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.

This Yale Professor is Tackling Mental Health Through Her Unique Class

Laurie Santos’s, a Yale Professor and her class “Psychology and the Good Life” made headline news for enrolling the most amount of students – a whopping 1,200 students – in its 316-year history. Most other classes do not exceed 600 students. In her lectures, Dr. Santos teaches students how to change their behavior in order to lead a happier life. According to Dr. Santos, students were drawn to the course because she believes students at Yale experience anxiety and depression. In her course, she addresses the rampant mental health crisis that permeates Yale and other elite colleges and universities. Santos wants students at Yale to be happier and lead more fulfilling lives, but also aims to change the culture at the university. According to the NYT article on the course, a 2013 report by the Yale College Council discovered that more than 50% of the undergraduate student body sought after mental health care services at the university. The course focuses on theories in positive psychology as well as strategies to make behavioral lifestyle changes  to live better, more fulfilling lives. Course assignments include quizzes and exams like a regular college course, but also includes an innovative self-improvement project she has called the “Hack Yo’ Self project.” The weekly assignments are far more traditional, encouraging students to perform random acts of kindness and form new social connections. The course has 24 teaching assistants spanning...

Four Medical Schools Are That Redefining Medical Education

When I was reading the news, I noticed several medical schools doing amazing things to change their curriculum and provide more a more progressive experience for its students. I wanted to highlight some of those new developments and shout out a few medical schools for doing a great job. University of Central Florida Medical School started a culinary medicine course as a preventive measure to address the obesity epidemic and other rising metabolic disorders. According to an interview in an article, the intention is to teach medical schools how to counsel patients on nutrition and healthy cooking. The culinary medicine course was launched by Tulane University years ago and UCF College of Medicine is the latest among a group of 40 other medical schools to embrace the innovative course and offer it as a 4-week elective to its medical students. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine put together a panel of experts to talk about the Indigenous communities living around the school. The panel consists of four members of the medical school faculty. The school wishes to be held accountable to the Indigenous Peoples and the communities of the region. According to an article on the event, the panel will review the following: Indigenous leadership, influence and author in the school, cultural safety and cultural and academic support in the learning and working environment of the medical school, and curriculum...

Are You Sleep Deprived?

As students, we don’t have your typical 9 AM – 5 PM workday. It’s actually more like the reverse: 5 AM – 9 PM. After a full day’s worth of lectures, we are expected to go home and review each lecture for 2-3 hours and also study for upcoming tests. Just because our day seems incredibly busy and we wish we had more free time to decompress does not necessarily mean we are sleep deprived. I’ve learned that classmates love to boast about how much sleep they did not get. I think I hear about “staying up all night” at least once per day. As almost doctors, we are definitely smart enough to know that chronic sleep deprivation leads to an increased risk for a host of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. So, how can you tell? Are you dozing off during lecture because you find the material boring, or because you need more sleep? According to the American Sleep Association, you will start to notice the following signs: You can’t stop snacking or eating. You noticed a change in your weight – either gain or loss. You’re irritable and cranky. You can’t remember anything. You can’t control your motor skills. You can’t make decisions. If you’ve determined that you do, in fact, need more sleep the next step is to improve your sleep hygiene habits....

On Traveling as a Medical Student

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert My biggest regret about traveling as a medical student is really not traveling as much as I wanted, or at the very least, traveling much at all. I went to college in New York City and barely made it downtown, or explored the other boroughs. My best friend in college diagnosed herself with “the travel bug” and she took her environmental lectures in Brazil because we had the opportunity to do so. At the time, I found it difficult to go abroad with a full schedule of the college requirements in addition to the pre-medical classes with labs. In hindsight, it may have seemed more difficult that it was. But, I’m sure I could have found a way to do it. Now, I strongly feel traveling is an important part of my education. Whenever I have an excuse to explore a new place, I do whether it be spring break, a holiday on Monday, or just the weekend. While trips can be costly for students, I would say it is worth every penny. For one, it is refreshing and necessary to leave the same campus, same people, same city for a change of scenery. It is also incredibly humbling to learn how people live. I visited Cape Town, South Africa during my...

Is A Post-Bac Program Right For You?

As someone who took a few years off after college, I am a huge proponent of attending a post-bac pre-med program even if you have the slightest interest in it. Every student’s intentions and motivations are different. There are some students in my class that pursued combined programs. This means that they enrolled in their university’s medical or any other health professional school program after a certain number of years. Other students in my class are older (in their 30’s) and pursued other interests before matriculating in our program, such as being a flight attendant, attending culinary school, or working in investment banking. Despite what seem like “crazy” paths, we all ended in classmates. We will all become doctors. If you’ve heard about or want to know more about this route, read on. AAMC has a list of post-bac programs, but this list is not all-inclusive. Most programs geared towards students who have graduated college with or without science courses. There are grade-enhancing programs that help boost your science GPA and these programs are NOT considered post-bac programs. If you’re confused or the website is clear, it is perfectly acceptable to call the admissions office to double check if the program is the right fit for you. There are two types of post-bac programs. Some programs are more structured and formal and have a list of their own requirements, such as...

Burn-Out in Medical Education is Real

Burn-out can affect physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals, so don’t be surprised if it affects medical students as well. According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, 50% of students experience burn-out. Just as important as learning to make a sound treatment plan for a medically complex patient are crucial skills developed as a student doctor, learning to prevent or manage burn-out in medicine is also an equally important skill. According to the AAMC, burn-out is defined by three indicators: emotional exhaustion associated with work-related stress, feelings of detachment toward patients, and low sense of personal accomplishment. Stress is the number one cause of burn-out among students and doctors. Learn to manage high stress levels early on in the first year of medical training is ideal, so figure out what your personal triggers for feelings of exhaustion and burn-out are key. You can’t avoid stress in this profession, but you can certainly recognize the signs and manage them to the best of your ability. As far as being a mentally and emotionally medical students, you have to look out for yourself and protect yourself because no one is going to help you with this aspect of the training. Medical education can be dehumanizing and can disrupt the image of your self-worth.  Rarely is there support and encouragement from faculty and administration to take care of your...

Is the Psychiatrist Shortage Linked to Mental Health Needs?

You can’t turn on the television anymore without watching some news of suicides or shootings. It is clear that there is currently a severe mental health crisis in the U.S. This is not just speculation. According to a recent AAMC article, there is a higher demand for mental health treatment than there are trained professionals. In light of recent Match Day for U.S. medical students, I was curious to discover the numbers related to students entering Psychiatry as a specialty in medicine. However, according to Residency Match Results and Data report from 2017, psychiatry positions have grown every year since 2008, and the 1,495 positions offered in 2017 was the highest on record. The 99.7 position fill rate also was the highest ever. The number of positions filled by psychiatry residencies has increased by 34 percent. Is the psychiatrist shortage linked to mental health needs? As a Psychology major in college and a long-time volunteer at Bellevue Hospital in NYC – renowned emergency psychiatric hospital – I have been curious about this field in medicine. Despite not choosing to pursue mental health further, I recognize it as an incredibly important area of medicine that has direct, positive impact on patients. Due to my curiosity, I looked up the results of Match Day to see how many students chose Psychiatry as a profession. There were several highlights this year, chief among...

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