of my classes on the same days, and the second class is scheduled for the early evening hours. In order to have coverage for most of the day and both class periods I have to take my first morning dose of ritalin an hour later than normal (i.e., 9:30 instead of 8:30). It’s working out ok, and I don’t have to take any medication in the middle of class, either.

This is the only thing going right with my medication situation at this time, unfortunately. I had my last appointment with Med Shrink in Postdoc City in late June, which ended up being a phone appointment because our moving schedule was so messed up. I’ve been banking ritalin for the past year so I’d have enough to last until I was established in New City, and in June Med Shrink said she’d drop another prescription in the mail so I’d be completely covered. The prescription never arrived, but I didn’t stress about it because of my banked ritalin. Last week I thought I’d try to make an appointment at the psychiatric clinic here, hoping I’d be able to get in within a couple of weeks, because I’m running short on my SSRI for PMDD but am still doing ok with ritalin. Imagine my dismay when I couldn’t get an appointment until the first week of October at either the psych clinic OR my new primary care physician! So, I emailed Med Shrink, told her that the first mailed prescription never arrived, and asked her for a big favor… she came through and offered to drop the prescriptions in the mail to me. But, yet again, it’s a week later, and no prescriptions have arrived. I hope there’s nothing strange going on with the mail… what do you do when you need medication but can’t get in to see any doctors?!?

That’s all on this end for now. I’ll try to be better about posting now that the school year has begun again, but it might be a little dicey with the grantwriting process over the next 2 months.

feeling like an irresponsible grown-up

After all the hooplah over the past year, this is what I feel like doing while at work these days:

  • Playing Scrabulous! on Facebook
  • Shopping for carpet, area rugs, washer, dryer, fridge, stove, and microwave/fan for the new house
  • Making appointments for everything that needs to get done that is not related to work (e.g., car repairs, haircut, massage, annual eye exam, etc.)
  • Shopping for a new dress for an upcoming summer wedding
  • Booking the rental car for the upcoming out-of-state summer wedding
  • Booking the moving truck for our move 9 days after the summer wedding
  • Catching up on my subscribed blogs (of course!)

Note that these items do not appear on this list:

  • Reviewing a manuscript for the third time (why, oh why, does the editor keep avoiding rejecting it? I think it sucks and am so sick of looking at it….)
  • Starting one of my three new papers that I’ll work on for the next year
  • Reading about stats I really need to learn for one of these new papers
  • Finishing revisions to a paper I’ve been working on for several years
  • Starting to draft syllabi for my fall classes
  • Starting IRB application materials for my fall and spring pilot studies
  • Finishing my postdoc work-related responsibilities
  • Eating lunch (bad, bad Dr. Addled!)

Even taking my medication, I can’t focus worth beans or make myself do anything productive at work. All the  while I feel really, really super-stressed about it. I’ve taken three days off in the last three weeks but each of these days was spent in New City (e.g., house-hunting, faculty & student meetings, etc.). What weekend time I’ve had has been dedicated to early packing (!) and mortgage applications.

I think I just really need a day off that’s truly a day off…  I think I’m going to pick the day with the best weather forecast, stay home, turn off the phone and the computer, and take the time to read and relax, all in the name of better productivity at the office.