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is proud to present

SPHYGMO The Rebirth


Aunty Elsa MMSA Diaries Wall of Shame Pearls of Wisdom

Donkey and Shrek Alice in Medicaland ‘I spy’ .. & many more! November 2011



20 -Dec

Editorial Daniele Lauretta Agius Elizabeth Gialanze`

Stress. Oh that dreadful monster. It chases us! It has been reported that ever since Sphygmo has last been published, the stress levels of medical students have taken a worrying turn for the worse. Coincidence? We think not! In a desperate attempt to reduce the stress levels, the Media team has decided to call upon the de-stressing capabilities of Sphygmo; it is our only hope! Let’s put the jokes aside for one minute - Don’t worry, the rest of Sphygmo is jam-packed with little snippets which will jolt your risorius muscle .. After popular demand, we took it upon ourselves to reintroduce this publication, but we did more than that, we revamped Sphygmo! Let’s face it, being a medical student is not easy. On a daily basis we are faced with daunting tasks, seemingly undefeatable pathologies which plague our youth: the constantly changing timetables, the long hours, and the never-ending workload just to mention a few. And what’s the prognosis doctor? This is where Sphygmo comes in. It’s only purpose: to put a smile on your face and help you to (at least momentarily) put your books aside and take a well-deserved break. If we make at least one student smile (though hopefully it will have this effect on more than just one student :P), we may happily say ‘mission accomplished’! As you flip through the pages you’re going to meet some regular writers, as well as some new ones. We are proud to inform you that, after several months of pleading on our knees, Aunty ELSA has decided to grace us with one of her long rants highly interesting

and intellectual articles. It is with great regret that we inform you that Boozu has decided to retire and will not be able to contribute to this edition. But fear not! We have managed to find a couple of replacements, who we believe are more than capable to fill the gap left by our Dear Boozu: Donkey and Shrek from the Land of Far Far Away! We have also added a new recruit to the long list of writers, Alice: a young writer who is lost somewhere in Medicaland, a baffling and bewildering place but she still seeks to sprinkle some wise words here and there. Scattered throughout the magazine you will find the so called Pearls of Wisdom - illustrious quotes belonging to our beloved lecturers. MMSA Diaries, the Wall of Shame .. yes they’re also back! So that’s all from us :) We’d like to thank all those who, in one way or another were part of the Sphygmo team -without their help and lots of patience, this publication would have never seen the light of day. So now sit back, assume a comfortable position and enjoy. We honestly hope that after reading this, you will find yourself smiling. We did :)

The Sphygmo team Paula Gauci, Nicola Bonello, Stephanie Azzopardi, Nicholas Cassar, Matthew Valentino, Gordon Muscat, Christine Vella, Marquita Camilleri, Ben Chetcuti, Claire Vella, Fabian Bonello, Beppe Grech, Tara Giacchino, Matthew Fenech, Gabbi DeMarco, Stephanie Vella, Raphael Buttigieg, Samuel Debono, Annie Aquilina, Ben Chetcuti, Myranda Attard, Thelma Xerri, Robert Cachia, Sander Grima, Keith Pace, Richard Apap Bologna & the rest of the MMSA EB 2011-2012.

Cover, Design & Layout: Elizabeth Gialanze` Printed by: Gutenberg Press Ltd ATTENTION! This newsletter has been printed using FSC paper which comes from sustainable sources!



Wall of Shame


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Letters to Shrek & Donkey


“Dear Shrek and Donkey, I am a first year and I have a dilemma. I’ve been in first year for two weeks already and I am not learning anything. I feel stupid. I do my best to try to follow the lectures but they are so bloody boring. I try to stay awake by using facebook and chatting to my classmates on the other side of ALR but I immediately feel my eyes closing…closing…closing… until i am in a deep sleep. I wake up to the rustle and bustle of people rushing out of the room and I cannot believe that another hour has passed by. When I go home it’s a different story. I try my best to sleep at night so that I am refreshed and energetic for the next day but my insomnia kicks in and I spend my night thinking about the lymphatic drainage of the thorax. THAT IS THE ONLY THING I KNOW! The next day the vicious cycle begins again! PLEASE HELP ME! Is this what my life is going to be like for the next 5 years?? “ “I suggest you invest in a laptop, so you can read your emails and check facebook religiously. There are also some fantastic games such as Robot Unicorn Attack. Insomnia at night is not a problem; most medical students don’t sleep much at night anyway! ..Oh I’m kidding! You just need to RELAX. It is normal for a first year to feel like a flaccid, flopping fish out of the water but you can’t let it get to you. Your insomnia may be a part of the stress or a subconscious expression of your difficulty to adapt to university life. It’s difficult, yes, but it doesn’t mean, you have to let it progress to the point where you’re painting graffiti on the wall with your head. Everyone feels the same way: that you have to be crazy to spend more time with fixed hearts than live ones! Look at the doctors who have just graduated.. you can be one of them in 5 years time”



“Dear first year, This is the first day of the rest of your life. This life will not get any better. But do not fret. You should start investing in a prescription for sleeping pills to help you sleep at night. Zaleplon or Rozerum will help you fall asleep. For a longer, more restful sleep you can take Estazolam or Zolpidam which will help you stay asleep. You should also look into going to a psychiatrist. Dr. Cassar is very understanding and he will surely help with any problems you will have on your journey towards getting this profession. With his catch phrase, “Guys…. Guys… are you happy?” you will surely be at peace when you finish with one of his sessions. If this is not enough, wait for the BS seminar where you will surely sleep for three days straight with no care in the world.”


The Pres


MMSA Diaries

It’s a busy time for MMSA right now... it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I just can’t wait for all the big events we have coming up. We’ll be spreading health info, outreaching like crazy, and to top it all off, partying hard at some great MMSA par-

Having just recovered from TNT and NPET Weekend, the NPET team is a committed one. We are also busy contacting schools and youth centres for all our trained members to have the opportunity to get out there and PEER EDUCATE!

Media Apart from the usual MMSA business, at the moment we are also busy with Minima Medicamenta and the next edition of Murmur! The team is growing with every publication :)

SCOME ‘Aches and Pains’ is the opportunity to meet GPs and discuss daily pains and remedies. Another event not to be missed is MEDIK-T - a weekend seminar letting you experience the planning and organisation behind MMSA projects - the perfect way to unwind and relax with friends after your exams. I hope you’re super keen to join the SCOME team!! :)


Human Rights Campaign and International Women’s Day are all events SCORP is looking forward to and working eagerly towards! I simply cannot wait to see all the work coming together, there is nothing quite as satisfying as waking up on the day of a campaign with the aim of making it a success! With so many students pitching on so many great ideas it looks like we’ve got the drive to make this a brillliant year :)


I’m extremely excited for SCORA this year as the standing committee springs back into action after a few quieter years! Hope you all enjoyed our World AIDS Day Campaign Events: Red Party .. Candle Vigil, all were amazing! The SCORA Team also invites you to give your input with any ideas, especially for the new Antihomophobia and Valentine’s Day Campaigns!!!

MMSA Diaries

Exchanges I hope you enjoyed Research Day on the 7th December! This year it has included many research topics which were targeted towards all medical student from first years to fifth years! P.S Information about Exchanges will be coming up soon ;) Be sure to check your MMSA news regularly!

SCOPH SCOPH is currently busy with projects raising awareness on several subjects. After having recently launched the Stroke Awareness Campaign, we are working on expanding it. We are also busy with Teddy Bear Hospital and FOOD campaigns in different schools at the moment :) As for past events, I’m glad to say that we had a very good turnout for World Heart Day and World Diabetes Day! :)

TRD costume winner!



the fter our y .. Team ideand Day s!!!

