Mr. Information

Another interesting talk today, this time in my Clinical Sciences class, which is a 1 credit class giving us a melange of seemingly unrelated information. (Please excuse the hold up on any actual drawings this semester- i’ve been bogged down in pathophysiology and medical terminology text books and the UIC library! I will have to show some art to in the next couple of weeks because everything is actually DUE. eek!)

So far in the Clinical Sciences class, we’ve:

1) learned the neurology of the human brain (abridged version) from an anatomist at the university during the course of two lectures,

2) met and learned from an amazing woman pretty high up in the pharmaceutical field, who told us really crazy stuff about drug development, (maybe another blog) and

3) heard a talk from this guy who works in the department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences- right next door to us. That one sounds kinda boring, right?

It actually wasn’t boring at all.  He’s the guy who’s implementing electronic records in every hospital and doctor’s office in the country (mandated by Obama in 2008).  He’s the guy who wants to let everyone have access to their own health record, and let all doctors who treat you see your entire health history every time you enter a doctor’s office.  He’s also the guy that realizes this vision is a little unrealistic.

Why? Well, because it’s TOO MUCH INFORMATION.  Apparently, when they tried to give people access to their EHRs, electronic health records, less than 10% of them actually glanced at it.

He said, and I quote, “The data challenge in clinical care and medical research is huge.”  Meaning, there is way too much of it.  We have so much information on the genomes of thousands of species, we have the entire medical history of millions of people (not public I hope) and even more information about drugs, disease and treatment.  So what’s the use?  How can informatics be simplified to produce decision making?  For the doctor- and the patient?

One cool thing that Google has been a part of is the Google Flu Trends.

Every time anyone in the world Googles words like “flu symptoms” or anything related to that, it’s recorded.  Doctors and public health people watch the trends, and can predict a flu outbreak 24 hours before it happens.  It worked with the swine flu!  But the problem is that they never know if a “fluctuation” will become a steady rise, which, in the case of the swine flu, surprised quite a few people.

So I think the point of this guy’s talk was to inspire us to subscribe to his grand vision of: Using information to decrease complexity in health.  How do we do that?  Well, as medical artists we can use our graphic art skills to, say, simplify the Drug Facts.  Or maybe find a way to communicate to patients what is going on in their bodies in a clear and concise way, so they have the motivation to take their medicine.  To design based on purpose, ease and effectiveness.  Because humans are pretty complex, but we have limitations to what we can absorb and understand.  I totally agree, but I don’t know where to start.

Preparing for RA/PM Training- Campus Housing

Hey UIC!

I just got back from watching Captain America and as Steve Rogers best says it, “I feel taller.” So Resident Assistant and Peer Mentor training begins in a few weeks and we’re all excited! Campus Housing is ready to bring on what they have in store for this academic year.

Below is an inside-scoop picture of our staff training where our Resident Director Brian Johnson explains how to get transfer students involved in an apartment-style community through programming.

The role of an RA is to develop and maintain a vibrant community within our residence halls while also providing residents learning experiences through their time in Campus Housing. On the flip side, a PM provides residents resources and guidance in order to successfully navigate through UIC academics, careers, and more in the city.

The picture above is a book club that one of our RAs put together and Campus Housing purchased the books titled, “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, for our residents. An overall inspiring non-fiction book about a dying professor at Carnegie Mellon and making his last lecture about “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

The last picture is of the TBH/MRH South Campus Apartment Staff. For a celebration at the end of our RA Winter Retreat Training, Campus Housing took us to a UIC Basketball game and paid for pizza and drinks.

After freshman year, residents are eligible to apply for the RA/PM position if they meet the job minimum requirements specified in the application. I’ll get more into detail once the applications are out in the fall semester.

It’s been a blast, see you guys next week!

TOPIC NEXT WEEK: Top 5 Tips ‘to have a smooth move-in day to Campus Housing’

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What was the shape of Captain America’s shield before the well known circle today?

