A medical student, to whom I will refer as X, posted on their social media page they were going to kill themselves. Their letter was direct, raw and, as many suicide notes tend to be, apologetic. They explained they felt they no longer had the strength to keep fighting; it was simply “time for them to go.”
Interviewers who ask these questions in a professional setting typically consider these issues to be academic — purely topics for discussion that might provide useful insight into the way the applicant views the world. But for applicants who have been affected, these issues are not merely academic and their discussion can invoke significant emotional turmoil. So before we continue to tacitly accept this shift in interviewing, it is important to consider its purpose and impact on those being interviewed.
It feels preemptive to discuss emergence while sitting in the living room where I’ve spent 15 hours a day for the past month — bradycardic afternoons mirroring the day prior. Yet each day the sun emerges, and we along with it, venturing out onto balconies and porches. As medical students, we take our pro re nata walks and remember to cross the street so our paths don’t intersect those of our neighbors.
The world is quarantined, but we have learned to be human again. Rather than tirelessly working or studying, we are forced to engage with one another in meaningful ways. We find novel alternatives to maintain relationships with those who mean the most to us during this daunting time with no foreseeable end.
I am okay being alone; it’s not hard to do. / For other people, they can’t do it as if they were left scarred anew. / The trick is to keep your mind busy.
Back in late March, I was a medical student in D.C. studying for exams. Today, I am a 23-year-old living with my parents again. Despite being in school 5+ hours away, my bedroom in upstate New York has become my new classroom. Being at home has its perks: I get food from my mom again, and I can wear pajamas all day if I wanted to (not that I actually do that). However, there are many things that don’t feel right about being a medical student who has no connection to the medical world right now.
After our conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating community. As students of color, especially in areas with low diversity, we create our communities of allies with other students of color or students who are open-minded and willing to learn. For students who come from places with established diversity, the transition to creating communities of their own can be a challenge.
The same four walls surround us for hours on end while we try to marry the responsibilities of medical education with those of social distancing. While these new restrictions may at first seem conducive to much desired additional study time, gym closures and social gathering restrictions only deepen the isolation already felt by so many medical students.
They say to be tough is to have thick skin, but I say to have thick tears. / Skin? It can collect pimples, papercuts, and pus, can be scratched, scraped, and sliced.
Many medical schools today offer wellness programs that aim to strengthen the ability to cope with the demands of curricula through techniques such as mindfulness. However, although these efforts are well-intentioned, they have yet to completely resolve the issues of isolation. It is critical for students and faculty to explore innovative methods to tackle feelings of isolation, such as through the use of improvisational and comedic theater.
Last week, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) announced that Step 1, the first of three required licensing examinations for medical trainees, will stop reporting three-digit scores and instead report only a pass/fail designation as early as January 2022.
What does it mean to lead a meaningful or purposeful life? One common feature that appears in many cultures is the pursuit and attainment of happiness throughout life. Recent research has unearthed predominant patterns in happiness, and consequently, two major perspectives have emerged: hedonia and eudaimonia.