lifestyle

How I’ve Handled Life as an MD/PhD Candidate

As Voltaire said, “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position,” and the transition to medical school or grad school (or both!) often comes with much uncertainty. For many of us, we move away from home, leaving loved ones and everything that we’ve known. If you’re like me, you went to college close to home so the transition wasn’t too bad. So this is really the first time on your own and this is the first time you’ve felt such a massive shift in your life. At the same time that we move away and start our new adventure, our undergrad friends get real jobs and start to figure out their lives in our absence. While we struggled to get into school before they started their job search, now they are the ones trying to figure things out while we are set for the next 4+ years or 8+ years for MD/PhD students – I like to call it “putting off getting a real job.” As we go in different directions with our lives, it can be hard to handle. But this is not our first rodeo. The same thing happened when we began college as we left our high school friends behind. We made new awesome friends who perhaps shared a major, career interest, extracurricular interest (for me, most of my friends were made through the marching band), or love of alcohol and...

She Trusted You

She trusted you. In her hospital bed, listening attentively to your words, she couldn’t help but think of how badly she just wanted to go home. She missed her cat, though embarrassed to admit it. She longed for her own bed. After a few days, you came to her bedside, you said she could go home. You gave her pills and said, “Take these, they’ll make you well.” She didn’t question you; she was thrilled to be going home. Her cat greeted her. Her bed was soft, warm, welcoming. She dutifully took the pills you gave her. But she did not feel better. And she came back. You had assumed that she would know that the pills you gave her were blood thinners. You also assumed that since she was already taking one, she would know that she would need to stop taking her old pills before she started taking the new ones. You assumed that she knew that even though they had different names, they were the same medication. You assumed that she must know taking both of them would be dangerous; irresponsible. But she didn’t know that. And she didn’t think to ask. She knew about her cat, and how much she missed him. She knew the thread count of the sheets on her bed, and how much she missed their softness. She knew all about her...

Top 10 Epic Libraries You Wish You Could Study In

Here’s to life, liberty, and the pursuit of an EPIC library. Go big (or go home, literally).   10. Trinity College Library | Dublin, Ireland Jedi Archives? Or renowned Irish library?   9. Your Private Study “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” —Anna Quindlen      8. Bookshop Selexyz Dominicanen | Maastricht, Netherlands  An old cathedral renovated into a library. So much yes.   7. The NoMad Hotel | New York City, NY  Where classy meets classwork.   6. José Vasconcelos Library | Mexico City, Mexico Because who doesn’t want to look at the inside of a dinosaur while going over histology slides?!    5. The All-Nighter Library Lock me up and throw away the keys.   4. Of course, the quintessential bathroom library Dare to dream.   3. Bibliotheca Alexandrina | Alexandria, Egypt    Just hope that Caesar doesn’t stop by.   2. Library at the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum | Osaka, Japan   Any library where you have to climb the equivalent of a small mountain to check out a volume just wins.   1. Wherever this is + a time machine.   Sometimes it’s not about where you study, but the people you choose to waste away your youth with under a stack of books.       Featured image from Tumblr...

Every Career in Medicine Begins With a Story…Here’s Mine

In his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee says, “Medicine … begins with storytelling. Patients tell stories to describe illness; doctors tell stories to understand it. Science tells its own story to explain diseases.” It is stories that give meaning to what we do, and so, I wish to tell you my grandmother’s story. I could barely recognize my grandmother’s frail body as she lay on a hospital bed in the room that was once her dining room. She asked what the weather was like outside. Fighting back tears, I told her it was a nice sunny day and there were robins on the bird feeders that she liked to watch on her deck. It was comforting to see her face light up at the thought, but I knew it was really a gloomy April day with no birds in sight. I did everything that I could to not think of the tumor growing in her bladder that day, but like a tumor in my mind, the realization that this was her end was growing into an overwhelming force. Each time she exhaled, there would be a long pause where I would stroke her hand fearing she would never breathe again. Her sister told her what I did not have the strength to: “You are dying.” The family knew since her diagnosis that...

The Art of Choosing Who You Want To Be

When I was four, playing with toy cars meant smashing them together as hard as their plastic bumpers could handle. My favorites included a yellow Tonka dump truck, a police sheriff’s car with flashing lights, and a fire truck with a retractable ladder. I didn’t know much then, but I did know that garbage smelled bad, so I wanted to become either a policeman or fireman—mostly so I could drive a cool car with a siren and not have to wait in traffic. When I turned seven, my true calling arrived on the scene in a big way. Everything else seemed like a waste of time—I would become a Pokémon Master. Upon turning eight, my family caved to my demands for a dog, and I finally found myself sitting in the backseat with a tiny yellow Labrador puppy. She was wrapped in a blanket on my lap, like a stuffed animal that had finally heard my prayers and started to wag its tail. Over the course of less than an hour in that car, I abandoned all hopes of becoming a Pokémon Master. I instead set my sights on something far more pragmatic—becoming a veterinarian—so I could take care of my new puppy, if she ever got sick. At thirteen, I wanted to become a baseball player so I could play for the Yankees, maybe next to Derek Jeter,...

Dear Nan, I’m Running to Help People Like You

Dear Nan, I’m writing you this letter to remind you how incredible you are and how you have inspired me throughout my life and will continue to forever. This is Sally, one of your many grandchildren, the one who is lucky enough to be named after you and your daughter, Junie. When I was born, I knew right away that I had to live up to an incredibly high standard and be full of life, literally… I was so eager and excited to get into the world as a Sally that it took me 15 minutes, and when I was here I think I tried to take in so much “life” that I could barely be picked up! So I rolled around, smiled, and clung to you and Pop Pop because no matter what anyone said, according to you both, I was the most beautiful girl in the world. Growing up I began to understand what it really meant to take on your name and to be a part of the Ryan family that you and Pop Pop help build. You taught me to always love, to always support one another, to always cherish every moment with my loved ones, to always fight for what I believed in and to always be faithful. You taught me to be kind, to work hard, to be selfless, and to be respectful....

Take a Chance For Once

A common problem that I’ve observed among my group of pre-med and medical student friends is not making time to participate in activities and experiences that are unrelated to school and medicine. Hobbies are forsaken, instruments are neglected and maintaining any semblance of a social life is out of the question. Many will hold off on decisions like moving, beginning a relationship and traveling because they don’t think they can. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that to pursue medicine means to put the rest of your life on hold, and I think it’s kind of bogus. In order to be a good doctor you need to be able to relate to people. Patient populations are wonderfully diverse and over the course of your career you will treat individuals from many different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. Memorization and rote learning aren’t going to help you connect when it comes to a patient dealing with life challenges, but being able to draw on how you handled your own personal struggles WILL. As for the idea held by many pre-meds that doing anything other than studying, doing research and volunteering at the hospital will be looked upon as a waste of time by an admissions committee, that’s simply not true. Most medical schools are looking for well-rounded applicants who are able to demonstrate that they’ve experienced more than...