Monday, September 29, 2008

Dinner at Mary Anne Koda-Kimble’s Home

I just had the most amazing dinner with the dean of the best pharmacy school in the UNIVERSE, Mary Anne Koda-Kimble. As an effort to raise money for community outreach activities, Mary Anne has been offering 12 dinner tickets every year during the School of Pharmacy’s Spring Auction. Last spring, I was one of those lucky 12 who paid $70 for a seat at her dinner table. It was one of the best $70 that I have spent thus far in life. In fact, I would venture to say that was one of those priceless memories you can rarely buy with money, but Mary Anne's generosity had made it possible for me to do so.

Despite her extremely crazy schedule as a dean, a healthcare provider (and who knows what other leadership activities and personal projects she manages to squeeze in with her time), MARY ANNE KODA-KIMBLE made us a uniquely delicious gourmet dinner at her cozy and artistically decorated home!

The night started in the living room, an additional unit built on top of a roof, so we enjoyed a panoramic view of the city, including the famous Golden Gate Bridge, as we mesmerized at the beauty of the high rises, lit by the golden late afternoon sun. While chatting about school, we were served drinks of our choices (including red and white wines) and a few rounds of hors d'oeuvres infused with Mary Anne's originality, such as the create-your-own type of appetizer, where you can choose from the homegrown and homemade fig or quince jellies and three different cheeses to top a paper-thin wafer cracker. The textures of the different ingredients and sweetness of the fruits complimented each other perfectly. Figs also tasted surprisingly sweet when wrapped by thin pieces of smoked salmon. Another one of my favorite appetizers was the cream puff with cheese, which was baked to crunchy, creamy and buttery perfection. I could not help but reached for more of the cute tiny treats, even though I wanted to save room for dinner.

Dinner was a buffet-style meal with a selection ranging from bread, salad, chicken, prime rib, Morrazella cheese and stuffing, each uniquely and deliciously created and made by Mary Anne. I wanted to try everything so I took a little bit of each (and went back a second time for another helping). As someone who has been in the work force, I was able to pay for some expensive meals, but never had a better gourmet dinner. All of the dishes were wonderful, but my number one choice was the salad, made with a mixture of green leaves, walnuts, pears and pomegranates in a light and slightly sweet vinaigrette dressing. I have never seen, or even though of, making salad with pomegranates before! What a clever idea and great combination of antioxidants to balance out the meat dishes! We sat around the candle-lit dinner tables, listening to Mary Anne and her husband, Don Kimble, tell stories about the pharmacy school experiences and love life while savoring the mouth-watering food on our plates.

Dinner would not have been complete without Mary Anne’s special dessert using apples from her own backyard as the main ingredient. The apple cubes were baked with crispy macadamia nuts and caramel on top and served with a scoop of homemade ice cream. Although my intestinal tract had not gotten a chance to process all the hors d'oeuvres and the generous dinner portion, I managed to clean up my dessert plate.

Everything was wonderful about the night: the ambience, the food, the city view and the soft music playing on the background as we talked throughout the evening. Most of all, what I will remember are the interactions with my classmates, who are intelligent and caring individuals, and the honor to be present at Mary Anne’s house, talking to her and calling her by her first name (which she had insisted on ever since our first day at UCSF). As a first-generation immigrant and a first generation in college, I had never even dreamed of socializing with so many well-educated and genuine people. The evening was so real and unreal at the same time. It is DEFINITELY an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Balance and Adjustment

I find myself dosing off or being really distracted every time I touch the book. When I manage to stay awake during my "reading sessions," I goof around with my pictures and do other writing on this blog. It's hard adjusting to school and finding the energy to sit through hours of reading. I hope I will get into the swing of things sooner rather than later, like when midterms are days, instead of weeks, away.

I know I will be able to do okay with a little cramming before the exams but that's no way to learn. I'm trying to read before attending lectures so I can actually understand and take in more information. It's hard to keep up with the crazy pace of pharmacy school, though. It's only the fifth day of school and we have already gone through about 60 condensed pages of physiology, about as many for pharm chem, one chapter of immunology and a lot of review for pharmacokinetics. I can hardly keep up with the reading.

