Prof. Jean Decety in Amman and an interesting Lecture about the Neurobiological Mechanisms of Empathy and Caring for Others

I had the honor of attending a lecture by a French American Professor called Jean Decety from the University of Chicago. The lecture took place in the building of the Jordan Society of Scientific Research (JSSR) in Amman on Wednesday, 11/09/2013 (If you want to keep updated with the activities of the JSSR, here is a link to their facebook page). The title of the lecture of Prof. Decety was:

 الآليات العصبية الحيوية التي تشكل الأساس للتعاطف و الاهتمام بالآخرين لدى الإنسان 
Neurobiological Mechanisms of Empathy and Caring for Others

The topic of the lecture seemed strange to me. For minutes, I thought of not attending this lecture. Firstly, I could not imagine about what this lecture would be. Secondly, I did not know how important Prof. Decety is. Nonetheless, because I trusted my friend who recommended this lecture for me (Thank you Dr. Ali Alfar) and because I am interested in psychiatry my possible future specialty, then I googled the name of Prof. Decety. Quickly, I discovered that there is a detailed Wikipedia page about Prof. Decety. Can anyone have a detailed wikipedia page? I also found multiple articles mentioning him. Therefore, I decided quickly to attend because I thought that I would benefit something from this lecture no matter how boring the topic turned out to be.

A friend of mine and I decided to go to this lecture. My friend is also interested in psychiatry. We arrived a few minutes before the lecture started. Prof. Decety then arrived. From the first few minutes, I could deduce that he is a jolly person, funny, and to my relive, that I would not bored by the “weird” lecture that was to come.

The lecture started. A Dr. Rana Dajani introduced Prof. Decety. I understood that Dr. Dajani and Prof. Decety conducted are conducting researches together.

The lecture started with Prof. Decety talking a little bit about his family (From my short experience in attending conferences, this is something usual with western doctors). Prof. Decety explained briefly about the research center in which he works “The University of Chicago Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (SCNL).” Prof. Decety is the head of this center. This information really impressed me because Prof. Decety is French. He had his Bachelor degree, three master degrees, and PhD in France [1]. Nonetheless, Prof. Decety’s un-American origin did not prevent the University of Chicago from appointing him as a head of a research center as important as the SCNL. What matters are qualifications! This reminded me of multiple articles that spoke about how the USA attracts scientists from all over the world. Why would not it? Is not the story of Prof. Decety an excellent example why this occurs?

As the topic of the lecture became more and more clear to me, I started enjoying the multiple researches about which Prof. Decety spoke. I was impressed a lot with a sentence that Prof. Decety used to describe himself: “I am an Evolutionary Psychologist.” I have never heard about a branch of science with that name. However, it was not hard for me to expect what this branch of study is about: Explaining pychology in view of evolution! [Here is a wikipedia article about Evolutionary Psychology]! This is very amazing! I love evolution and I think it is very logical to use it to explain biology. It turned out that it can also explain “psychology”… Those atheistic infidels!

Prof. Jean Decety, with active use of body language, answering the audience questions.

Prof. Jean Decety, with active use of body language, answering the audience questions.

Prof. Jean Decety, with active use of body language, answering the audience questions.

From the very first minutes of the lecture, Prof. Decety mentioned the “taboo” of evolution. An attending student raised his hand and asked a question that initially appeared to be related to the lecture’s topic. Nonetheless, because I come from this society, I knew from the beginning that it was a matter of the speaker wanting to prove that evolution is wrong. The questions did not stop and were more and more indirectly revolving about the correctness of Evolution. It is really a pity that many of the people around me still discuss whether evolution is correct or not! The world is way ahead of us. I do not think that this should be a topic of discussion anymore. The debate increased and another student joined. It was then consuming a lot of time that Dr. Dajani finally intervened and said (something like): “The discussion is now about Evolution and it will not end! Evolution is compatible with religion. Some think that it is not. Here at the society we will have a lecture that shows the compatibility of evolution with religion. Let us continue the lecture.” The lecture finally resumed!

Religious explanations are so wide! I really do not understand how accepting evolution contradicts the belief in God! // Source:

Religious explanations are so wide! I really do not understand how accepting evolution contradicts the belief in God! // Source:

Prof. Decety then explained about multiple studies. Of interest, Prof. Decety talked about the findings that the hormone oxytocin increased empathy. Prof. Decety then suggested jokingly, but also, almost seriously as of someone really concerned:

"Some studies show that the hormone oxytocin increase empathy in human beings" Prof. Jean Decety, the University of Chicago.

“Some studies show that the hormone oxytocin increase empathy in human beings” Prof. Jean Decety, the University of Chicago.

I did not feel the time pass before the lecture ended. At his last slide, Prof. Decety had put the links of the facebook pages of his two lab: The SCNL and the Child Neuro Suite. He asked if we could like it (The link for the SCNL is here and the link to the Child Neuro Suite is here). Next, the audience asked some questions and Prof. Decety happily answered them.

