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vendredi 12 février 2010

a spell in psychiatry

A couple of months ago, I chose to do a rotation in one of the psych wards in Bordeaux. I had no idea what was waiting for me in those legendary grounds. Psychiatry was among those of the specialities that didn’t speak to me at all before that. I certainly came out of these 4 weeks as a changed and pretty disturbed person. Here are a few random thoughts about this world as I jotted them down during my spell.

I was dispatched along with another colleague in a ward dealing with Anxiety Disorders. Among these, we had mostly patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Phobia, but I quickly realised that we were mostly treating the depression related to these troubles. As a junior (l’externe), I wasn’t left on the field to talk to the patients. Rather, I’d  follow the daily interviews between the patients and my interns. The only few tasks I had comprised writing down prescriptions, running a couple of EKGs and writing down the biographies of new patients.

The psychiatry ward is a gossip temple. If you spend enough time in there, you might come up with a few movie scripts. Picture this: nurses are being paid to write down all the actions of their patients during the day. And they get to discuss it between the transmissions while adding their own personal views. “Mr X seems to love Mrs Y. Mr Z will get good company with the new boy in room A. Miss blablabla has fallen in love with her doctor…”  In a normal medical environment, this is trivial matter, but not in psychiatry.

Depression is somewhat contagious. It’s quite hard to get back home in a jovial mood after spending a day interviewing people who, almost everytime, start crying at some point. This might be the main reason why I wouldn’t want to specialize in psych. The reasons behind the patients’ break-downs could be classic: loss of job, loneliness, divorce, the ras-le-bol (exasperation) of life of teenage girls.  However, depression over your dog’s demise or even MJ’s death (yes, we had one such case) was a bit over the top for me.

OCDs are quite interesting to study. I never thought a person could be so obsessed by his school exams to end up in psychiatry. Above all, not a medical student. Others obsessions included dirt, the fear of killing someone at work, or simply the choice of the best photos for a photo album. It was amazing to listen to these patients describe their constant doubts and how they would spend hours casting these doubts away: by constantly cleaning, or verifying the mailbox, or making lists, or finding new ways to pile the thousands of photos they’ve taken of themselves. I started wondering whether online solutions like Remember the Milk or Evernote could fit in the treatment options for them.

The psych rotation was also the time to demystify the electroshock or its nicer name, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It’s quick (a dozen patients per morning session), it’s impressive at first and the outcome is excellent on patients who are hard to treat with pills.

I also got to spend 24 hours in the psych emergency department. In one day, several failed suicide attempts were sent to us. They are, by far, the most common patients in the ED and range from the teens to the lonely elders. I had a pretty good insight in the sufferings facing the dementia patients and their helpers. Lots of psychotic disorders showed up too with their delusions and hallucinations.

I wonder if it’s a french exception. It looks like people easily seek psych advice here, which isn’t the case in my country. Psychiatry is still taboo in Mauritius and it’s hard to convince someone to seek professional help, whereas in France, it’s culturally acceptable, even trendy, it seems, to have a personal psychiatrist or psychanalyst.

This rotation has given me an excellent overview of the mental state of the French society, its love for the meds and the trust it lays in its psychiatrists. Above all, I’ve convinced myself of the magic of the human touch and the necessity to take all the necessary time during a medical visit. This spell in psychiatry has indeed helped me to better understand the doctor-patient relationship.

That said I do have a few rants:

  • I feel like bipolar disease is being overdiagnosed. The problem might be with the very definition of the hypomanic episode.
  • There is a lack of coordination between health professionals in the region. When a patient gets discharged from a service, his stay report takes on average 2 weeks to be sent to his GP.
  • We still rely too much on fax machines.
  • In my ward, there was only one computer. “Economic measures,” they say. In other words, the paperless utopia is way behind schedule here.
  • Even the EMR software used on the network needs some serious reconfiguration in its UI. Different wards use it differently as per their convenience.
  • The number of medical students and healthcare professionals who turn psych patients is scary. (OCD, Mood Disorders)
So that was my 4 weeks as a psych externe. I wish my neurology rotation that followed had gone as smoothly… but that’s for some other time.