On top of classes and studying, I'm learning how to say "no" and stay away from my computer so I don't spend too much time on emails or pictures. There are so many extra-curricular activities that interest me, but I have to constantly remind myself that I need to do well in what I have already committed myself to do. I can't have it all....It's so hard to find the "golden mean."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Beginning of the Second Year

Today was the third day of the quarter and I already falling behind. There are so many things to read before going to class and I haven't even gotten all my books yet! It's crazy! I don't know how I'm going to keep up with the pace of school and fulfill my roles as a student leader in various organization.

I am currently a historian for two organizations: APhA-ASP (the student chapter of the American Pharmacist Association at UCSF) & Phi Delta Chi (a national pharmacy fraternity). In addition, I am also one of the two student coordinators for Partners in D, an organization involved in helping seniors with their Medicare Part D plans. As a student coordinator, my job is to recruit my classmates for the elective class that we hold in the Fall and organize volunteers for the outreach events that we have throughout the year. I am also the editor-at-large for Synapse, a student newspaper at UCSF.

That is a handfull...especially with four very intense classes this quarter: physiology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology/pharmacological chemistry and immunology. I'm hoping I will survive without any major damage to my poor body. I'm kind of nervous about this year's commitments and academic demands.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to SF

I'm so excited that we're leaving for SF soon! It was good getting to be around my husband everyday and spending time with friends, family and the dog, Marley, but I'm ready to have my own space back. The crazy LA smog has worsened my allergies. I am even allergic to plants and my bed sheet! My body is itchy everywhere and the heat doesn't help. I'm not sure I'll like the SF chills much better than the LA heat, but my itchiness needs a break. I think this is also my body's way of telling me not to put all those junk (yummy Asian food with lots of MSG, oil, salt & sugar) in my stomach. Well, I'll start eating more fruits and veges once I'm in SF; can't resist all the good and cheap restaurant food here in LA.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Strange Ending

Friday, August 29, 2008 marked the end of my first summer internship as a student pharmacist. I came into the experience about ten weeks ago with a lot of vigor, curiosity and positivity. Although the latter two elements remained mostly intact, I must say I have lost steam. Towards the last two weeks, I could not wait to get back to UCSF to recharge my energy and to load myself with more knowledge so I can become more effective in empowering patients to take charge of their health care.

I can't exactly pin point one cause for my loss of energy in the job. It must have been a culmination of many things: the long chaotic days with constant change in pharmacists due to my sister's absence; the feeling of not having the time to slow down and process the mass of information around me; not being able to leave the pharmacy for a short while due to my managerial duties; etc.

Overall, I would say that I had a positive experience and learned a lot from my ten weeks of work. The best part of my job were getting free lattes everyday (I make my own most of the time using the huge latte machine that we have for the adjacent coffee shop that my mom runs) and having yummy home-cooked food when my mom was not on vacation. I also enjoyed counseling patients who were grateful that I spent the time to explain their medications in a language that they could understand. Most of my patient interactions were very positive.

Strange things happened, though, as it did in the last day. While I was occupied with a task away from the front counter, I heard an elderly Chinese patient screamming "Ms. Ung!" several times very loudly. I knew she was trying to get my sister's attention because she heard my sister's voice. I recall hearing a co-worker telling her in Mandarin that Ms. Ung was very busy and he would relay any message that she had. After a while, she walked away. A few minutes later, when I answered the phone, I heard the same voice asking: "Ms. Ung?" I told her I was "Little Ms. Ung" and she said many things that I did not understand. The only thing that I could make out was that she was outside by the door. She hung up when I handed the phone to my coworker, who was better in Mandarin. About five minutes after the mysterious phone call, I walked to the front counter and still saw her standing by the door. That's when I decided to interrupt my extremely busy sister and told her that someone must be really desperate to see her.

The patient's face lit up when she saw my sister at the front counter. She walked in briskly with a plastic grocery bag and handed it to my sister. She also said many things to my sister in Mandarin. Seeing that my sister had no clue what she was saying, I translated what I could decipher: "Ms. Ung, I brought these cucumbers for you. They are a little dry because I forgot to water them." My sister thanked her and the patient left the pharmacy. It was funny seeing the puzzled face of my sister and my coworkers. My sister thought that she had some ulterior motives for going through all the trouble just to give her the cucumbers. However, I think the patient was grateful for having such a great pharmacist that she needed to make sure her gift got to the right hand and and it was acknowledged.

Chasing Butterflies

After spending an afternoon at Huntington Library and a good hour chasing butterflies and bees with my new macro lens, here are a few good shots that I got: