Gap Year

“What should I do with my gap year??”

Take a step back. Celebrate the progress you’ve made in life. I don’t think we do this enough because we tend to think in future tense and worry about the next step. I have been asked the above question several times from pre-meds, not realizing in the moment what a privilege it is to be on the other side with the ability to inspire the next generation.

I took one gap year before matriculating into medical school, and I would recommend this for anyone that feels burned out from college, unsure if they want to become physicians, or want to gain more life experiences (while you’re young). In this post, I’ll share what I did with my gap year and some tips I’ve shared with high schoolers and pre-meds.

My mentality for my gap year was that I wanted to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I remembered hearing about AmeriCorps sitting in one of my neuro classes during senior year. I decided to look at health-focused programs across the U.S. in late summer after graduating from college. A lot of them excited me! I was thinking about moving to California to use Cantonese to help patients in the Asian free clinics or Cleveland to coach patients in making lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation through motivational interviewing. Ultimately, I chose the COMCorps program in Athens, Ohio because of the diverse experiences and I knew I wanted to attend Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, so I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the school and its mission.

AmeriCorps is described as the U.S. version of PeaceCorps. It’s a government-funded program that employs volunteers across the country in public service work with a goal of helping others and meeting critical needs in the community in the fields of education, public safety, healthcare, and environmental protection. Benefits include: living allowance and a $5,750 education award upon completion of 1700 hours.

I joined a cohort of 24 members whom were placed at different sites, such as schools, non-profits, and health departments. Our program’s mission is to maintain or decrease the rates of childhood obesity and diabetes through healthy food access, nutrition and cooking lessons, and physical activity. My service site was at a local school district near Athens, Ohio. It was my first time seeing a school that held preschool-12th grade. My main duties were threefold:

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  1. I worked alongside the two nurses in the school clinic to triage sick (or malingering) students and provide first-aid. I routinely documented chief complaints, took temperatures, created and gave ice bags for injuries, gave crackers and water for upset stomachs. I didn’t realize how many students try to get out of school by feigning sickness. In any given day, we would see around 100 students. I also realized scrubs are so comfy to wear to work! I really enjoyed this role because it felt like what a doctor would do, but with more minor cases, and I got a chance to personally provide comfort in times of distress.

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2. I taught five one-hour classes of the Live Healthy Kids curriculum to all of the 2nd graders. I have always loved teaching, especially in topics I enjoy, such as nutrition, health, and wellness. I was super excited! I quickly found a newfound respect for all elementary teachers. I had so much knowledge I wanted to inspire the students with, but I had to take into account a younger mind’s shorter attention span and use classroom-taming strategies to re-focus the group. Despite the challenges, it was an excellent learning and growing opportunity for me, as well as the students. Every week, we brought in a cart full of fresh and healthy food, cooking appliances and supplies, and a new recipe every week. We taught the students basic cooking skills, such as measuring, preparing fruits and vegetables, and safe cutting techniques with a knife. The first semester, we made a fruit tart, oatmeal bar, quinoa salad, tofu ranch dressing. The second semester, we “travelled around the world” to create dishes from different countries: Japanese lettuce wraps, Russian borscht, tofu stir fry, taco bar, Ethiopian injera and wat, sweet potato curry. Before cooking, we had a powerpoint where we would educate the students with facts about the food we’re making that day, name of ingredients and methods of cooking, MyPlate, healthy decision making, and fun facts about the different countries. After cooking and eating together, we complete a quick worksheet re-inforcing knowledge and also do some physical activity together (quick circuits).

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Such good memories with these kiddos. It was fun getting to know their individual personalities over a year. A team of researchers from Ohio University are conducting a study about the effectiveness of Live Healthy Kids. As a teacher, I administered pre- and post-student knowledge tests, parent surveys, and helped organize data. They are five years into the study, and I can’t wait to see the results.

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We saw the parent feedback at the end of the year. It was so heartwarming to know that we made a difference in families’ lives.

Screening

3. I organized all the vision, hearing, and lice health screenings for my school. This was a tough feat requiring lots of attention to detail due to the volume of students in preschool-12th grade. Thankfully, our 24-member cohort help the members stationed at schools with the screenings, so it wasn’t a one-woman show. It was neat to learn how to perform all the screenings ourselves. After the massive screening days, I looked through all the paperwork to see who I needed to refer. We send a letter with the results to the parents recommending that they take their child to an optometrist for glasses and/or an audiologist for hearing aids. I tracked the follow-up rate and results. I saw the power of prevention from a new perspective.

