Friday, April 30, 2010

What’s In a Name? Uremia, for Example

Uremia (or uraemia for my friends from the Empire) results from kidney failure. Accumulated wastes build up in the blood, resulting in a number of symptoms; these symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, headache, rashes, abnormal body odor, bleeding (due to platelet problems), and coma. The term “uremia” comes from “urea" which is a nitrogenous waste product measured in the  blood. Elevations in urea usually reflect poor kidney function, but a number of other conditions may raise blood urea nitrogen (BUN) Urealevels independent of kidney function. These include high protein diets, catabolic states such as sepsis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a number of drugs (glucocorticoids most notably).

In general, BUN correlates well with uremic symptoms, but urea is not the cause of these symptoms itself. Supporting data comes primarily from a study of urea loading in chronic dialysis patients. Patients studied still had abnormal kidney function, so while high levels of urea did not result in “uremia” in otherwise well-dialyzed patients, other abnormalities could not be studied.Plts

Thanks to a Brief Communication in the May issue of Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) we now know that uremic platelet dysfunction is not due to urea.

Linthorst, Avis, and Levi studied platelet function in vivo and in vitro from 3 family members with familial azotemia. In this rare inherited disorder, blood urea levels rise to levels consistent with uremia but without reduction in glomerular filtration rate or accompanying uremic symptoms. All platelet studies fell within the normal range, ruling-out urea itself as the cause of platelet dysfunction.

Sometimes I am asked to dialyze patients with high BUN levels but relatively normal glomerular filtration rates to help with bleeding or other uremic possibilities. Now we know that lowering BUN is not itself beneficial because it is merely a biochemical epiphenomenon, not the real toxin. All thanks to an experiment of nature.

To Whoever Just Paged Me

Dear You Know Who You Are:Doctor

Right now, you are cursing me for not answering your summons immediately. Your emotions will rise over the next few minutes as I continue not to call, then you will calmly document my failure in a chart and on evaluations of my performance.

It is you who deserve the FAIL.

You paged me to 4 digits. At some institutions this is sufficient information for a page, but not in my professional life.

The Nebraska Medical Center includes prefixes 552- and 559-. Either of these is possible.

Children’s Hospital and Medical Center of Omaha uses 955- numbers.

I also get paged to other hospitals in town and dialysis units. And right now, I am not the doctor on call.

Short of trying every permutation with these 4 digits (which are not familiar to me), I cannot know where you want me. And I do not feel obliged to try.

Is your life really so onerous that you cannot punch an extra 3 digits into the phone when you page me? Really? REALLY? I guarantee it will take less time than waiting for my answer to your insufficient request.


Pascale H. Lane, MD

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wisdom from the Swarm

I received the following in an email from my father, with several previous forwards in the headers. I have no idea who initially wrote it, so I cannot give proper attribution. What I can do is post it here as a more permanent source of edification.

Please note, I do not wish to imply anything negative about unemployed alcoholics. Alcoholism is a disease/disorder with genetic and societal components in its pathogenesis. I have nothing but compassion for those addicted to the demon rum and its cousins.

On the other hand, bankers…

An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Sydney . She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed in a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Sydney .

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic Vice President at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets, and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.Coins in form of Dollar Sign

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics.

Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations, she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Photoxpress_366350 Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with not only having to write off her bad debt but also with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, and her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar, no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.

Now you understand!!!

All photos courtesy of PhotoXpress.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So Long, Anaheim

Check-out time nears, and my laptop has to find its safe case for the trip home.UNMCfinalV042809.2 Tomorrow I will be back in Omaha, checking in with my lab peeps and seeing patients all afternoon.

Today’s post was going to be about the Renal Section Dinner last night, with video of the undergraduate and post-doc award presentations. Watching these folks try to line up for a photograph is hysterical; you will have to trust me for now.

I plugged my flip into the laptop this morning and started the upload to YouTube. Everything went well for over an hour. At 95% things were still going smoothly. Then, the message: problem with download.

