Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rescue Diver

For any scuba diver who plans to dive frequently or attempt challenging dives, the Rescue Diver course is a must. Like all PADI classes, this course consists of classroom, pool, and ocean components.

The most difficult and important skill in the course is rescuing an unconscious diver from the bottom of the ocean. Getting the diver to the surface is fairly easy, but at the surface it gets more complicated. Three things must be done simultaneously - rescue breaths, ditching equipment, and towing the diver back to the boat. I had the most trouble towing the victim back to the boat - I could not swim 10 feet in about 10 minutes of trying (luckily I still passed despite this obvious failing). Finally, the victim must be dragged out of the water and onto the boat. On the boat, CPR is administered until professional help arrives or the diver regains consciousness.

I'm glad I took the course in Cancun because I didn't need a wetsuit or heavy weights. With all the physical exertion that the rescue diver course requires, carrying less equipment makes a big difference. Panicked divers may try to pull your regulator out of your mouth and rip your mask off. My instructor, though a little guy, put up a good fight when playing the role of a panicked diver.

After this course, my instructor congratulated me on passing but told me to improve my swimming. I'm lucky he let me stay in the course as I was very rusty on my first day. I hope to dive a few times each year to keep my skills up.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


What better way to end a great summer than with some fun in the sun in Mexico? I was worried that it would rain constantly in Cancun ( showed 'isolated thunder storms' everyday during my trip), but thankfully, it barely rained. Travelling at the start of the low season did allow me to stay in a very nice hotel, Cancun Caribe Park Royal Grand, for a fraction of the normal cost. I paid $67 per night and got upgraded to a suite that overlooked the ocean. All guests at the hotel also got a 15% discount on all food and drinks at the hotel. But because it was low season, the resort was fairly empty.

All of this didn't matter because the Caribbean water is warm and pristine and I got my money's worth just from that. During my first five days, while I was waiting for Neil and his family to arrive, I took and passed a rescue diver class. More on that in separate blog. I also did two dives in a Cenotes or cavern. This was the most amazing diving experience I have ever had. The cool, fresh water is refreshing and requires divers to carry only half the weight they carry in the salt-water ocean. You can see stalactites and stalagmites, but even more impressive is the interplay of light and shadows as sunlight refracts in the water. At times it can be a little nerve-racking as there is no direct route to the surface. Apparently, Mexico and Florida are the best places for cavern diving.

After Neil and his family arrived, I hung up my mask and fins for some conventional Cancun tourism. We took part in an excruciating timeshare presentation at the neighboring Grand Caribe hotel which lasted over 2 hours. We were hard-sold by 7 sales reps. This was the first time I had ever taken part in a time-share presentation, and according to my friends who had been through several more, it was especially tough. In the end, we got $25 off per person for a Chichen Itza tour and my friends got free transportation to the airport. Neil and I went club hoping at the Corona Bar, Senor Frogs, and The City. While the first two were lame, The City was rocking. Corona Bar and Senor Frogs were populated by tourists, and this was why it was so lame. These are not the places locals go on Saturday nights. They go to The City, and that's why this place was so happening.

We did see Chichen Itza though I would have enjoyed it more had it not been so hot (try 95+). Unfortunately, the site is not impressive except for the main Mayan ruin. There is no comparison to Machu Picchu in Peru, which is located in a far more picturesque place high in the Andes mountains.

All in all, Cancun was a fantastic 1 week getaway at a reasonable price. I wish I had gone when I was a college student on spring break all those years ago, but better late than never!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family Festivities

I made a brief trip home in August to celebrate some very important events in my family: my sister's engagement and my dad's 60th birthday. It was non-stop excitement for these 5 days as a good portion of my extended family - maybe 50 people or so - flew in to the Bay Area to celebrate. Suffice it to say that both of these events were highly anticipated by our family and boy was it a relief to see them go off so well.

I think the highlight of the weekend was how our back yard performed as a venue for both parties. I've never seen it look so spectacular. The second highlight was that we had a bartender. The only thing that could make the backyard better is a sound system, which we're working on. The weather was very pleasant - not hot at all - and a welcome change from the hot, humid, and rainy Philadelphia weather that I have been experiencing all summer. Thank god for my AC.

With these events behind us, the next time my family will gather will be November 7 for my sister's wedding.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

MIT 5 year reunion

Last month, after 5 years, I finally ventured back to the place that I was (5 years ago) only all too happy to leave - my alma mater. The reunion weekend was awesome. It was well-organized from start to finish. The first activity was the best - an evening at Symphony Hall listening to the Boston Pops. This was my first time hearing the Pops and they were fantastic. Even better was the MIT soloist (a junior from Hawaii) who played Rhapsodie in Blue and left the audience speechless. It's nice to see that the MIT musical department continues to attract top talent. I also took a tour of Fenway park and learned all about the storied stadium. I wish I had gone to a Red Sox game when I was a student - in 5 years, I can't believe I never went! I visited the Haystack Observatory at Lincoln Labs - where they receive radio waves from the universe and try to understand what they mean. Aside from the events, I found time to catch up with some of my friends and wander the campus, Cambridge, and Boston. I was happy to see that Cambridge - and in particular Central Square - looked a bit more developed than when I was there. The one eerie thing about reunions, however, is that you see people from all class reunions - 5, 10, 20, etc. You can't help wondering as you see people from older class years - is that what the future has in store for me?

I'm planning to get more involved with the university as an alum. Hopefully it won't be another 5 years before I make it back.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Volunteer Mission to Juarez

A few weeks ago, I travelled to El Paso, Texas to visit a friend of mine and to run a medical / dental clinic in neighboring Juarez, Mexico. This was only my second time visiting El Paso - the first was about 15 years ago when my family did a driving tour of the Southwest, going as far as El Paso before turning around and heading back to California.

I have to admit that I enjoyed El Paso more than I thought I would. I barely remembered it from my first trip. Interestingly, El Paso is at about 4,000 ft above sea level and it is also quite dry. So, I had to drink extra water to stay hydrated. People are very friendly in this town and life moves much slower than it does on either the West Coast or East Coast. The city is about 90% Hispanic and Spanish is probably more common than English. Of course, the Mexican food there is excellent and very authentic. Maybe the best thing about the city is its natural beauty. Thunder storms are common there with high winds. The air is very clean and mountains are jagged and imposing. The desert scenery is quite picturesque. While in El Paso, I visited the Kool Smiles clinic where my friend Neil works as a dentist and met many of his friends.

Of course, the main purpose of the visit to El Paso was to run a free medical / dental clinic in Juarez through our non-profit, HealthCare Volunteer. We partnered with a group called CHIA Missions to run the clinic. The volunteer team consisted of one doctor, four dentists, 10 other volunteers. We left for Juarez early on Sunday morning and setup our clinic at 9am. We had no trouble going into Mexico - there was no line nor did we get searched. This was significant because the previous day our partners at CHIA Missions told us not to bring a lot of medical equipment because we hadn't registered it in advance and we could be turned back to the US or imprisoned if we were searched. As a result, we left a lot of useful equipment behind - and we weren't even searched. The clinic ran smoothly throughout the day and we were given great lunch by the pastor of the church. At 5pm we closed shop having treated 38 dental patients and 22 medical patients - ranging from kids to the elderly. Neil let me do a bit of dental assisting, despite my lack of clinical experience, which was a rewarding experience. That experience has made me more interested in helping non-clinical people do clinical volunteering. I came back and bought the books "Where there is no Dentist" and "Where there is no Doctor" to learn more about how I can provide dental / medical treatment in places in the world where dental / medical professionals don't exist or are lacking.
When people think of Juarez, they think of 1) drug violence and 2) swine flu. I encountered neither on this trip. I was a little nervous the night before, but as soon as we got into Juarez I felt completely safe. Maybe these things are bigger problems elsewhere in Juarez, but not where we were. I've now been to a few 'dangerous' places and things have worked out fine for me. I enjoy going to these places because it adds an element of excitement to the trip. I try to do everything safely to minimize the risks but some risks will always remain.
Our organization learned a lot through this experience. We will certainly do this again - but we don't know when or where. If possible, I will try to make it. I do a lot of administrative work for HealthCare Volunteer which needs to be done for our organization to survive and to grow, but finally being able to work with my hands to treat patients and rest after a hard day's work is the satisfaction that I have been waiting for.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer's here

Wow, it's been more than a month since my last post. Chalk that up to a busy last month of school which had me working on an engineering biotech project, engineering biotech final, a lab report, an in-class biochemistry final, a take-home biochemistry final, and a final presentation for PBG. How did all of that go? I don't know, I haven't checked my grades (and don't plan to until mid June). I like to wait long enough until I don't care anymore what my grades were before I check them. It's a mind game I play on myself.

Overall, the semester was good. I enjoyed the classes - the teaching could have been better in several places, but the subject matter was really interesting. And I really lucked out with my PBG consulting project. Not everyone had a good experience with their project, but I was fortunate to have a good team, good project, and good client. I learned a lot about drug pricing and pharmaceutical marketing practices. Serving on the international council of GAPSA was also a good experience - we got to work on a lot of important issues for international students. International students, I learned, have faced a lot of difficulties due to the economic recession including greater difficulty in securing loans for their education. I also adjusted pretty well to Philly. It's a manageable city with down-to-earth people and getting around is really quick and easy.

I'm excited about spending my summer in Philly. This place is really alive in the spring and summer. I will be doing a 2-month project for the client I worked for in the spring that builds off our previous project. I'm also taking Immunology at Penn, which will count toward my course requirements. For fun, I'm taking Arabic I at Temple University. I've always liked the Arabic script and I thought I might learn some words that would help me with Hindi. Of course, there is always HealthCare Volunteer work to be done. We are currently preparing for a volunteering trip to Mexico next weekend. We're hoping for a safe and rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twitter - Am I missing something?

Twitter seems to be the new craze, but I'm just not getting into it. Sure, I've signed up for an account, but I haven't posted anything there.

Now, as a disclaimer, I have a tendency to get into trends late. For instance, although I have had a Gmail account since the time when Gmail came out, I only realized in the last few months that Gmail was better than Yahoo mail. And now I'm in the slow process of phasing out my Yahoo account.

But still, I don't get the value of Twitter. But it seems that the point of Twitter is to take Facebook's status messages and just amplify it manifold it. The reason that I don't get Twitter is that most of the time the status updates are pointless and I don't care to read them. Once in a while, someone says something of value on their status message, but the rest of the time, it's something I don't care about like 'I had a sandwich for lunch'. Well great. You didn't need to announce that to the world. Yes, I use status messages on Facebook, but I try to use it sparingly so I don't overwhelm all my friends and annoy them.

So there you have it. I don't use Twitter and don't plan to unless I have totally overlooked some really cool feature. But I don't think I have.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And it's finally live!

A few weeks ago, after months of development, HealthCare Volunteer went live with its new website. The web development was done by Visual Sparks, a firm in Dubai. We are all very pleased with the new website. Check it out and let me know what you think! We're always looking for feedback to make the website better. If you're interested, you can sign up for a volunteering profile and network with other volunteers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ode to Trader Joe's

For most of my life, I have not been a fan of Trader Joe's. The store seemed strange and I didn't recognize any of the brands there. When I moved here to Philadelphia, I had only two grocery options: Trader Joe's (at 21st and Market) and Rite Aid (corner of 23rd and Walnut). Rite Aid has groceries? Well not really. Just some cereals, milk, junk food, etc. So I went to Trader Joe's.

Initially, I was frustrated by the long lines and lack of familiar items. But over time, I have become Trader Joe's biggest fan. Here's why:

  1. It's Cheap. I think that comparable items are, on average, 5-10% cheaper at Trader Joes than they are at traditional grocery stores like Safeway.
  2. It's Healthy. You won't find a lot of junk food, but that's not to say that everything is 0 Calories and 0 Fat. You will get less healthy food, but it's not as bad as other places. Also, Trader Joes products are as close to 'all natural', so you can avoid potentially unhealthy chemicals. I've noticed that after a few weeks of eating Trader Joes' food, I have more energy and feel lighter on my feet. There is something to be said for natural indgredients - maybe it's just easier for the body to metabolize.
  3. Variety. You can get some pretty different things over here. Trader Joes' goes all over the world to find interesting concotions to put in their stores.
  4. Good music. Trader Joes plays good music in its stores - or at least it does in the Philadelphia one. Usually I get to listen to classic rock.
  5. Free samples. There are always free samples at one of the booths, and they are really good.
  6. Taste. By making their products 'all natural' and being very selective, Trader Joes has succeeded in making their food taste distinctively better than competitors' foods. This took me a while to realize, but it is true. From the bread to the frozen food, there is a difference in taste.
So there you have it. I think I need to make a Trader Joes run this weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bolt Bus

Hey folks, Bolt Bus is currently the best way to travel from Philly to NYC. I have taken Septa to Trenton and NJ Transit to NYC. This is a slow, relatively expensive, and annoying trip because of the transfer in Trenton. The bus is a better option, although you may have to contend with traffic. But traffic aside, which bus should you take? The Chinatown bus? Greyhound? Neither. Take Bolt Bus. Bolt Bus is cheap - it can even be as cheap at $1. I paid $13.50 each way from Philly to NYC. It's also fairly comfortable with reclining seats. And the best thing about Bolt Bus, as the name implies, is its connectivity. Each seat as a socket and the bus has Wi-Fi. I didn't use these features on my ride to NYC (a 2 hour journey), but it can be useful on longer trips. Pretty cool, eh?