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Aside from the three main duties, we have the opportunity to use our creativity to implement new programs or events at our site.

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My school had a carnival night, and I created black bean dip for people to sample along with a host of healthy tips. Those corn tortilla chips are made locally with natural ingredients — so so good!

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I collaborated with Ohio University Recycling and Zero Waste to collect 900 pounds of food that were used to create 34 food boxes and then distributed to 30 families, collectively serving 80 children in the school district during winter break. I had the unique opportunity to work closely with our school’s outreach worker from Athens County Children Services to travel on home visits to distribute food boxes, fruit baskets, and holiday gifts. It was an enlightening and often heartbreaking experience to personally observe where the students live and hear their stories.

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Read more: Campus Recycling Partners with School Outreach Programs to Host Successful Winter Food Drive

Love of Humankind

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I was requested to do the annual 4th grade hygiene and puberty presentation. It instantly brought back awkward memories of my experience with this presentation in 5th grade. I tried to make it as interactive and practical as possible. First, we brought all the 4th graders in the gym for a talk on basic hygiene, such as using deodorant, brushing teeth, and washing hands. Then, we split up into boy and girl groups. Luckily, I recruited the only young male in my cohort to lead the boy’s discussion. I led the girl’s discussion with an OU student intern. We taught them the basics about puberty changes, reassured the girls that everyone is on their own schedules and not to compare to their peers, menstrual cycles and cramps, and how to use pads. Towards the end, we welcomed questions, and I was so happy the girls weren’t shy to have discussions. They had great questions, and we almost ran over time. It felt nice to have open, honest, and genuine conversations. We awarded all the 4th graders with hygiene goodie bags: deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, floss, pads and tampons (girls).

Other than activities at my school, we had community events that we help out with throughout the year. Two examples are:

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Building a sustainable garden behind an elementary school.

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Painting mile markers on the community bike trail.

I definitely got really nostalgic thinking about my time and memories in AmeriCorps. It definitely challenged me as a person, helped me gain rich life experiences, and provided me a way to give back to society in a meaningful way right after graduating college.

I’m grateful I finally took the time to share my AmeriCorps experience in words and pictures. Throughout first and second year of medical school, I had frequent flashbacks: learning about fever (taking temps), childhood intellectual/behavioral disorders from parental neglect/abuse, which can be associated with encopresis and enuresis (heartwarming memory: a boy who endured a rough childhood came down to the clinic at least once a day to change his undergarment always wanted to tell me fun facts about things he’s learned, which surprised the two nurses because he normally doesn’t like talking to people), malingering (sifting through real and fake complaints), teaching the kids that we get vitamin D from the sun (they were so amazed).

Tips for your Gap Year

  • It’s okay (and frequently recommended) to take time off before professional school
    • You will NOT be at a disadvantage. It can even boost your chances for admission.
    • Differentiate yourself in interviews by talking about your gap year with passion. Show schools who you are, what your motivations are for becoming a physician, and who you see yourself becoming through your experience. Be honest and reflective. Medical school admission teams like to see genuine personal development, not just another activity you did just to “look good”.
  • Time time for reflection and rejuvenation.
  • Do something meaningful and purposeful to you. You’ll be a stronger candidate for professional school.
    • PeaceCorps, AmeriCorps, Study Abroad, Mission Trips, Research, Teach for America, etc.
    • Get a Masters (MPH, MHA, MS in anatomy)
  • Sometimes, a postbaccalaureate program after college is the right choice for students that have lower GPA’s, MCAT’s or are career changers.
  • Many people work/volunteer in a healthcare setting to get more clinical experience.
  • Update resume/CV with each new job/experience.
  • Stay in touch with professors and contacts, continue networking.
  • Don’t be afraid to take chances.
    • May learn a lot about yourself and what you don’t want to do
  • Continue to learn!
    • Job shadow, informational interviews, join young professional clubs, travel abroad, read books, network with mentors in the field, participate in a scholarly activity, take classes.
  • Spend time with family, friends, and loved ones before beginning professional school.
  • Work on your professional school applications.
  • Save money.
  • It’s okay if you decide not to go to med school after your gap year adventures. It can be a long, arduous, stress-provoking, often isolating, and ironically dehumanizing journey. Make sure this is where your heart and mind is before you begin. If this is your true calling, you will use the hardship to become a better doctor 🙂
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Let’s Get Personal | What’s Your Story?

