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

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...

Cultural Competency in Healthcare: What Is It and Why Do We Need It?

I was walking along a crowded street when a skinny, darkly colored man entered the flow of traffic in front of me. Looking back to see where he came from, I noticed a seemingly insignificant door at the base of a tall, weathered building. The scene wouldn’t have caught me off guard – a man simply exiting his workplace or home, perhaps – except for the blue and white NHS sign that was displayed on the brick exterior. I was in London, visiting a Bangladeshi community to learn about the social environment of this marginalized population. The man I had seen enter the street was most likely of Bangladeshi nationality given the brown color of his skin and his dark eyes. I was more interested in the building where he came from, though. The NHS label stood for National Health Service, the governing body that provides healthcare for the United Kingdom’s residents. My tour guide later explained that the building housed a free clinic for the homeless and low-income people in the area. Government-funded dollars provided access to healthcare, and I thought that was incredible. This ordinary scene on a rainy day in London, surrounded by people that look and speak very differently than me, started a cascade of thoughts on culture, health, and medical practice. I wanted to learn more about how culture influences healthcare. So, I did...