I do not have time to start over now. Tomorrow I will try again with my hard-wire connection. I will make this available (because everyone’s parents deserve to see this sort of thing).

So stay tuned. I will prevail over my gizmos.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Congratulations Darwin (Not That Darwin)

Meeting fatigue has set in, and I am almost looking forward to the trip home tomorrow. Hot science still rules the Anaheim convention center, and there will be a tweet-up to celebrate the tweet-off tonight.


This morning I dragged myself to an 8am session because a friend, P. Darwin Bell, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, gave it. 

The Gottschalk Distinguished Lectureship of the APS Renal Section is the highest award a physiologist can receive (unless the Nobel committee comes calling). We are talking scientific rock-star status. And I know this guy! I had to rouse my sorry butt out for this one.

Carl W. Gottschalk, the namesake of the lectureship, came from Virginia but accomplished his breakthroughs during 41 years as a faculty member in the College of Medicine at University of North Carolina. Although he started out to be a cardiologist, the kidney grabbed his attention. Using micropuncture, he studied urine concentrating mechanisms and developed the countercurrent multiplier theory.

These scientific contributions alone would warrant naming stuff for him; however, Gottschalk also worked for patients with kidney disease. In 1967 he chaired the government panel that guaranteed payment for dialysis and kidney transplantation, at the time novel therapies, via the Medicare program. Millions of patients, including my own, are living productive lives because of these efforts by Gottschalk.

Focusing on tubuloglomerular feedback during his career, Darwin has changed many views of this process. The field of patch-clamping amazes me, and the technical stuff Darwin performs sometimes seems like science fiction. Clamping the macula densa? A bioprobe to confirm ATP secretion? Wow. A PubMed search reveals 113 publications today, a number that will rise in the future.

So once again, congratulations to Dr. Bell for a well-deserved and well-delivered lecture.

By the way, don’t forget the tweet-up to celebrate the tweet-off between Executive Director of the APS Marty Frank and Dr. Isis, 10:30 tonight in the bar at the Anaheim Hilton. I will announce the official winner about 6pm via Twitter. Good luck to all!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Translational Research Needs

The critical first step in a research project occurs when the investigator chooses a model. Can the experiment be performed in cultured cells? Is a clinical trial in people necessary? Or will something in between be needed?

Something in between often means an animal model. I spent my training studying kidneys from people. The next questions I asked could not be studied that way; they required a setting with more control of variables, one in which the basic workings of the tissues could be dissected and explored. Would cell or tissue culture do? mouse Perhaps for some of it, but I wanted to examine puberty. This complex physiological period involves sexual maturation and the acceleration then cessation of linear growth. Our understanding of all its processes is elementary at best, so they cannot (yet) be modeled in vitro or in silico. I had to find a model.

At that time, a search of PubMed revealed a whole bunch of animal models of diabetes and its complications. The array of species and variables sent my head spinning. Now, genetically altered mice flood the field, each with its own particulars! On Tuesday mouse models of diabetic kidney disease will occupy 2 hours of symposium time at Experimental Biology. New models are published every month.

Sunday I learned about LAMHDI , the initiative to Link Animal Models to Human DIsease, while strolling the exhibitlogo hall. This emerging resource results from efforts of the National Center for Research Resources of the NIH. The goal is a simple yet comprehensive catalog of animal models, including the gene(s) affected (when available) and phenotype information. Similarities and differences from human disorders will be included as well.

Services available include the following:

LAMHDI Database Search - The LAMHDI Database Search is a search of data from partner websites. Currently JAX Mice and ZFIN have made their databases available to LAMHDI. A search returns pertinent information about animal models. Other websites with information about animal models are welcome to join as LAMHDI partners. We also invite you to share your feedback.

Animal Model Web Search - The Animal Model Web Search is a Google-like search of select websites that contain information about animal models. Currently LAMHDI indexes more than 75 sites with over 1.2 million pages that you may search with a single search strategy. Search results take you back to the originating site. Please suggest other sites that LAMHDI might include.