I attended a Primary Care Progress Leadership Summit at my school yesterday. The purpose was to advocate for the benefits of team-based care in the primary care field and cultivate this team culture through intentional story-telling and coaching. The story-telling exercise was the most powerful part because it got to the root of: what’s your purpose? why are you here?

In my single-parent household, education was a prevailing value growing up. My mother didn’t want my life to be like hers. However, as a first-generation college student, she was not able to provide very much guidance, especially past high school. I really had no idea what the “real world” looked like. I just knew how to pass all my classes and that I had a particular interest in science – until the summer after my junior year in high school when I was gratefully accepted to attend a four-week MD Camp at OSU College of Medicine. We were treated like first-year medical students: meeting professors of medicine, shadowing an infectious disease doctor, experiencing the cadaver lab, taking a comprehensive test, and receiving a white coat. This opened my eyes to a career in medicine and lit a spark in me that I can do this. So this became my goal all throughout college as I pursued a degree in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University. It was a smooth journey until the MCAT, which made me question whether I was cut for the career or not. During the summer after my junior year when I was studying for the standardized exam, I spontaneously reconnected with an old friend from elementary school who was also on the medical path. That summer, we made a routine out of running together most summer afternoons – this was my solace from studying. I had no idea that our rekindled friendship would change my outlook on life forever. My friend was a true free spirit – he always said what was on his mind without caring what other people thought. That was the complete opposite of me. I have always been a reserved person and it took me a while before I can completely open up to others. His energy was so contagious that I caught it. I slowly fostered this free-spirited nature and that was the first time in my life I truly felt alive. I started thinking about the impermanence of life and how we should strive to feel more alive. This then made me ponder the meaning of life, which is partly why I started my blog. Among many nuances, the meaning of life for me is building authentic relationships and connecting with others on a deeper level. When we are on our death bed, I doubt we’d think about whether we could have made $50,000 more or if we should have bought a Lamborghini. We are going to think about people – regrets, shared experiences, joyous times. When I’m lying on my death bed, I hope I remember more good times than regrets, which is why I am making a more conscious awareness in my daily life to be more authentic with others to build a deeper connection. You never know the magic that can arise when you open yourself up to another human being. Fast forward to medical school. I had to overcome some hurdles with the MCAT, but in the end successfully completed the leg of the race and am now in my first year. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons ranging from: family influences, money, prestige, wanting to help people, research, service. Some of these reasons provide more lasting inspiration than others. My reason that I want to continually cultivate is building that deeper relationship with patients so that I can explore how their meaning in life affects disease and vice versa. Patients are more than just their disease state. We should seek to understand their robust life outside of the 15-minute office visit. This sense of shared humanity motivates me.

Caveat to this idealistic approach of being more vulnerable, authentic, and honest (from feedback and personal experience): people might not reciprocate and value these same qualities. One of my friends expressed that he would rather not live life this way because you are handing people bits of information about yourself that they can use against you. You weaken your defenses if you show people how you think and who you are. From personal experience, I was taken advantage of because I was too honest. I knew this person for many years and we practically knew each other inside out (except for the things he hid from me this past year). Being honest and open is my way of showing that I deeply care for someone and their well-being. I’m still struggling with this concept because I don’t believe in playing games in life for it is impermanent – say how you feel and do what’s right. Don’t hurt others in the process. In conclusion, it’s wise to use your judicious decision on who you want to be vulnerable with and what parts of yourself you want to share. I’m not a big fan of superficial conversations and the proverbial “good” reply to “how are you?” and this is a way to overcome that.