TRD in photos


The typical MD class Pretty self-explanatory. Apart from his God-given intelligence, he’s also genuinely interested in medicine and receives all the latest journals in the post. Even though he’s top of the class, you don’t hate him because he’s always there to lend a helping hand after one of Hunter’s lectures, which may as well have been taught in Japanese. Fist-pump ridiculously intelligent dude, we love you! Not to be confused with the above. The eager beaver is annoying. Most likely to be seated in the front of the class in the prime position to interact with the lecturer. Despite their best efforts, they will forever be known as “girl with the little black netbook”. Do not be deceived by the eager beaver as its very likely that all the eagerness is their way of compensating for lacklustre grades. (Couple of the year) Let’s all let out a collective “aww”! As soon as their eyes met over their first cadaver in the dissection hall it was love at first sight. Habitually seen holding hands underneath the table and attacking each other’s face when the lecturer isn’t looking. The wedding has been pencilled into all our diaries for 6 months after we graduate. You hear them coming from a mile away as one of them emits a high pitched giggle. Usually travel in packs of 2s or 3s, or if you’re unlucky enough to be in the graduating class of 2015 - 8. A force to be reckoned with but always with good intentions. Great to be friends with and dance on tables alongside but horrible to be seated next to during a lecture. Polar opposite of the loud girls. Also travel in packs but appear to have taken a vow of silence upon entering university. This makes it very difficult for their classmates to learn their names and in some cases, recognise their faces. Speak up girls and show the world how awesome you really are! There’s a sharp intake of breath as he enters the room. A scurry of activity as all the girls reach for their lip gloss and fluff up their hair. He’s awesome and he knows it, so expect “that guy” to walk in 5 minutes late so that all eyes are on him as he slowly but surely takes a seat at the back. Maybe there is hope for a McSteamy at Mater Dei after all!

PEARLS OF WISDOM Yes they’re back! And they never get too old.. :) Look for the clouds through this newsletter if you want to have a guaranteed laugh or two!

There are many holes in the body through which we can administer drugs....and if we don’t find one , we’ll create one - Dr Janet Mifsud

WHICH DOCTOR WILL YOU BE? Take our quiz on page 14

Opsonising antibody.. It ’s like when you put ketchup on everything you eat! - Prof. Paul Cuschieri

I am back. I was hunted down, from the depths of my quiet, dignified and well-deserved retirement, by a young medical student who insisted that the absence of my pearls of wisdom has caused a general state of intellectual degradation amongst medical students across the country. I agreed to come back, not because my medically-minded nephew (who accompanied the supplicant) insisted, but because my hands were literally itching to get back to my ink and paper and set right the many, many wrong assumptions and inclinations in the minds of people diseased enough to get into this profession. My nephew, who to my dismay abandoned the shining prospect of a respectable law career for the bloody murkiness of medicine, insists that the itchiness is due to scabies. I, in turn, insisted that his name be taken off my will. It was obvious that my presence was needed from the second I asked what the MMSA (the Mard tal-Moħħ li jgib l-iStudju Association) was currently up to. Now, in my hey-day, I have been to many a cotillion. Nay, I may have carpe diem’d and noctem’d a tad with a particularly dashing suitor or two. But never, in all my years of connection-working have I come across such a disgusting slice of degradation as a party willingly themed Anything But Clothes. Of course, the theme could have come from noting the attire worn by certain medical students during ward rounds. At a recent stay in Mater Dei, I was startled almost out of my spectacles by the sight of a group of flighty young ladies dressed in what I can only assume to be very uncomfortable clothes to work in. It is such a comforting thought for me to know, that should I require CPR, these damsels will be the first to rush to my side, regardless of high heels and tight skirts. Dulce et decorum est, that I should die from lack of enough cloth to make a decent set of clothes.

I realise now that shortages in the medical health system are not simply restricted to hospital supplies. Caveat emptor. But back to the subject at hand. Che volgarita’! That I should see the day when my nephew has to mix with such crowds! You would think that many of these students have seen enough human flesh to last them a lifetime, but I assume that their depravity knows no end. Frankly, I am astounded that each year does not bring with it a batch of TRD babies. Though I am sure that countless new miniscule visitors do take root in medical student bodies year after year. I believe you call them STDs. I call them SURs. Serves you right, ja ħamalli. I have to finish this off, a junior doctor is approaching with my medication. My psychiatrist thought it might help my problem of throwing the Constitution at all MDs within sight if I could see some of them in a more positive light. It’s true, that junior doctor has been a much nicer guy ever since he’s agreed to have a daily chat with me at tea-time as part of my therapy. He says I’m the one who’s gotten mellower, and that the pills do wonders for my anxiety. And they do. Crushing them and adding them to his coffee gives me such intense satisfaction. I feel quite serene.