Next, I smiled a lot when I saw Prof. Decety holding a camera. What made me smile was that Prof. Decety was more interested to take photos more than the audience members who wanted to be photographed with him. When I saw the situation like this, I happily asked my friend [Thank you Dr. Fadi Walid Farah] to take a photo of me with Prof. Decety. Here I am now publishing it proudly (I hope that Prof. Decety does not mind that).

Jameel Hijazeen with Prof. Jean Decety, Amman, Jordan, September, 2013

[1] Jean Decety, Wikipedia,

For Medical Students: Normal values for laboratory investigations, BP, and BMI (USMLE-friendly)

We teach our students that they should not believe us. Do not believe your professors! - Dr. Kevin Hantrey

How can you trust the summarized information in the below documents? If some professors, somewhere, are teaching their students not to trust them, how come that you trust a colleague of yours? I head the above statement personally from Dr. Hanretty at a conference here in Jordan. “I should not believe what you have been telling me so far?” I exlamied perplexed after I heard that weird statement. Dr. Hanretty then explained to me that what he means is that students should always look into the correctness of the information given to them by their professors and not take things for granted. Respect!

Therefore, the  source of the normal lab values below are:

Unless specified, most of the values are from “Step 1: Content Description & General Information 2012”, p. 22, The remaining few are from “Reference Intervals for Laboratory Tests & Procedures”, ch.708, Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed, 2011.

The following a printer-friendly PDF version. I designed it so that the most possible information will fit in one page. The page has zero borders.

Download (PDF, 462KB)

In case you wanted to make any changes to my file, then this is word version:

Download (DOC, 244KB)

Elective course of clinical training in the USA: My horrible experience!

Elective Reqest- Jameel Khaleel Hijazeen - Mu'tah University*** This is a imaginary letter to a person who will enter my Blog and help me accomplish a dream of mine. Time is runnig out and this dream is most likely not going to be fulfilled… What is most important to me is that when other friends of mine have accomplished this dream, I will not be angry or feeling sorry, simply because I will have asked for help from all those whom I thought they could offer it! My blog is my last place to seek help! What I am requesting might be hard… yes… it is a DREAM! ***


My name is Jameel Hijazeen. I am a 5th-year Medical student in Mu’tah University. In the period of June-August 2012, I am required by my faculty to do “two-months of clinical training in two of the major branches of medicine” (Please, to see the elective request, click on the resized image above).

Worldwide, the most advanced country in Medicine is undoubtedly the United States. What is more, if you are a doctor who is to be accepted for residency in the USA, one of the things that will tremendously support your CV is having “US experience”. Therefore, a dream of mine is to do my two months of clinical training in internal medicine in the form of an elective in the United States.


How did it all begin?

Starting from exactly 8 months ago, I started searching for how a Jordanian medical student from Mu’tah University can obtain such training.

Soon after my search started, I realized how expensive, complicated, and demanding is such a “dream” is. These are the main reasons:

  1. Most universitieshospitals require expensive application fees and training fees. What is ‘interesting’ is that your application fees are ‘non-refundable’ even if you are not accepted.

  2. Most universitieshospitals require having finished a USMLE step.

  3. Most universitieshospitals require TOEFL (not required if you had finished a USMLE step or are recommended as a good English speaker)

  4. Few universitieshospitals accept students from outside the US (Sometimes, an exception can be made if you are recommended).

  5. Few universitieshospitals acknowledge Jordanian universities. Even fewer universities acknowledge Mu’tah University.

  6. Applying for these universitieshospitals requires hours of papers filing, preparation, and sending.





What is the solution then?

I asked older students who know about this issue, all of them summarized the way in which someone can be accepted into two: Pure luck or having someone recommending you for acceptance. Till today, two students in my batch have already obtained an elective via the second way (one in the USA and another in France).  Via the first way, not a single students of the 5th year in Mu’tah University has obtained an acceptance; How surprised am I!.

For the above reasons, I did not contact any universityhospital. As a result, I was left with the second option.


Here is a list of the people I contacted:

# My faculty: No formal programs are available that are meant for sending faculty students to western countries. Nonetheless, certain efforts have been given. I deduced that because Dr. Omar Nafia Al-Ajarmeh, the vice dean, thankfully, contacted a certain University in the USA to accept some of Mu’tah students. In an email reply hanged on one of the boards in the faculty, a part of the response was, “Your university is not recognized by (certain accreditation committee)… Therefore, students from Mu’tah University cannot be accepted for electives in our university”.

# An uncle of mine: A thoracic surgeon in a western country since the 1980s. He had performed more than 4,500 operations. My uncle apologized and denied the presence of any friends of him in the US who could help. He advised me to seek help from my faculty doctors!

