• Matthew Loberg

A Thanksgiving Welcome

Welcome all, and thank you for taking the time to visit our site in the formative stages of its development! We don’t really know where it will go from here, but we are ecstatic to finally have this project off the ground. Marcus kicked us off months ago with a blog post (https://www.wewenttocollegetogether.com/blog/show-some-leg), but the site was still in its embryonic phase of development. Now, almost six months later, what better day for my inaugural We Went To College Together blog post than Thanksgiving? While I hope that this blog can provide commentary on an array of topics, it is—most importantly—a celebration of friendship and an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the diverse experiences that we have been fortunate to have. In college, I was lucky to make life-long friendships with extraordinary people. A subset of those friends (https://www.wewenttocollegetogether.com/about-us) have helped me to start this blog—We Went To College Together—which is named off of our post-college iMessage group chat (see image below). Andrew, Alex, Ben, Matt, and Marcus—for each of you, I am eternally grateful; I give each of you my thanks. Friends of the past, present, and future: for you, I am also grateful, and if any of you wish to make a guest contribution to our blog, we would be thrilled. In fitting with the theme of this blog, we would be particularly happy to have guest blog posts from fellow Wooster alumni or graduate school classmates. In the next several paragraphs, allow me to describe the motivations for starting We Went To College Together and what we aim to achieve.

iMessage group chat—where it all started

I’ll shift between plural first-person pronouns and singular first-person pronouns, flirting with making my ideas transformable to all of us, but don’t be tricked: all opinions expressed herein are mine. Each of us comes from our own unique background, and, as you will likely see, we frequently disagree. Nevertheless, we do not consider antagonistic views to be an inherent weakness, but rather a potential strength, so long as they are supplemented with dialogue. I digress. If at any point you find my writing lacking in clarity, know that I’m an aspiring scientist working on my writing ability, not a writer working on becoming a scientist. I’ve never been particularly skilled at writing (in grade school I refused to learn the conventions of grammar, focusing instead on what made sense to me—mathematics), but for the last five years I’ve been intending to write a novel. In my imagination, the novel pulls together threads of reflections from experiences that I’ve had and observations that I’ve made, including the bioethics of animal research, the human capacity for desensitization, the threat of bioterrorism, and the corruptive influence of power—themes that remain omnipresent in the world today. The urge to write has become only stronger as I experience more in the world. In an inverse relationship, the time that I have available has become ever more infinitesimal as my experiences become richer. Alas, no such reflective novel has yet been crafted. It’s entirely possible that no such novel will ever be written. I’ve learned that writing is not something that I will ever simply find time for, but rather an activity that I must actively make time for. Still, writing is a process that I find cathartic; to write in a reflective manner requires a deeper understanding of one’s thoughts and experiences. Writing is a way to reach comprehension. In medicine and in research, I will encounter much that I will not understand.

In March of this year, I got the idea of starting a blog to write about my progress through medical school and graduate school. I had just finished a whirlwind year that included full time research studying the dysregulation of white blood cell maturation (https://trowbridgelab.com), the medical college admission test (MCAT), and an intense dual degree MD/PhD application cycle, all the while living on the outskirts of Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park in October, 2017. Image is taken from the Beehive Trail with Gorem Mountain featured in the foreground.

In some ways, my time in Maine was transformative. In other ways, I lost touch with the world outside my own, and, moreover, I got so caught up in my goals that I lost touch with my reflective capacity. Toward the end of my time in Maine, I became reconnected with an old friend and wrote several letters reflecting on our paths in life. Around the same time, I had to make a difficult choice regarding where to go to school and where to live for the remainder of my 20’s and the beginning of my 30’s—not an inconsequential choice. These events, combined with my realization that I did not fully understand myself nor my motives, culminated in a desire to explore meaning through writing. I wrote what would be considered the progenitor phase of a blog post on choosing between a school close to my family, and Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee, where I ultimately enrolled and currently attend. While that progenitor post never differentiated into a mature post, it sparked a renewed interest in the process of reflective writing. At the time, I intended to blog about the rigors and joys, both academically and mentally, of doing a 7+ year program that requires more training (medical residency) upon completion, even going so far as to begin making a website for “MeditationsOfAMuDPhuD.” (People in MD/PhD programs sometimes refer to themselves as MuDPhuDs based on the phonetics of attempting to pronounce MD/PhD—a distinction that Burg detests.) When I mentioned my plans to Andrew, he was enthusiastic about the idea and suggested that we expand into a larger platform: We Went To College Together.

To say the least, I was easily swayed. For starters, my closest friends have diverse ideas and career paths, which will allow us to blog on a broad scope of topics. I trust their insight immensely. Second, my friends are much better writers than I am. Alex, Marcus, and Ben have expertise within the humanities. Alex is a second year law student at the University of Pittsburgh; Marcus the assistant director of admissions at The College of Wooster (our alma mater) with aspirations to return to graduate school for training in higher education; and Ben a doctoral student in political science (with a focus on theory) at Johns Hopkins. (Ben may be the single most intelligent person I know—I hope that he uses this platform to share his experiences and ideas.) Burg is a crossover, with experience studying both the humanities and sciences. Currently, he works in a Neuroscience lab at Johns Hopkins (Dr. Sascha Du Lac’s lab), has aspirations in both science and medicine, and brings much needed diversity in terms of musical taste to our blogging community. Andrew and I are both biochemistry majors, but we have split perspectives on science. Andrew is nearly done with a masters in bioinformatics at Boston University and will shortly be starting his career—something that I will likely be jealous of when I turn 30 and I’m still in school.

In my blog posts, I still intend to write about science, the process of completing an MD/PhD degree, and the questions that I had when preparing to apply. Being chronically indecisive, I questioned many things, and those questions persist. However, I hope that this will be a space for more than academics. I’m passionate about learning. But do I sometimes hate late nights of working? Do I procrastinate writing essays? Absolutely. (I’m currently laying in bed on Black Friday writing a Thanksgiving blog post when there are many other things I ought to be doing/learning—I’m looking at you, electrocardiography.) It’s important that physician-scientists take time to build their lives and relationships outside of science and medicine. For this reason, I hope to be active in writing about my experiences in Nashville, with a focus on sports, music, and beer—my generic hobbies. Additionally, a world persists outside of science—one with deep-rooted humanitarian issues that intermingle with public policy; it’s important that scientists engage in dialogue outside of science and medicine.

Now that it’s been six months since we purchased this domain, it’s beyond time that we make use of our purchase—grad students are by no means rich, so money spent ought to be money well spent. In part, I look forward to sharing my opinions and experiences with my family, friends, and whomever else views our blog. Furthermore, I look forward to people’s comments and feedback. But more selfishly, I am excited to have an outlet to help me avoid meandering through life in a mindless manner without reflection and critical thought regarding my direction and choices. If nobody reads any of our posts, our efforts will not be for naught—simply the act of reflection is an end in and of itself, rather than simply a means to an end.

Welcome to our blog and welcome to the We Went To College Together community!

With love,

Matt (Loberg), Andrew (Drew), Marcus, Alex, Ben, and Matt (Burg)

Four of the six We Went To College Together bloggers on Black Friday 2017 after a superb Thanksgiving courtesy of the Hamels. From left: Matthew Ehrenburg, Marcus Carano, Matthew Loberg, and Andrew Hamel. Happy Thanksgiving!

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