Extra note on love and life: While thinking about the meaning of life, obviously love comes to my mind. I am a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I get teary-eyed at least once in movies and books because the relationships between the characters always pull at my heart strings. I just dangerously subscribed to a YouTube channel that’s focused on creating professional wedding videos and sharing love stories – you can already guess I cry during every single video. Upon reflection, I should have had more independent time instead of stringing the other person along and being strung along. I encourage every early to mid 2o-year-old to spend at least a few months completely single – free of any kind of emotional or physical intimate relations. Society makes us believe that being alone should be one of our biggest fears, that being half-loved by someone is better than not having them at all. With the world at our fingertips now, dating apps make it that much easier to replace person after person without ever being lonely. I don’t think this is healthy. One of my friends argue that we all need to feel validated by someone and that you often can’t overcome heartbreak without seeking intimacy with another person. Yes, it’s a nice feeling to be cared for and it might be the easiest way to mask your hurt, but why can’t you validate yourself? Being truly single for a month now, I have learned to respect myself and give myself the time and space to self-improve. You shouldn’t invest yourself in someone who can only give you 99% or less of their heart. I’ve had a skewed image of what a loving relationship should feel and look like, but now I am awakened. It can be very painful to be patient, but I have faith that the wait is worth it and that there is someone out there who is ready to give you what you need and vice versa. Love is complicated. Relationships take lots of time and work. It’s a conscious effort – not just something that happens between two people who like each other. Don’t jump in if you’re not ready. That’s not fair for either of you. Being single means you have all the time in the world to use as you see fit – freedom at its purity. It’s important to have introspective time to realize who you are and what you want before trying to share with another complex being. People may have many definitions of what kind of relationships they want to have: casual, open, exclusive, inclusive, polyamorous. Don’t settle if that is not what you truly want. Establish your guidelines for love first and stick to it. If your potential lover has a completely different agenda that you don’t see for yourself, let them go. I’m taking this time to establish mental guidelines for accepting and giving love, to workout and improve physical fitness, to accomplish independent goals, to open myself to deeper friendships, to learn from missteps, to know my self-worth, to deepen knowledge, to live in my values, and embrace confidence in who I am and realize I don’t need to change for anybody. The person you’re meant to be with will want you just as you are and find your faults endearing. Only then will you be able to paint a collaborative art piece called love whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Story-telling always has a conflict. The good news: some sort of resolution always occurs. One of the most important take-aways from hardship is being able to relate to others through experiences and sharing what you learned. Key elements of intentional story-telling: story of self, conflict, choice, values, and the story of us (how it relates to your audience). Try it out: what’s your purpose for why you are where you are right now or where you hope to be?

2017 | Get Out There & Be Children Again

Happy Old Year and Happy New Year beautiful souls,

With friends going back to school/work, family getting on my case about my love life, acquaintances saying “thankful for 2016 because I found him/her”, and free time away from classes, I started this new year feeling a bit lonely. I am not proud of this, but I think it’s important to acknowledge all emotions, for we are complex beings.

What I do know is that I have a lot be grateful for, both in the past year and in the future.

Thank you 2016 for: the opportunity to interview at two more medical schools, consecutive snow days at my work at the school, meaningful hygiene/puberty presentation with 4th graders, beautiful cherry blossoms in Athens, group photos with all the 2nd graders I taught in AmeriCorps, first music festival, first osteopathic medicine conference, acceptance into another medical school, finishing my AmeriCorps service term with wonderful supervisors and coworkers, making a real impact in the Athens community in regards to health and wellness, prematriculation, scenic running/biking trails in Athens, getting to know a beautiful soul at my elementary school with whom I had authentic and vulnerable mentoring conversations, road trip to Cincinnati with my best friend, a sweet roommate, moving back to my hometown, first day of medical school, white coat ceremony, love, knowledge, wisdom, learning, good health, PR’s in 5k and half marathon, keeping up with fitness while in school, spontaneity, the most authentic talks with my childhood girlfriends during our night out, and reconnecting with people from the past.

Goals for 2017:

  1. Act out of love and kindness. One of my all-time favorite quotes is: “kill em with kindness.” I recently read an article about how to deal with negative emotions and that is to pray and wish happiness and well-being for that person that has caused the emotions. Remaining angry and resentful only hurts your inner peace.
  2. Embrace spontaneity.
  3. Just do it. This was the same goal I had last year, but I decided to bring it back because it’s a work in progress. I realize I might be one of those people that likes to work under pressure, but procrastinating and thinking too much causes unnecessary stress.
  4. Step outside your comfort zone in terms of putting yourself out there in leadership roles.
  5. Run the Columbus (full) Marathon.
  6. Travel this summer.
  7. Gain new medical knowledge, skills, and experiences this summer.
  8. Be an initiator. Some things don’t happen unless you make them happen. Watch this excellent TEDTalk – What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection. I’m inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZXgApsPCQ
  9. Do more of what makes me feel alive – at least one thing every day.
  10. Live in vulnerability and authenticity, always. I found that it’s freeing for the human spirit to be as open and honest as we can with people close to us. Just discovered this TEDTalk and she speaks words from my soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcm-mAwPkxg
    • “Uncover your soul and look for that soul-spark in everyone else”
    • “Step off your hamster wheel into deep time”
    • “Getting emotionally naked with another human being, putting aside pride and defensiveness, lifting the layers, and sharing with each other our vulnerable souls”
    • “You don’t have to wait for a life-or-death situation to clean up the relationships that matter to you, to offer the marrow of your soul and to seek it in another”

