“Kris-Ti-An, what’s this JerkXJollof thing you do? I see fancy pictures of you guys and cool graphics; do you think you can make Twitter graphics of professors presenting at my D.U.S.T. symposium in August? If so, this will be your first job in our lab!” said Dr. Ghani.
And like that, I had made it to the big leagues. This was my first job as a newly minted researcher and student in the Master of Science in Clinical Research program. Not quite what I expected when I joined the team but hey, we all having a starting point! I could tell my future as the lab’s go-to graphic designer depended on this, so I worked tirelessly to produce a product even Donald Trump couldn’t refute as fake news. Now you may be wondering, like I at the time, what is D.U.S.T. and how does it relate to Urology?
D.U.S.T. (Developments in Ureteroscopic Stone Treatment) is an annual endourology symposium led by Michigan Medicine faculty Dr. Khurshid Ghani (director) and Dr. William Roberts (co-director). Each year at D.U.S.T., world renowned urologists are invited to give talks and demonstrations on the latest techniques in the field. What started four years ago in Ann Arbor as a small meeting composed mostly of residents has now expanded to a robust symposium nestled in the heart of Chicago attracting community urologists and major academic players alike.
August 16, 2018
The day had come at last. As I sat through grand rounds listening to Dr. Mahesh Desai, who had flown from India to present at the symposium, speckles of dust twinkled in my head. While I knew very little about percutaneous nephrolithotomy, Dr. Desai’s pride and joy, I knew that in a few hours I would be on my way to the beautiful city of Chicago for a well-needed change of scenery where my Twitter artwork would be on display for the masses. Like I said, the big leagues! After grand rounds had finished, my lab mate Ali Aldouhki and I heard a familiar British accent call out to us saying, “Kris-Ti-An, Ahh-Lee—you boys ready?” This was the beginning of a tiring but very rewarding weekend.
I had volunteered to drive Ali to Chicago, which hadn’t seemed like a problem until I remembered something very important: I’m addicted to trap (a subset genre of rap) music. While Ali was a cool guy, most of time we had ever spent together involved shooting lasers at fake kidney stones (aka our research) and there was definitely no music involved. But crossing cultural boundaries is sorta my thing, so I figured it would be okay. We jammed out to Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Gucci Mane and a smidgen of Drake before I handed him the aux cord. After some relaxing traditional Arabic music, we switched it up and bumped some original rap straight from his home Saudi Arabia. The trip was off to a lit start.
After arriving, I was introduced the conference coordinator Christina who I had been anonymously chatting with for two months. We hit it off by bonding over the Dr. Ghani quirks that you only understand after rehashing a graphic design for him 100 times until it’s perfect. I knew at that moment if the conference was anything reminiscent of that process, I was in for quite the show. As we walked around setting up I was blown away by the quality of the signs, brochures, visual media and overall aesthetic Christina had created for the conference. To top it off, the graphics that I had toiled over were displayed as brilliant 3’x5’ posters adorning the entrances. Mama, I made. My expectations for a beautiful weekend were confirmed that evening at the opening guest reception. As I stood sipping Pinot Grigio and nodding at the sunset from the rooftop terrace overlooking the Chicago River, I knew the hustle was worth it.
The opening of the conference began with Dr. Ghani standing on stage in front of a roaring, introduction video, similar to how Steve Jobs would introduce an Apple event. And like an Apple product, this conference was sleek, flashy, and wrapped in an intelligent design. While Ali and I ran the mics, cued up presentations, and ran the Twitter wall, participants witnessed a seamless Broadway level production on the latest opinions in endourology. Talks were bursting with cutting edge techniques from world class faculty, an industry sponsored skills lab demoed the latest in laser technology, all while the Loews’s hotel staff supplied a constant assortment of grade A food and beverages. And while I’m sure the participants enjoyed the all the educational aspects of the conference, they had no choice but to be inundated with laughter after Dr. Ghani’s colleagues managed to sneak in a few Photoshopped pictures of him in various costumes in their final talks.
At the end of the tiring weekend Dr. Ghani asked, “Well Kris-Ti-An, what did you think?” While, I admitted the conference was an amazing success because of the brilliant minds that worked diligently to make it so… HONESTLY, I couldn’t help but to think: Would D.U.S.T. have been a Bust without my Twitter graphics?
Kristian Black is a fourth-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. Hailing from Louisiana, he enjoys LSU football and all-you-can-eat crawfish. He can be followed on Instagram and twitter at @indiana_black.