Monday, August 27, 2012

The First Civilization

What was the very first civilization? How did it form? How do we even define a "civilization"? All these are questions that we might find ourselves occasionally asking, but is there really an answer? Do we even have an answer, or is the first civilization too far back for us to know anything about? Well, I'm not sure we can call it the very first civilization, as it is possible there was another before it that simply didn't leave any records, but I believe a place called "Sumer" to be the first civilization.

That's "Sumer," like Sumerian, not like the season (i.e., Summer). - It's pronounced, "Soo-mur". - It is likely that Sumerians started out like most people of the time: hunting and gathering in order to stay alive. In fact, it's a guarantee they started out this way. The main change that would have needed to take place for them to develop into a civilization would be for them to discover farming, which they did. It may not seem all too miraculous in today's World, but back then, figuring out that you could poke holes in the ground with a stick, plant seeds, and things would actually grow, would indeed seem to be a miracle. - It's also worth noting here that the first farmers; those who figured out the whole practice of farming, where likely women. Just goes to show that us guys don't have everything figured out. - But, this very simple form of farming couldn't begin to produce the amount of food required for an entire civilization to form. Not only that, but the slash-and-burn technique that farmers were using was cutting down forests and sending the animals that used to live there, and who used to be hunted, looking for a new home.

This resulted in the first herders. The very first herders would have seen the lack of wild game, and then decided to catch and domesticate the few remaining animals, in order to have a near-by supply of meat, should they need it. Herders and these primitive farmers were able to trade meat for grain; meat to give the farmers protein and strength, and grain so the herders could feed their animals. But even with this advance, they still didn't have enough food to feed an entire civilization. That's when people discovered Sumer (though, of course, it wasn't named that yet), a place inside Mesopotamia, which is surrounded by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. People discovered that the soil around these rivers was very rich and ideal for farming, as a result of the rivers flooding, and then receding, to leave behind flat, wet, and nutritious soil. The main problem being that sometimes the river would overflow the banks it had made for itself (called "levees") at unfortunate times, and flood the crops.

This is when someone had the bright idea of building up the natural levees the river had made for itself, thus effectively stopping it from flooding at inconvenient times. This discovery, coupled with the discovery of the foot plow, which they found could be attached to animals to have them pull it, were huge discoveries. The next discovery though was a real breakthrough: irrigation. The Sumerians learned that by digging trenches around their crops, and then pocking holes in the levees, they could water crops that where far away from the river. When all of these discoveries where combined, it created a surplus of food, quite possibly for the very first time in all of history and prehistory. - People now could produce more than they could eat by them-self.

This lead to the creation of quite possibly the first ever, official civilization. This is because, as soon as people discovered that only a few people where required to produce food, others began building permanent homes: they built the first city. Once this city was built, they could be really, genuinely be called a civilization.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Formal Healthcare Training for Alternative Medicine Clinics

The history of medicine and healthcare is a long one with many different backgrounds from all over the world. Once upon a time, for example, western medicine was based on the humor system, where people believed one's health and personality makeup were determined by four liquids (or humors) in the body and the proper balance between them. These were black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. In the Far East, herbal medicines and special massage therapies date back thousands of years and are still practiced today.

One might think that most forms of alternative and complimentary medicines are not taught in regular healthcare colleges, but this is not necessarily so. The debate between scientific healthcare and alternative healthcare should not be considered as directly opposing each other, but rather these different systems can be used simultaneously to promote a better healthy lifestyle. Perhaps this is less often believed to be the case in smaller, more traditional communities. But in major metropolises like Toronto, where many different cultures live side-by-side and exchange practices and beliefs, we are seeing regular medicine and alternative medicine taught and practiced together.

Two of the major areas of alternative and complimentary medicine and healthcare practices are acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. Healthcare school for either of these fields can give the student an advantage in landing a career in one of Toronto's many clinics.