A Week Without Zyrtec

I went to see the dermatologist Tuesday at the UIC outpatient hospital. My last visit was a month ago and they recommended that I see an allergist to see what else could be affecting my eczema. I totally would have made the appointment, but it just slipped my mind these past thirty days. I mean, taking two classes (science and English I might add) on top research, work, and volunteering is intense!

I had an exam yesterday and we got our results back today during discussion. The average was around 60-65. Sucks. I got a 79, which is a good score if you compare it to the average…but I was hoping for better. Then again, that test was like a slap to the face! I blanked out right at the beginning and just flipped each page until I got to the end. Only after starting from the beginning again I got a light bulb moment and things were good until the middle section, and then after that it was good. Ah well, gotta keep my head up. I’ve been doing well on everything else so it should balance out. I still can’t believe there’s only three weeks left. Soon I will get to enjoy my two-week break before the fall semester starts. Lovely.

I love Chinese motivation.

I guess there’s not too much going on at the moment since I was studying my butt off for the exam this past week/weekend. Tonight, I will drown chemistry out of my mind with a Taiwanese drama! I remember watching a few episodes of it two years ago…but school happens and you don’t have time for those things. It’s called Hi, My Sweetheart featuring Rainie Yang! She’s a very popular Taiwanese singer and she is so cute. Her character in the drama is totally hilarious because she’s some crazy goth girl that no one likes, and then this nerdy kid comes out of nowhere and wants to befriend her because he grew up never having friends. I love it.

I’m so happy it’s going to be Friday tomorrow! I don’t really have any plans, but on Saturday I got invited to a BBQ dinner with the doctor who is in charge of the research that I do in my volunteer work at Rush (not the research I do on UIC campus) and it will be with the other volunteers. We are allowed to invite our family so my parents will come. I hope it won’t be awkward.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I posted two songs (well, videos) from Imogen Heap’s new CD: Ellipse. It’s so good! =) Check it out. I’m listening to them right now.

Yeesh. I am seriously sneezing up a storm! I did make an appointment with the allergist if you were wondering, and it is this coming Tuesday. They told me that I am not allowed to use anti-histamines for a whole week! Ahhh allergies are so awful sometimes. Sure it’s better than having cancer, but it is quite annoying! :(

OH! By the way, the proofs came in for the t-shirts and looks like we’ll be getting them in a week! As a brief reminder for those of you who do not know, my brother and I are attempting to start a clothing company. I would have liked to have started in May or June…but maybe the back to school season will get us some sales. I shall make sure to post a link to the website when I finish creating the layout and inputting items. The designs will make you smile, regardless of our awesome logo (hehe…you’ll see). ♥

Freshman Year in Campus Housing

Hey all!

My freshman pics! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen these—we all definitely grew up since then.

I entered UIC back in Fall of 2007. I was actually on the wait-list for Campus Housing and it wasn’t until the 3rd week of classes that I moved into PSR (Polk Street Residence) on West Campus. At first I was afraid to leave home, but I wanted to venture into the city and college life… plus, I couldn’t stand the 2 hours commute.

Nothing is like your freshman year floor! Some of my closest friends I made here. Meeting my roommate for the first time and he was a pharmacy student. I was a little intimidated at first but he was one of the coolest  people I’ve met.  Next week I’ll talk about my work in Campus Housing and what I do as a Resident Assistant (RA).

For more photos of my freshman year, here’s the link to my Picasa Photo Album:

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is the UIC Campus Housing motto?

WHAT DID I LEARN THIS WEEK: Lincoln Park Zoo is the country’s oldest public zoo.

TOPIC NEXT WEEK: Explore the side of a Resident Assistant.

Staples, surgeons and geckos

Today, a recently retired gastrointestinal surgeon came to speak to us about surgery in our class called “surgical orientation.” This class targets those of us who plan to take the fall class, “surgical illustration,” (ME!), where we go into operating rooms to sketch surgeries. So I would say that the topic was pertinent.

Dr. P (as I’ll call him) ended up teaching us more then we paid for. He has had a full career as a surgeon, having spent most of his practicing career here in Chicago at Cook County Hospital. But not only that, he himself is an artist. At the end of his very informative talk, during which he demonstrated the use of multiple modern surgical tools like staplers and sutures, and how to remove a part of the intestines, he brought out his portfolio.

