Category Archives: Medicine and Health

Explaining the backpacker’s diet

I realized after my recent post on backpacking diet that I did a great job outlining some of my diet choices for my fastpacking trips and a poor job of explaining why I chose the foods I do. I wanted to do a write-up explaining the backpacker’s diet so people could better understand what purpose it serves and how a diet loaded with empty calories is not unhealthy granted the context.

Typical 2.5 day diet
Typical 2.5 day diet

My backpacking diet serves a very specific purpose and addresses the most immediate concern: starvation. It focuses on macronutrient intake and finds the densest foods to obtain the most calories. Anything beyond that is fluff.  Continue reading Explaining the backpacker’s diet

The hallmark of a healthy diet

Since I was a kid, my dad would inform me of the recent dietary trend, from entire dietary restrictions to minor single food alterations. He would read about it in Men’s Journal and then tell me, “Oh, avocados are very good for you,” or “bread is very bad for you,” with no explanation further than that. It could have been attributed to the most recent journal article on the subject, some undergraduate run correlation study, or it could have just been the musings of a physician who overstepped their authority. I used to think that the reason these adjectives, good and bad, bugged me so much when applied to nutrition because they oversimplified things, but recently I realized that it’s because it massively overcomplicates nutrition. Continue reading The hallmark of a healthy diet

The unseen effects of belief in alternative medicine

There’s always a cost. In the case of ginseng as an herbal remedy, the largest cost is very likely not its symptoms to the user. I read an article earlier on NPR about the effect of wild ginseng harvesting on our National Parks, highlighting the effect it has on ecology, the risk of American ginseng extinction, and the impact of its poaching on individuals and communities. Ginseng is selling for ridiculously high prices in Hong Kong, up to $20,000 per pound. For the poacher here in the eastern United States, that can mean selling their prize for over $200 per pound, a healthy income for some in rural Appalachia. But it can also mean 5.5 months in federal prison in the case of Billy Joe Hurley who was convicted multiple times for ginseng poaching. The reason for the high selling price for american ginseng is not that it is a culinary treasure over in southeast China, instead it is viewed as an herbal remedy for many ailments and diseases. And the reason that it isn’t simply cultivated is that the delicate forest ecosystem is difficult to mimic and mechanize. With ginseng selling for such a high price and having a tremendous impact on people’s lives and the ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains, I wondered whether this is all worth it. Continue reading The unseen effects of belief in alternative medicine

Acute mountain sickness, hell on earth

I wanted to believe it wasn’t happening again. I lied to myself, I lied to her, lifting my face up from the mud “just some mild altitude sickness” as I lay on the trail. I held my hand up with my thumb and index finger just an inch apart to emphasize “mild”. She rightly didn’t seem convinced and set her pack down. She was waiting for her husband and decided some ibuprofen may help me. I returned my face to the ground and lay curled up just off the side of the trail. Just before she had arrived I had drank several liters straight from a creek launching down from the alpine snowfields. Liter after liter I guzzled the snowmelt like my life depended on it. In reality, my life did depend on it, but more so it depended on my body’s ability to accept it. Continue reading Acute mountain sickness, hell on earth

Medical school personal statement

This is my medical school personal statement that I wrote for my application. I wrote about an incident that occurred while I was working the Luray Triathlon last year but didn’t feel comfortable publishing it until now. I’ve since been accepted and will be attending Eastern Virginia Medical School and am thrilled about the future and the beginning of my career in healthcare. So here it is, my medical school personal statement:

For children, health means the ability to play and explore. It means fun at school with friends versus a day at home in bed. Throughout my childhood, this is the definition that health assumed. But with the last breaths of a dying man, health adopted a new reality. Health is life itself; it is the ability to observe and exist on this planet for another day.

I was working a triathlon in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia in late summer. At the swim finish a tall, large man, wearing just a swimsuit and goggles stumbled out of the water and with help he made it up on the beach to sit on the cool sand. Within moments, he laid down, his breathing stopped and his heart along with it. Knowing only basic life support, I stayed out of the way and let the paramedics take over, but standing just a few feet away, seeing color in his skin, the life still in his body, I believed there was still hope. I remembered a story of another triathlete last year who was revived from a similar situation and this memory brought me hope. Continue reading Medical school personal statement