The Day Before My Flight (Round Two)

I made it through my first semester of medical school, living on an island and being 2100 miles away from home. The most I’ve ever been is 50 miles away for undergrad. I feel wildly accomplished and like an entire failure stimultaneously. The things I’ve overcome seem like small accomplishments in face of what I thought I could overcome. Homesickness hit me. Hard. I missed my friends but I didn’t really feel like I was missing out. I felt comfortable knowing I’m working for a greater good for myself and that once this phase of my life is over I can return to weekly dinners and hang outs.

It was how much I missed my family. When I lived in Manhattan for college, my sisters were a short train ride away. Technically, even though I was in my own world of college- I could always come home. Many people in my town even commute to the city on a daily basis for work. It’s manageable, at the end of the day. I had a safety net. This time I had no safety net. I wasn’t concerned about missing out on get togethers or holidays as much as I was missing the day to day routine of being home. Of knowing when my baby sister gets home from school and making plans with my younger sister on the weekends. Knowing we could catch up whenever we wanted in PERSON, not over a phone.

My baby sister starts high school in September and it’s wild to me that I’m in MEDICAL SCHOOL. I have a faint memory of when I was in 8th grade myself and I was telling Sana how when she would be in 8th grade I would be in 11th grade and Amna would be in 1st grade. Now Amna is in 8th grade and I have graduated high school, college… and in 2023 will have graduated medical school ??? Alhamdulilah for being so blessed that I even have the chance to do this. Alhamdulilah for loving my sisters so much that I miss them and hate being away from them. I really think that we’re all ultimately going to live near each other. Life just wouldn’t make sense any other way. There’s no reason for us to be apart. We can have our own homes and additional families but I’d very much like for us to live in a huge house with as many of our loved ones as possible.

Being homesick affected my performance first semester a lot. I thought I would be able to handle it better because I had lived away from home before but that ended up not being true for me. It was very different and I think it has a lot to do with how many responsibilities come with being the eldest. I haven’t really consecutively lived at home in 5 years now and it’s frustrating because there’s no place like home! I’m getting older and making my advancements but so are my parents. I wish I could just freeze time and do what I have to do without it affecting anyone else. I don’t want them to feel my absence anymore than I want to feel theirs. It kind of makes me want to have kids as early as possible. Emphasis on possible because I barely have enough energy to cook pasta every night after an entire day of studying.

Reading my old posts so far just remind me how short life is and I’m trying very, very hard to have an increasingly positive attitude this time around. The happier I am, the happier I can make others and the better everyone will be for it.

Tomorrow: my last day of classes for Semester One of Medical School (Before Finals)

The awkward moment when you ended up doing EXACTLY what you told yourself not to do. I thought I would keep up with my blog throughout the semester. Sad. Tomorrow is my LAST DAY OF CLASSES for SEMESTER ONE of medical school at Ross University and I am in pure disbelief. When I say it feels like I wrote my initial blog post yesterday, I mean it feels like yesterday. To the extent that I’m still not convinced it was not yesterday.

My biggest fear before starting this semester was that I would mess up in some inevitable way and potentially wish for a reset button, a way to start over and do it all again. Multiple times throughout this semester, that fear has come true. I have had to face this fear over and over again- before and after every test, the days I did not feel well or the days when missing home was my priority. Right now, it feels like I’ve repeated my mistakes. If this has ever happened to you, you know this is a really frustrating feeling.

But the important thing is: none of this is over. It is JUST the beginning. I still have three exams to go, I have second chances, I have opportunities to redeem myself and ultimately, I know that I want this so badly I am not going to let anything get in my way. During orientation and even from other students, I’ve been told that medical school is like drinking water from a fire hydrant. The sheer amount of information and content that you are expected to understand fully is unmatched. I do not disagree with this. But there is a more crucial analogy to be made: medical school is a MARATHON, not a race. By far, it is going to be unlike anything you have ever done before. I wish I was personally better informed on what to expect.

