Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the Road - 7: Har-Har(vard) in Bahstun

Due to a proper lack of time last month, I have decided to publish three final installments of the On the Road series today. All the trips I describe here were made in the month of November.

Post #8 (St. Louis) is here and post#9 (UCLA) is here.

I arrived in Boston (or should I say Bahstun?) on a chilly Monday night. I jostled my way through the crowded Logan airport (Hey Boston, mind expanding the restrooms a bit? The lines were Disneyland long, man) to begin the first of three legs of the public transportation-assisted journey that would take me to my gracious host's house. You see, a family friend, who is a first year dental student at Hah-vahd, was kind enough to put me up for the night. All hopes of getting a glimpse of the Charles river ("Charlie") were destroyed, however, when the Silver line bus got a massive influx of people. Thirty five minutes later, I was all aboard the Green line subway, en route to the Red line subway. Which reminds me: why are all these subway and bus lines always named after boring colors? How about the Cyan line? Or the Fuschia line?

My friend lives right across the street from the Medical-dental-public health-pharmacy-Harvard hospitals megasupercampus, so I didn't have to worry about waking up early the next morning and scrambling to get there.

Before  my trip, an acquaintance of mine, a resident physician in SoCal (whom I had run into after a long time on the morning of my flight) had told me to savor my interview and take lots of pics because the main admissions building looks like the White House. And boy was he right. Even the damp morning air couldn't put a damper on it (zing wordplay!):

Clearly, Harvard likes to protect its lawns

At the risk of sounding pedantic, let me describe the area a little bit: the medical school is located (along with a host of other professional schools) in an area of Boston called Longwood. Two major Harvard teaching hospitals are adjacent to the med school (BIDMC and Brigham and Women's), as is the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. If Longwood were a solution, it would be a supersaturated one. Security is pretty tight around here. Every building has a guard at the entrance and it is impossible to get past them without having valid IDs.

The Biomedical library, located right behind the main building, is a pure nerd haven. They had an ongoing display on the life and times of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., famous intellectual from the mid-19th century. (His son was more famous then him for, among other things, supposedly telling an incognito Abraham Lincoln to "duck, stupid" at a charged Civil-war battlefield and for becoming a supreme court justice).

They even had a portrait depicting the first surgery under ether (a crude anesthetic used in the late 19th century):

Quite surprisingly, a few in the audience look positively bored

The crown jewel was this exhibit of Phineas Gage's skull. Gage was a railroad worker who suffered a truly bizarre injury when a steel rod pierced his frontal lobe and came out the other end. Miraculously, he survived, but his personality altered irrevocably.

Phineas Gage's skull: educating Neurosci 101 undergrads for generations
It was only later that I noted a tiny sign at the top left that said: "No pictures." Oops. Sorry Harvard.

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