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 Difference Between Pre-Med and Pre-Dental

Your position on the application waitlist seems to be moving at a glacial pace. And official application decisions begin to trickle in for another group of budding health professionals. Given the abysmal reality of the uncertain application cycle, it becomes easy to develop the “I’ll go anywhere as long as I’m a doctor” mentality. Often students interested in becoming a doctor apply to multiple medical programs (both DO and MD) as well as pre-dental programs with little reflection on how the training and the career trajectory differs. While there is subtle difference between DO and MD program, there is an unmistakable difference between becoming a doctor and becoming a dentist. Students who find themselves in this predicament – choosing what kind of doctor they wish to become – should not make this decision with a fickle heart. As a college student, I remember standing at a career crossroads and genuinely conflicted between choosing medicine and dentistry. I was fiercely passionate about emergency medicine and working as a physician in level 1 trauma center. I was also fired up about medical journalism and so medicine seemed like the best option, allowing me to intertwine two passions into a career. But, the lifestyle and compensation of a dentist was undeniably appealing. Looking back, my rationale for choosing one career over the other was entirely superficial. I wish I was more contemplative...

Five Ways To Keep Your Brain Alert In Medical School

Reading a Fast Company article this morning,  I was inspired to consider the ways I can keep my brain alert for the long haul. As a student, I do study most of the time so one could argue that my brain is constantly alert. It’s true that I do have to make a conscientious effort to relax my brain.  But, the suggestions in the article were very helpful. I’ve slightly modified the five daily habits that were recommended to the general public to be more school friendly. With a schedule as busy as ours, the following five suggestions may not be feasible to do on a daily basis. I think weekly is more manageable. Change your diet. I recently made changes to my own diet by drinking more water. If you’re anything like me, spending money and investing in a more expensive product such as the trendy Swell bottle could motivate you to drink more water. Or, adding fruit like berries, or lemon slices, or herbs like mint, help to change the flavor of plain water. Take inventory of what you could benefit from the most. For example, if you order Domino’s 3X a week, perhaps making home cooked meals would be an appropriate swap to incorporate more greens and vegetables to your diet. I have also found that switching the grocery store you shop for food adds some...

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Future Doctor?

Everyone – from family to neighbors to friends to fellow airplane passengers – impressed when you tell them you’re going to be a doctor. There has always been, and will always be, a certain prestige associated with being a doctor. “You must be really smart,” is the usual reaction to this declaration of my professional pursuit. But, the funny thing, I don’t think I’m smart. In fact, smart is one of the last words I would use to describe myself. I may be a future doctor, which sounds rather smart and noble, but I honestly do not consider myself any smarter than the average person. I am sure there are a handful in the profession that are truly gifted individuals, in general, my classmates are not brilliant. They are just normal people, some with unique hobbies and interests. There is one characteristic among all of us in this profession that is undeniable. And that is grit. We are all hustlers. We stick with it. We not only work hard, but we push our physical limits. We have unwavering self-confidence. We are willing to sacrifice more than most others. Despite the darkness, we know there will be light at the end. We appreciate delayed gratification. It is these traits that make you a doctor. Anyone can develop and practice these traits. Anyone can be a doctor. I was the hardest...

The Medical Professional’s New Year’s Resolutions

For as long as I can remember, my new year’s resolution was to get straight A’s. Now that I am in dental school, I recognize that I want to aspire to do more than just get good grades. These days, I am perfectly content with passing and getting my degree. And I’m excited to make conscious goals for myself that focus on my life outside of academics. I narrowed it down to 5 things that I personally need to work on to have a more well-rounded, balanced lifestyle as a dental student and future medical professional. Drink more water. I recently got my blood drawn for routine bloodwork. Because I did not drink any water after waking up that morning, the nurse could not collect any blood from my veins and she tried 3 times. After being unnecessarily stuck with a needle more times than one, I finally recognized that I must drink more water. If I can get myself to finish a bottle of water on my commute to and from school everyday, I would consider that a drastic improvement. Exercise. I’m pretty sure exercise or “lose weight” is a common new year’s resolution. Even though everyone knows that routine cardio is beneficial, it’s funny how that is the first thing we eliminate from our daily routine as we start to get busy and increasingly stressed out. Exercise...

Giving Thanks During The Holidays

The holidays are all about gratitude and thanks. I can’t help but think about the people and experiences that have shaped my academic year and helped me grow as a health care professional. This year, I was lucky to travel to new places for district and national conferences. I am grateful for the students and colleagues on the district and national leadership who planned and executed these large-scale professional events despite having their own exams and academic commitments. Thank you also to the speakers who left their families and loved ones and work obligations to attend these conferences and inspire us and motivate us to be better professionals. I am thankful for the staff members that work in the supply room. Despite the daily demands of maintenance and upkeep for a brand new lab, these two women never show stress or frustration when students ask them the same question multiple times. I feel like I always turn to them when I have a problem whether or not they know how to solve it. I am very lucky to have made new, loyal friends in a new city when I started my program. There are a handful of friends who get me through the day, every day, and make the stress of school a little more enjoyable. Recently, a friend of mine shared traditional Malaysian food for lunch because she...

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...