This ancient Chinese method works by stimulating sources of energy inside the body by inserting needles into specific areas below the skin's surface. It can be used to relieve pain, stress, help with sleeplessness or even infertility. The Canadian Contemporary Acupuncture Association is located in Toronto and helps coordinate professionals and practitioners in this field. It is a valuable resource for Torontonians but also contributes to acupuncture awareness for the rest of Canada and internationally. Some of Toronto's top acupuncturists include:

- Rock Solid Health

- Sage Health and Wellness Clinic

- Roncesvalles Community Acupuncture Clinic

- Imperial Health Spa Clinic


This is a complimentary healthcare profession that deals with problems and pains in the back, spine and muscular-skeletal system. It uses methods like massaging, spinal adjustment, joint-cracking, and even heat and ice therapy. The Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Ontario Chiropractic Association, which represent individuals in the chiropractic profession, are also both headquartered in Toronto. Some of Toronto's top chiropractors include:

- Dr. Robert Evans, voted best chiropractor in Toronto by the Consumers Choice Institute

- The [Clinic]

- The Well Adjusted Chiropractic Centre

- Infinity Health Centre

Healthcare training in Toronto can be the first step to learning about career opportunities in alternative and complimentary medicines and treatments. Having a mixed background between formal healthcare and alternative healthcare really gives the professional a more rounded experience to best help people get the right kind of attention from the largest resources of treatments. In a multi-cultured environment such as Toronto, it is no surprise that these different forms of medical treatments co-exist side-by-side.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Clinical Research in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

Mankind has forever been taming and controlling many forms of life to serve human purposes. This dates back to basic agriculture and animal farming, where humans created controlled environments to domesticate animals and cultivate plants for nourishment, industry, and eventually medicine. With these older processes, we did not do much to actually alter the biological organisms we worked with.

With advancements in technology, we have learned to biologically alter or modify living organisms to further advance our capacities to feed ourselves and heal ourselves, among other things. This process is known as biotechnology, or biotech for short. It is responsible for many of our greatest achievement in understanding, controlling and treating many medical conditions in the pharmaceutical industry. Because of the complexity and sophistication of this field, it requires extensive clinical research in order to avoid many unpredictable and potentially harmful negative consequences.

Clinical research for biotechnological pharmaceuticals must undergo several extensive phases, all with varying numbers of trial participants, doses, and lengths of time for the trial. Some common phases include pure lab trials, trials on non-human subjects, like animals, small-dose trials on healthy participants, and full-dose trials on participants for whom the trial is aimed to help. Due to these strict procedures for clinical research in biotechnology, much has been learned in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries that have helped develop medicine that is proven to be effective and safe. Here are some examples of bio technologically-produced products:

- Monoclonal antibodies

- Chimeric antibodies

- Fusion proteins

- Microorganisms

- Synthetic insulins

- Synthetic antibiotics

These various developments are used in an extremely diverse spectrum of treatments, from cancer, hepatitis B and C, arthritis, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, coronary disease, cardiac dysrhythmias, and even cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and this is only naming a few.

So what is the difference between normal pharmaceuticals and biotechnological pharmaceuticals? The difference isn't just the level of technological sophistication. One of the main differences is actually size. Biotechnological drugs are made up of much larger molecules than regular pharmaceutical drugs. Because of this, the process of having them locate and bind with molecules in the body is much more difficult than orally-taken smaller molecules in traditional pharmaceuticals. This is one reason why clinical research procedures for biotechnological pharmaceuticals is far more extensive than non-biotech ones.

Working in biotechnology requires highly-trained and skilled professionals who take the synthesis of biology and technology extremely seriously. Clinical research training is often the first step to understanding the complexity and seriousness of this modern marriage of two sciences. Being part of a team from the conception of a theory, through its phases, to the completed manufacturing of a new organism made to serve mankind is a great responsibility, and with great rewards not only for the researcher, but for the health of the entire population.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

9 Golden Rules for Success in Organic Chemistry

Many times at larger universities professors do not review proper study skills for success in Organic Chemistry. The presumption is that the student has made it past general chemistry, and thus has learned the proper skills. This is not always so. Statistically, professors at smaller universities place a much higher emphasis upon teaching vs. research, and are more likely to review such skills. My years of experience teaching and tutoring have led me to develop a set of 9 Golden Rules for Success in Organic Chemistry.

