mary-barber

Mary Barber

Mary Barber studies Chemistry and English Literature at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. An average day for her includes running from microbiology lecture to having discussions on the writings of Nabokov to designing experiments in the lab – she says it’s a little crazy but always fun. Her passions (currently) include studying cardiovascular disease caused by cancer therapies, writing, and monthly dates baking cupcakes with cancer patients. One day when she grow up Mary hopes to be a physician researcher, treat patients with heart problems, write books, and do yoga every day.

http://www.musedwithmary.wordpress.com

The Best Biomedical Research Journals for Staying Informed

In medicine, things are always rapidly changing, and the influx of research often leaves most of us toppling over data, articles, and new ideas to comb through. It’s important for the future healthcare professional and medical scientist to stay up-to-date on the latest advances, changes, and revolutions in biomedical science. For example, the boom of cancer immunotherapies over the past two years has overwhelmed the scientific literature and has been a hot topic of discussion in popular media outlets such as the New York Times. While these articles are often easier to read, highlighting anecdotal stories among interviews with important physicians and scientists involved in the research, they often fail to include primary research and the details of mechanism behind the science. Consequently, reading these articles featured in the media are intellectually interesting, yet lack the “meat” of the primary research. Instead of blasting a search on PubMed to find the latest news in research, I’ve compiled a list of the most relevant, highly esteemed, and trustworthy journals that are necessary in the arsenal of the future doctor and medical researcher. Most of them have highlights sections, editorials, and reviews as well to keep you informed on relevant topics without becoming tangled up in the depths of the original research article itself (though sometimes that is worth it and necessary). This is not a comprehensive list and is influenced...

Three Ways To Stay Healthy For The Year, Even During Exam Week

I begin MCAT preparation in a few short days and have been told overwhelmingly the importance of mental, physical, and social health as this intense period of study begins (along with classes, work, and leadership involvement starting back as well). In an effort to be healthier, I’ve refocused my efforts and considered exactly how I hope to implement a lifestyle of balance throughout this season! While some of these are specific to me, I think they are universal enough to be shared. These are some ways I hope to stay healthy in the new year! Eat a healthy breakfast Breakfast has always been important to me! I have never been one to skip breakfast, but sometimes I do find myself running out the door and grabbing a granola bar and banana along with my prized and cherished morning coffee! However, I find it better for my energy throughout the day and overall start to the day whenever I have a healthy, filling breakfast in the mornings. Some examples include whole grain oatmeal with bananas, Greek or French-style yogurt with granola, avocado toast or toast with a low-sugar spread such as almond butter or jam, or cereal with nut milk and fresh fruit. These are some of my favorites that are filling, full of nutrients and most importantly, delicious to eat! I’ve always been a morning person, so waking up a few...

Your Guide as a Medical Student Next Summer

It can be tough to decide what you want to do as a medical student next summer. For me, the natural choice has always been research internships, for a few different reasons. First, I like that you get paid to work and that you get to experience what it’s like to be in graduate school. I also genuinely like research and find that the lab is a very fulfilling place to be (even when everything goes wrong). So, I have always done research. But this summer I am contemplating a few different options and the struggle to decide is very real! There are many considerations whenever deciding how to spend your time as a pre-medical or medical student. There are important considerations and not-so-important considerations. It can be challenging to decide what is important, both to you and to your future, and what is not important. This upcoming summer will be my last one while in undergraduate and last one before applying and interviewing (hopefully) for medical school. Here is my thought process for deciding what to do when there are too many wonderful options out there for students to choose! The important decisions are those that revolve around your own satisfaction and happiness. Will you be happy with the day-to-day expectations that your plans involve? Are you doing this for yourself or for someone else? If you received nothing out...