Whenever I asked, I was given vague generalizations or an overview of what goes on. Usually the people speaking are student ambassadors or representatives of the school- really telling you what they want you to know. The excitement and transition of making it to medical school oversees a lot of the important questions. Like how does one actually go from a job or an undergraduate career or anything else to studying 8+ hours a day, taking 100+ question exams and memorizing more information than anyone would deem humanly possible?  

You pace yourself. You are here. You got yourself here. Not the people you meet here, befriend here, or are surrounded by. Do not listen to them. Do not listen to the atmosphere of competition, the statistics about residency, the score reports that you need and seem impossible. You focus on you. You are here to be a doctor. Do not let the system destroy that. Do not let the system disable you. This is the hardest thing you will take on. We need it to be hard. We are responsible for patient lives, changing lives, training ourselves to heal others. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever witnessed. So study. Put in the work. Go with the system. Ask your questions, not to be the top of your class or the one with the highest grades but because those questions matter to you. Those subjects matter to you. You need them to understand how to better take care of the people you will be put in charge of.

The exams are not here to hurt you, nor are they here to ruin you. They are here to measure you, your growth. Growth takes time. Sometimes, growth needs you to change. Instead of trying to make the system accommodate you, mend yourself. More often than not, students are complaining about everything they can think of. They use it as a way to cope with the stress, with the mass changes in their environment. But the side effects to the people around them are severe. They leave their negative energy, their demotivating mindset and unfortunate anxiety on whoever was around to hear them.


If you contribute to making a positive environment for yourself and those around you- there is a significantly better chance you will get more done. Not only that, you will be happier. Medical school is rough, it requires a lot from the student and it is extremely difficult- there is no denying that. But it is also what you make it. You will have your moments of defeat and your moments of glory- treat them equally. Treat your mistakes as methods to learn better. The worst thing you can do is punish yourself when the entire reason you are even here is to be the great person that helps others. You cannot accomplish any of that without helping yourself, first.

I have a few goals for my second semester of medical school, as well as the time period that will mark 8 months of living away from home (2300 miles with only a 2.5 week break) but before I share that, I want to share (concisely) what I’ve learned so far.

1. If the thought of sitting down to study makes you uncomfortable, seek out a friend. It doesn’t matter if 8 of the 9 people you ask turn you down and prefer to study alone, find the one person who will agree and help each other.

2. Do not isolate yourself. This is a competitive and occasionally hostile environment. Still, do not give up. I found one of my absolute best friends because I took a chance and complimented her hair. I was so nervous to speak to her, I had no idea whether she was even looking for someone to talk to or a new friend. I’m blessed and fortunate in that she needed both. Be honest with your needs. If someone tells you they prefer to keep to themselves, do not be disheartened, respect their wishes and find someone else! The benefit to medical school is you’re with like-minded people.

3. What does start studying on the first day really mean? It means: you may be overwhelmed and already exhausted because you are on 5 hours of sleep and think the first day’s material is manageable. Take your nap, go for a run, take a shower, clean your room, do whatever you need to feel better and then? GO THROUGH THE LECTURE. Replay it, if you can. Quiz yourself on concepts. Explain what you learned to a friend or significant other. Reiterate the lecture and put it in your own words. Do not and I mean do NOT think you can get away with putting it off for another day.

4. That being said, your mental and physical health always comes first and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. If someone judges you for wanting to take care of yourself while you are sick, you have my permission to ask them: if as doctors we are expected to tell our patients to take time off work and school and recover- why do we not practice the same? You may/may not also follow up with subliminally rude questions like have you never been sick in your life? Do you know what it feels like when you need help just to sit-up and drink a sip of water then feel like the water is burning fire down your inflamed, sore throat? Actually, practice your ability as a future doctor to be compassionate and patient and do not say that. Instead, advocate for yourself as you would a patient.

5. Know the difference between excuses for yourself and genuine problems that you have. External blame and internal blame. There’s a lot more to this one but this is all I’m getting into for now.