lundi 21 décembre 2009

2009 Best Albums

Here we are. With 2010 closing up, a music blogger would traditionnally publish his top 10. This is tough job. I’ve gone through countless records this year but few have remained for long on my ipod. In fact, I cannot really make a top 10 while knowing since January 2009 that nobody would make a better album than Delhi-6 other than A.R. Rahman himself. Let’s say, Blue just didn’t reach that level.
So yes, the winner is *drumroll* A.R. Rahman for Delhi-6 ! These are the songs I’ve listened to and sung the most. In fact, Rehna Tu is the best song of the year, in my opinion.
Remember, this represents solely my musical taste. I’ve been trying since the later half of this year to single out my monthly best. These albums, plus my listening stats at lastfm, have been useful in drafting this top of 2009.
You’re most welcome to refute my choice. If there’s something I’ve missed, please add it in the comments. Obviously, each person is listening to something else on his ipod. We are all in our own micro-genres. I love this diversity, but I’d also like this diversity to be shared. Never be ashamed of your musical taste.
OK, the number 1 spot is already fixed. I’ll just mention the rest now. First, I won’t go the Mauritian radio way of having two distinct categories: a top Indian and a top Occidental. I’ve just listed below the albums that I’ve found interesting this year and wouldn’t mind listening over again. Here’s my top of 2009:

A.R. Rahman - Delhi-6
Abraham Inc. - Tweet Tweet
Advaita - Grounded in Space
Amit Trivedi - Dev.D
Anouar Brahem – The Astounding Eyes Of Rita 
Avishai Cohen - Aurora
Balmorhea - All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
Charlie Winston - Hobo
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be
Dhruv - Distance
The Dodos - Time To Die
Fink - Sort of Revolution
Imogen Heap - Ellipse
Just Jack - All Night Cinema
K'Naan - Troubadour
Kailash Kher - Kailasa Chaandan Mein (& Yatra - Nomadic Souls)
Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence
Megafaun - Gather, Form & Fly
Mekaal Hasan Band - Saptak
Mùm - Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know
Noah And The Whale – The First Days Of Spring
Peter Broderick - 4 Track Songs
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Piyush Mishra - Gulaal
Regina Spektor - Far
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy - Luck by Chance
The Swell Season - Strict Joy
Vishal Bhardwaj - Kaminey
Vishal-Shekhar - Aladin
Volcano Choir - Unmap
Yodelice - Tree of Life
Special mentions for:
Amit Trivedi: He has brought much needed fresh tunes to Indian cinema. He’s been called the next Rahman since Dev.D and he deserves it.
Justin Vernon: Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago (2008) could easily make it to the best of the decade. So bad, I was late to discover it. Thankfully, Volcano Choir didn’t deceive either with Unmap.
The Swell Season: The band to whom I gave the most exposure this year. Strict Joy is a new collection of simple yet pounding love songs after the soundtrack for ONCE. I wish they had more exposure in France.¨
Piyush Mishra: This actor/composer/dialogue writer/lyricist and what else should be showered with awards for his work with Anurag Kashyap for the movie Gulaal.
The Dodos: I particularly enjoyed Time to Die. While most credit has gone to Animal Collective this year in the psychedelic folk genre, I’ve been mostly drawn to this little energetic band which goes with less instruments for a greater effect.
Kailash Kher: I didn’t listen to a lot a Indipop this year but Kailasa Chaandan Mein was one of the few. It took me some time to enjoy the songs. Now I keep adding stars to them every now and then. Third album and the band is still going strong!
That’s it. 30+ records for you to check out and for me to enjoy again.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

samedi 12 décembre 2009


So that's it. Storyltr is closing down on December 31. This is the best lifestreaming site I had found, perfect for the lazy blogger who still wants to centralize his presence on the web. This site is easy to use, easily customizable and is hosted by external servers. I've tried Sweetcron on my own server but I'm just not good at playing around on new services anymore. Let's face it: there's nothing better out there.

What next? I've decided to drop the idea of having www[dot] as a lifestream. Instead I've promoted my Tumblr as my main site. No more picks[dot], just or www[dot] One less site to manage is bliss!

This also means that the content of my posts on tumblr will change. The classic #1S1D (1 Song 1 Day) exercise will remain though. I might however remove the auto-posts to facebook if the frequency of posts gets too high.

This is the end of lifestreaming for me, and as long as Friendfeed is around, there's still a way to search back in time. The hoarder in me can still sleep tight.

Update: The day later, Storytlr goes open-source! Thank you @eschnou. I'll play with it one day when I'll have time.

samedi 24 octobre 2009

goodbye ufr107


I'm closing down my year's network which I was hosting on This post explains why the journey ends.

L’an dernier, j’ai monté et entretenu avec l’aide précieuse de mon ami Shakeel un réseau social sur pour ma promo. Cette fois, par contre, j’ai choisit de laisser tomber le projet.