Oh, and the rest of the weekend in NYC was awesome! I got to see some friends who I haven't seen in ages. I walked pretty much everywhere (downtown, upper east side, etc.) because the weather was nice. Happy days.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A New Application of Lasers

Mosquito obliteration. Every now and then, science comes up with something that really changes our lives. Well, this is one of them.
A laser that obliterates mosquitoes: millions of them in minutes. It works by identifying the audio frequency of the beating wings. As is stated in the article: "There is no such thing as a good mosquito, there's nothing that feeds exclusively on them. No one would miss mosquitoes". That's what I've been saying all along! My India experience would have been better by a factor of at least 2 if this thing were in commercial use.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Things have gotten a bit busy for me lately. Midterms are coming up - I finished by biochem in-class midterm and am working on the take home portion now. Also, I have an engineering biotech midterm on Tuesday and a lab report due Wednesday. Meanwhile, my PBG consulting project is heating up as we finally have our strategy and need to run it by the customer and then execute it. We have our PBG midpoint check after Spring Break. Workload for the GAPSA International Council is light for me at this point, but there are important issues we are working on - specifically, the issue of tighter restrictions on loans for international grad students. However, I still don't know what I'm doing for the summer. Need to address that as soon as midterms are over.

I'll be at home in the Bay Area for break from Friday, 3/6 to Saturday, 3/14. Let me know if you're around and want to hang out!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Daily Grind (I)

Semester I at Penn is now in full swing. Here's what my routine looks like:

7:30 - Wake up
8:30 - 10 - Exercise
1 - 5 - CBE480 (Genetic Engineering) lab
11:30 - Lights out

7:30 - Wake up
9- 10:30 - Biol402 (Biochemistry)
4:30 - 7:30 CBE554(Engineering Biotech II)
11:30 - Lights out

7:30 - Wake up
8:30 - 10 - Exercise
1 - 5 - CBE480 (Genetic Engineering) lab
11:30 - Lights out

7:30 - Wake up
9 - 10:30 - Biol402 (Biochemistry)
3:30 - 4:30 - International Council, GAPSA Meeting
7:30 - 8:30 - Penn Biotech Group Consulting
11:30 - Lights out

8:30 - Wake up
9:00 - 10 - Exercise
No class

Saturday / Sunday:
9:30 - Wake up
10:00 - Exercise

Observations thus far:
  • Taking 3 classes: Biochemistry, Engineering Biotech II, and Genetic Engineering Lab.
  • Involved in 2 extracurriculars: Graduate Student Council - International Council and Penn Biotech Group Consulting Project.
  • Trying to exercise 5 days a week (everyday but Tuesday and Thursday). Not a member of a gym, just doing the bare bones: jogging by the Schukhill River, push ups, and sit ups. It's not that cold anymore so jogging outside is ok.
  • Trying to get up and go to bed at the same times from Monday - Thursday, with a little leeway from Friday - Sunday. I think going to bed early and waking up early is the key to success.
  • No classes on Friday, so this is when I work on HealthCare Volunteer and miscellaneous activities.
  • Save the chores for Saturday and Sunday: cleaning & laundry.
  • Eating at home is cheaper than eating on campus, so I'll probably shift my studying from the library to studying at home. But this month, most of my time has been in the library.
  • I don't have a TV, so in the evenings before I sleep I watch Daily Show and Colbert Report episodes on my computer.

So there you have it - my schedule for semester I at Penn. It's busy, but I'm enjoying it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flood-Tolerant Rice

Who says Biotechnology is just for healthcare? This article talks about a precision breeding strategy to create rice that can grow even in flood conditions. While there is no genetic engineering involved, scientists do look for the presence of a certain gene when breeding plants. Technology such as this is incredibly important for the developing world. After hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters, thousands more people die due to dehydration and starvation.