The Reason You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I’ve come to realize that thus far I’ve primarily highlighted the positive aspects of my journey. I’m so young and found what I was passionate about in life. I found a way to start working towards it. I’m living on an island where it doesn’t get colder than 70 degrees (F) while Chicago is competing with Antarctica for the most inhumane living conditions. I’m grateful and I’m blessed but above all, I am privileged.

During undergrad, I took several courses categorized as the social sciences. Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and Gender Race and Class, to name a few. To me, it was not enough to be learning about the scientific basis of the human body and mind; our world is much more complex than that. We are creatures of habit, yet constantly evolving. We exist in communities, societies, populations, but fight to have individual voices heard. The year was 2014 and being “Woke,” was the latest trend. #BlackLivesMatter had become a national movement. For the most part, the narrative of social justice conversations were The Colored Man v. The White Man. Understandably so, because the systemic basis of our country is the oppression of anyone who is not The White Man. Therefore, by extension the conversation also addressed The Colored Woman v. The White Woman. The Colored Woman v. The White Man. But also, The Colored Woman v. The Colored Man.

The general ranking is as follows in order of greatest amount of privilege to least:
1. The White Man
2. The White Man
3. The White Man
4. The White Man
5. The White Man
6.5 The White Woman
7. The Colored Man
8. The Colored Woman
9. The Colored LBGTQ Men
10. The Colored LBGTQ Women

***Note: I’m unsure of the ranking of the LBGTQ community with respect to Caucasian population, therefore I did not include it as it is not anything I have studied or come across in credible sources.

But there is another, interpersonal ranking in which White woman make more than Asian women who can make more than Black women who can make more than Latina women.

***Note: The only sure tier is White women obtaining significantly larger income than Colored women. The actual discrepancies within the different races that Colored women identify as can differ depending on demographics, familial support, and type of job.

I may be an American-Pakistani, Muslim woman. But I am ridiculously privileged compared to other American-Pakistani, Muslim women. I was born in America. My skin tone is tanned but my voice is without an accent. My English does not give anyone the ability to question whether I belong here. I never saw poverty, I never saw violent crimes. I hardly experienced extreme racism and I was well sheltered, protected and loved by my family. By no means was my life perfect. But it was and has been good.

My immigrant parents faced adversities. My immigrant parents faced extreme racism. My immigrant father worked three jobs at a time so him and my mother could move out of a poverty-stricken area. My parents did everything and survived everything they have for the potential child (ME!) they would have one day and their desperate ambition to want more for that child than they had for themselves. Before I even turned 6, we moved into a beautiful neighborhood with an incredible school district. My mom made me breakfast every single morning and drove my sister and I to school. The population in our small town was predominantly white. 98% white. I did not notice until middle school when that sort of cultural difference begins to reveal itself. Not being allowed to sleepover, having earlier curfews, our family dynamic being different than others- it developed into eventual teen angst as expected.

Cue the identity crisis, the divide between rebelling and sticking to your roots. The whole nine yards, I lived it. To get to this point, where I have the maturity to remember and be ashamed of how I behaved is a gift. I do not think I would have gotten to this point had I not gone through that. Because what I did in that period of time was constantly, consistently, compare myself to everyone around me.

I wanted to be the same. I wanted a name someone knew how to pronounce without glancing twice, I wanted to stay out as late as possible, I wanted to wear whatever I wanted and say whatever I wanted. I yearned for privacy from my parents because I assumed they could not possibly understand. My father had completed his undergraduate degree in the states but I dismissed his experiences as they were over a decade from where I was standing. I did not understand privilege, I could not empathize the way I have learned to today. All I could see was the blind comparison between where I was and where everyone around me seemed to be.