And I expected medical illustrations, given his extreme exposure to the operating room and knowledge of probably 100’s of procedures by heart. But no! His portfolio was chock full of lizards, snakes and geckos. “I know I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t really like medical illustration,” he said to us. Instead, his passion is drawing reptiles.

Who is this man? To many, he might sound crazy, a little nuts, off his rocker, for pursuing not only surgery but also art- for spending his “free time” from operating on humans painting geckos. But to me, I feel like I’m the child he never had. All I wanted to do was ask him a thousand questions. When did you start drawing? Why didn’t you just become an artist? How did you decide between art and medicine? How does art help you as a surgeon and surgery help you as an artist?

He said it was hard for him to decide but he knew he wanted to do both, because, in his words, “I had other interests.”

I’d say.

He said that art has made him able to see the whole picture of the human body, and to relate the figure with what lies underneath. As a surgeon, he has a better idea of what organ is where (which might be helpful when cutting someone open) and as a painter, he has a better idea of the function of what he’s drawing from the outside, which gives him a more confident drafting hand.

And then the last thing he said was, “Just don’t forget, we’re all going to die.”

And while it might sound a little morbid out of context, I knew what he meant. He meant, do everything you want to do. Do it all. Because in the end, you don’t want to say “I wish I had done that.” So those are the wise words of the day, which hopefully I won’t forget tomorrow when I’m feeling overwhelmed by homework and drawings of circumcisions.

Chicago + Froyo

Even though this week was literally only three days, it felt like forever! I spent most of my July 4th weekend trying to finish up ARIS homework for chemistry (no firework watching for me sadly) along with vectoring images for t-shirt designs since my brother wanted to get those done soon. And yes, you heard right! My brother and I are attempting to create a t-shirt/clothing company. Obviously it is in the making and process, but it’s a fun thing to do when you feel stressed out from school—details will come soon when I get the website going (I can’t wait to code). I must warn you ahead of time, it is pretty awesome and you should purchase for yourself and loved ones. ;D

Now, the main reason I feel a tad stressed is because the summer session at UIC is really intense and I happen to be taking two courses: Chemistry 114 and English 222 (Tutoring for the Writing Center). Why am I taking the latter course when I only get elective credit, which could have been spent on an art class?! Good question! A part of it was because my English 161 professor encouraged me, and the other part was because I have always been fond of writing. It is another medium that you can take on and manipulate to express how you feel, given that you know the rules and what rules are okay to break thanks to your artistic license. I’ve been tutoring at the Writing Center as well as sitting in with SEWW (Summer Enrichment Writing Workshop) classes with incoming freshman to help formulate ideas and organize their thoughts in a more fluid and effective way. It saddens me a bit to see them ask me questions about what they should put in their paper to get an A instead of trying to focus on writing a well-written paper, but I hope with time they will enjoy writing.


Anyway, the point of that spiel was because this past weekend I had to write about eight pages worth of text for that class about my tutoring philosophy and a literacy narrative, which I wrote about the first time I noticed color (the writing center has a strong mission for social justice). My mind was exploding because I had no idea how to start a paper on my tutoring philosophy without having much experience and practice besides reading tons of articles on the theory of the writing center. Luckily, I talked about my papers with someone in the class (we had to cross-tutor for these assignments) and it was such an enjoyable conversation. I mean, my major is biological sciences and I am constantly surrounded by “the anal pre-med students” as Joel Brown calls us/them and it just isn’t the best environment. Many are just overly competitive and only care about the end result, making the pathway to that goal the least important worry. I love being in classes that involve non-science subjects because it makes you think differently and interact differently with others. There is only one other biological sciences major in my English 222 class, and everyone else is either an English major or an education major. Gosh, I am too busy.

I didn’t go to work Monday because of the holiday, but tomorrow morning I’m going in to check if I have any assigned tasks. I love working for UIC Campus Housing because they are so flexible, the staff is chill, and I get to make websites! I remember back when Xanga used to be popular I had my own website where I made layouts for people. I was seriously obsessed with coding and made one layout each day, maybe even two layouts a day. Too bad I don’t have a life now with all the studying I’m doing!

