Welcome to our healthcare corner series! We interviewed, Juliana, Marisol, and Lindsey from Scopes & Scrubs and we talk all about their career paths, the MD/PhD program, ways they cope with stress, and how they fit in activities to help them feel balanced. Connect with them on Instagram here!

Welcome to The Thriving Collective Club! Please share with us who you are, the program you’re in, and how Lindsey and Juliana met Marisol.

Marisol– I met Juliana and Lindsey at the revisit for the MD/PhD program we ultimately all three ended up picking. Interestingly, my sister was friends with Lindsey and we realized that they knew each other after hanging out! The three of us love science, medicine, entrepreneurship, fashion, fitness, food and traveling so it made our relationship very organic from the first time we met. I am a first gen college student from Miami, Fl. I graduated with a biology major and took a gap year to focus on research. I am fascinated by all things brain and aspire to be a neuroscientist and neurosurgeon.

Juliana-   I am a second-year MD-PhD student. I am originally from Las Vegas, NV and came to NYC for undergraduate at Columbia. During my undergrad years, I became very involved in research and it is something that I really enjoyed and I knew that I wanted it to be part of my career and that is why I chose the MD-PhD. I have loved it so far, and so happy that the program brought the three of us together!

Lindsey- Hi! I am Lindsey. I also am from Las Vegas, NV and went to Columbia for college before joining an MD-PhD program. Like Marisol mentioned, I knew her sister first and then met Marisol at the revisit for the school we all ended up going to. We became fast friends because we have so much in common!

Why MD/PhD? How do you envision using your degrees and what does the ideal path look like?

Marisol– I honestly had no clue that MD/PhD programs existed when I started undergrad. My parents are directors of a preschool so growing up I always wanted to be a teacher. When I realized I liked biology and was fascinated by the human body, I decided that there was no better way of being a teacher than as a doctor. I began working in the hospital and shadowing physicians and that just further confirmed that medicine was where I would find fulfillment in a career. In undergrad things changed when I started doing research. I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative- something that research offered and medicine really lacked. I felt that the more I shadowed and learned about medicine the more I realized that there was a huge knowledge gap in our understanding of diseases. As a person that likes to say yes to everything and take initiative i felt that i, along  with taking care of patients, needed to be discovering and moving science forward. With research, shadowing and personal experiences I was driven towards the field of neuroscience and neurosurgery. It is very difficult to predict what I will be doing in 10 plus years but as of now the goal is to have a lab that studies that patient population I see in clinic. Having the opportunity to see patients will allow me to approach science from a more clinical perspective and will allow me to think in a way that most scientist are not trained to. The overall goal is to do science that matters and will ultimately improve the health of the people we care for. Regarding obtaining an MD/ PhD, most programs are eight years long- two years pre-clinical medicine, four years research and then you end with two more years of medicine. Most students then go into a residency program and later go back into research. There is a lot of flexibility in an MD/PhD career and many will agree that there is no single right way of pursuing an MD/PhD.

Technically I like the term ‘self-management’ over ‘time-management’ because it gives you more ownership of how you manage yourself around time (because you can’t technically manage time, ya know). What are some core elements that have helped you to practice effective self-management strategies so you stay focused on your studies yet still create time for other meaningful activities?

Marisol- PLANNING! It can be a bit exaggerated how much I plan but time and time again I have found it rewarding to organize my days. The week before I like to have a big picture idea of what goals I want to accomplish in the upcoming week and I will make a note on my laptop with these bullet points. Then the day before, I organize my day by the hour! It can take a while to get used to this and learning how long it takes you to do things. But organizing your day in advance and by the hour will allow you to be as productive as possible. So productive that all of a sudden you will realize that you have time to do things that you enjoy. In addition to organizing my days, I like to remove any distractions while studying. If i am trying to study for two hour blocks at a time (which is recommended), I will throw my phone in my bag and disable notification from my laptop so that for those two hours I am being as productive as possible. Giving myself breaks every two hours gives me something to look forward to and the energy to keep going. When it comes to the weekend, I do not usually give myself a whole day off unless i need it. I usually like to work for half the day or if an exam is coming up I will study all day. But giving myself half a day to relax, run errands and hang out is important for my well being and long term efficiency- remember that being a student is a marathon not a sprint.