# Dr. Nabil S: An American-Jordanian doctor whom I met in a medical conference that was held in Amman. I took a list of the doctors who participated in that conference and showed them to another Uncle of mine to see if he knew anyone of them. For my huge surprise, he turned out to know the brother of this Dr. Nabil S. My uncle contacted his brother. Dr. Nabil, to my happiness, emailed me showing his readiness to help me. From the beginning, unfortunately, it was a hard road full of multiple obstacles!

The first obstacle that face me was that his hospital only accept students for obeserverships not for electives (It is enough to know that if you are an observer, you are never allowed to be in the hospital unless your sponsoring doctor is. What is more humiliating, you can never touch or simply talk to a patient). Reluctantly, I agreed. Do I have any other options so as to refuse this “great opportunity”?

Nevertheless, things got even worst. The doctor sent an acceptance for a two-month observership in family medicine; a branch which my faculty does not accept. So, I asked for the observership to be changed. Because I thought that I am going to remain under the supervision of the same doctor, I did not specifically talk about my wish to be accepted in the internal medicine department. As a result, I was accepted in the surgery department and at the same time, was told by an administrative in the hospital that I can only be accepted for one month… How worst can things be more than this? I emaild my complaints for two times… Dr. Nabil never responded!

# An American young Jordanian doctor: All my information about this doctor are from a blog that he has. Despite realizing how hard it is for a young doctor to recommend others for such a hard thing as an elective, and despite my little knowledge of him, I rudely contacted him. With a big heart, he showed readiness to help (as I expected). Unfortunately, the hospital where he works did not offer electives. At that point, I decided to bother him no more and so sent him no further requests. If my faculty, my relatives, and the friends of my relatives could not help, why would I bother a person that does not know anything about me to help?

The above is a list of the persons whom I contacted. I do not carry any bad feelings about them for not being able to help. On the contrary, whenever I talked to anyone about my elective, I felt ashamed because of my consuming their time and efforts!



p align=”center”>Can you help me get accepted for a two-month


p align=”center”>elective in internal medicine in the US?


p align=”center”>image

You might consider it a small favor, but with this “small” favor, you are changing the life of a doctor-to-be forever!… It is like the “small step” of Neil Armstrong:

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”[1]

Neil Armstrong, 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969.



[1] Source: “Neil Armstrong”,, retrieved: 07.02.2012.

USMLE step 2 cs: New patient note

I am subscribed a newsletter by the ECFMG. Once subscribed to this mailing list, you get the most updated information regarding the USMLE. On december the 20th, 2011, I received an email from them annoucing “CHANGES TO THE STEP 2 CLINICAL SKILLS (CS) EXAMINATION”.

The next important question after asking what are the changes is “when are they going to take place”. “These changes will be introduced in Step 2 CS for examinations delivered beginning June 17, 2012.”


I like the new changes they are making to the patient note.

“In the new note, examinees will continue to be asked to document relevant history and physical examination findings and to list initial diagnostic studies to be ordered. Examinees will also be asked to create a reasoned, focused differential (maximum of three diagnoses) listed in order of likelihood and to indicate the evidence obtained from the history and physical examination that supports (or refutes) each potential diagnosis. The new patient note provides examinees with an opportunity to document their analysis of a patient’s possible diagnoses.”

Take a look at the new CS patient note:



For those who were not registered in the ECFMG mailing list, here is their full email:


The ECFMG(r) Reporter
An E-Newsletter for International Medical Graduates Pursuing Graduate Medical Education in the United States
Issue 180 – December 20, 2011
One of the recommendations emerging from the Comprehensive Review of USMLE (CRU) process is that USMLE consider ways to further enhance the testing methods used in the Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) examination. As previously announced in the 2012 Bulletin of Information, these enhancements are scheduled for implementation in mid-2012. These changes will be introduced in Step 2 CS for examinations delivered beginning June 17, 2012.
The reporting schedule for examinees testing from June 17, 2012 through November 3, 2012 will be 2-3 weeks longer than for examinees testing during other periods.
More information about the Step 2 CS score reporting dates for examinations delivered in 2012 is provided in the Step 2 CS Score Reporting Schedule at
The CIS subcomponent of Step 2 CS has been redesigned to assess a fuller range of competencies.  Background information about these changes is provided on pages 5-6 of the Fall 2010/Winter 2011 NBME Examiner at The new approach divides communication skills into a series of functions. These functions have been further divided into sub-functions. Beginning June 17, 2012, the Communication and Interpersonal Skills (CIS) scale will focus on five functions:
1.      Fostering the relationship
2.      Gathering information
3.      Providing information
4.      Making decisions: basic
5.      Supporting emotions: basic
Several additional functions are still under development; these include making decisions: advanced; supporting emotions: advanced; and helping patients with behavior change. A list of the functions and sub-functions is available at
Also beginning June 17, 2012, a new patient note will be introduced. The patient note is completed by the Step 2 CS examinee after the encounter with the standardized patient. In the new note, examinees will continue to be asked to document relevant history and physical examination findings and to list initial diagnostic studies to be ordered. Examinees will also be asked to create a reasoned, focused differential (maximum of three diagnoses) listed in order of likelihood and to indicate the evidence obtained from the history and physical examination that supports (or refutes) each potential diagnosis. The new patient note provides examinees with an opportunity to document their analysis of a patient’s possible diagnoses. A sample of the new patient note is available for review at
Updated practice materials for Step 2 CS will be posted to the USMLE website in March 2012. These include the Step 2 CS Content Description and General Information Booklet, onsite orientation video, sample patient notes, and a simulation of the program for typing patient notes.
As an organization, ECFMG is committed to providing information on issues of importance to international medical graduates. We realize that many individuals would like updated information on developing issues related to ECFMG Certification and entry into graduate medical education in the United States. As a result, ECFMG has developed The ECFMG(r) Reporter to provide international medical graduates worldwide with timely, objective information on current topics of interest. It is our hope that this newsletter will allow physicians educated outside the United States and Canada to make informed choices on issues that shape their careers.
Previous issues of The ECFMG(r) Reporter are available on the ECFMG website. Subsequent issues will be posted to the ECFMG website as they are published. To access previous issues, visit the ECFMG website at
Interested individuals can join or leave The ECFMG(r) Reporter mailing list at any time. To join or leave, visit The ECFMG Reporter home page at
Please do not reply to this message. Messages received at this address will not receive responses.
We hope you find these updates helpful. Thank you for your interest in ECFMG.
Copyright (c) 2011 by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG(r)). All rights reserved.

Have you ever eaten testicles?

*** Warning: This article is only for strong-hearted people 😉 ***

*** Another Warning: People from Jordan, can read this post without hesitation. They just understand! ***

Today, my Mother cooked us a very delicious Mansaf. Mansaf is a famous traditional dish in Jordan. Karak, my governorate, is famous for cooking this dish.

Today’s Mansaf was different; It didn’t only contain goat meat, but also, it contained a weird clyndrical-like piece of meat. This piece of meat was white-colored. It was lying there as if boasting as being the only one of its kind in our Mansaf.

“Is this a testicle?” I asked silently and slowly. In front of Mansaf, I don’t usually hesitate; There is always something to eat. Even if there is little amount of meat, the rice, BAGDONES, and syrup is delicious enough. Today, I hesitated.

“So this is what Dr. Hareega talked about…” I rememberd a very funny post by Dr. Fares Masanat- Hareega at Dr. Masanat is a Jordanian physician working in the USA. That post was about him trying to buy “testicles” in the USA. I remeber he called this part of the goat’s body, “Beed”. Which means in Arabic, “Eggs!”….

[Wait! I now can describe the shape of this “weird clyndrical-like piece of meat.”… Yes! It is egg-shaped. This must be the cause why it is called “Beed” or “Eggs” in Arabic… Ah! Do you agree with me? I am not sure. I have just got this explanation in an Epiphany!]

“Yes, it is a testicle…” I heard. I was then sent into deep thinking, “Should I eat it or not?” After sternuous thinking, I said to myself, “If Dr. Hareega said that he loved them… I am sure it wouldn’t be a problem for me to try them!”

Next, encouraged by the opinion of Dr. Hareega, I grabbed this little lonely “egg-shaped” testicle. Then, I did it…

One bite… Second bite… A part of me told me to stop but another part wanted to find out what special taste it had… I continued eating. Finally, I reached a quick answer”:

“Lamb testicles, cooked with Mansaf, are roughly the same taste as the goat’s brain that is cooked with Mansaf!”

A small fraction of the testicle was left in my hand. In order to hide its weird taste, I ate it with a spoon of rice. The taste of the Mansaf rice was strong enough to hide its taste.

Will I eat testicles again? Soemtimes, people do things once in their whole life-time. This describes me today! Firstly and foremost, I tasted testicles because I wanted to know how they taste! Secondly, I wanted to know what special is about them that a Jordanian physician – Dr. Hareega- took the plunge of trying to buy testicles in the USA.

*. NB, I have just finished writing this post at my home where I don’t have an internet connection. This is why I am using the word “remeber” to talk about the post of Dr. Hareega.

Update 30.08.2010:

See what reactions Dr. Hareega got here:

English Village in Mu’tah University by Peace Corps Volunteers: Chris, Adam, Nataly, and Rachel. In addition to the coordination of Dr. Layla Omari

It is hard to disagree with the proverb that “you know the importance of something only when you lose it”.


I really enjoyed it… The most beautiful part, getting to now new people. I love Adam the most because he knows how to create and manage debates!

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