Featured Resources - Eventually LAMHDI will link all appropriate animal model databases in a single search. In the meantime, several additional resources have been identified as most useful to animal model researchers to supplement LAMHDI today. If you have other resources to suggest, please let us know.

LAMHDI may accelerate translational research by allowing the best model, not merely the one most familiar to the investigator, to be used. Right now the searches are dominated by rodent and zebrafish models. Eventually, the developers plan to include all species, and the nation’s leading primate centers are participating.

In addition to its potential to speed up bench to bedside, the database might also reduce the number of animals used in a given line of research. By selecting the best possible model for the experimental question, a series of less relevant experiments may be eliminated. Faster, better, and lower costs (in both dollars and animal lives)- sounds like a winner to me.

LAMHDI is described as a prototype. The developers want scientists to use it and give feedback. How is it working? What other resources should be included? How can we make this thing rock? So click on over there and try it out.

I will update the EB tweet-match throughout the day; my twitterfeed can be found in the right-hand column above.

Update on the Race


The first day of EB provided some sciencey razzle-dazzle and a whole lot of fun. The symposium on animal rights groups and the Pro-test movement produced lively discussion and useful information.

The Cannon lecture, given by Jeffery Fredberg, convinced me that a cell would feel like toothpaste if you could stand next to it and poke it with your finger. Of course, my favorite part of the talk was hearing my name over and over, since the unit of force is the kilopascal (after Blaise Pascal, not me).

Then the fun began with the Cannon reception and the President’s reception. I also got to meet a number of my online acquaintances face-to-face, which is always a treat.

Now, for what you clicked by to see. We are 24 hours into our tweet-match. Marty Frank made appeals to the masses for new followers, using his public persona and the authority that 25 years as Executive Director of the APS brings. He now has 154 followers for a net gain of 12. Dr. Isis countered by promising $1 for every new follower, up to $500, to the Porter Minority Development Fund. Dr. Isis really, really wants to win. As of 8am today, this effort will cost her $94.

So the goddess leads, 94 to 12. The final count will be made Tuesday evening, and a lot could change in 2 days and 10 hours. It’s up to you- go, follow, and tweet!

And have a great EB if you are with us in Anaheim.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lost in the Performance

Last week NPR ran a story about a poem, reportedly one of the first pieces of animal rights literature. Ann Barbauld, an assistant in the lab of Joseph Priestly, penned it:Priestly

It was, after all, 1773, just a few years before Lexington, Concord and the Declaration of Independence. On both sides of the Atlantic, "inalienable rights" were a rallying cry, and Anna, a young wife and poet, decided to write a protest poem. She called it "The Mouse's Petition to Dr. Priestley, Found in the Trap where he had been Confined all Night."

NPR included commentary from a historian on the concept of “inalienable rights,” and an actress read the poem with great emotion.

Priestly himself gets a bit lost in their discussion:

There were lots of mice in Priestley's lab. He had made his reputation as one of the first scientists to identify oxygen. He studied mice to figure out what happens inside animals as they breathe. This meant he regularly opened them to examine lungs, veins, arteries, to see that blood changed color when it moved through lungs. And since tuberculosis -- or "consumption" -- was the scourge of that era, lung research seemed like a valuable thing to do.

Priestly described oxygen, photosynthesis, and carbonation. He also founded Unitarianism. His support of controversial ideas often necessitated moves to other countries or even continents; he died in the United States because he supported both the US and French revolutions.

Some of his most famous experiments are detailed at this web site. He collected oxygen and found that a container of it burned longer and kept mice alive longer than an identical container of air. He also demonstrated that plants can produce oxygen; a closed container would kill a mouse, but a plant in the same closed container allowed the mouse to live.

Priestly’s ongoing belief in phlogiston theory kept him from developing his observations to their full potential and eventually excluded him from mainstream science. Antoine Lavoisier eventually “discovered” oxygen as well and recognized it as an element, discrediting phlogiston theory along the way. These events led to the development of modern chemistry. The American Chemical Society arose from a commemoration of Priestly’s work a few years after his death.