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How difficult would you say your program is? What is the most difficult thing about it and the least difficult thing about it?

Juliana- The program is challenging, but I enjoy the challenge because it pushes me each and every day to learn and work towards my goal of becoming a physician-scientist. It can seem overwhelming at times to keep up with all the clinical and research knowledge. However, the MD-PhD program is set up nicely however and helps to ease this burden with support from leadership who are there to help you navigate how to best do this! I have found it incredibly helpful to hear from MD-PhDs that have gone through the program and how they are able to find a productive balance! The least difficult thing is how much I enjoy learning all the material, the MD-PhD program is so amazing because it allows me to combine two fields that I find fascinating- science and medicine. It is such an exciting time to be at the intersection of the fields and draw parallels between the two and work towards new discoveries/therapies to advance medicine with the skillset from medical school and graduate school.

How does discipline play a role in your commitment to your program? What advice can you give to someone to start building discipline to achieve big goals?

Lindsey- Discipline is needed to be able to be productive and successful in both medicine and science. Both are demanding fields with a lot that is expected of you both in your knowledge and actions. However, if it is something you really enjoy and interests you, the ability to maintain discipline will be there. Just keep going and do not give up! My father, who is a physician and a role model for me, would always tell me whenever I would call him in college or even in medical school when I did not perform well on a test or a patient interaction I thought went horribly that becoming a doctor is a marathon not a sprint. I love this saying because it is so true. It is the effort you put in every day into your goals not one test or interaction that will define you. So do not give up if you are feeling discouraged throughout the pre-med process if it is really something you want to do, you will be able to do it!

How do you cope with stress? What is your go-to coping strategy on a regular or as needed basis to help you de-stress?

Lindsey- Calling my sisters or parents! For me, talking with family reminds me of my personal support system. Sometimes you just need to be distracted to take your mind off what is stressing you out or talk it out with someone else. Everyone has a different way to de-stress but find something that relaxes you and then make a habit of utilizing that when you are stressed.

Ah, the elusive balance. What’s your definition of balance? Or do you prefer the term work-life integration?

Juliana- During the program so far, I have found it helpful to create schedules for myself. I don’t usually schedule out each hour of everyday but for example if during medical school I knew that I needed to spend the entire weekend studying for a big test I would make sure to block out some time to workout, talk to family, or hangout with friends even if it was just an hour or two. This time would help me reset and I would usually be more productive after. I continue to work on self-management strategies because it can be challenging to figure out how to best management yourself around time and I think it is important to have flexibility to realize when your self-management strategies may not be working and also realize that it is natural to find it difficult at times and take time for yourself when you need it!

Do you have a strategy to fit in fun and social activities with others?

Lindsey- I usually try to compensate in another way if I spend time doing something outside of what I am currently focused on. If I know I have a big test or project, I will still go see a friend for dinner but then make sure the next day I get up earlier than usual so I can maximize my productivity while still making time for fun, friends, and family.

Bonus: What makes you your most lit up self?

Marisol- Surrounding myself with people that keep me motivated! I’m the litest when I feel like I’m succeeding in my academic and social life. I enjoy being surrounded by people but prefer studying alone. So when i am productive but still able to find the time to grab dinner, go dancing, play some music or just chill with friends I am at my highest. One thing I learned in med school is that medicine is all about collaboration! You do not need to hibernate to be the best in your class. You can be the best in your class while creating and maintaining healthy relationships! Find people that you resonate with (I found that in Juli and Linds along with several people in my class) and let yourself be lit!

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