To an extent, I can see why I was like that and why so many people in that age group and period of time are still like that. We are limited in our understanding of the world. We are limited in our understanding of how there is a life beyond school, beyond the people you see on a daily basis because we are not taught to be ambitious or want more for ourselves than where we are at the moment. We are expected to succeed and pursue new opportunities but only within a safety net. Moving far, taking non-traditional routes, exploring new avenues is seen as provocative and adventurous. Beyond that, its deemed unneeded and problematic.

Yet, that is one of the only ways that encourages you to be different. Why are we so focused on people being as similar as possible? Constantly grouping people together based off similar interests, personalities, hobbies. Sure, there is an argument for compatibility and the ease of understanding but one needs to be equally challenged and introduced to ideas that are different than the ones they have been exposed to all their life.

When we compare ourselves to one another, we are not asking in what ways do we differ and how is that beneficial, instead we are salivating to be the other person, to have what they have, to want what they want. We want to be able to follow what someone else did, walk in their footsteps and obtain what they have. More often than not, what we consider inspiration is imitation in a hope to feel closer to what someone looks like or does. We compare ourselves to other people as a form of measurement. For some, that measurement is of success. I see so many posts and comments about tearing down someone’s job or lifestyle in an attempt to justify someone else’s. People saying I may not have become a lawyer but I am equally successful as a banker. I am working equally hard by being a stay-at-home mom. I have been as challenged in my role as a blogger as are doctors.

Instead of forming supportive unity, we are pitting ourselves against one another. You do not need to compare your job to one with high regard by society to emphasize it’s importance. The reality is: NO TWO JOBS ARE ALIKE. Even if they are regarded similarly, like doctors and lawyers being considered to be high-status jobs- they differ hugely. You do not need to compare your successes to someone else’s to validate that your successes are indeed successes. The more you compare, the unhappier you will be because the reality is there is no comparison. The more you attempt to draw comparisons, the more you will realize you have started down an endless road. There are doctors who are also mothers, there are bankers who are also musicians. People are unpredictable, their interests do not have to be limited to a single choice.

I am privileged in so many ways but as long as I was comparing myself to other people, I could not remember a single of my own individual blessings. Instead, I saw adversity everywhere because I was so focused on wanting something that I did not have. Something that I did not even need. I needed a scale to be able to understand where I was so I made one up sensing the differences between myself and others around me. Instead of grounding myself by comparing who I am as a person now versus a few years ago and what I have accomplished over time, I focused on how many barriers I had broken down in assimilating to those around me.

The worst part? I did not do it for myself or because I even wanted to. I did it because I thought it was what I was supposed to do and it did not make me happy. I found no substance, no meaning or sense of fulfillment in becoming more similar to the other people I had cherished for so long. It was a difficult and strenuous lesson learned but it is the reason I do not conform to anyone today. The reason I am not afraid to be completely honest about who I am no matter what situation I am put in. I determine my own morals, preferences and allow my actions to solely be dictated by myself. Not what anyone expects of me and not what I think is the norm or socially acceptable thing to do in that situation. I am no longer afraid to venture out on my own, to take a risk even if I am the only one doing so because I finally understand that it is so much more meaningful to be different and seek out people unlike you. There is no better way to learn about this world and how vast it really is.

The Reason I Chose a Caribbean School

I aim to be as honest as possible in this post. I cannot do that without stating that this is a reflection on my personal choices and while you may be reading this for a variety of reasons- if any of them include guidance, then take this with a grain of salt. Even if your journey to becoming a doctor seems incredibly similar, you feel like we’re in the same boat, we’re still different people with different upbringings and different personalities. I never really considered how that could impact who I blindly took advice from until now. Why did I choose a Caribbean medical school to obtain my MD? The simplest answer is because I did not want to wait. I’m 22, turning 23 in August of 2019.

I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in May of 2018, and my initial goal was to start medical school in September of 2018. That did not happen. The first time I took the MCAT was my senior year of undergrad. Most pre-med students take it for the first time their junior year of undergrad. I could not take it my junior year because I had yet to take higher elective biology classes for my major that would also be tested on the MCAT. Some people, depending on the courses and the path they take throughout college, have those core courses completed by their 3rd year. Others do not.

