Monday, February 9, 2009

Serendipitous genetic mutations

I remember with perfect clarity turning to a classmate, Tim, and saying, "There is nothing this neuroscience teacher can fail to teach me that I couldn't fail to learn on my own."

I am not particularly adept with science. And, sure, some of my classmates in medical school can remember more "facts" than me. But when it comes to reproducing those same facts in a slightly different order or, perhaps, completely reconfigured...I'm your man.

I first began to question my future medical career while debating the fundamental elements in organic chemistry. Several classmates backed carbon as the universal element which bound together many of human-kinds molecular back-bone; I had to pipe in, "Woh...aren't we all forgetting about the universal power of the little forgotten element called FIRE?"

The remark was welcomed with smirks, but I was asked to leave when I started to shout at our Chemistry professor, calling him, "A Sorcerer of black-magic."

I passed Chemistry, though I hardly ever believed in their spells and alchemical equations.

I did not have such luck in Physiology, where I answered one of the final essay questions, "While much is yet to be understood about the renal system, we can safely say that the kidneys, quite simply, work by magic."

And I formed certain hang-ups against Anatomists and Physiologists, whose discoveries revealed an inherently pompous nature. I imagined, time and again, the scenario that led a coworker to proclaim aloud, "Golgi! You might be on to something with your apparatus!"

Yet the moment I realized I might have to find an outlet for my mind's creative flights of fancy arrived during a radiology lecture. Our teacher made it quite clear that legally and morally, we should take great care to ensure that a fetus or neonate should never be exposed to Gamma Radiation. Yet it occurred to me to employ the scientific form of skepticism.

"Jo," I said. "What would be the likelihood, in strict percentages...so to speak...that exposing a child to Gamma Radiation could cause him to run with lightening-speed, achieve super human strength or powers of flight?"

Shortly thereafter I was asked to leave medical school. But once again, I draw on that epiphany uttered to the more adept classmate, Dr. Timothy Leary, "Sir, There is nothing they could fail to teach me in medical school that I couldn't fail to learn on my own."

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