Four Qualities that Unlock Positive Mental and Emotional Health

The journey to becoming a doctor is a marathon, not a sprint, we are often told. I am three years into a potentially 8-13 yearlong journey toward becoming the physician and researcher that I aspire to be. In this short glimpse into what will undoubtedly be a challenging and rewarding experience, I have learned there are a few important qualities that every student should obtain – both to be a better future doctor and a happier student in the process. These traits have been picked up by seeing my friends who possess them, mentors and advisors that dispense wisdom to me, and through self-evaluation. While many of the qualities are easily obtainable and maintainable, sometimes the hardest part about self-reflection and improvement is taking the time to do it! In 2018, one of my goals is to practice self-reflection more often as a way to monitor my mental and emotional health. Here are some of the qualities that I think make life better, happier, and easier. Humility It is so easy to get caught up in the competitive, sometimes cut-throat nature that fosters itself among high-achieving and highly successful students. In these times, I have found it imperative to practice humility among your accomplished peers. While this quality is often resisted because of the need for self-validation, I believe the best feeling of accomplishment is in the celebration of...

How To Remind Yourself Why You’re In Medical School Studying

In the middle of a semester where the days are filled with endless studying, lab work, real work, homework, club responsibilities, and an attempt at a social life, it is very important to remember why you are doing it all. For me, I anticipated this semester to be one of the most challenging – full of three upper-level science classes and an English class, a TA for organic chemistry, two jobs, two leadership positions in clubs, in addition to a slurry of other unnamed obligations that I am thankful I get to do. I admit, though, that my mindset the entire semester has been to just get through it, while maintaining my GPA, friendships and social life, and my mental health. In the midst of studying late nights for physics exams or waking up early to review biochemistry notes, I became unaware of the wave that is carrying me through the semester. I think this is a popular defense mechanism; it is essentially focusing on surviving instead of thriving. However, as I am carried along the wave characterized by work, school, and sleep, I easily lose sight of why any of it matters. I live in the mindset of “just get it done”. If you’re in this type of semester or phase of life, I urge you to find yourself something that will daily, weekly, or monthly remind you...

How Should I Pursue Research Opportunities?

I just started my junior year of college and have met many new students that express interest in pursuing a career in medicine. It is so exciting to see new first and second year students ambitiously seeking out new opportunities to explore. I feel like I have learned quite a lot over the past two years in college, especially from those older than me. The mentorship I received from junior and senior students when I was a freshman guided me strongly along the path towards medicine. Likewise, I hope to be that person for other students because mentorship and sharing advice and opportunities is a vibrant and important aspect of medical (and pre-medical) training. One thing I, specifically, love to talk to new students about is research opportunities and how/if they should seek them out. My freshman year, I walked into our university pre-medical advisor’s office and told him I’d really like to become involved in biomedical research, even if that meant that I had to sweep the floors or wash beakers. He thankfully told me I wouldn’t have to do any of that but could join his team. This opportunity was one of the best decisions I made as an undergraduate because it allowed me to see if research was something I was interested in. I eventually used this experience as robust aspect of my resume when applying...

Cancer Immunotherapies: Changing Lives and Science

Sometimes, trying to learn all the different cancer therapies out there can feel a bit like drowning in a sea of big, complicated names. There are seemingly infinite number of “-inib”s and “-umab”s used to treat cancer. My work in the division of cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt is focused on understanding the mechanisms of how cancer therapies cause heart and vascular disease. As I am knee-deep in experiments and projects, I find it important to step back and remember the awe I have for some of these cancer therapies. One project in the lab is assessing the immune-related adverse effects of cancer immunotherapies. A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights an adverse cardiovascular effect of immune checkpoint-inhibitors that initiated a cascade of questions on the safety of these drugs. While we are still trying to profile the safety of immune checkpoint inhibitors, it is undeniable that these cancer immunotherapies are amazing from a scientific, medical, and patient perspective. To marvel at the nature of immunotherapies, it helps to have a basic understanding of how they work. As an undergraduate student, I have developed a valuable skill at taking concepts that are very complicated and breaking them down by asking, “What is most important for me to know?” I apply this approach to understanding cancer immunotherapies as well. There are many visuals out there for understanding...

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