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Unmasking the Problem

In the spring of 2021, as a third-year medical student in the midst of the pandemic, I worked on a research thesis while continuing to build my clinical skills. Every other week, I would visit the endocrinology clinic and see patients with my research mentor.

It was a day like any other at the clinic. Wearing the usual blue surgical face mask, I knocked on the exam-room door, and asked permission to enter. After sanitizing my hands, I began my introductory spiel while heading to

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Colored Darkness

“You know how empowering it was for me to walk out into the ocean without my shirt on?” asked my twenty-four-year-old cousin Neil after we’d returned from a day of swimming and sunning at the beach.

For me, it had been a rare and welcome break from my coursework in medical school, where I had just started my fourth year.

It was the first time I had worn a bikini in public after years of veiling myself in shirts and

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Dignity in Childbirth

My interest in women’s health began when, in high school, I became aware of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Learning about that conflict’s impact on women in terms of sexual trauma and maternal mortality opened my eyes to the depths of inequality that women face in the Global South. This, combined with the fact that I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American, led me to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology, with a global-health focus.

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Why Isn’t He Listening?

I was in my third year of medical school, partway through my psychiatry rotation.

“You’re ready for your first mental-capacity consult,” my attending said. I felt excited at being deemed ready to administer this evaluation, which is used to determine whether a patient has the ability to make decisions about their own care.

“The medicine team is confused about this one,” my attending continued. “He’s clinically improving from his COVID infection, but he wants to

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Where My Story Ends and Yours Begins

It was a Thursday morning, my first day on the medical oncology service. I hurriedly gathered my white coat and badge, the block letters “3rd Year Medical Student” unmistakable in fresh ink. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to look up at the cancer center.

This is going to be difficult, I thought.

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Everyone Has a Story

As I’ve learned in my three years as a medical student, medicine teaches us to place one another in cardboard boxes with worn-out, silver duct-tape labels: “Difficult” patients, tolerable colleagues, children working as family translators, nurses balancing too many beds, the old man who just needs someone to talk to. Like everyone else, I’ve gotten comfortable interacting within the boundaries of these boxes. It’s easier. It’s safer.

And then came Shirley.

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Jell-O, Phone Calls and Other Small Stuff

As I reflect on my year of clinical rotations as a medical student, my mind instantly conjures up some of the biggest moments I’ve experienced.

There have been euphoric highs, like delivering a beautiful baby girl to first-time parents on Mother’s Day. And heartbreaking lows, like having a panic attack in the bathroom after a patient with psychosis shared his delusions about race with me.

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Living the Dream

The first time I watched a baby being delivered, the world narrowed to the woman in front of me. And the head coming out of her. Followed by a little shoulder, then the other. Then there was a baby in the room. A brand-new human being, seconds old.

The doctor placed the baby on the mom’s chest, and the baby cried—a soft newborn cry, the kind before their lungs develop and it becomes shrill.

I

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Regret

A full head of white hair.

Each in its place.

Not just neatly.

Meticulously.

Perfectly.

A full head of white hair. That’s what I see in my minds’ eye, when I close my actual eyes and conjure up my grandfather.

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Angel of Healing

A small wooden figure watches over my office. Four inches tall, hand-carved, neatly painted wood—an angel figurine with golden hair, majestic wings and a simple pure-white gown. Throughout my day seeing patients as an internal medicine and pediatrics resident, this angel watches over me—a constant reminder.

Two years ago, as a fourth-year medical student, I was on my internal medicine “acting internship” on the general internal medicine floor. This service was known for great teaching

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Red Ship

Editor’s Note: As New Voices’ first editor, I am thrilled to launch Pulse’s newest feature with this story by Livja Koka, depicting, among other things, the difficult choices that parents make in hopes of giving their children a better future. This story, we hope, is only the first of many accounts by writers whose voices and experiences have often gone unseen and unheard. If you have such a story to tell, we hope you’ll consider

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After the Fall

It is a chilly January night, a week after New Year’s and a few days after my twenty-fourth birthday. I’m halfway through my third year of medical school and have just started my clerkship on the hospital’s trauma unit.

I’ve been dreading this experience; I’m on twenty-four-hour call, and my heart sinks every time the pager goes off.

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