Plusieurs raisons ont poussé à cette décision:

  • Avec la réforme de la fac, les 3 unités ont été rassemblées. L’effectif triple et a été redivisé en 4 centuries avec des parcours différents.
  • Les autres unités avaient leurs propres sites. Lequel choisir?
  • Les enseignements ont été bouleversés – les forums sur Ning n’ont pas la profondeur requise pour accueillir tout ce changement.
  • J’ai tardé pour m’occuper du changement; je devais réviser pour mes rattrapages.
  • De nombreux mini-groupes ont été montés sur facebook entretemps.
  • C’est con mais je ne peux pas changer l’url du site.
  • Personne l’a annoncé mais il semble que le site ( de notre asso Les Carabins de Bordeaux est désormais le choix idéal pour réunir tous les étudiants en médecine à Bordeaux.

A un moment j’ai pensé convertir le site en une alternative à facebook pour la promo ; beaucoup d'entre nous préfèrent discuter médecine sur une autre plateforme. Mais j'ai vite laisser tomber l'idée. La vie d'externe ne me permettra pas de gérer tout le flux d'infos.

C'est donc avec grand regret que j'annonce la fermeture de Ce site a été une aventure intéressante pour une petite promo de D1U1 mais avec la réforme et la multitude d'autres sites déjà existants, je me suis résolu à le fermer.

C'est avec grand regret que j'annonce la fermeture de Ce site a été une aventure intéressante pour une petite promo de D1U1 mais avec la réforme et la multitude d'autres sites déjà existants, je me suis résolu à le fermer.

Merci à toi, Shakeel pour ton aide. Merci à vous qui avez rejoint les discussions sur le forum: Gauthier, Christelle, Noémie, Eve, Pauline, Johanna, Jennifer, Nicolas, Anne-Cécile, Pauline, Nitesh, Marion, Julien, Aurélien et tous les autres que j’ai omis.

Merci Robin pour ton hommage:

Voilà, je voudrai féliciter Ad et Shakeel pour ce site qui va bientôt passer à la postérité. On se rappellera les précieux services qu'il nous a rendu ainsi que les coups de gueules, les prises de bec et le saucisson à l'ail.

Au final, ufr107 en une année c’est 148 membres, 69 sujets de discussions, et un long billet sur une Ronéo manquante (la fameuse ronéo d’épidémio du 03/04). C’est aussi le partage de fichiers, de photos de parasitologie, des vidéos de chirurgie, et comme on s’attend, des pics de consultation en période d’exam.


Je terminer ce billet avec quelques screenshots avant la fermeture définitive ce weekend. Une nouvelle page se tourne.

vendredi 16 octobre 2009

Leslie Helpert, Serpentfly in Bordeaux

I’m just back from Tchai Bar, my most common rendez-vous point in Bordeaux. Tonight I went in for a sitar-guitar-tabla show (which I mentioned early this week). To be frank, I was in to see the talented Mark Brenner play the sitar, but I made a great discovery – Leslie Herpert.
From her myspace: index

Helpert has composed over 1000 pieces of music and has performed in over 200 venues. Most recently (2008) she was endorsed by the ministry of cultural affairs in Bermuda as the first musician-in-resident. Additionally, Helpert internationally performs tributes to Billie Holiday. She is a teacher of voice and yoga as well as a spoken word poet, dancer, beat-boxer, illustrator, voice teacher and novelist; her music is informed by the entirety of her artwork. She has recorded 4 full length albums spanning the years of 1999-2008. She has played in places ranging from CBGB's in New York to Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, CA, and theaters such as Théåtre Lino-Ventura in Nice, France, The Boulder Theater in Colorado and The Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Her guitar is her compass.
Great husky voice. She’s got her own frivolous style and her lyrics made me sit back and smile. The sitar-guitar improvisations were pretty impressive as well. I’ve got in hand her 17-track EU Sampler which I’ll most certainly listen next morning during my commute.
Here’s the setting. A small cave in old Bordeaux, Mark Brenner on sitar and veena; Leslie Herpert on acoustic guitar and sometimes bass guitar; and a tabla player, stuck on keherwa taal most of the time. No mic: just the 3 musicians and some 30 persons in a intimate warm setting with our tchais and other infusions. I feel privileged to have been there.
Leslie recorded an EP in Barcelona in August. It’ll be available in December on iTunes.
The [blue gorgeous] escapists (from self-made/engineered 4th album)