Friday, February 16, 2007

On Happiness and Saints

Another week draws to an end. Our profession really allows for a glimpse into the whole range of human potential and amazing diversity of personalities, and the opportunity to be a learning bystander, observing how people interact with life and change or are changed by their personal sets of struggles and triumphs.

Was thumbing through an interesting new book at the library the other day. Don't recall the exact title, but the author had investigated many of the major religions of the world and analyzed photo credit
the ideas each one had about happiness. The most memorable part
was an anecdote (in the Jewish chapter) about a man who had survived
Auschwitz, who still vivedly remembers that, miserable as living conditions were during that time, in a place that may be one of the closest version of hell on Earth, there were still people at that concentration camp who went around cheering up their co-inhabitants, and giving away their meager food rations. Saints are truly everywhere.

And so perhaps true happiness has little to do with the external world. External conditions can be completely out of our control, and on a daily basis, we may run into troubles that we struggle with. Our bodies, and their diseases, can be out of our control (cancers, autoimmune diseases), and can create a lot of misery. But we forget that our minds are something that no one else can control, unless we let them. That our body and how the external world affects us, are not what we truly are.

Happiness cannot, must not, depend on having a good day, or being healthy, or being loved. If we believe that these external, constantly changing factors, have the power to dictate our happiness, we grant them a power they should not have, and give up the possibility of continued happiness. We lose the opportunity for peace of mind.

Perhaps happiness is a conscious decision for the mind to stay its course, regardless of whether the seas are calm or in the never-ending night of the fiercest storm. That we should recognize outside factors for what they are, and not allow them to affect the mind. That no matter how pleasant or unpleasant our external environments are, we recognize that they are nothing but a temporary change in scenery, and as such, hold no power over the well-being of the mind.

That this is possible is shocking, inspiring, almost frightening. But it must be possible, because people have done it in the past, and others do it today.

On a lighter note, wanted to share some inspiring pictures with everyone:
There's nothing like watching an elderly couple hold hands as they cross the street. (Of course, we're probably too far away to hear them bickering as they walk! Just kidding!!) photo credit

Nothing like a stroll on the beach, a nice sunset, and time to appreciate the gulls hanging in the credit

Learn from the birds: love, cherish, and take care of each other. photo credit

And finally, when you have a day like this one:

Just remember...
This too, shall pass...

Be well!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thoughts on a Week in D.C.

Feb 2-6, 2007 were the dates of the 65th Annual American Academy of Dermatology Conference. 7000 dermatologists from the U.S. (and some from abroad) converged on Washington D.C. for this week long event.

It was great fun, and an interesting glimpse into human nature. During the working hours, there are many different courses and workshops that one can sign up for. I have to say - overall I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the lecturers, and it was a pleasure to (once again) not have any clinical responsibilities and be able to just focus on learning.

The nights were pretty outrageous. Each night had at least two or more happening events, mostly sponsored by drug companies. There were private dinners at fancy restaurants, nightclubs were rented out for the night, and multiple galas where entire museums were rented for the night with live entertainment and free-flowing alcohol. Suffice to say, there were many a person who, if they did make it to the early morning class the next day, spent the morning double-fisting water and coffee.

It was a wonderful opportunity to see colleagues who are scattered across the U.S. Some we had known from before, some we met during the interview trail, and some were a few years older who are now in their own practices. Dermatologists with similar interests got together over lunch or dinner - Pediatric dermatology, Medical Dermatology Society, Dermatologic Surgery, International/Travel dermatology, etc. Program reunions took place, and practicing dermatologists had the opportunity to catch up with the faculty who had trained them.

And then, THE EXPO. Words cannot do justice to the experience that is the exhibition hall. Think big. Think free stuff. Think World Candy expo as seen on Food Network (or in person, if you've been so fortunate), except chock full of creams and lotions and fancy new lasers. You pick up a free rolling carry-on suitcase (provided by the drug company du jour), which you need to carry all the free products each booth shoves at you. If you stand back, you'll get the show of a lifetime - grown adults (including otherwise oh so distinguished attendings, and many of their significant others) salivating over a bottle of skin cream (that they could easily afford). It really shows you that all people, not just starving students and residents, eat up the free stuff. Must be what Sundance Film Festival goodies , or Oscar gift bags are like...

It's not just drug companies who are there. Clinique was there. (Lancome was there last year). Dove. Neutrogena. Oil of Olay. L'oreal. Companies that you would NOT have expected, (or maybe I'm just the naive one) there to try to tell you about their latest and greatest, with the hopes that you will recommend their products to your patients. I guess it makes some sort of sense. Although, frankly, I really haven't had that many patients ask about what kind of makeup or face mask to use. Sunscreen, yes. Moisturizer, yes. Perhaps people in private practice get more of the "how can I be more beautiful" questions.

And another thing - there are WAY too many companies preying on people's wish to look younger. Can there be more anti-wrinkle creams? All of which work (or don't work, depending on your perspective) about the same? Or "anti-aging" serums that promise to turn back the years? The sales people stand there and spout "research studies" on their products, with "reduction in fine lines by 58%," which is sketchy. How is the average joe supposed to sift through all the pseudo-medical jargon they throw at you to sell their product?

Anyways, it was an educational (and eye-opening!), exhausting, but fun week in our nation's capitol. If you get a chance, you should check it out! :)

photo credit,

photo credit