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.

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...

What It’s Like as a Student in Your Thirties

Primarily most of us are medical students, mostly from different backgrounds, so it’s not surprising to be a student in your thirties when you’re in medical school. As a non-traditional student, and unlike a student on the traditional pre-medical track, I had the opportunity to explore other professions before entering the one I’m currently on. Post-baccalaureate programs make it easy to become a doctor without having a science education. In fact, I would highly encourage any student who is considering a post-baccalaureate program to pursue it. Looking back on my journey, I am convinced that taking time to pursue other interests and potential careers was incredibly worth it. Not only does your background enhance  your admissions interview, but it makes you a person with more depth. You’ll never regret the time you took off, but will always regret not taking any time off. I am amazed at students who decide to pursue combined or accelerated programs. Personally, that wasn’t the best choice for me. When I agree with my classmates about taking more time to discover whether this profession is the right fit, they remind me that I did have time to think about my options.  The truth is no matter how good your application essay and how convinced you think you sound about becoming a doctor, you truly don’t know what it is like unless and until you...

Can Google Replace A Medical Degree?

Patients are becoming more aware courtesy of the internet, as different forms of media and information continues to get pushed out, especially to us students and aspiring healthcare professionals. These days, it is uncommon for patients to bring their list of diagnosis and preferred medications to their medical visit. The internet can be a powerful tool, but also a dangerous one given the breadth and depth of false information. Can Google replace the importance of a medical degree? Despite its intelligence, it can’t replace it, nor can certain blogs  replace the importance of certain medical journals. I wanted to be a health journalist more than I wanted to be a doctor because I love story-telling. But, one of the reasons I decided to pursue medical training was because I did not want to be just another writer who writes about patient care, with no actual medical knowledge or training. There are only a handful of journalists in this niche media market who write for prestigious publications, but, ultimately, years of writing experience do not replace the credentials of a four year medical degree. Writing stories about actual patients who you have treated at the bedside/chairside is a more authentic representation of healthcare. As someone with background in both journalism and medicine, it is easy for me to differentiate between a reliable source from another. How do you know that the...

How To Renew Your Love For Medicine By Being Like A Kid

On a recent outreach trip to a public school, I spent the morning with children in the 3rd grade. I was the one who was supposed to give a presentation and teach them about healthy habits and routines. Instead, I learned from a classroom full of 9 year olds. As we get older, we tend to lose the vibrancy and enthusiasm for life that is characteristic of childhood. As soon as we experience a hint of stress, adults become bland. We lose zest and zeal for living. These are some of the small things I noticed in the classroom that served as necessary reminders for me in order to renew your love for medicine: Speak your mind During the presentation, I could not help but notice some kids interrupting to give their opinion. They really did not care if they were called on. Few actually raised their hand and waited their turn. The beauty of this was noticing that children value their opinion enough to blurt it out loud. They demand to be heard. Never once did the kids think that someone was judging their comments, or did they fear voicing their opinion.  I think this is something adults should embrace more. Often, we are too scared to share our opinion and fear judgement from others. This is especially pertinent in the class when we are too to ask...