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.

Non-Traditional advice on the MCAT for the non-traditional test taker

…The MCAT. *Audible sighs * Don’t let the four-letter acronym fool you; preparing for this test is no small feat. It is (undoubtedly) the biggest hurdle standing between you and your medical school dream. This standardized test in particular is the academic Olympics and (arguably) induces more fear and frustration than any other pre-medical requirement. As a non-traditional student myself, I can attest to the fact that the MCAT won’t just set you back a few hundred dollars. Studying demands significant, often underestimated, personal and professional sacrifices. Your commitment to medicine will be questioned and doubted especially if you, like me, are not a recent college graduate. Friends, foes, and family members alike interjected their opinions on my decision to throw caution to the wind and pursue medicine “at my age.” I struggled immensely, but learned significantly, from being a non-traditional student. I wanted to share some of those insights here as they relate to the MCAT. Doctor or bust Take the MCAT because you are serious about medical school and becoming a doctor. The turbulence on the long, winding road to medicine is not at all for the faint-hearted, MCAT included. If you have determined – after serious deliberation and significant exposure – that doctoring is the only thing you want to do with your professional life, then and only then should you study and sit for the...

Being Pre-Med is What I Do, Not Who I am

I recently reconnected with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Garrett. She brought the scrapbook she assembled when I was a student in her class. She had ten students that year and each of us had our own page in the book. I turned to mine.   In the center, there was a picture of me wearing a crisply ironed collared shirt with perfectly straightened hair and a string of pearls I surely begged my mom to wear for that picture. Arranged rather creatively around my picture was a newspaper clipping about the award I won for being the only kid who wore a seat belt on the bus, my straight A report card, and a piece of paper on which I wrote in incredibly neat handwriting: “I want to be a doctor.”   Mrs. Garrett reminded me that the assignment was to write something about myself. Out of curiosity, I flipped through the pages in her scrapbook and read what my classmates wrote about themselves. One of my friends wrote “Pink is my favorite color” and another wrote, “I love to dance.” Most others wrote about their hobbies or interests and all the other pages included pictures of my classmates making silly faces, having fun, and playing outside. There were just two other pictures of me in the scrapbook, both showing me sitting at my desk with a sharpened...

3 Simple Tips to Maintaining Your Happiness Throughout Med School

In her new book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect The Practice of Medicine, physician and author Dr. Danielle Ofri writes: “Doctors who are angry, nervous, jealous, burned out, terrified, or ashamed can usually still treat bronchitis or ankle sprains competently.” This is so incredibly sad. And, it is most depressing to realize that the experience isn’t much different for us. The tendency to evade our emotion begins as early in our career as our pre-med life, well before we actually don a crisp white coat and care for patients. We take such terrible care of ourselves. The process from start to finish can feel, more often than not, like a Herculean task, but we refuse to accept the frustration, anger and fatigue that are coupled with the hardships of our professional pursuit. Why do we think we are immune to emotion? Why do we forget that we are so much more than just organs, tissues, and bones? This notoriously difficult pre-MD life can make you feel like you are gripping onto the fraying shreds of a short rope. And somehow, through it all, when we are “angry, nervous, jealous, burned out, terrified, or ashamed” we are expected to keep calm and carry on. After days (okay, fine, maybe months) of carrying on without feeling any calm at all, I had to take a step back to process the...

Top 24 Study Jams for Your Next Exam

In college, the only thing I needed to pump me for a long day of work is a Café Americano and an isolated cubicle in a freakishly quiet library. Recently, I admit I can’t focus without a good beat.  If it’s late and you’re tired or, let’s be real, just frustrated and want to scream and throw things, look no further than my totally random playlist of instant mood lifters: 1)    Harder Better Faster Strong – Daft Punk   2)    Stronger – Kanye West   3)    Too Legit to Quit – Hammer, Sia    4)    Dirt Off Your Shoulder – Jay Z   5)    Let’s Get it – P. Diddy   6)    Titanium (feat. Sia) – David Guetta   7)    Ambition (feat Meek Mill) – Wale   8)    Better – K’NAAN   9)    Don’t you worry child – Swedish House Mafia   10)  Keep your head up – Andy Gammer   11)  Make me proud –  Drake, Nicki Minaj   12)  Skyscraper – Demi Lovato   13) Who Says – Selena Gomez   14) Float On – Modest Mouse   15)  Happy (from Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams   16) Girl on Fire – Inferno Version – Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj   17) Focused feat. Kid Cudi – Wale   18) Firework – Katy Perry   19) One Top of the World – Imagine Dragons   20) The...

4 Reasons Why You Should… and Shouldn’t Go to Medical School

Why medicine?   This is a question I needed to have a prepared answer to recite to everyone and for every occasion – from professors to parties. It is a simple, but difficult question. It is a complex question. Why am I choosing the longest, hardest, most expensive professional career? Why do I want a career with immense sacrifice? I am giving myself ample time to confidently answer this question. Searching for this answer has not been straightforward. My answer oscillates from a resounding yes to a petrified no. Let’s review the pros and cons together.   Here’s why I vote no:   1) The health care reform was supposed to make things better, but it seems to be getting worse. 2) Doctors are frustrated and on the brink of quitting due to increasing administrative burden. 3) New doctors do not spend more than 8 minutes with their patients. 4) Medical students collect a mountain of debt by the end of their educational training. And yet, medical school applications are still at an all time high. Here’s why I vote yes:   1)    Discovering the complexities of the human body   2)    Comforting another human being 3)  Collaboration and team work   4) Develop meaningful relationships with patients Tell me why you chose medicine (or ran away from it) @sonalkumar2011      ...

7 Pre-Med Tips for Med School … and the Real World

It is 2 AM. You smell like sweat and coffee, but that doesn’t concern you because everyone you’re studying with at this hour does, too. You are leafing through hand-written class notes and the textbook your professor authored all while eating dinner/breakfast/snack courtesy of the vending machine. You look like this more often than not: Your eyes are half-closed and burning, but you can’t stop, won’t stop because you haven’t even reviewed the copies of past exams. You’re pre-med.   I graduated college two years ago, yet the memories of being a student and staying up until the wee hours of the morning to study for an exam have not faded. After three too many cups of coffee, I would lose momentum and motivation and often questioned the value of hard work. What was the purpose of being a good student? Why am I working this hard? Now, as a member of the working world, I sincerely appreciate the hard work I put in to each assignment for every class. I earned my stripes. I say this because in the first week of my job, I relied on the basic skills I developed as a conscientious student. These are the skills I think are critically important to master if you want to be wildly successful in the workplace or in the classroom: 1. Deadlines Work is like final exam...

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