Sunday, 29 April 2012

Z is for Zebra and Zinc

Z Zebra and zinc - what could they have in common other than the letter Z?
Picture from Wikipedia
Zounds! I can't believe I have actually made it through this challenge, sticking to my themes of travel, food, culture and dance. For this last posting however, I will let my arty, creative Gemini inner twin take a well earned rest and let the scientific twin have at least one chance to be heard- or rather, read.
Zebra, to me, does not conjure up images of striped animals grazing on grasslands in Africa but rather brings to mind an aphorism used to teach medical students to consider common diagnoses before the more interesting rare disease they may have just learned about. "When you hear hoofbeats behind you, expect a horse not a zebra." It is a more polite way of saying KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
In keeping with my concept of me learning something with each post- here is my summary of Zebra. Part of the genus Equus, together with horses, asses and donkeys,  these mammals are characterized by having long heads, a mane, and a legs ending in a single ungulate or hoofed toe.  Unlike the domesticated horse, zebras are rare and some breeds have been hunted to extinction.  Hence the hoofbeat aphorism. Zebras have black and white stripes which have distinct patterns for each animal. This makes Zebra a really easy animal for toddlers to recognize and name. In the same way, rare diseases are so much more interesting than the things one would see every day, so they would first pring to mind when asked to identify a spectrum of symptoms.
And finally Zinc:
Zn Atomic number 30 Atomic weight 65.38 was the subject of my  first research project and first presentation as a Medical Biochemistry resident at a scientific conference, many many moons ago. I was studying zinc deficiency in a neonatal intensive care unit in premature babies who were being fed intravenously because they were too tiny and sick to tolerate feeds. That project started me on a lifetime of research in the nutritional and toxic biochemistry of trace elements, the biochemistry of infants and children, and pregnancy, and led to an all-consuming and fulfilling professional career. Sometimes when I look back on my life in medicine, I think of a humor column writer way back in my youth in South Africa, whose favorite signoff was "it's all a matter of zinc."
And thinking about what got me to this point in my life, a retired medical professional writing an Z to Z Challenge blog - indeed it was all a matter of zinc.
Au revoir till next year's challenge - but keep reading AtJillsReviews for brief snippets of where in the world  Jill is now, and also what's happening on www.reviewfromthehouse .com, Ciao!

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