Do this exercise with me:

  • Grab a plain white sheet of paper.
  • Write in big letters:

    “What makes you feel alive?”

  • Write in smaller print around the question, what activities or feelings make you feel most alive in life. Don’t filter it and write everything that comes to mind.
  • Hang it up somewhere you look at everyday. Resolve to do more of these things that makes you feel alive.
  • It’s a working document, so feel free to add to it when inspiration strikes.

I updated mine recently and I’ll share it:

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This exercise helped wave away the feeling of loneliness I had. I feel more connected to myself and to the world around me. Amidst our crazy, busy, and hectic lives often working for other people, I think it’s imperative to do something everyday that genuinely makes us happy. The feeling I get when I do something that makes me come alive is analogous to a child playing and exploring the outdoors with friends in the summertime – excited, care-free, youthful, and rejuvenated. So get out there and be children again 🙂

Update 1/15/17: Happy early Chinese New Year. This year, it’s celebrated on January 28, 2017 – year of the rooster. An ancient Chinese superstition that I was surprised to learn about in last year’s post was that one is supposed to have bad luck during your birth year sign. I guess the bad luck caught up to me in the remaining month of the monkey year… misspoken words, confused feelings, and disgraceful pride. However, I believe this is how things are supposed to be because everything happens for a reason – it’s up to you what you take from it.

A recent epiphany I had regarding the practice of medicine is that the role of doctors is not only to diagnose and treat diseases or even pay attention to social determinants of health, it is to help our patients find meaning in their lives. This struck me while listening to Paul Kalanithi (http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2015spring/before-i-go.html) and re-inspired my purpose for choosing a career in medicine. Along with our medical knowledge, lab tests, and prescribed medications, we should seek to explore how the diagnosis of a disease affects the meaning of life for a patient.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

Here’s to the journey of life and meaning ❤

Med School is not as Glamorous as you may Think | August 20, 2016 National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide

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http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story

A nice reminder for all social media users. I first came across this news story three years ago and even wrote a blog post about it. Out of the blue, my research PI (who is a psychiatrist) sent me this article at the end of my senior year and it elicited even stronger emotions. I felt compelled to start a draft, which I didn’t finish until now. A lot has happened in my life since then, but I was reminded again of this story as I attended the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician/Medical Student suicide at my medical school a couple weeks ago.

Since the era of sending mail through horseback and the advent of phone calls, we have always portrayed the positive parts of our lives, but the difference now is that Instagram and other social media has consumed more of our day as we endlessly scroll past people’s filtered accomplishments, happiness, and picture “perfect” moments.

All of Madison’s friends shared some form of struggle, yet she still felt alone because social media didn’t match up with what they were privately saying. This really urges me to be real with people I talk to. I’m not going to pretend like I live in a world of rainbows and butterflies. No one lives a perfect life. This is what it means to be human. We are all in this together.

‘People are also often encouraged to put filters on their sadness, to brighten their reality so as not to “drag down” those around them. The myth still exists that happiness is a choice, which perpetuates the notion of depression as weakness.

As a family, they had never talked about suicide. Jim never considered it a real possibility — just the dramatic ending to someone else’s story. Jim feared that speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater.

Bill Schmitz Jr., former president of the American Association of Suicidology, points out that depression does not have a one-size-fits-all prognosis. “The course varies,” he says. “In a way, it’s the same as cancer. For some, we might prolong life for months, for years. For others, it can be very sudden.”‘

  • These three paragraphs summarize the myths of depression and gets at the very root of mental health stigma in our nation. Yes, happiness is a choice, but when a person is suffering from a mental handicap, their brain chemistry has changed to where you are not in full control anymore. With that being said, depression is a real disease and not a personal sign of weakness. A lot of us want to please those around us, but we also need to be in-tune with ourselves. Your body is all you’ve got in this world; love it and take time to nourish yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. The quote, “Speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater” is similar to the sexual education dilemma. I think it’s important to talk about taboo topics rather than sweeping it under the rug because the more open we are, the more opportunities we have to help ourselves and others.

