Select Page

Making Music in Medical School

At Michigan Medical School, we are constantly reminded to carve out time for ourselves to maintain self-wellness in whatever shape or form that may be for each individual. To me, that means playing ultimate frisbee, hanging out with friends, jamming in my car, and taking plentiful power naps. For others it means journaling, creating and performing music, or crafting various mediums of art.

I never thought I could tap into these more artistic forms of wellness until I received an e-mail toward the beginning of my M1 year advertising a beginners’ medical arts piano class. It was a class designed specifically for medical students who had zero or minimal background in playing piano. I lit up upon reading this – it was like the class had been crafted specifically for my tone-deaf, minimal-background-in-middle-school-flute self! The class was sponsored by the School’s Medical Arts Program, which is directed by Dr. Joel Howell. The Medical Arts Program hosts a multitude of events throughout the year, including trips to museums and concerts, dinners with notable composers and artists, and hands-on workshops.

So, each Friday evening for 12 weeks throughout the fall semester, I made the short trip to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance for the group piano lesson. The class was taught by Annie Jeng, a PhD piano student at U of M. The pupils consisted of medical students representing all four classes, and even a GI fellow who made time for the class! Each week we took a few more steps (and leaps) towards learning how to read a grand staff, keep rhythm, and play scales and chords. Annie would also throw in some lessons on the history of the piano and samplings of contemporary composers. At the end of the class, we each picked a solo piece and hosted a mini recital for ourselves. After this beginners’ piano boot camp, I was proudly able to perform a version of Für Elise by Beethoven (with foot pedal, might I add).

This class offered me the opportunity to step away each week for a scheduled one and a half hours from the mayhem that is medical school. At first, I was thankful for the opportunity to immerse myself in a world that seemed so completely distinct from what I was learning in lecture. However, throughout the class we made connections between the medical and musical worlds that made me realize these two realms of my life did not have to be so separate. After each lesson, I felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle the hours of studying ahead of me.

I am still blown away by the dedication of the Medical School and the Medical Arts Program to provide students with means of balancing their academic and extracurricular pursuits, and allowing students to improve ourselves not only as physicians but as human beings throughout our years in medical school.

Lessons from Across the Pond: Part 1

What is this, a scene from Harry Potter? No, this is just a Thursday evening dinner. Rooted in tradition, the University of Cambridge continues to require gowns to be worn for formal dinners – and honestly, no one is complaining. Between the gowns, candlelit cathedrals, and well-manicured gardens, this surreal experience is like a scene from a movie.

Gowned-up and ready to matriculate

Sprinkled into accounting ledgers and bond valuation are weekend trains to London and potlucks with the national dishes of my classmates. The best part of this whirlwind experience, you may ask? That’s easy: my classmates. This international network of diverse humans that I have the privilege to study with has taught me about culture, geography, and the secret shopping page of Bloomberg. The opportunity to take a step back from medicine and see the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur, an investor, an accountant, etc. – has given me the chance to expand the lenses through which I see this world.

London calling

No, I did not forget about medicine and impacting society during this time. This year alone, my class has raised nearly £4,000 for charities including Movember and Aiducation, and had a little fun doing it. I even had the chance to walk the runway in a fashion show directed by a professional (yes, one of my classmates)! Did I mention our business school is inside of an old hospital?! Of course, I didn’t forget about Michigan either, and you may not be surprised to hear that there is another Wolverine in my class. To hear more about how the MBA will be applied to my medical career, watch this.

My attempt at punting down the River Cam

As I reflect on this year, I’m grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. Through our program we’ve gotten the chance to participate in business projects with real clients, applying what we’ve learned in our coursework. Opportunities to take on extracurricular health care projects are countless, and I look forward to beginning to work with a company introducing augmented and virtual reality into Orthopaedic surgical training in London. No matter how filled my schedule becomes, I always ensure that I have enough time to walk the grounds, go punting on the river (see picture above), and try not to get lost (true story: I actually got lost walking in Trinity College).