He who laughs last, laughs the most, and we laughed a lot.. because we were right! - Dr. Chris Barbara

The buttock for injections has fallen out of fashion . For other things it is still very fashionable , perhaps even too fashionable - Prof. Paul Cuschieri


When Alice dozed off under a tree, little did she know that an adventure was imminent – one which will be full with escapades, mazes and whatnot! Unravelling tales, solving riddles, discovering new ideas filled her journey in Wonderland – and it is also what makes up the simple chronicles of life.

Who am I? Oh you don’t need to know who I am but I want you to pay attention to what I have to say.. Whether you are a 1st year or a 5th year we are all sometimes overwhelmed by the load of cr*p we have to do and we all are first in line to complain. Having attended the launch of the Stroke Awareness campaign in October, I left the auditorium not only feeling a tad more knowledgeable on the subject of strokes but also inspired. The last guest for the event was a woman who had suffered from a stroke as a result of her stressful life. She recalled her life experiences with us. She was humble and had a sense of humour. And she left us with these parting words: “Appreciate what you have in life, because you never know when all this could be taken away from you”. Two simple sentences. Just that. Two simple sentences we often hear, but I can assure you that it never left as large an impact as it did when it was said in an auditorium full of students on that particular occasion. Pausing to take a breath when you feel nervous never hurts anyone. Do not let your emotions overcome you. Think rationally and act reasonably. You are who you are because of your past so learn to acknowledge it. Memories are meant to be cherished and not buried. Dreams are there to be fulfilled. Yes they say that if you complain, you gain, but what is there to gain if not a few white hairs?

Count yourself lucky Appreciate what you have Appreciate who you are And yes.. smile! It doesn’t hurt you :)

Ooh .. lovely! - Prof. Josianne Vassallo

That’s it from me .. One last thing though: I had to solve the Cheshire cat’s riddles, so can you solve this one for me? What can’t money buy Once it is gone you cannot reclaim it You have to use it now We all receive the same amount each day Time. So make the most of it! You can only be a good doctor if you are good to yourself



We don’t like needles in our bodies, unless, heqq, you enjoy being punctured . - Dr. Chris Barbara

I’ve seen so many of these , the buttock that is, that they don’t impress me so much anymore ... but they do come in different shapes and sizes - Prof. Paul Cuschieri


Strange .. But true! Sex burns off an average of about 100 calories per session. There are 2.5 trillion (give or take) of red blood cells in your body at any moment. To maintain this number, about two and a half million new ones need to be produced every second by your bone marrow. In one hour, the average sperm can swim seven inches. The most common health problem in the world is toothache. According to experts, sex is about 10 times more effective as a tranquilliser than Valium. We make one litre of saliva a day. The largest cell in the human body is the female egg, while the smallest cell in the human body is the male sperm. Yawns are contagious both from human to human and also from human to canine. There is more bacteria in your mouth than the human population of the United States and Canada combined You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching T.V. Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour. Children grow faster in the srpingtime.

I told her ‘We’d better use the buttock area’, and she told me ‘On one condition , I will lower my panties, but you have to close your eyes’ - Prof. Paul Cuschieri


AWKWARD MEDICAL MOMENTS The awkward moment when a certain top cardiac surgeon inserts his writing device into a cadaver’s southern regions.. and then puts it in his mouth. The awkward moment when you don’t remember leaving Ballu via ambulance. The awkward moment when you run to the bathroom during a BS session to throw up – very loudly. The awkward moment when you’re not exactly sure who you shared saliva (and other body fluids) with at one of THOSE MD parties. The awkward moment when you stand staring blankly at a vending machine for a good 10 minutes beacuse you cannot quite figure out how to use it. The awkward moment when a respected lecturer overhears you and your friends having a highly intellectual conversation on the correct pronunciation of the word “Maxims” (yes, the pastizzi shop). The awkward moment when during a CS the very noble volunteer suddenly sits up from his previously supine position only to be greeted with a mouthful of lecturer’s breast. That awkward moment when a lecturer tells you you’re constipated during a CS. The awkward moment when during your very first anatomy lecture, you write “die as tilly” instead of “diastole”.

