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.

Is My Specialty Research? Here’s What To Know

When you’re vying for an acceptance letter to your program of choice, doing research is just one of those boxes everyone tells you should check off to be able to fit into a crowd of almost doctors. In fact, test prep company Kaplan encourages students to prepare an answer if they are asked during their admission interview why they didn’t participate in research. Whether it is financial or time limitations, Kaplan advises students to have a prepared response to this question. Just to provide another perspective, during my admissions interviews, I was never once asked about the absence of research on my list of extra-curricular activities. No one ever asked me why I didn’t do research. (In case you’re wondering, I also did not do any community service, another “must have.”) In talking to my classmates (other admitted students), they were not asked about research. Doing research is important, certainly, for certain programs such as dual degree programs with a PhD. It may even be a requirement. But, I would not take the words “highly recommend” to mean “absolutely mandatory.” This is all to say that many pre-medical students think they should do research because it is highly regarded and provides an additional boost from an admissions perspective. I don’t think it matters so much that you conduct research as much as the value of the research to you...

How to Hack Your Work Week and Be More Productive

As doctors-in-training, we know we are smart. But somehow that intelligence doesn’t always directly translate to productivity. It is possible to work non-stop and try very hard, but still be ineffective and unproductive. The goal is to make it through medical training without burning out. In other words, in addition to students must learn to work smarter, not harder. How should we make the most of our work week? My biggest piece of advice is to conserve your energy. Misconception that you have to wake up early to get more done in the day. In fact, my personal experience and advice says otherwise. Sleep is imperative and naps are encouraged. In order to wake up early and be effective, you also have to sleep early. It is true that you can’t do everything perfectly all of the time, but cutting corners on your health and sacrificing your 8 hours. Your early morning power routine will come to a crashing halt if it does not include adequate sleep the night before. It is important to alter your routine to allow yourself to wind down. For example, it is best to avoid drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime. Try to experiment and identify what helps you to fall asleep versus keeps you up at night. Some also advise against going to the gym at night, but I personally have not had...

What Does It Mean To Be Successful Outside of Academics?

When I was young and naïve at the beginning of my medical training, I defined success and accomplishment quantitatively – class rank, GPA, exam results. Getting an A meant I was successful and getting any other grade else meant I was not. As students, we are constantly overwhelmed with people telling us how to attain “success.” Following someone else’s expectations can be destructive and counterproductive to your personal goals. One year later, how I came to define succes achievement is entirely personal. Defining what success means to me is important to be able to groom myself as a young doctor. Measurements defined by others are no longer significant to me. And I am not concerned about my grades as long as I am passing. But, even when I fail, I never feel bad about it anymore. Instead, I congratulate myself on trying my best and try to learn from my mistake. I no longer abide by other’s ideas of success imposed on me. And I most definitely don’t compare myself with other classmates. By defining my own standards that I want to live up to, I have actually created higher standards for myself as a person. My life does not revolve around school; it is simply one aspect of my life over all. Previously, success meant doing good in school to the exclusion of all else because that was an...

This Health and Wellness Podcast Will Help You Get Through Med School

A new addition to the Alternative Health category on iTunes is Well Now, a health and wellness podcast by Saje Natural Wellness. The podcast was launched February 2018. As not only an avid podcast listener, but also a student in the health profession with a strong scientific background, I can say the podcast does not disappoint. The content is not only scientifically sound and reliable, but the patient stories are heart-warming and informative. The podcast is a new venture for the retail company. Saje Natural Wellness is a retail company based in Vancouver, Canada. It started in 1992 by a husband and wife team, Jean-Pierre LeBlanc and Kate Rose LeBlanc. They had a vision to introduce 100 percent natural, plant-based wellness products to the market. According to their website, the products contain pure ingredients from nature. The lavender they use in their products, for example, is grown in the hills of Provence. The company offers a wide range of products with the Saje label: massage oils, face and body mists, essential oils, and bath soaks. Saje introduces Well Now as one that helps listeners “discover the hidden side of health.” Having enjoyed the first two episodes and listened to them both in its entirety in one sitting, I can attest that this description is as an accurate one. Conventionally, a podcast will have a teaser or introductory episode. Sometimes...

Does It Sometimes Feel Like I’m Married To Medicine?

There’s so much love in the air this month. Every time I’m on Facebook, I see an engagement announcement. Despite being in a relationship myself, the longest commitment I have had is not with an individual. It’s with medicine. At this point, it would be appropriate to change my relationship status to: married to medicine. I have been loyal to medicine since I was 15. And I’m almost 30. That’s 15 years of pure devotion. I don’t even have the time to be fickle-hearted. Long before I took The Hippocratic Oath on my white coat ceremony, I said my vows to medicine. I didn’t realize at the time but when I declared a pre-medical academic track, my heart whispered to medicine: from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I guess my acceptance letter was medicine telling me it loves me, too. On Valentine’s Day this year, I spent 12 hours at school during the day (from 7 AM – 7 PM) and less than 5 hours with my boyfriend. During dinner, I even felt guilty for not studying for an upcoming exam. I work my absolute hardest and concentrate fully on this one relationship to the exclusion of all others. I would love to have some flexibility and freedom to devote to other people...

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...