“It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.”

  • Most important message I took away.

“I run because it’s therapeutic for me. Because every time I run outside, around my home, I am reminded of the beauty of the world, of which I often forget. Yet at the same time, I am fully aware of beauty — it simply saddens me because of reasons I have not yet conjured up. I suppose I am sad. But at the same time I am happy; and miserable; and joyful; and stressed out; and calm, and everything in between. I am everything. Every emotion, rigged in every format, and developed through every machine. I am numb but I am not.”

  • I can totally relate to the first few sentences as a runner, but the latter half is where the message is. We are all bodies of emotions and feelings. This is a very beautiful thing. Never feel alone in your thoughts and feelings because somewhere in the world, someone else is or has already felt that way. When you need help from yourself – tell someone, ask someone. We are all in this together.

Revisit my first post about this news story: https://journeyoflifeandmeaning.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/what-if-we-car…ore-loved-more/

Excerpt: “Make sure that whoever you talk to or come in contact with, that you are okay with how you made them feel with your words and gestures if that was your last day on Earth. Try to develop that deep connection with people so that maybe you can save someone’s life. This is a powerful realization for me. You don’t need an MD to save people’s lives – just genuine care for one another’s well-being by opening up, being vulnerable, talking deeply and loving thy neighbor.”

Developing a Healthy View of Social Media

Recently, I had a friend tell me that she didn’t want to take a picture because she was so concerned about being too fat and ugly. I hadn’t seen this friend in over a year, so I wanted some memories. This saddened me a lot and I tried sharing my perspective that you should never measure your self-worth based on numbers on the scale or what you see in the mirror. She wanted to be perfect. I said that’s not possible. She said “90% perfect then.” She even turned down entering in relationships because she said she didn’t want to disappoint them with her physical looks.

Let’s be honest. We are all affected by our outside looks to some regard. We can’t change this because our exterior is what others see first. I don’t want to sound like a perfect person because I am not. I still get very bad acne in my mid 20’s and I’ve been battling this since middle school. It’s been worse recently most likely due to medical school stress. My acne makes me feel less attractive, it takes me more time in the morning to make sure people won’t be staring at my acne rather than my eyes, and sometimes it prevents me from going out if I have a really bad breakout.

However, I think I am half way there to the wisdom of not caring what others think of you. As long as you are okay with the energy you give off to the world every day, it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, what your face looks like, how fat or skinny you are, etc. I don’t untag photos of myself because “people might find me less attractive” and I don’t care if I’m laughing so hard in a picture that you can’t see my eyes. It’s all about the feelings of the picture – the happy emotions it elicits, not the way you look and the thoughts of what other people on your social media might think of it.

At the end of the day, I am happy with myself if I spread kindness, warmth, deep care for others, and positivity in the world. Think about the kind of energy you want to radiate from your soul.

National Day of Solidarity Lessons

  1. The osteopathic handshake is a hug. It was cute to see all the presenters hugging each other when they passed the mic and it reminded me of the hug fest we had during orientation week. As DO’s, we are known to be more hands-on and more open to expressing the caring touch. I really do believe in the healing power of touch and this is a huge reason why I enjoy learning OMM.
  2. Get enough sleep. Fun fact: 7.7 hours is the average hours we should be getting. I make this a priority and it’s been really helpful in keeping me awake and alert for school.
  3. Practice healthy selfishness. I love this phrase. Never ever forget to take care of yourself.

Med school is not as glamorous as you may think. I know I didn’t really think about what daily life was like for a medical student until I was one. I was just concerned about getting in, but the hurdles don’t stop there.