My primary interests for the last several years have been healthcare and international development / international relations. It's nice to see that biotechnology can have an effect on all of these issues.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stem Cell Therapy

By now, I'm sure many of you have heard that Obama has signed an executive order lifting the ban on federally funded stem cell research. It was one of the first things he did when he took office. For all of my blog readers who are interested in the subject of stem cells, I thought I'd give you a primer on what's going on (which will in the process teach me about what's going on). In my opinion, this is the most exciting thing happening not just in health care but in all of science.

Stem Cells
There are several stages of stem cells, in order of most general to most specific:

1. Totipotent
2. Pluripotent
3. Multipotent
4. Oligopotent
5. Unipotent

Embryonic cells are typically Totipotent can make any kind of cell with the right kind of stimulation and preparation. Adult stem cells are much more specific, usually Multipotent. These stem cells can be found in a number of tissues and umbilical chord blood. Adult stem cells are already used in treatment of disease - an example of this the transplanting of bone marrow for leukemia patients. The challenge with stem cells is making sure that they become the desired cell - if not, a cancerous condition called teratoma could result. In addition, the stem cell must be recognized as part of the body to prevent an immune response from developing.

Geron, a bay area Biotech company, is launching the "world's first clinical trial of embryonic stem cell-based therapy". This trial, which has just been approved by the FDA, will be conducted on 8 - 10 patients with severe and permanent spinal chord injuries and it could begin as early as the summer. I suggest you go to Geron's website on watch the mouse video to see what happens when stem cells are are injected at the point of the spinal chord injury. It's amazing. Geron also has pretty interesting 'telemorase-inhibiting' drug for use against cancer - check that out as well. This drug is intended to stop the mechanism involved in cell division.

Neural stem is another company to check out. This one doesn't seem to be as far along as Geron, but it seems to be in the same general business. Neural stem seeks to make large quantities of neural stem cells for use against ALS, Parkinsons, etc. Neural Stem appears to be a competitor of Geron.

These are exciting times for stem cell-based therapies, and I know that the world will be hoping for positive results of Geron's soon-to-begin clinical trials.

Monday, January 26, 2009

High Tech Education

As I write my first lab report for CBE 480, my genetic engineering lab class, I'm amazed by how much technology has improved and made education easier. In this class, I'm easily using things like Google Docs for all lab groups to share data and 'Blackboard' for the instructor to post documents for the course. In my lab report, I'm using Excel for graphs and Microsoft picture manager for photos - basically all software has improved so much that they are extremely easy to use. But outside of this class, I've seen that UPenn has fast wireless throughout the University and surrounding areas. Van Pelt library, where I do a lot of work, has numerous computers that are ready to use for any kind of work. I use my USB stick to transfer data from my home laptop to school computers. I know what my classmates are doing via Facebook, etc.

I compare my experience with technology now to when I was an undergrad from 1999 - 2004. Now, the technology is more robust, more freely available, and faster. Heck, I don't even have a desktop anymore just my trusty laptop and I'm telling you all this on something that didn't exist in my college days, a 'blog'. I'm convinced that technology truly is an effective productivity booster in the educational realm. I think my education will be that much less frustrating thanks to modern technology.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Power of Biotech

I'm taking what might be the flagship course of the entire M. Biotech program - Engineering Biotech II taught Prof Scott Diamond, who is the director of the M. Biotech program. This is an amazing class which discusses all major topics in modern biotech. In the first class we went through a case study of tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a clot buster that is used to break up clots in the cases of heart attacks and strokes. Drug probably isn't the best word here - tPA is a protein, but I'll call it a drug.
We studied Genentech's discovery of the drug, and the myriad different drugs that compete with this technology - drugs that are half the size of this drug to allow for better penetration in the clot, drugs based on snake venom (Amgen / Nuvelo), drugs based on bat venom, drug coated stents. We explored patent and business issues - getting into European generics.

There is an analogy to the world of electrical engineering and computer science in biotech. First, there is the 'algorithm' - how are you going to solve a problem? What's your strategy? In biotech, that means isolating the gene you want to alter, etc. Then, there's the 'hardware' - how are you going to physically make your algorithm work? There are the specific manufacturing steps to go through and delivery mechanisms for the 'drug'.