Today, combustion is a chemical reaction. Air contains oxygen that enters our blood through our lungs. Plants renew oxygen in the air. All of these facts result, at least in part, from Priestly’s experiments with mice.

People and animals still die of lung diseases. We still have much to learn about the way bodies work. There are still questions we cannot answer without using animal models. Today, though, our animals get much more protection. Institutions that perform animal research supervise scientists and require protocols that use the lowest number of animals possible. Most laboratory animals come from commercial sources and are bred solely as research subjects; rats and mice are generally not trapped in the wild as they were in the 1700s. Experiments expected to end in the death of an animal, such as Priestly’s, require extra levels of justification and supervision. While most animals do succumb to experimental efforts, death most often occurs under anesthesia or via another approved method of euthanasia. Food and water are provided. Environments are enriched. Pain and distress are minimized, as required by law.

Animal research remains an important tool for understanding biology and disease. Without it, progress in a number of disorders will be slowed or stopped. I am glad NPR told me about this historically important piece of literature; I just wish they would have pointed out the importance of Priestly’s experiments; surely they justify the loss of some mice.

And They’re Off…


This morning Experimental Biology began officially, as did the tweet-off between Marty Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society, and Dr. Isis, the shoe-loving, smoking hot science blogger.

I have blogged the rules on multiple occasions, most recently here. In short, the participants will try to sign up the most new followers on twitter between 8:00am PDT Saturday and approximately 6:00pm Tuesday. The winner receives all due accolades at a tweet-up in the Hilton bar at 10:30pm Tuesday evening.

So where is our starting gate?

What do you need to do? If you have a twitter account, follow one or both of the contestants. If you don’t have a twitter account, what are you waiting for? Click on over to twitter and set one up; it takes about 2 minutes and a valid email address. Twitter identities are ExecDirectorAPS and drisis. Click on the links and then click the “follow” button. Really, they cannot make this any easier.

Either way, don’t forget to follow me (@PHLane) for updates on this horse race! Or, if you prefer a less “real-time” experience, I will blog updates at this site as well. Also, any tweets related to the meeting will carry a hashtag: #EB10. You can see what everyone is tweeting about EB by searching for this identifier; don’t forget to include it in your own updates!

Also, feel free to say hello if you see me in real life (IRL) at #EB10. I am easy to identify because I am not anonymous or pseudonymous, and my real photo appears on this site. My name badge has been blinged, including a cool pair of martini-sipping kidneys. Furthermore, I use a BlackBerry case that looks like what happens when a leopard gets bedazzled.

Who will win? Will the credentials of an Executive Director draw more followers? Or will the new, improved pants-free goddess prevail?

It’s up to you… Go tweet!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Paging the Page Kidney: Biomedical Musings

I recently saw a medical condition I had never encountered before. A teenager had been diagnosed several months ago with hypertension (high blood pressure) by his primary care physician. After dietary modifications failed to lower his readings to acceptable levels, an ultrasound showed an abnormality in one kidney. MRI further defined a mass within the kidney consistent with a resolving hematoma, or subcapsular bruise.

Irvine H. Page demonstrated that tightly wrapping a kidney with cellophane would induce hypertension in 1939; in his honor, this type of kidney problem is called a Page kidney. More information, including an MRI and pathologic specimen, can be seen in this feature in New England Journal of Medicine.

So how does wrapping a kidney in cellophane or adding a subcapsular mass cause high blood pressure?

Page Kidney

The left image shows a diagram of a normal kidney with its artery entering and branching. Repeated branches occur until each vessel ends in a filtering unit or glomerulus. The capsule forms the large border around the pink “meat” of the diagrammed kidney; this firmer scar-like structure holds the organ in place. If bleeding occurs within the kidney, from a blow to the flank or a kidney biopsy, a bruise may form under the capsule as in the image on the right. This bruise or hematoma cannot push the firmly made capsule out, so it squishes the working part of the kidney, including blood vessels in the region.