I did not personally feel prepared to take the MCAT without having an introduction to those classes through school. Others were willing to teach those topics to themselves and had that work for them. In March of 2018, I took the MCAT. My score was released on May 1st, 2018, a day before the deadline for the three U.S. medical schools that were still accepting new student applications. I used that score (average percentile) to apply to all three. It was almost the end of the spring semester, so the GPA that the schools saw was everything before the spring semester aka the classes I was enrolled in at that time.

My GPA was high. My science GPA was mediocre. Please keep in mind that I am referring to mediocre according to U.S. medical school standards. The average science GPA they expect is a 3.4+ the average overall GPA ranges from 3.4-4.0+ depending on the grading scale. What is the difference between a science GPA and a regular GPA? Your science GPA is the average of solely the hard science-based classes you took as pre-requisites for medical school. (i.e., Organic Chemistry, General Biology, Genetics, Bio Stats, Microbiology, etc.)

If you know what medical schools you want to apply to ahead of time, please look up their course requirements as some courses such as Calculus and Physics can vary among schools. Unfortunately, for me, Pace University required B.S. Biology majors to take up to Calc II and Physics II in order to receive their degree. So even if the medical school I was applying to did not require it, I had to take it for my major. I am very challenged with math and by extension physics which is math on steroids. I worked extremely hard to achieve as much as a letter grade of B in those courses. The point of this explanation being, the courses I did extremely well in (Biochem! I will never stop bragging about that because I worked insanely hard and understood the content) and the courses I did not do as well in averaged each other out.

BUT. I did NOT apply to a Caribbean school because of my MCAT score or grades. This is where I am most often asked then WHY would I put myself in a Caribbean school without further pursuing U.S. based options. ESPECIALLY if I had the potential grades and test scores to obtain admissions into U.S. schools? Firstly, I did. I applied to three schools and while that may not have been the greatest amount or range of schools- I was not accepted to any of them. The Caribbean medical schools are unique in many ways, but one of the biggest ways they differ from traditional U.S. based medical schools is that they have three semester start dates in a calendar year whereas the U.S. schools have just one.

Secondly, why not take the MCAT again if I got a great score the first time and improve my chances of getting accepted for the second cycle? The second cycle would mean starting med school in Sept of 2019 should I have gotten accepted. I pursued this as well. In September of 2018, I took the MCAT for a second time. I got my score in early October. While it had improved, it had not changed dramatically. Should I have taken the chance on the score and applied to schools and not have gotten in, I would have to wait until Sept 2020 to start medical school. If I got in to any school with either the same score but applying to a different cycle OR if I had taken the MCAT a third time in the hopes of getting a massively higher score. That would be the difference between finishing JUST medical school, not residency, at 28. I have consistently been sure of my decision to go to medical school and very dedicated to my goal of becoming an MD. It was senseless, to me, the idea of doing something else to fill time while I was applying and waiting to hear back from responses. There were other methods of being able to start what my ultimate goal was- why would I put it off? There was no compelling reason for me to truly avoid Caribbean schools.

This is where you have to be honest with yourself. I changed several factors between the way I studied the first and second time for the MCAT. The test is ruthless, 7.5 hours long and tests you on hundreds of concepts in the span of a single sitting. It was torture and preparing for it was equally painful. The likelihood of my score changing significantly was low. Additionally, I would have to explain to any admissions officer why it took me three attempts at the MCAT to obtain the score I did. It was not a great option. Neither was waiting until 2020. So I took a leap of faith.

A few days after getting my score in October, I applied to the January semester start term at Ross University School of Medicine as well as St. George’s University School of Medicine. I was fortunate to have family friends that attended both schools and could provide me firsthand information as alumni. I listened to their experiences and conducted my research and determined it was worth it to go for the interview should I get one. Fast forward a few days, and I was excited to see I got interview opportunities for both schools. Fast forward a week after my interviews, and I had gotten acceptance into both schools. Why Ross? They were offering me a strong scholarship in addition to the admission.