9 Golden Rules for Success in Organic Chemistry

    The Rules are non-negotiable.
    When in doubt, go back to Rule #1.
    Take copious notes in class, and re-copy them if necessary afterward.
    Review your notes < 6h after class, preferably < 3h.
    For every 1 h of lecture, spend a minimum of 3 h of time studying (working problems) to prevent falling behind.
    Work as many problems as possible. Plan to do this 18-20 h per week for optimal performance.
    Reinforce all stereochemical concepts with models.
    Use compound and reaction flash cards.
    Do not fall behind, not ever!

Recopying the notes has more benefits than immediately apparent, and aids success in Organic Chemistry substantially. The obvious advantage is a cleaner, more organized set of notes. More importantly, however, certain perceptual and cognitive centers in the brain are engaged, and the hand-eye task helps the memories proceed from short-term to long-term storage.

When you recopy your notes, the information goes from the paper to your eyes to the part of your brain related to perception (occipital lobes). The information is then processed and made "active". Next, the cognitive centers (cerebral cortex) become engaged in thought. You may even find yourself asking questions at this point. Information then travels to the part of your brain responsible for motor coordination (cerebellum) so you can once again write the material down onto paper. This entire process reinforces what was "experienced" in lecture, and facilitates long-term storage of the memories.

Challenge yourself for two weeks. Make the re-copying of notes happen. Notice I didn't say "try". A famous man once said, "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

Organic Chemistry can be deceptive. Many times students trick themselves into believing they understand the material by not working the most challenging problems, i.e. exam type questions. This hinders success in Organic Chemistry. Should you find yourself struggling, seek help from a professional tutor as soon as possible. Contracting a tutor is not a weakness. It can quite literally lead to a stronger understanding of the subject matter than most others in the class will achieve. True strength requires one to first know his weaknesses. Only then may they be addressed.

It's important to never underestimate the necessity for sleep when studying. Experiments have unambiguously proven that short-term memories do not become stored long-term unless we get adequate sleep. In fact, you will benefit more from studying six hours, then sleeping 8 hours, vs studying 12 hours and sleeping 2 hours. Quite literally, your 12 hours of study time will be wasted without sleep due to minimal long-term memory storage. Furthermore, you stand a much better chance of rationalizing your way through a problem never seen before if you're well rested vs. exhausted.

Think you can "fake out" the system by taking Adderall? Think again. Adderall is for treatment of the "mythical organic disorder ADHD," for which absolutely no direct gene has been isolated, expressed or cloned. Most current evidence indicates ADHD is behavioral, not organic.

Two of the most common symptoms of Adderall use are (1) insomnia and (2) short-term memory loss. If the short-term memories are lost, then how do they make it to long-term storage? You can't fake out the system, however you CAN fake out your brain. Psychotropic drugs modify brain chemistry and hence they modify thought patterns. You can convince yourself that you're Superman when on Adderall, however this is simply a drug-induced alteration of perception (not to mention some assistance from placebo effect) augmented by sleep-deprivation induced delusion. Some people believe the ill-perceived "Adderall advantage" comes at the expense of creativity, something much needed for success in Organic Chemistry.

One last thing, and quite important. Approximately 1 in 5 college students report sleeping disorders including chronic insomnia. Lack of sleep inhibits normal cognitive function. Some students requesting prescription medication from family practitioners might be given Ambien (zolpidem) or Klonipin (chlonazepam). Important to note is that Ambien and Klonipin often cause short-term memory loss, and interfere with memories proceeding from short to long-term storage. If you find yourself in this category, please be advised to talk with your physician about finding an alternative treatment.