sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.

The Power of Maintaining Relationships in Medical School

I recently got a talking to from my best friend because I had not talked to her in 6 months. The unfortunate truth of being a student is that you rarely have free nights and weekends. Maintaining relationships (friendship, romantic, or family) can be challenging when school work transcends all boundaries of your life. I always feel like I have something to study and don’t quite have real Saturday’s. Sleeping in, for example, is a luxury. In the case of my friend, she was a student when were in college 6 years ago. I forgot that she forgot what being a student is like. One of the key skills you must master as a student is time management. And that skill should apply to all aspects your life, especially your personal life. The weeks I do not have much time to catch up with my home friends or family are terrible for me. Your relationships outside of school work are critical to keep you sane and happy. They act as a buffer from the daily stress. Being able to talk about your day is such a huge relief, especially with someone who isn’t in the trenches with you. Venting to a classmate helps, but I rarely get as much out of the conversation as I do when talking to someone completely removed from the situation. My relationships also give...

How To Handle Long-Distance Relationships in Medical School

This month alone, I heard about five classmates who recently broke up with their significant other due to distance. Relationships, in general, are hard let alone maintaining a special bond with someone miles away. FaceTime just can’t replace being with the one you love in real life. And each subsequent year of school comes with its own stressors which in turn weighs heavily on the relationship, especially with someone who is not a student. But, despite the challenges, long distance relationships can absolutely last in school. I’ve frequently heard others say that long distance relationships never work. I think this generalization is far too extreme. A relationship, after all, is between two people. And if those two people are both willing to commit and to sacrifice, then the relationship is bound to last. For those who prefer to focus on the positive aspects of a long-distance relationship, it can a reliable source of stress relief and a much needed escape from the monotony of studying and test-taking. Knowing you can pick up the phone at the end of the day to hear a loving, supportive voice helps to make harsh faculty feedback less hurtful, to make a bad grade less important, to make endless studying more manageable. Spending most of your 20’s as a financially dependent student can be defeating. Being in a relationship can give you a strong...

Professionalism in Health Professions: What Does It Take?

I have learned that being in health professional school does not make you inherently professional. Nor does it mean that professors will teach this skill to you. Learning professionalism is like learning how to communicate well or learning good bedside manner. That is to say, you can’t really learn it. I picked up on a few things I wanted to share because I did certain things the wrong way and got corrected on it. I have also watched superiors do something that I want to emulate as a future provider. Dress code In clinic and in health care settings with patients, scrubs are the preferred dress code. Not only that, but they are the easiest (and most comfy) attire to reach for in the early morning after a night of not-enough sleep. Lucky for us bleary-eyed students and young doctors, scrubs and all closed-toes shoes (sneakers, too) are definitely professional in the healthcare world. I have also noticed some of my classmates – both men and women – wear khaki or black pants with a dress shirt or blouse for woman underneath their school/hospital-monogrammed white coats. Colleagues In all transparency, being cordial and even-tempered with colleagues and classmates is something I need to work on myself. When having a bad day, it is so easy to lash out when you are fueled with busy days of stress and frustration. Recognizing...

How To Study For Your Next Test Like A Pro

Looking back on my first year, I know now that I had no idea what I was doing when I told myself I was studying. It sounds funny because I have been studying science, and on the pre-health track, for more than a decade. Studying for any health professional school, including medical school is a beast. You can watch every YouTube video after searching how to study for medical school (I did!) and still do poorly on an exam. There is no secret and there is no magic involved. When it comes down to it, you just have to sit at a desk and make yourself understand the material you’re learning. There are a few things I learned along the way that might be useful to a student starting their first day in a rigorous, academic program. Cramming never works. In order to commit material to memory, you really can’t cram. Of course we all know classmates and friends who argue that they just can’t study any other way. Cramming makes me very nervous. I’m one of those people who just can’t recall what I’ve learned on the exam. I completely blank. In some cases – trust me, this happens – you really just have no other choice but to cram through the night. The best way to avoid this is to keep on top of the material as...

Four Tips For The Best Secondary Application

‘Tis the season for secondaries! Now that you’ve got the attention of the admissions committee with a stellar primary application, the secondary application is the prime opportunity to let yourself shine. Some schools send their secondary questions to every applicant, while others are more selective. In any case, crafting a meaningful answer to the questions would be in your best interest if you’re looking to gain admission to medical school. Follow the rules. Although secondary essays are shorter than the main AMCAS application, they are significantly harder. Take the time to actually read any instructions and be mindful of the word count for each question. Keep in mind the word count is not optional; 101 words is not the same as 100 words. Another common mistake is not actually answering the question being asked. If a school asks how you work well with others, you should not answer that with an anecdote showcasing your leadership qualities. Another thing that is important is to keep track of the schools you’re writing for and adhere to their specific requirements. If you have a question, email or call the school and do not make your own assumptions. Also, do not copy and paste what you’ve written before either from the primary application or secondary application for another school, even if you’re applying to MD and DO programs. If you’re finding yourself doing...

Remembering Charlie Gard

Charles Gard did not live long enough to celebrate his first birthday, yet captured the world’s attention with his memorable courage and strength. He was born August 4, 2016 and died this year just days before his birthday on July 28. For those unfamiliar with the highly debated medical-legal case, Baby Charles was born to Connie Yates and Chris Gard. Shortly after birth, Charles’ health was declining to the point that he required medical attention. In October, he was admitted to a hospital in London, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Charles was the 16th person ever to be diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome – a rare inherited condition causing muscle weakness and brain damage. Physicians at the London hospital refused to let Mr. and Mrs. Gard fly Charles to New York City for an experimental treatment offered to the family at Columbia University. Despite raising $1.5 million dollars to transport him from London to New York, physicians at the London hospital also urged Mr. and Mrs. Gard to get Charles off life support. This sparked severe controversy because many argued that doctors should not decide if Charlie’s life was worth living. The news event was not just an unrelated event to me. It definitely struck a cord with me. In fact, this scenario lead me to thinking – how would I handle such a situation as a doctor?...

Learn More How HIV Life Expectancy Is Improving

Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been the preferred treatment for patients with HIV for 20 years. Since its inception in 1996, the therapy has continued to improve. Now, studies report that patients living with HIV who take the new ART drugs may look forward to near-normal life expectancy. In particular, people with the disease are likely to live 10 years longer than people who were infected with HIV in 1990s. A new study published in The Lancet reports advances in antiretroviral drug treatment (ART) that improve life expectancy for patients living with HIV. ART is the standard treatment regime for HIV patients. While ART cannot cure HIV, a combination of medications help patients live longer and reduce the risk of HIV transmission. ART was first introduced in 1996. One year after ART was introduced, the FDA approved Combivir, a combination drug taken as a single daily tablet, which made taking daily medication HIV patients easier. Since then, ART initiation has improved by leaps and bounds, making medication management easier for patients. The study was co-authored by a collective called “The Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration.” Research was conducted by an international team led by the University of Bristol in the UK and funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, Department for International Development and the European Union. The study combined data from 18 European and North American cohorts enrolled in...

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