You graduate , you roam around the hospital , you get married , you get THAT order. - Prof. Paul Cuschieri

You will still die ... but in a relaxed state - Prof. Paul Cuschieri on Botulism


Diary Entry of a Medical Student in Ghana

I woke up at around 5 o’clock this morning because my neighbour had decided to play some love song loudly and repeatedly, damn him! A cockerel crowed an hour later and my roommate woke up and switched on the lights, unnecessarily though, as the first rays of the sun were already seeping through the window. Groggily and reluctantly I sat up in my bed. As usual, I had rolled out from under my mosquito net, but at least the repellent I had put on the night before had worked. Following a cold shower, I recovered a crumbled shirt from the foot of my bed and started dressing for hospital, my white coat will thankfully cover up my disheveled attire. Out in my balcony, several young doctors were already on their way to hospital, and Rose, the woman who sells bread gave me a toothy grin and shouted my name as a hello. “See you soon!” I called back. It’s an African tradition to shake people’s hands as a good morning, so around 6 handshakes later I was out of the hostel and had bought my bread and cheese and doughnut for breakfast, watered down with my daily anti-malaria tablets. My firm had surgical outpatients today, and the professor gave me a new case file and instructed me to clerk and examine the patient and report back to him: A breast lump. Up in the ward, the student group leader suggested I clerk one of the new in-patients so I could present him the next day during the teaching ward round. In Ghana, they don’t have coffeehabits, or staff canteens, so I had to make do without my mid-morning coffee. I had lunch at Yaa’s Place, a room-turned-shop at the hostel, with some of the other exchange students whose hospital duties for the day had finished. We discussed the following weekend’s travel plans to the west coast over fried chicken with rice and fried plantae (banana-like fruit). I had some washing to do, since the washing-lady hadn’t appeared for around two days; using a bucket and washing powder is the norm here. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing poker, however it gets dark by 6pm and that’s when the mosquitoes start biting – and we start applying repellent. After having a fried-egg in a sandwich for dinner from the ‘egg-sandwich lady’ in the main street, we went for some drinks at Container; which is literally a container turned bottle-shop and drinking hovel. To get a taxi back home we had to, as usual, haggle for the price, however it always helps to have a Ghanaian haggle for you :)



World AIDS Day - Getting to Zero! More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981 and currently over 30 million people are living with HIV/ AIDS worldwide. Around 10 million people have been diagnosed but are still awaiting treatment. In Malta over 150 people are living with HIV and the numbers are still rising. Living with HIV/AIDS is not only about facing the disease, but also about dealing with the associated stigma and discrimination because of a general lack of knowledge and understanding. This is why many organisations worldwide are taking action and striving to bring these numbers down to Zero, and this brings us to the theme of World AIDS Day 2011:

Zero new HIV infections Zero Discrimination Zero AIDS related deaths

MMSA is sharing in this responsibility and raised much needed awareness through a series of events and parties. Our campaign kicked off on Saturday 26th November with the renowned Red Party at Black Pearl, Ta’ Xbiex! This was a fundraising event and the money collected was donated to Xefaq (a Caritas Malta Counseling Service). The party was enjoyed especially by the many first years that attended, whilst enjoying great offers at the bar! Next were the outreaches on Campus which took place over a three consecutive days. Due to bad weather the stand was set up in front of the University canteen instead of outside on Quad. This worked to our advantage as the interest of the students entering the Student’s House was immediately caught as they saw our new WAD banner and different coloured condoms that we were giving out for free. Students were shy

It seems we do not have a projector, so I guess I must attempt to explain the cardiac cycle through the medium of dance ... - Dr Bernard Debono