When the kidney sees a reduction in blood flow, it cannot tell if low blood pressure in the body or compression by a hematoma (or some wacky scientist wrapping it in cellophane) has caused the problem. The blood vessels near the glomeruli respond by pumping out a hormone called renin that turns on the angiotensin-aldosterone system, raising blood pressure throughout the body).

Thus, a squished kidney causes high blood pressure. This form of hypertension can often be cured by draining the hematoma or removing the offending kidney.

And 25 years after completing medical school, I still see new things!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maternal Pride and Organ Donation

Organ donation is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I have blogged before. I am quite proud of my daughter’s efforts on behalf of organ donor registration this year. As a PR major at University of Nebraska – Omaha, she has chaired a group of students organizing a major transplant awareness event. A local TV station featured her event on last night’s news (doesn’t she look good on TV?):

She has worked her ample butt off for this event, even talking me into donating prizes for a “pin the organ on the body” contest [Note to I Heart Guts: if you offered express shipping, your stuff would have been the prizes, but I could not get it here in time].

Jennifer is on track to graduate next December; if anyone wants to hire her, feel free to contact me!

More EB Wackaloonacy

Experimental Biology, formerly known as the FASEB meeting, draws all sorts of life-scientists. Virtually anyone with an interest in something biological can find something of interest at this meeting.

To better demonstrate what happens at #EB10, I made a word cloud out of this year’s program (free service at wordle). I used the cross-society program, so only session titles and not individual presentations are included:

Blog WordCloudThe meeting occurs in April, so the month is fairly prominent. Obviously, the group is big on regulation, metabolism, and disease.

I have enjoyed using wordle; it proves that a picture is worth 1,000 words, even when that picture consists only of words.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fight Club Meets EB

As you may have heard, the amazing icon of hot science and shoes, Dr. Isis, and the fearless leader of the APS, Marty Frank, will start a twitter-war for world EB 2010 domination this Saturday morning. In earlier posts this event was described in terms of boxing matches or mud wrestling. Of course, #EB10 is in Anaheim, CA, TofuWrestlinga kinder, gentler place (even if it does have a professional hockey team nearby). Therefore, my final imagery for this challenge is one that seems much more California-like: tofu wrestling. Folks, you can’t make this stuff up (click on the photo and follow the link if you doubt me).

I am not going to repeat the rules in this post because I did that recently here (and originally here). Today you get to hear about the winning event!

The winner will be determined by yours truly at ~6pm PDT (just before the bar opens at the Renal Section Banquet at EB). The winner will receive accolades in the bar at the Hilton beginning at 10:30 pm PDT that evening. Look for me or Marty Frank (the goddess will be wearing an invisibility cloak). Hijinx and shenanigans should follow!

Keep following me (@PHLane) on twitter for updates throughout the meeting. And let the games begin!

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Pre-EB Wackaloonacy

 Blog EB Badge 2010Last Friday I blinged my namebadge  for #EB10 (that’s the meeting’s twitter hashtag for those of you who do not yet tweet) with the usual stuff. To the left of my name is my twitter name (you can tell because @ precedes it). Below the word “University” lies the Nebraska “N” with the Cellular and Integrative Physiology logo superimposed. Completely against University Stylebook, but much cooler than anything official. In the lower right corner I stuck the APS logo to augment the boring “APS” printed below the barcode.


By far the best image falls to the right of my name; a larger version is shown here. These toasting kidneys were “appropriated” from a cool web site, I Heart Guts.

Here is the site’s own description:

I Heart Guts is the brainchild of an anatomically obsessed illustrator who loves internal organs and all they do. Founded in 2005, our little family operation (heh, heh, heh..ugh) strives to offer the best in stoopid slogans paired with happy gloppy guts. We like to think of the Guts as what you might find inside a dissected Hello Kitty.