Fast forward to starting school here: I am so glad I did. I have already met so many people who were excellent students during their undergraduate career, who scored anywhere from the 50th-99th percentile on the MCAT, students who worked alongside doctors for years and students who dedicated their time as EMT’s, working firsthand with patients and having learnt procedures the rest of us are only now being exposed to. The point? Caribbean schools may be a last resort choice for some, but not all. There are thousands of U.S. and Canada based students here who all have personal stories as to how they ended up here. None of them have to do with the students being incompetent. None of them have to do with the students being, “less than.” No, I am not just saying this because I go here.

It is difficult to admit for me that before I was put in a position where I had to consider a Caribbean school, I thought poorly of them. It was taboo to think anything else of them. From the perspective of society, they were lower-tiered and lesser of a medical school than ones in the U.S. This negative perspective and mentality does nothing but belittle the future doctors that will be attending to your health. The majority percentage of Caribbean medical students return to the United States to practice. 9 times out of 10, a patient does not inquire nor really care where their doctor went to school. The reason being: medicine is a universal art. The human body is a standardized machine. Sure, there are different methods and techniques and ways to learn how to address the complications and problems that arise within an individual but learning to treat those conditions have less to do with where you went to school and more to do with how much effort you put into the skills you are learning.

The Discrimination Females Face in STEM and Everywhere Else in the World

This is such a heated topic, fingers crossed I keep my emotions under control! May break down into tears/uncontrollable anger while writing this post. My hormones must be approaching that time of month. Or I’m just batshit crazy because I have two X chromosomes.

Nope. I’m just one of the billions of women worldwide who suffer from inequality in every aspect of the word. I’m going to start by explaining how it affects me personally and then how it translates to a universal problem. I mean catastrophe.

Also, I think Brett Kavanaugh did an excellent job demonstrating the overt anger issues testosterone can produce (i.e. screaming in Supreme Court) and Trump has truly demonstrated how emotional decisions (i.e. demanding a wall be built) can put a country in distress. Government shutdown day… 234? Actually it’s day 29 but we’ll get there. Both of these situations were expected from a female because of how “dramatic,” we are and yet look at these men putting us to shame. So sad.

I am your stereotypical girly-girl. I relish in dolling myself up, wearing makeup, getting my nails done, wearing heels, elaborate skin-care routines, you name it- I do it. I am not, however, your stereotypical girl when it comes to anything beyond that. I do not entertain gender roles and I will never be entirely dependent on anyone other than myself to provide for me and/or my family. I am not a housewife, I am not educated just to apply my skills to bake sales and volunteering positions. Chaperoning field-trips or managing dinner parties. There is not a single thing wrong with those who choose to center their lifestyle by those activities. But they are not what women should be expected of or assigned to doing. Men should not be subjected to the vice versa of these gender roles, either. However, we live in a society that oriented itself around men telling women what to do. What they can and cannot do, where they can and cannot work. What they can and cannot be paid. Whether they truly can be self-sustainable.

This is not just about the wage-gap, this is not just about sexual harassment, this is not just about rape culture. It is the aggressive dominance of men in every factor of a woman’s life that gives way to this method of control. Even if a woman can provide for herself, manage herself and her family, she is seen incomplete without a man. She is deemed to be unfortunate because she does not fit the traditional idea of what a family looks like. Her work? Discredited. Her efforts? Invalidated. They are seen as just enough, but not an accomplishment because she does not have a male figure matched to her.

Why is this so significant? Because when I tell people that I am studying to become a doctor- of the first things I am asked is, “Are you going to marry one, too?” In what world can the amount of effort it took for me to get into medical school translate to me securing a dating pool of men who have an MD? The one I freaking live in. Even worse, some don’t ask. They comment that I was smart to go to med school as it increases my chances of ending up with a doctor. I’m sorry, what?

