Monday, December 17, 2012

Vaccines and Blood Drawing

The last couple weeks have been very busy for me.  I spent them studying for exams, preparing a bioethics presentation on prenatal genetic testing, and reviewing for my finals in genetics and physiology.    A couple weeks ago I contacted the person who had access to soon to be expiring vaccines, but unfortunately it looks like I will not be able to accept the generous donation.  Without a nonprofit tax ID code or a serious method of transporting the vaccines, I was not eligible to except them.  I was also worried that even if they did make it out to Ukraine, I would not know who would be receiving them nor would I be certain there was an adequate refrigerator to keep them viable - what with the frequent blackouts, I suppose we would even need a generator.  After I get this project off the ground I will definitely reach out to her again though!  

Since finals, I have made my way to California and have been spending time with my family and working in my parent's clinic.  I basically started drawing blood within ten minutes of walking into the clinic after coming straight from the airport!  Although I once thought of myself as a blood drawing prodigy, my delusions of grandeur were quickly shattered along with my perfect patient drawing track record.  Drawing on schizophrenics might seem challenging, but wait until you have to draw primary care patients - old, young, overweight, dehydrated...  You basically have to go in blind and start fishing - two techniques that I am not comfortable doing!  The medical assistants have been teaching me how to find difficult veins when you just can't see or feel them.  

My parents run a high volume clinic with a wide variety of patients for me to gain experience working with - that is why I am here!  I am proud to say that I have already drawn more patients in just two days than I have in my short career as a phlebotomist in Texas.   I am excited to continue to be challenged this week at the clinic.  I will continue to update y'all on my progress.    

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Foreign Transaction Fees

Those fees will really get you.  Usually credit cards charge 3% per charge when traveling internationally.  I remember when I was gearing up for my trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway 2 years ago, I really wanted a credit card that did not have foreign transaction fees.  I have always prided myself for having excellent credit, so I figured I would be instantly approved for this Capital One Venture card I had been eyeing for months.  As soon as I applied for the credit card, I sat back and thought to myself how sweet it will be to not have to worry about those pesky fees while I spend 3 months traveling.  I was picturing myself potentially being robbed somewhere in Siberia, and imagining my future self simply smiling and saying to my future bandit, "Jokes on you! I only carry credit!  That card will be inactivated before you even have a chance to swipe it!"  Who carries cash these days anyways.  I was suddenly snapped out of my dream world when I noticed the website had finished loading - Credit card denied.  What happened?  Oh, right, LASIK doesn't come cheap and I had taken out a line of no interest credit to pay it off incrementally... Needless to say, I did not have a fancy no foreign transaction fee credit card for that trip.

Well, 2012 is a new year!  My LASIK is long since paid off, so I figured I would once again attempt to obtain the elusive Capital One Venture credit card.  I am proud to say that I was approved and am ready to start traveling, fee free!  Now, I just need to contact my old travel buddy and find out how to go about getting a checking account for his bank that did not charge ATM fees.     

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Smoking Ban - finally!

While perusing the WHO website today, I found these awesome articles.

Ukrainian Health Legislation:
I just found out that in June 2012, Ukraine passed a smoking ban that made it illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, etc.  There has also been a ban on smoking advertisements!  Let's hope this is one step closer to a smoke free world.   

Interesting facts:

  • 163,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer.  
  • In the US, the tobacco epidemic is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths, meaning that lung cancer accounts for more deaths than the next four (!) leading cancers combined.
  • California has been able to decrease the prevalence of smoking from 24% to 12% via aggressive anti-smoking campaigns. 

Not only will these new legislations make education about about dangers of smoking somewhat easier in a country where smoking is as common as drinking coffee, but now I no longer have to worry about getting burnt by flailing cigarettes while dancing at night clubs!  Win-win.

*Interesting facts courtesy of

Donations and Good News!

Well, so far things are coming along much better than I had anticipated.  I have a few contacts lined up that I need to call this week.  Some have experience with medical nonprofits, clinical outreach, grant writing, and one even worked at the Ukrainian consulate.  A relative of my finance also put me in touch with another contact who may have some flu vaccines that she would like to donate.  It is a good thing I have an International Air Transportation Association (IATA) certification to handle, process and ship bio-hazardous materials!  Shipping vaccines to Ukraine definitely require more research...  maybe this friend from the Ukrainian consulate will have insight into the legality of the task at hand.  When I have some spare time, I intend to read the WHO online booklet on shipping vaccines found here.

Speaking of vaccines, I should reacquaint myself with all the different vaccines offered through Vaccines for Children (VFC).  I bet the VFC regional representative that works with my dad's clinic may be able to help me figure out how to safely ship them so they stay within their temperature range.  I can't believe it has been 5 years since I worked for VFC and the Public Health Department in Richmond, CA!  Oh, how time flies.

First monetary donation:
I am excited to say that my parents are generously donating some money to my cause!  I plan to start fundraising after I get back this summer and/or have nonprofit status, but having some funds to start with is definitely helpful.  My dad is considering flying to Ukraine to spend a week with me too!  I am looking forward to having a doctor present, especially since that MD will be my dad.  We are going to figure it all out when I fly to California in a couple weeks.  My parents always have been my heroes and faithful supporters - big shout out to Mama and Papa for their generosity!

Recent thoughts:
I should read as much about the health situation in Ukraine as possible - new legislations, recent outbreaks, statistics, etc.  More research on the WHO website is in order.

Well, maybe after my Physiology and Genetics finals... one step at a time.