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...

Why Presentation Skills Will Help You As A Doctor

I recently worked on a group presentation with some of my classmates on treatment planning. We were given the patient’s chart and asked to come up with the best treatment for their condition and present the case to faculty member who would ask each presenter a different question on our treatment. When we did a presentation run through, everyone read directly off the slides. For students with no exposure to public speaking and presentation skills, it is no surprise that they would do this. We sit through hours of lectures where professors read off slides that sometimes aren’t their own. In college, as a pre-medical student, you may get away with awkward pauses and statements filled with hesitation (you know, those um’s and like’s in the middle of a sentence). In a professional school program, such as medical school, it is inexcusable not to have basic presentation skills. I came up with a few suggestions for students interested in practicing speaking in public: 1. Look for opportunities to become a leader in your school in clubs 2. Raise your hand in class and ask questions 3. Take electives in your respective program or academic opportunities to write or speak in public 4. Learn by observing Ted Talks or YouTube videos 5. Participate in Toast Masters sessions 6. Look for Improv groups or clubs Why is this important? As doctors,...

How To Stay Productive During Long Study Days

As almost doctors, when we say we are “studying all day”, we really mean it. It’s definitely not an exaggeration, but our attention span lasts for about an hour before we start to procrastinate or lose focus. Many people have suggested working uninterrupted for 50-60 minutes and taking a 10-15 minute break during long study days to optimize productivity and brain energy. My years in medical school enabled me to perfect this strategy. When I try to multitask, I tend to flounder. I see friends and classmates trying to take notes but simultaneously on Facebook. I find that this is not the best use of time because not only are you sitting in class getting nothing done, but you have to repeat all the information you’ve tried to retain later on. It’s tough retaining the information from Step 1 and your sister’s cousin’s wedding photos. One huge tip for incoming almost doctors is to physically remove myself from my desk space or room where I study and do the following. The same can be said about studying in your bed. Only go to bed when you’re ready to sleep or take a nap. Creating these habits really help to train your mind. When I’m sitting at my desk, I know that I have to get my work done. If I am studying on my laptop in my bed, I know I will...

Private and Public Education: You Get What You Pay For

You truly get what you pay for – in life and in education. A Forbes article listed 25 expensive colleges and universities and deemed them “worth every penny.” Having gone to one of the top 10 schools on the list, I can attest that there is a significant difference between private and public education. When it comes to pre-medical and medical studies, we are told when applying to college and medical school that it doesn’t matter where you go because you’ll be a doctor anyway. In fact, we are often discouraged to rake up more student loans by refuting an acceptance from a better, more expensive school.  Some students even turn to combined programs (gaining entry into medical school after just 2-3 years of college) to save a year or two of tuition. The decision to attend a private or public school for either college or medical education is entirely personal. When I was younger, of course, I listened to the advice of my elders because I didn’t know any better. Now, having my own experiences in higher education, I vow to only send my future children to the best schools they can get into. While a private school affords more opportunities, students at public colleges can end up at good medical schools and medical students at public schools do end up getting competitive residencies. It boils down to your...

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....

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