King’s College in all its glory

While I’m enjoying my time back in Michigan for the holidays seeing friends and family, I will gladly step back on the plane to start the second term and second part of this adventure. Stay tuned for more updates on adventures in Harry Potter Land! Oh and don’t worry – I’ll be back for The Smoker!

Doing a startup in medical school

When I started Medical School, I was a little worried that I would have to put my entrepreneurial goals on hold. I came into medical school while working on a health app called “Diets Suck” (yep, that’s its real name). It’s an app that helps you eat healthier by building healthy eating habits, one habit at a time. I care a lot about preventive health, and I built the app because I am really passionate about helping people live a healthier life so we can prevent illness. I’ve made a lot of progress with the app, and I wanted to keep working on it as I started medical school.

I immediately found support for my entrepreneurship goals upon coming to Michigan. I found a few other student entrepreneurs who were able to point me to various resources across campus. There is a department devoted to promoting entrepreneurship and innovation at the medical school, and they were very interested in my startup. They helped connect me with the entrepreneurship faculty at the Ross School of Business, which has been a huge blessing.

The Ross School of Business found an amazing Ross MBA student who could work on the app and has helped out tremendously with our marketing and growth strategies. I worked on the app by myself without a team, and that was very challenging because a startup requires so much work. I was trying to find a good team member to work with for a while, so I was overjoyed when Ross helped me with this.

Ross also gave me a small amount of grant funding to work on my startup, and provided guidance as well— I was able to quickly talk with many of the faculty in the entrepreneurship department. They gave me some good advice and helped me think more critically about my business model.

In addition, the University of Michigan helped me find an intern who could help with various marketing projects. I was able to recruit an intern on the University of Michigan jobs website. That was invaluable because there were so many tasks that I didn’t really have time to accomplish as a medical student, so having my intern’s support was crucial.

Overall, I think attending the University of Michigan has remarkably helped my entrepreneurial efforts. They’ve helped me build my team, and they’ve given me some funding and some guidance to get my startup to the next level. It’s been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to using more University resources to help me achieve my startup goals.

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is so close. The last few months (really, all of M4 thus far) has been such a blur; it seems like the fall term should be barely starting and yet everyone has already finished their final exams.

I finished my last interview last week, and I have to admit that I’m thrilled to be home for a while. (I was starting to get a bit motion sick from all the flights, believe it or not). Interview season has been a blast – meeting all these other students, residents, and faculty who are passionate about family medicine while exploring new cities and beautiful scenic landscapes. But I’m happy to be home for now and experience all that holidays with family encompass.

And also recover from the cold I developed during my last trip. All things considered, I’m impressed that my immune system made it this long without succumbing to the germs spread by the throngs of people I encountered in every airport. It’s the unfortunate consequence of traveling, wacky sleep schedules, and, well, winter.

I sadly did not achieve my one goal during interview season of not running in the airport – it became necessary during my last trip to catch a connecting flight. My flight out of Detroit was delayed for almost an hour in order to de-ice the plane, which made an already tight connection just a smidge tighter. Thankfully, I was able to make my next flight even if I had to cross that goal off the list of possibilities.

One good part of all the flight time was that I finished the embroidery portion of the gingerbread house quilt I’m making as a Christmas present. The quilting part of the process is still in progress, so fingers crossed I finish in time, but the end is in sight.

I do love Ann Arbor around the holidays. Everything looks so festive, and the spirit of giving is ever-present. Also, basketball season is ramping up, with its concomitant fun – when we played UCLA, it was Star Wars day, with stormtroopers and even Darth Vader himself roaming Crisler Arena.

Fans also brought toys to donate to the patients in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital – my brother and I are sure that this cute bear will go to a good home!

And don’t forget the Christmas cookies (these awesome ones were distributed after a women’s basketball game).

Happy Holidays everyone!