The guts grew from a single drawing of a broken heart, after a string of bad hookups, dead-end relationships and lame-o boyfriends. At the time, I was also doing a lot of drinking and smoking, so a sad liver and bummed-out lung followed. Years later, my wonderful husband wondered, “Why don’t you do something with those darned guts?”

The site includes a lot of useful information about the function of various organs and glands, as well as a store with plush organs, tee shirts, and lapel pins (all of us bio-geeks need these; perhaps they should sell them at EB). The free e-cards just rock, especially this one featuring the bladder:

BladderI will not have my plush kidney in time to take it to Anaheim (the site has a gallery for guts on vacation). But I will be wearing those kidneys over my heart.

More on the Twitter smack-down between Isis and Marty Frank in tomorrow’s post.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Countdown to EB2010


One week from today I fly from the home quarters in Omaha to Anaheim, home of the original House of the Mouse and site for this year’s Experimental Biology (#EB10 for you twitterati).

In addition to the usual scientific stuff, the twitter smack-down between Dr. Isis (@drisis) and Marty Frank of the APS (@ExecDirectorAPS) begins at 0800 PDT on Saturday, April 24. Isis currently claims 1105 followers, while Dr. Frank has 139 followers. For those of you who do not wish to follow the link above for the rules, here they are:

The challenge: sign up new Twitter followers (Tweeple or Tweeps) during Experimental Biology in Anaheim.

I will certify the number of followers each has at 7:59 am PDT on Friday, April 23, just before on-site registration opens at the meeting. When a predetermined deadline has been reached, I will once again check the number of followers for each. Whoever has the most new followers will win. For those of you more mathematically inclined:

New followers = N(deadline) – N(start)

I am letting the fighters determine the “prize” which may also determine the deadline. For example, if a tweet-up with the loser buying drinks is involved, we should probably end on Tuesday to allow that event to occur. If clown services at some point in the future are involved, well, we can go to the last minute on Wednesday.

For those of you who have never experienced twitter, well, it’s about time! After all, the EB program is available for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch. Go to the app store and download Echofon, set up your account, and get ready to pick sides.

There may also be a tweet-up. What’s that? Someone will tweet a location and time to congregate. If you’re not tweeting, looking for that #EB10 hashtag, you may get left out of some fun!

So get ready, Anaheim- scientific gizmo geeks are on the way!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selling Yourself (No, Not THAT)

Laptop Blond

Medical and scientific degrees give a surprising range of career options. My own path courses through academia, but careers in a variety of businesses present other options.

Jobs outside of the ivory tower, and sometimes within it, require different documentation than a faculty position.

A number of documents summarize careers, including our qualifications, experience, and fit with various positions. For faculty, the gold standard is the curriculum vitae followed closely by the NIH biosketch. The business world relies more on resumes and shorter documents that must be focused to the desired position.SummaryThe curriculum vitae or CV is an all-inclusive document. Most institutions of higher learning have a preferred format. Anything can be included on this document; if in doubt, list it. This is one time when less is not more! Your CV should be ready to print at all times. Also, include the print date on your CV so outdated copies can be readily identified. Do not obfuscate on this document; if required, separate peer-reviewed and invited papers and presentation, and make sure your status on grants is clear. Use standard fonts, minimal color, and no pictures. Any of these items may limit scannability of your document!

The NIH biosketch is a bit less complete than the CV, but far more manageable for grant applications or speaker introductions. The format changed recently, adding a  “personal statement” block (ridiculed here) that lets an investigator focus their biosketch on a specific proposal. Keep this document ready-to-go as well, other than customizing the statement section. Be sure and download the latest form and instructions from; you never know when those crazy federal employees will change things up again!

ES FormatAn executive summary supplements a traditional CV. This brief, 1 or 2 page synopsis document, provides a snap-shot of stuff tailored to your current career objective. The summary is always printed in portrait format. Following contact information, the objective statement is a brief (2-3 lines) description of what you wish to do, your top strengths, skills, or talents, and a summary of results that can be expected if you join an organization. Qualifications follow in a short paragraph or a few bullet points. This section in why you can do what you say you will do. The achievements statement is a priority list, tailored for the position you seek, of accomplishments that illustrate your objectives and qualifications. This section should be constructive strategically, not exhaustively  (your CV will do that). Use action words and quantify results when possible:

  • Bad: Profits appeared to improve after my actions.
  • Good: My actions increased profits 25% over 12 months.

