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 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...

Professionalism in Health Professions: What Does It Take?

I have learned that being in health professional school does not make you inherently professional. Nor does it mean that professors will teach this skill to you. Learning professionalism is like learning how to communicate well or learning good bedside manner. That is to say, you can’t really learn it. I picked up on a few things I wanted to share because I did certain things the wrong way and got corrected on it. I have also watched superiors do something that I want to emulate as a future provider. Dress code In clinic and in health care settings with patients, scrubs are the preferred dress code. Not only that, but they are the easiest (and most comfy) attire to reach for in the early morning after a night of not-enough sleep. Lucky for us bleary-eyed students and young doctors, scrubs and all closed-toes shoes (sneakers, too) are definitely professional in the healthcare world. I have also noticed some of my classmates – both men and women – wear khaki or black pants with a dress shirt or blouse for woman underneath their school/hospital-monogrammed white coats. Colleagues In all transparency, being cordial and even-tempered with colleagues and classmates is something I need to work on myself. When having a bad day, it is so easy to lash out when you are fueled with busy days of stress and frustration. Recognizing...

How To Study For Your Next Test Like A Pro

Looking back on my first year, I know now that I had no idea what I was doing when I told myself I was studying. It sounds funny because I have been studying science, and on the pre-health track, for more than a decade. Studying for any health professional school, including medical school is a beast. You can watch every YouTube video after searching how to study for medical school (I did!) and still do poorly on an exam. There is no secret and there is no magic involved. When it comes down to it, you just have to sit at a desk and make yourself understand the material you’re learning. There are a few things I learned along the way that might be useful to a student starting their first day in a rigorous, academic program. Cramming never works. In order to commit material to memory, you really can’t cram. Of course we all know classmates and friends who argue that they just can’t study any other way. Cramming makes me very nervous. I’m one of those people who just can’t recall what I’ve learned on the exam. I completely blank. In some cases – trust me, this happens – you really just have no other choice but to cram through the night. The best way to avoid this is to keep on top of the material as...

Four Tips For The Best Secondary Application

‘Tis the season for secondaries! Now that you’ve got the attention of the admissions committee with a stellar primary application, the secondary application is the prime opportunity to let yourself shine. Some schools send their secondary questions to every applicant, while others are more selective. In any case, crafting a meaningful answer to the questions would be in your best interest if you’re looking to gain admission to medical school. Follow the rules. Although secondary essays are shorter than the main AMCAS application, they are significantly harder. Take the time to actually read any instructions and be mindful of the word count for each question. Keep in mind the word count is not optional; 101 words is not the same as 100 words. Another common mistake is not actually answering the question being asked. If a school asks how you work well with others, you should not answer that with an anecdote showcasing your leadership qualities. Another thing that is important is to keep track of the schools you’re writing for and adhere to their specific requirements. If you have a question, email or call the school and do not make your own assumptions. Also, do not copy and paste what you’ve written before either from the primary application or secondary application for another school, even if you’re applying to MD and DO programs. If you’re finding yourself doing...