  1. You spend so much time staring at a screen studying that the next time you feel the sun’s warm rays or talk to a person about something non-medically related, you feel like a new person.
  2. All day, every day, even weekends and breaks, all you think about is studying. You feel guilty if you have too much free time. The material isn’t hard in and of itself, but there is so much content that it’s not humanly possible to master every detail. You keep striving to learn everything and fall short.
  3. You schedule to see your friends during the one free weekend after you take the block exam and before starting a new block the following week. You have less time to spend with family and friends outside of the medical world. You might miss important life events, like birthdays, weddings, reunions, graduations, etc. People might even move on without you… That’s one of the hardest things about this lifestyle. Non-medical people in your life might never understand what you go through and they move on because you can’t provide the kind of attention and time they seek. There are so many articles and videos out there about personal sacrifices people in the medical profession make (I do have something positive to say about this. See #6 in the “good things” list).
  4. You don’t get enough sleep because you are constantly wanting to study more and/or you have to get up early for another day of new lectures.
  5. If you’re away from family, you have to worry about managing life outside of school, such as cooking for yourself, expenses associated with eating out, cleaning, and other miscellaneous chores. You might experience being homesick.
  6. You put life on pause in a way. If you haven’t found your life companion, good luck dating and finding someone that puts up with your lifestyle. If you have found your life companion, wishing you the best during this challenging journey and may love endure, sincerely.
  7. Your apartment/room is a madhouse because you wait until exams are over to clean it.
  8. You spend your whole Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the library/study rooms before a big exam.
  9. You’re constantly accumulating $200k+ debt while in school.
  10. You often let go of a few hobbies and forget about what truly makes you feel alive.
  11. You end up double speeding YouTube videos you watch for fun because that’s what you do for lectures.
  12. While you may see your non-medical school friends traveling the world, making money in a job, going out every weekend, getting married, having children, buying houses, and settling down, you’re concerned about passing the first two years of didactic learning, then rotations, then applying for residencies where you work long hours with modest pay, then finally securing your first position as a board-certified physician. By this time, you’re in your 30’s (older if non-traditional). While I’m not saying these things can’t be done simultaneously, it’s just more to think about and juggle.
  13. Medical school takes a toll on you. Four of my fellow medical students developed strands of white hair halfway through the year. You might experience feelings of depression, anxiety, and inadequacy.

Good things!

  1. You become close with your medical school classmates because of the shared struggle. With a small class size, you truly become a supportive family.
  2. You get to be a sponge as you soak in all this new information. You’ll look back and think “how in the world did I gain all this knowledge in four short years.” Learning is fun!
  3. What kind of career allows you to learn something new every single day for the rest of your life?? When I feel bogged down about studying, I step back and think how awesome it is that we have a wealth of information at our finger tips.
  4. Making new and exciting memories (e.g. unintentional twinning with my classmates and end of block gatherings with the whole class).
  5. I look forward to working out now because it’s the main release of my day. It feels so good to lift or run off all the stress you felt during the day. You just have to schedule it like you’re going to lecture. Hopefully this will prevent the med school 15 haha.
  6. I have a lot of classmates that have supportive significant others, even a few starting families. It’s not impossible. If you are privileged to have already found your person while in medical school and your relationship withstands the hardships, you know they are a keeper. Count your blessings for finding someone so understanding and patient.
  7. Medical school is a unique and special time. You only get to do this once. It’s four years where you really don’t have real responsibilities. Your job is to learn as much as you can. These four years will pass by fast, so make the most of it and slow down to be grateful for your daily opportunities.
  8. A long line of people would die to have your seat in medical school. In the 2016-2017 application cycle, 21,030 out of 53,042 applicants matriculated into medical school. That’s 39.6% acceptance rate. If you’re a medical student right now, be very grateful for this life-changing opportunity. Source: https://www.aamc.org/download/321442/data/factstablea1.pdf
  9. How lucky are we, as medical students and beyond, to have such a wide array of activities to experience and accomplish that’s worth documenting? Seeing your first standardized patient, volunteering at the free clinic, studying, OMM, taking Step 1, student organization events, conferences, presenting research, leading a health careers exploration camp for high schoolers, welcoming new students on campus, new friendships, field trips, wearing scrubs, holding human hearts and brains, learning new clinical skills, rotations, graduating, starting residency, etc. Follow my medical journey on Instagram: ghrellen where I explore what it means to be a strong female physician humanitarian 🙂
  10. When you learn about diseases that people in your personal life have and you start thinking about how it’s affecting them and possible treatment options: cystic fibrosis, immune thrombocytopenia purpura, GERD, lymphoma, Wilson’s disease.
  11. You become happy with very little. Sometimes, we go through such low points in this journey that we become more appreciative of the little things in life, such as having a free weekend off to spend with friends, breaking up the studying routine to get lunch with classmates, or taking a few minutes to be appreciative of nature outside the window.
  12. I normally go on a long run shortly after noon on Wednesdays, weather permitting. As 1st and 2nd year medical students, we have a lot of flexibility and decision-making power to choose how we spend our day. Of course, this changes in 3rd and 4th year, so I’m trying to be consciously grateful for this freedom while we still have it.
  13. At the end of this journey, we are in one of the most meaningful professions. In what other capacity do you get the chance to become so intimately involved in all spheres of another human’s life? We have the unique opportunity to save lives, reduce suffering, and love humanity every day.
  14. Remember, it’s not solely about the destination, it’s the journey – not only the journey of medicine, but the journey of life. We are in this space and time only once. Step back and be grateful for everything you have.