The final document, the prospectus, also supplements a traditional CV. This instrument is very focused and limited to a single page printed in landscape format. Contact information and objective statement are similar to those of the executive summary. A profile section is similar to the qualifications statement of the executive summary. The difference is the final section, areas of expertise, which highlights skills, accomplishments, and personal characteristics applicable to the desired position.

Example of an Executive Summary:

ES Example

Example of a Prospectus:

Prosp Example

Providing summary documents appropriate to your job search can highlight relevant accomplishments. Their inclusion may help your new boss find that critical factor that gets you hired.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress. Other materials created by Pascale H. Lane, MD.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Free To Be… Whatever

Last week Isis and Zuska both addressed the perception that women should be women, even at work in male-dominated fields. I wonder if a male scientist has ever been chided for failing to nurture someone? Of course, it would be labeled a failure of mentorship; dudes would never be accused of “nurturing,” even in a professional sense. Photoxpress_18691050Do random strangers ever ask my husband to smile because he would be so cute? He is adorable when he smiles, but I don’t see that happening more than once… even though I hear that request several times a year, even though I am closing in on half a century of life.

About the same time, my daily update from Pink, an e-zine for women in business, addressed balance. Not in the usual, “home vs. office” way, but in a more “personal style” way:

“Research shows that women who behave in too masculine a way are respected but not very well liked by their colleagues, while women who are too feminine are well liked but not well respected,” says Robin Ely, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t. Women must choose between respect and likeability.

The Pink post goes on to discuss books, videos, and other blogs with advice on finding the right balance of our “feminine” and “masculine” sides. We are encouraged, as we climb the power ladder, to allow our femininity (those nurturing instincts and decorative capabilities) to reemerge and become more valued in the workplace.

What if we don’t want to do that?

I will never be mistaken for a guy. I shave my legs. I wear makeup. I love heels. I usually smell good. I read fashion magazines! But I am not a touchy-feely-kumbaya kind of person. A number of times in my professional life I have been expected to take on this role; it is not who I am. I did not do well.

We need to move beyond stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else. Every person is a unique blend of personality traits and talents. We should value each person for who they are, not who we expect them to be. That is the world I want for my children.

Now that sounded touchy-feely-kumbaya. Maybe I do have it in me. After all, I am a woman.

Image courtesy of PhotoXpress.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Time to Fly (Again)

Once again, I am blogging from the Omaha airport. Today I am on my way to Washington, DC, for the Publication Committee of the American Society of Nephrology.


I attended this meeting last year, when ASN Kidney News had published a mere 2 issues. Tomorrow I will regale them with tales of our transition to a monthly publication. We have new columns and features. We respond to current events in a more news-like manner; the renal community’s response to the earthquake in Haiti was covered in the March issue.

Monthly publication does bring a downside, even beyond the added workload. When we cover “breaking” stories, like Haiti or healthcare, requested articles may be delayed in publication. My apologies to those who wondered why their articles don’t appear on schedule, but it happens. We also suffer from the advertising cycle now. Our very first issue, January 2009, had little trouble attracting ads. This year, things became a bit tighter. It turns out that advertising budgets are uncertain for the new year, and companies are hesitant to buy space for a January issue. I had always noticed that trade magazines were smaller in January, but I attributed that to content. Turns out if you have fewer ads, you can run less content, and this cycle is true across most publication categories. Makes me feel a bit silly. I should know that most things are about money!

After the January slump, things are looking up. We ran special sections in February and March. The April issue is up online in flash or PDF files. It features multidisciplinary care of kidney patients, and the articles presented rock! Hard copies should hit mailboxes the third week of the month.