A female doctor is not respected in the way a male doctor is. This is evident on a factual level through the wage gap. On average, a female physician in the same field and specialty is paid $100,000.00 LESS than her male colleague. She could be working the exact same number of hours if not more, and will be paid LESS. There are male doctors who have infamously attempted horrid justifications for this. Among the excuses, the most common are that female physicians prioritize their families over their patients and therefore are not as dedicated or concentrated on their work as male physicians. That females are generally more lazy and therefore see less patients. That we are not as competent as male physicians and therefore we do not deserve the same pay. That patients feel more comfortable, more confident in the abilities of male physicians as females are expected to make more mistakes. Enraged yet?

There’s more! If you try not to think about the financial injustice taking place, there are always the sexist individuals who will call you, “Nurse.” This is demeaning to FEMALES and NURSES. There are male nurses. There are female doctors. Both require different types of training. Both are valued. Both are vital to the way the healthcare system works. Nurses are respected, honored and crucial parts of any hospital or clinic. They are not female aides that lacked the intelligence to become a doctor. They are not a second-choice occupation. Stop treating them like one.

There’s still more! Female doctors who look a certain way are perceived to be beneath female doctors that portray a unisex, minimalist appearance. Every doctor, or employee of any field, should maintain a professional and comfortable appearance. Do not wear anything that could get in the way of your work or be considered inappropriate. However, this is not interfere with the personal preference of style some individual’s may have. If a female doctor dresses with trend and style, she is seen as superficial and more concerned with her looks than her job. If a male doctor dresses with trend and style, he is seen as an attractive doctor. That’s it. His clinical skill does not come into question. However, to females, “You’re too pretty to be a doctor,” is not a compliment. It’s an insult. How attractive an individual is or how they like to dress themselves has no correlation to their level of training, knowledge or experience. It’s simply superficial and discriminatory to think otherwise.

I’ve focused on medicine for the majority of the piece because that is where my focus is personally. Unfortunately, that’s not the only place this complex level of sexism occurs. As mentioned before, it takes place in every single occupation- but research has demonstrated that it’s higher than average for women in STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. All fields with predominantly high male occupants. All fields known in society as prestigious, difficult and hard to obtain.

I desperately hope this changes and that the efforts that all women and men have put into creating awareness and reconciling the rules that maintain these injustices do not go in vain.

The Reason I Cannot Fit in a Single Category

Most people don’t realize this unless they are prompted by the question: How do you want your life to be meaningful? For some, the answer remains in the most common template: a job, a family, a house and possibly a sense of community. Their ambition is to provide for themselves and their loved ones, that is what makes life fulfilling to them. To me, a single goal is not enough. I feel like I can do more, like I should be doing more. Part of that is not healthy. I often get ahead of myself and take on too much. If you do that, if you spread yourself thin, you won’t be able to perform the way you are supposed to even on the tasks that your prioritize. Additionally, the most important thing I’ve recognized is not every endeavor I wish to pursue deserves my time.

The question I get asked most frequently on any of my social media platforms is about time management. How did I self-publish a book while studying pre-med in undergrad? How do I post about my makeup, clothes, stylistic choices while studying 4+ hours a day? Where did the idea to start WithinTheRaw merch come from and how did I make it a reality while conducting clinical research? So many of my interests appear to be polar opposites. But I’m not sure I would have realized that if it had not been pointed out to me. I am not the type of person who believes you need to let go of one thing to make room for another. Instead, I thrive on allowing myself to have multiple passions and instead of viewing them as a burden or disservice, instead of worrying that I don’t fit in just one category, I embrace it.