to approach the stand at first due to the taboo that ‘Sex’ maintains in our society, but were eased up by the great medical students that helped out with the outreaches especially the first years xD The material available for the public consisted of Red Ribbons to commemorate the cause, ABCD’s of safe sex and How to put on a condom properly leaflets and also information about STIs. To top it all off, cupcakes with the Red Ribbon made of icing on top were sold on the days. Moreover, Movember donations which were being collected during the month of November to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research Organisations , were also collected. Annually, MMSA also organises a candle vigil to commemorate World AIDS Day. It serves to honour the lives lost and raise social consciousness about HIV, as well as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers, and giving hope to new generations. The procession consisted of not only medical students from all the years, but also external students and members of other organisations such as KSU, WeAre, politicians etc and we were greeted by the media at the end of the vigil. This week of events ended with a bang on 8th December as we reintroduced World AIDS Day Concert- Exposed! This took place at VGen, Paceville. The lineup included Two Time Shooter, Funk Initiative and Red Electrick – the Acoustic Trio. This was a great way for the clinical students to celebrate the end of November exams, whilst raising awareness on the subject! The night started off with a happy hour before the event and continued with great offers at the bar! Providing training on all aspects of HIV for health care students and professionals is crucial in achieving universal access to treatment, care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS. To address this issue MMSA also organises various seminars on the topic throughout the year, including the HIV&AIDS Seminar that took place on the 2nd of December and the Sexual Rights Seminar planned for February. The HIV & AIDS Seminar received a great response with an audience of 150 students! Stigma and discrimination among general population still, after over 25 years since the beginning of the epidemic, remain high in all the regions of the world. This represents a major obstacle in decreasing the number of people affected by HIV. Through World AIDS day we hope to educate both students and the general public on the ABCs of safe sex and instil a sense of knowledge pertaining to HIV/AIDS and sexual health in general. “The only way to fight HIV/AIDS is through prevention. The only way to prevention is through education.”


I spy ...

A poll amongst the 5th years

If the aorta goes, you go with it! - Dr, Ali

Yep, you have to rotate the page to check out our poster for your upcoming MMSA Christmas party!


The Fun Page


1. Red blood cells normally have a funny shape...can you describe it? (9) 4. One of these is named after Achilles. (6 letters) 7. The most important endocrine gland? Well sure, but it does have to obey instructions from the hypothalamus.Oh and it’s pea-sized (9) 9. The largest organ of the human body (4) 10. A process by which mummy cell gives 2 identical daughter cells (7) 15. The most abundant plasma protein found in blood...without it you would most definatley get oedema (7) 16. Glucose is converted to pyruvate through this process (10) 17. Blue, green, or brown. This part of the eye comes in different colours. (Also the name of a famous track by the Goo Goo Dolls) (4) 18. Detoxification, bile production, protein synthesis and glucose homeostasis are just a few of this organ’s tasks. And instead of thanking it you give it a work overload every weekend.. (5)

20. Grey matter- it is the outside layer of the spine, or is it the brain? I always mix them up.. (5) 21. Reduced release of this hormone is the real cause why you feel the need to go to the loo so often when you drink some alcohol (3) 24. An excitatory neurotransmitter released at neuromuscular junctions. (13) 25. In layman’s terms this refers to an elevated blood pressure (12) DOWN 2. HDL, LDL, IDL, VLDL. These are different lipoproteins, some are ‘friendly’, some are harmful, but they are all carry a form of fat, which doctors insist should be kept under check. (And some butter companies make you believe that they can reduce the presence of this molecule in your blood). Guessed it? (11) 3. A fancy little machine which measures the electrical activity of the heart. (3) 4. One of the 4 letters of the DNA ‘alphabet’ (7) 5. What is the name of the vertebra which is in contact with the skull? If you know your Greek mythology, just try to remember the name of the titan who was believed to lift the world on his shoulders. (5) 6. Often left ventricles are affected by this in people suffering from high blood pressure or following a myocardial infarction. (11) 8. Your lovely liver becomes hard and fibrosed - commonly seen in alcoholics (9) 11. These valves stop blood from going in the wrong direction, that is backwards into the heart. Think about halfway through an eclipse and a full moon. (9 lett 12. Which one word describes these four: muscle, nerve, epidermal and connective? (And it’s also useful if you need to blow your nose) (6) 13. Many people believe that antibiotics are a universal cure, but truly antibiotics should be taken only for which type of infection? (9 letters) 14. We all know that pulses can be measured from the wrist... but in reality which artery is being used? (6) 18. Connective tissue connecting bones together (8) 19. Lock and key hypothesis, competitive and non-competitive inhibition and much, much more. You’ve heard so much about this little molecule (and trust me, you’ll hear much more), but its most important job is as a natural catalyst. What is it? (6) 22. Afraid of needles or not, you’d better take this if you want to be protected against a disease. (7) 23. A disaccharide which has only glucose as its monomer (7)

Sphygmo - The Rebirth  

Dec 2011 edition MMSA Media