We are always looking for good content ideas. It may be a special section with several featured articles, or just a single column. Nothing is too weird or silly for our consideration, as long as it somehow connects to the world of kidneys.

It is almost time to hit the security line. Later, nephrons!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Anaheim Get-Together


Greetings! Experimental Biology officially gets underway on Saturday, April 24, just over 2 weeks from now. Shenanigans must be planned!

This year I do not have a poster or other presentation, giving me the time to plot capers. We already have the Marty FrankDr. Isis twitter match (as close to scientist mud wrestling as we will ever get). What more could you want?

How about a tweet-up?

On some day, we tweet a location for a meet and greet. It could be at a poster, a bar, or even DisneyLand. I am open to all ideas. We could even schedule the event ahead of time. It wouldn’t be a real tweet-up then, but we could get the non-twitterati involved that way.

So give me some ideas. I can get it organized, but I need a little help.

California, here we come!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Next Year Begins Tomorrow

ButlerBulldogs1 I write this as the nation’s collegiate basketball championship game occupies our television. In 40 minutes- that will take roughly 2 hours of real time- a champion will be crowned.

Will it be perennial powerhouse Duke, even though they had a “down year” according to many talking heads?

Or will the upstart Bulldogs of Butler fuel the dreams of every mid-major team across the US?

Time will tell (and the score is pretty even after ~5 minutes of play), but at least we will have an outcome determined on the court.

If basketball had a BCS system, we would be watching Kansas vs. Kentucky right now.

Why can’t we do this for football?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Faux Mouse From E. Bunny

We enjoyed a lovely lamb dinner at my parents’ home, with a relaxing family afternoon. My son and I once again won at cards.

Now, I am watching Dottie, the cat. FeatherMouse-prod

See, the Easter Bunny brought her a new toy. She found the FeatherMouse while still attached to its cardboard holder. The added packaging did not prevent her from trying to play with it. Now it is detached, and she is going at it with insane abandon and glee.

The toy has no catnip or chemical enhancement. It is merely a fabric mouse with a feather tail.

This could keep us all entertained for hours.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Quarter Grades Are In

At the end of December I made my blogolutions. I gave myself an A for following them at the end of January. Have I kept up my grade average?

  • January 19 posts
  • February 23 posts
  • March 19 posts

Grand total: 61 posts in 14 weeks for an average of 4.4 posts per week.Photoxpress_4342711

My goal was 3 to 5 posts each week.

I have exceeded my expectations about serious, sciencey blogging, with multiple posts each month on biomedical science or other healthcare issues.

I have earned a  nice bottle of zinfandel, I believe.

Image courtesy of PhotoXpress.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Flippin’ Cool

I now have videos in my YouTube account.

I started my account a couple of years ago. You had to register in order to sign in and email people hilarious videos of guys getting hit in the groin and other stuff.

Oh, we had a video recorder. About the size of a Kleenex box, I found it annoying to use. When taping with it, I felt excluded from the action. I was recording the festivities rather than participating.

Uploading videos required special software, cables, and an adapter. I figured out how to do it for dance audition tapes for my daughter, but overall it was not worth the hassle.

minoS001 Two weeks ago I acquired a flip video recorder. I went with the minoHD which records 2 hours of high-definition video on internal memory- no tapes or cards to lose or destroy! This camera is also smaller than my BlackBerry, so light and unobtrusive that I think I may actually record more events!

Uploading is a breeze as well. Slide a switchFlipped Out on the side and out “flips” a USB port. Plug it into your computer; the first time it installs FlipShare software and lets you make an online Flip account. Click on an icon for “Share Online” and video can download directly to YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites.

I have not yet tried to do any fancy stuff or video editing. But I do have two videos in my YouTube account, one of which is the new feline member of the family. Her name is still a source of intense discussion, but she doesn’t seem to care:

I have to go now for my son’s baseball game; maybe I will post some video of that event tomorrow. You never know, now that I am flipped out and dangerous!