The Galens Smoker Network

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! SMOKER TIME! (Med students at Michigan smoke? *Eek Gads!*). The Smoker is an annual musical roast of the faculty that is written, produced and performed by about 250 Michigan medical students. This year marks the 100th Smoker, so it going to be bigger and better than ever (No pressure).

The picture is from a past Smoker titled “Oh Glaucoma”! Those sets? Created by medical students. The band? Medical students. The amazing actors and singers? Medical students. The script, the lighting, the backstage work….well, you get the idea. We sell out both nights of Mendelssohn Theater every year and perform in front of 650 fans.

I am one of the director czars for this year. We had 122 people audition this past week, so I am running on coffee while writing this post. Every year I am blown away by the talent of my classmates, and this year’s singers and actors that auditioned were extraordinary

The Smoker has been my most meaningful experience at Michigan Medical School by far. What I love about the Smoker is its core (unstated) mission to bring together students and faculty to build a stronger community at Michigan. We don’t turn anybody away and find a place for everybody who auditions. I met most of my friends through the Smoker and it is the best way to meet students from other classes. I met my girlfriend through the Smoker, and we are now trying to Match together. I’ve hung out with the faculty that I’ve smoked in previous years outside of the classroom. The picture shown is of me and my fellow Smoker leaders at Zach London’s fortress party. Dr. London is a neurologist and Smoker aficionado who hosts this elaborate party where he turns his house into a giant fort.

The biggest thing I didn’t realize until fourth year is the network that the Smoker creates beyond med school. On the interview trail I paid for only one hotel because I had a Smoker alumni to stay with in every city. In three of my interviews, I was interviewed by a Michigan Med graduate who either participated in or directed the Smoker during their time at Michigan. We would spend 30 minutes just talking about Smoker glory. In general, the Michigan alumni network (Smoker or not) is far reaching and will serve you well once you hit the interview trail.

I’m so excited about this year’s Smoker, my head is about to explode. Mark your calendars for March 2nd and 3rdand come see what it’s all about!

MedBuddies at Michigan Med

As medical students, it seems as though our to-do list is never ending. Especially during our first year, it can sometimes be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I now understand why all of the faculty and senior medical students at the Medical School constantly remind us to take time for ourselves and find ways that help us relieve stress. This looks different for all of my classmates. For me, when studying seems a little overwhelming and life is stressful, I head over to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Although Mott is only a short walk from the medical school, it affords me the opportunity to leave behind the demands of my coursework and spend time with pediatric patients through the MedBuddies program. MedBuddies is a volunteer program through the University of Michigan Medical School and University of Michigan School of Nursing that pairs a student at those schools with a patient at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. This program is unique from your typical hospital volunteer program because it pairs children who have prolonged or intermittent hospitalizations with a volunteer buddy who will be with them throughout their hospitalizations. This pairing helps buddies and patients form close and meaningful relationships since we spend 3-6 hours a week together while our buddy is admitted.

I have worked with pediatric patients and their families for more than a decade, and I feel so fortunate to still have that opportunity while a pre-clinical student here at UMMS. Hospitalization can be incredibly disruptive and isolating for anyone, and in my experience this is most acutely seen in children. During their hospitalization, children often feel a lack of control and can be stressed or scared by the unpredictable and unfamiliar hospital environment. Equally as important, hospitalized children miss out on friends, school and playtime that is so critical for their development. I have seen how hospital volunteers can play a role in creating a sense of normalcy for hospitalized children and their families.

Personally, MedBuddies affords me the opportunity to step away from my white coat and stethoscope, and spend time with patients in a non-medical role. I get a glimpse into what their lives are like when the health care team isn’t there, and bear witness into how they live with their illness day to day. Best of all, I get to leave behind my stress and to-do list for a few hours and cuddle babies or play with a child. Even though the MedBuddies program is not a part of our curriculum, to me this program is just as important to my development as a physician as the organ sequences or Doctoring course. Getting to know these children and their families outside of a medical role is helping me grow into a more empathetic and compassionate physician. The children I have met through the MedBuddies program have enriched my life, and I feel privileged to be a part of theirs.