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.

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...

Orientation Week: Welcome to M1

The first week is usually the calm before the storm in medical school (as well as in dental, nursing, and physician assistant programs). While each school is inherently different and will plan your orientation week differently, there are some things I picked up on during my first week that I wanted to share with The Almost Doctor’s community as generalized advice for starting professional school.     Apartment – If you are going to a school in a new city, orientation week is the best time to get settled. I was really lucky to have a quick and easy move into my new apartment. I only had to move in the weekend prior because my apartment was fully furnished; all I had to do was organize my personal belongings and fill my fridge. A lot of my classmates actually moved in weeks prior to orientation week. I completely underestimated this aspect at first and didn’t realize how comforting it would be to come home after a long day to a clean, organized space.   Networking – As one of the oldest students in my class, I certainly have a different perspective on meeting my classmates. I know it takes me a long time to open up and make new friends; I really love my personal space and need time to be alone. Joining a professional school is different because...

TED Talks About Learning

As Almost Doctors, we are learners. We spend countless hours at a desk memorizing information from a textbook. We sit in lecture halls and learn from professors. When we start clinical years as medical students, we don short white coats and learn from experience.   However, learning doesn’t just mean knowing. It is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the application of knowledge that is most important in medicine and in general. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” As we head back to school, let us not forget the true value of education.   Here are some fantastic TED talks about learning, memory and knowledge that will broaden your perspective on being a student. Do schools kill creativity? Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity   Kids, take charge Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents. http://www.ted.com/talks/kiran_bir_sethi_teaches_kids_to_take_charge   A visual history of human knowledge How does knowledge grow? Sometimes it begins with one insight and grows into many branches; other times it grows as a complex and interconnected network....

My Personal Story on Story-telling in Medicine

An American poet and political activist, Muriel Rukeyser, said the universe is made of stories, not of atoms. I believe her. As a seasoned storywriter and storyteller, I walked gingerly into the Adult Emergency Services for my first shift as a volunteer at a legendary New York City public hospital. I sported a crisply ironed red polo with “Emergency Department Volunteer” embroidered in white stitch. Armed with a pocket notebook and a pen to tie up my hair, I was ambivalent and apprehensive to perform alongside my colleagues: focused pre-medical students in rapacious pursuit of the coveted MD degree. My instrument of choice was a writing utensil, so it is with good reason I shivered at the thought of nearing a stethoscope or a scalpel. I suffered from an incurable case of imposter syndrome; I feared someone would detect that I was better at languages than logarithms. Qu’est-ce que c’est Organic Chemistry? That was a foreign language to me. I feared for my life and for the life of the patients I was about to meet. I wondered and worried how I — a hesitant traveler following a circuitous path toward a healthcare career— managed to get myself in a prestigious summer program and in the hustle and bustle of one of the nation’s busiest EDs. To the house staff, I thought I could contribute nothing more than open-mindedness,...

The Latest and Greatest Health and Medical Stories, For You by Me

It’s a pretty busy time for us sleep-deprived, hard-working humans in the Almost Doctor community! Pre-medical students and MS1’s are headed back to school, medical school applicants are furiously working on secondary applications, and medical students are being medical students. Because of this, I took the liberty to curate the latest and greatest stories in health and medicine on the web right now.   1. “Storytelling in Medicine – the Passion and the Peril” | Dr. Danielle Ofri Excerpt: “So much of medicine is about stories—the ones we hear, the ones we tell, the ones we participate in—that it is no accident that doctors and nurses are attracted to stories.” Link to article: http://danielleofri.com/storytelling-in-medicine-the-passion-and-the-peril/   2. “Doctors Fail to Address Patient’s Spiritual Needs” | Dr. Robert Klitzman Excerpt: “Religion was never discussed in my medical training. In medical school, a priest maintained a small lounge, providing coffee and tea, where students could sometimes drop in to get coffee, but that was wholly optional, and most students never did so.” Link to article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/13/doctors-fail-to-address-patients-spiritual-needs/?_r=0   3. “Our Family Secrets” | Anonymous Medical Student Excerpt: “Do any of you have someone to forgive from your clinical experiences? Did anything ever happen that you need to forgive or perhaps still can’t forgive?” Link to original essay: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2427613 Excerpt: “This issue includes an On Being a Doctor essay, titled “Our Family Secrets,” that...

I’m Pre-Med, why should I care about humanities?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Medical Humanities” is the study of the intersection of medicine and humanistic disciplines such as philosophy, religion, literature, and the fine and performing arts. But, what does that mean, really? And, most importantly, how does it all relate to the practice of medicine? I’ve selected a few videos that do a great job of explaining humanistic medicine and make it directly relatable to patient care.   Honoring the stories of Illness | Dr. Rita Charon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24kHX2HtU3o   Narrative and Medicine: The Importance of the Case History | Dr. Oliver Sacks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PYAnB5Jx-k   Narrative Humility | Dr. Sayantani DasGupta https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3ucjmcZwY   On the power of patient narrative | Dr. Leane Wen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybZIsTJBFxM   Developing Empathy | Dr. Danielle Ofri https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6LK1M3jqFw   Illness as Narrative | Ann Jurecic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKcqjZiAbFE   Mindful Medicine | Charles Paccione...

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