Here are the photos from my July trip to the beautiful country of Germany. To see the photos enlarged in PhotoBucket, click on "Larger photos" and then select "View as slideshow"
Trip 1: Southwestern Germany Black Forest region
Exploration of towns not far from my friends’ home in Schwegenheim (Germerscheim, Heidleberg, Stuttgart), south past vineyards to Alsace region of France (overnight in Strasbourg), south and east through Black Forest region to Triberg where I bought a cuckoo clock (iconic symbol of Black Forest).
Trip 2: Southern Germany to Munich – Alpine region
Leaving the Black Forest and proceeding eastward through the alpine topography of southern Germany to Lindau (located on an island in Lake Constance where I enjoyed a delicious paella dinner), then northeast to Munich which greeted us with a gay “Christopher Street Parade.”
Not one but two cakes, one chocolate and the other white - both delicious, were bestowed upon me by my anesthesia students during the last class (June 10th) of the academic year. In time for summer travels, I was also bestowed a fabulous “messenger bag” with a special laptop compartment and a plethora of other compartments that I am still discovering.
My students, incredibly busy in the three-year doctoral nurse anesthesia program, somehow found the time to show their gratitude (relief?) and celebrate together because they’re almost done with my courses. These courses include physics, biochemistry and molecular biology, followed by the anatomy and physiology of all the systems. Very intense!
The last lecture finishes Renal Physiology and the challenge of covering all the material in the available time usually preoccupies me so that these “ceremonies” truly are surprises. While I’m obviously feigning surprise in the photo, I actually was very surprised upon initially seeing not one but two cakes!
The chocolate cake was decorated with “Thank You Ronnie!” and a card explained why I was being thanked: “Dear Ronnie, The class of 2013 would like to thank you for your dedication and fostering all that we have learned our first year of training. Thanks for being available, encouraging, and tolerating our emails!! Regards, Class of 2013”
The white cake was inscribed with the words “Make It Sing!” This is one of the expressions for which I am famous. The students hear it often during the beginning of the year when I am reviewing proportionalities and exponential functions. “Make It Sing” means the equations they will be using in physics should be something they truly understand and that the equation is much more than a one sentence statement. “Make It Sing” means wringing out of an equation all that it holds - being able to determine the relationships among the variables, visualize the graphic representations thereof, and predict what will happen when a variable changes.
Now the students proceed into the second year of the doctoral program. I am confident that, like the many graduates before them, they will succeed in the career of nurse anesthesia and that they will “Make It Sing!”
Just two more sets of exams to grade (renal physiology) and I’m done teaching for this academic year! I will have all of August and the first week of September off. Teaching science (physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, anatomy and physiology of all body systems) in a leading nurse anesthesia program is a rewarding challenge that I’ve taken on for thirty-six years now, partly because the students are so appreciative.
On Thursday during a break in the final lecture, the students surprised me with a cake and a gift. The students will be moving into the second year of the three-year master degree program in nurse anesthesia (thus the “Class of 2012” on the cake), and I will greet the next wave of fledglings in September.
Typically the students commemorate our last academic interaction with references to things I often say when teaching. Something I often mention when lecturing is the “saber-tooth tiger.” Look closely at the upper left corner of the cake and you will see the figure of a tiger (closest thing the students could find to a saber-tooth tiger).
I offer an attack by a saber-tooth tiger as an example of a natural stress situation in response to which the actions of stress hormones and sympathetic nervous fight-or-flight behavior are adaptive. The medical dilemma is that we have ice-age bodies but live in a modern age in which the stressor is job loss, debt, divorce, or a traffic jam – not a saber-tooth tiger attack! The physiological stress responses that have evolved (e.g., increased blood glucose and fatty acids, increased cardiac output) do not help us survive modern stressors but instead, combined with over-plentiful calories and sedentary lifestyle, lead to our demise (diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular accidents)! So there are lots of references to saber-tooth tigers and their prey when I’m lecturing on sympathetic nervous system and hormone effects like those of glucocorticoids and catecholamines. Hence, there is a tiger (and a bear for good measure) on the cake.
On a more practical level, the students have demonstrated their observational acuity by bestowing upon me a new lab coat. (My old lab coats reflect the many years I’ve been teaching.) The lab coat is exactly the style I like, and unlike any I ever had before, is beautifully embroidered with my name.
I will think of the class of 2012 whenever I look at the animal figures from the cake or whenever I put on my new lab coat. This coat will be donned for the first time on September 9th, when the shepherding of students through the process of building a scientific foundation for their profession in anesthesia begins again.