I kid. Today I finally took a breather and went to downtown Chicago! My friend Grace texted me and told me Pinkberry was giving away free yogurt as a promotion for their opening tomorrow, and man do I love frozen yogurt! I had to wait two hours in line and my feet and legs were really straining, but it was totally worth it. It was a nice treat because earlier today I had a quiz in chemistry (boo) and had to run a qPCR with new samples at research, which took a bit longer than expected. Yeah, I am exhausted. I am also disappointed in my Zune. I think I’ve had it for two or three years now, but it just randomly deleted all of my songs and videos and pictures! It’s really bizarre and I hope I can figure it out by tonight or tomorrow because it is such a great MP3 player, but if not…I’ll have to call up Microsoft to ask them what’s the issue. Ah, my phone is starting to act up too. Technology these days…

Here’s a picture of the front…after waiting two hours in the longest line ever. Oh well, free food is always delicious:

My yummy yogurt choice: Mango flavor with kiwi, strawberries, mochi, and a wafer!

Well, this is quite a long post…I suppose I’ll stop soon. This weekend will be a very chemistry compounded weekend: lab practical Tuesday, second exam Wednesday (I seriously JUST took one a week ago), and lots of lab reports and homework to do. Did I mention I don’t like chemistry? Man, and I have to write even more essays! I already miss home and my cute baby turtle Chompy.<3

“Throw your feet in the ayer, ay, ayerrrr.” – Chompy. Props to Flo Rida for original lyric.

Summertime and the Sketchin’s Easy

The summer semester is half way through… and I feel like we just started! So far I’ve learned the pathophysiology of cancer, I’ve toured an operating room in the anticipation of sketching surgeries next fall, and I’ve learned how to make animations in Adobe Flash (click on the box below to see my first animation.) And it’s only been four weeks…

Wait, let me back up a little bit. I’d like to introduce myself to those who haven’t been reading about my embarrassingly gushy anatomical romance. My name is Claire (to some, Clarisse) and I’m a Masters student in the field of biomedical visualization here at UIC. WHAT IS that? you ask? Think about it for a second- you see what we do everywhere! It’s basically the illustration and animation of science, medicine and health. From the adds for acne medication on TV–where they you show an animation of how you clog your pores–to the 3D animations on the National Geographic channel of a beating heart, you’re seeing the work of scientific artists.

It’s a pretty cool field with a lot of avenues. I’ve been here less than a year and I’ve already learned so much! (see previous blog posts) So check out what’s next.

Right now I’m working on a series of illustrations showing a circumcision. Don’t worry, it’s not graphic. That’s the good thing about medical artists- we take something that might be really gross in real life (I’m sorry, not gross. Medical.) and make it beautiful. Check out my preliminary sketches:

We’ll be taking three of the steps and making “final sketches,” and then making one fully rendered illustration. More later!

First Post- About Me & ROTC

Hello Chicago!

My first blog post and I’m not sure where to start! I guess I’ll start with a little about me; I entered UIC Fall of 2007 and I’m currently studying Civil Engineering. I also serve as a Senior Resident Assistant for Campus Housing and my activities include the Army ROTC.

Summer has been inspiring, I’ve been researching in collaboration with the Army ROTC and inner-city Chicago Public Schools to develop and implement alternative leadership programs for students and high-risk teens. Through this, we can hope to increase city-college enrollment by providing soldiers, officers, and mentors as role model for students.

Meanwhile, surprising morning July 6th– I was in the Chicago Tribune! In the article, We were at the UIC Marketplace for Freshman Orientation talking about the Army ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps). Of the many universities across the country, only 250 have an ROTC program and UIC is of the fortunate few. The Chicago Tribune article link is:,0,3386101.story

That’s all I have for you this week. See you all next time.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Name the one food that is sugary sweet, and does not spoil no matter how late you eat!

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK: Buying food in the city can sometimes be cheaper than cooking.

TOPIC NEXT WEEK: Campus Housing fun and looking back at my freshman photos =)

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