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I challenge you to live a #lifeunfiltered

Life is Too Short to Be Anything but Happy and Grateful

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“Please use Cameron’s story as an inspiration to set goals, overcome obstacles and fight the good fight. She did that every day.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/virginia-teen-16-dies-moments-finishing-marathon-article-1.1725562#ixzz2wdp5u0ac

This story touched my heart as I could relate to her enthusiasm in completing a half marathon. I couldn’t help but to place myself in her shoes and imagine collapsing moments after finishing surrounded by my parents and best friend. Truly a sad story, but I am glad her parents have a positive outlook and chose to let others know about their daughter’s determination and motivation in life. Made me think about how life is never guaranteed… and that we should always remember to stay positive and build meaningful relationships with others.

In contrast, I hate that I had to distance myself from life these past two weeks to prepare to take the MCAT tomorrow, but I hope it is all worth it in the end. Eeek. I am excited and worried at the same time. I am such a nerd, but I actually enjoy taking the test… especially the verbal section. You learn something new every single time (learner is one of my top 5 on StrengthsQuest if you could guess)! The problem I have is recalling everything I have learned in General Chemistry and Physics, which I should be looking over right now. For any aspiring med students/doctors reading this: make sure you pay closer attention in your freshman and sophomore science classes. Don’t take them for granted no matter how much you dread it. Your hard work will pay off.

This is a good tip that I need to remember also.

“If you’re really committed to doing well on the MCAT, you may cut out things like exercise, proper meals and full nights of sleep so that you can spend as much time as possible studying. But test-taking authorities warn that if you follow that approach, you’re setting yourself up for failure on the big day.”

http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/college-planning/admissions/5-tips-mcat.htm#page=5

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

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I’m sure many of you have been asked this question before. I was recently prompted with this question while completing a survey for an organization at OSU. In all my other times that I have answered this question, I always focused on school and career. But I now realize there is more to life than just those two aspects – much more important.

Here was my response that I saved to my computer sticky note to the question:

“About to finish medical school and hopefully receive a spot in a residency program in order to finally start a career as a physician. In terms of personal goals, I hope to have established a close and supportive friend/network group as well as developed a meaningful relationship with someone whom I would like to marry. I hope to be happy.”

To me, the most important part of life is the relationships you build with other people – not how much you earn at your job or material wealth.

In my current journey to becoming a doctor, I am always faced with this dilemma. I have always been an introvert, so it’s really easy for me to shut myself off from the world and bury my head in books or within my own thoughts. This is good for studying I must say, but I would like to find that happy balance of alone productive time and time spent for developing relationships with others. It is also so easy to get caught up in the competition of getting accepted to medical school. I must not let this competition seep into my brain. We shouldn’t be competing against each other. We should be working together – for a common good. We should all want to be doctors to help those in need and this requires teamwork. I think this is something all pre-meds should keep reminding themselves of. I have been and still partly am a victim of this mentality, especially with application season quickly approaching. Don’t let the MCAT, grades and activities you need to accomplish to look good for admissions get in the way of the real reason why you chose the career path.

I have recently been proactive with my goal. I attended a pre-med conference and ran into two girls whom I had first met in my first two years in college. I spoke up first about exchanging phone numbers and keeping in touch! I think it will be great for all of us to lean on each other during this strenuous time of our lives.

It will be very interesting to see in five years what life will be like, and I can look back on this post to see what has changed.

I encourage you to do this exercise and write it down (or blog it out). But most importantly, try to think of more than your job and material success.