This class is a reminder of why I'm in this program to begin with. The science, business, and legal aspects are fascinating. But mostly it's the science that is fascinating. The problem solving strategies are limitless in biotech. Chemists can only do so much with traditional chemical techniques and can only manufacture small molecules. Large molecules are too difficult or expensive to manufacture. Chemists can't manufacture anything remotely close to a cell. But cells can do this - for free, and quite well. Biotech takes advantage of biology's inherent ability to manufacture very complex things. Basically, don't try to beat 'em, just join 'em. Make that cell your assistant and get it to make the things you want. The possibilities are now limitless. Genetic engineering can create better and more plentiful crops, etc. This technology can revolutionize the world, and not just in healthcare - this can change economics, international relations, and social interactions. It may even lengthen life spans. It's like having the code to your Microsoft OS and manipulating it so that you can have a green background screen, faster load time, automatic loading of certain programs - basically whatever you want. When you know the code and can change the code, the world is your oyster.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Impressions of Philly / Penn

I have been fairly impressed with Philadelphia in my first week in town. I signed a lease for an apartment at 23rd and Walnut which is just 10 minutes walking from campus. It's a spacious 1 bedroom on the 7th floor, with windows facing the South and the West. Everything seems great about the apartment so far except the 911 squad of ambulances and fire engines that head South on 23rd street at midnight.

Philadelphia is a manageable city. The weather is mild compared to New York and especially Boston. The people are also extremely friendly and down to earth, unlike a lot of the people in the Bay Area, New York, and Boston. Not a single person I've met in Philly so far has been anything but warm and kind. I guess it really is the City of Brotherly Love.

Adjusting to UPenn will take some time. I have never been in a university this large, with a medical school, law school, dental school, etc. MIT was much more homogeneous with the majority of students doing engineering, especially Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. I'm glad to be here at Penn though, and am finally getting to experience a large university with a variety of students across a variety of disciplines. I wonder if I had been an undergrad here, how would my life have been any different now? To be sure, I would have had more exposure to more kinds of people. And the environment here is very supportive, unlike MIT which adheres to the sink or swim approach that it is famous for.

Academics will be difficult for me. I am one of the few students in the program who doesn't have a life sciences background. When we are in class discussing pHs, pKas, etc. I have to go back into the deep trenches of my memory to remember these terms from college and high school. I guess this means that I'm going to have to work harder than everyone else just to catch up. But, I have to remind myself that the purpose of the next 2 years is to transition into health care, and it won't be easy. For the last 4 years, my brain has been wired to think in terms of business. For the 4 years before that, my brain was wired to think like an engineer. Now, I have to retrain my brain to think like a life scientist. I was good at these things at one point in time - a long time ago - can I be good or at least decent at them again? Or is this one transition too many for me? Time will tell. And time will also tell if this transition was even worth it, assuming I do make the transition. Right now, my goal is to finalize my classes and look for a health care job. Let's see how that goes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Year

Well folks, I'm off to Philadelphia today. What can I say about the last month-and-a-half in California except that it has been totally awesome. I got healthy again through good diet and exercise, reconnected with a lot of friends and family, and really stepped up my involvement with HealthCare Volunteer.

For the entire month of December, I worked on 2 grant proposals to the San Jose Healthy Neighborhoods Venture Fund to get a total of $300,000 to help us start a non-profit dental clinic in San Jose. This was the first time I applied for a grant and these grants were daunting. We had to build an operating model for the clinic, research the needs for a clinic of this type, and explain how we were going to be effective. It was a great experience from start to finish: attending the RFP meeting, working with various people on different aspects of the grant, and finally delivering the grant which required me to spend a full day at City Hall in San Jose. The next day, we got verbal support from our local state senator for our project.

I've also set a New Years Resolution: to be more optimistic. I think last year's was to stay healthy and finish my year in India on a positive note. I think I accomplished that with no major illneses and I can say that my year in India was the best of my life. Two years ago, it was to 'stretch out', meaning that I wanted to get involved in new things and breakdown mental barrriers that were limiting me from doing wacky things. I think I achieved this goal too by going to India, switching to the Biotech field, and getting more involved in HealthCare Volunteer. This year, I want to have a more positive attitude and believe that things can happen. I'm not sure if I'm a pessimist or a realist, but I like to understand the pros and cons of things before getting into them. But in any case, the goal for 2009 will be to tilt myself more towards an optimist.

So it's back to the E. Coast for me, and I'm hoping for a great experience.
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