Where does the difference come from? Your down time. The easiest example I can provide is beginning WithinTheRaw as a fashion blog in high school and really focusing in on it during my first year of undergrad. I have loved clothes, fashion and being able to style myself since I was a little girl. So that part, I have had a lot of practice with. My first year of undergrad was the easiest. It left me with a lot of time that I did use to hang out with friends, relax, speak to my family and just take care of myself. But part of what I did to take care of myself is enjoy dressing up. Searching both online and in stores for deals, trendy pieces to put together and once I found them- getting dolled up to shoot them with a photographer was fun. It was not a chore, it was not taxing. I did not come home from it feeling exhausted and as though I committed myself to a second job. It left me on a high. I felt satisfied, content, and peaceful. So even if it was just once a week, I made time for it. I woke up a little earlier, I finished assignments ahead of time so I could spend the afternoon shooting. It’s not that the activity was not time-consuming, it absolutely was. But it was productive and well-managed and therefore I did not mind.

For those of you who feel like they want to take on so much, they don’t even know where to start, ask yourself: why am I pursuing what I am pursuing? You have to ensure that everything you take on, you do so because you genuinely find interest in it. It may challenge you, it may frustrate you, but you have to have a calling towards it. Do not take on a hobby or activity because you see a lot of others doing so. Do not do it because it seems attainable or as though it will benefit you in any way other than personally. It’s not worth it. Studying and pursuing medicine never felt like an obligation for me because no one told me to choose it. I chose it for myself out of my sheer desire to become a practicing physician. (InshaAllah!) I started writing in high school, I took creative writing classes as electives and began to depend on writing short stories and poetry as a form of release. Turning it into a publication is for another blog post, but the point is I did not do it because I wanted to be a published author, although saying that is awesome. I did not do it with anything else in mind other than wanting to share my work with fellow authors, writers, readers and artists.

It’s easy to feel disorganized and distraught when you have more than one serious passion. I’m feeling it right now despite managing the same passions for the past six years. I decided to start blogging properly again, something I haven’t taken on in a while. It’s a bridge I created because now that I’m in medical school- I don’t have time to write as creatively as I want. I’m still adjusting. But I still want to write. The best reflection of my thoughts and what I’m learning in this journey can be reflected through this blog. I will not force myself to write creatively, ever. Once my mind and body have adjusted to this new environment, my creativity will follow.

The reason I am not panicking or yearning for myself to be able to write as previously mentioned or work on Warfare is because as soon as I realized I have multiple interests, I ranked them. In terms of priority. This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It will remind you what has to wait and what can’t. It will keep you grounded and away from giving too much of yourself to things that won’t matter in the long-run. For me, the top priority has always been practicing medicine. Becoming a doctor, being a doctor is my first and foremost aspiration in life. Everything else comes second. That’s why at 22, just 6 months after I graduated from undergrad, I started my medical career. I look forward to taking every reader on this journey with me!

The Day Before My First Medical School Lecture

This is basically an open letter to myself so bear with me. Orientation week ended on Friday and left me a bit numb. There was an immense amount of information to process regarding the island, Barbados, as well as Ross itself. We went through the entire curriculum, code of conduct, exam regulations as well as advice and lessons from previous students and professors. I had 48 hours to reset before my first lecture which is at 7:00AM tomorrow morning.

My thoughts? I wish the grocery store was still open so I could go buy a tub of ice cream. I’m still in disbelief. Also, I’m pretty scared. I want to do well and I know I am capable of doing it but worry stems from having something to lose. Fear is also motivation.

I want to remember this moment. The night before starting one of the hardest things I’ve ever taken on. I want to hold onto it because I never thought I was going to make it here. The day I do make it. The day I cross the finish line, I’m going to read this and know so much more than I do in this moment. I will have grown exponentially, beyond what I can imagine. I will have dealt with difficulties independently, changing what I am capable of taking on and giving me that much more experience.

In the meantime, I want to remember to be kind to myself. As I train to care for others in the largest capacity possible, I will remember to take care of myself. To treat myself gently, because at the end of the day I am still human. I will push myself, challenge myself and force myself to take risks. Live outside my comfort zone. And I will also seek help. Guidance. Not when I need it the most, but when I need it the least just to ensure I am doing the best I can. I will remain humble as humility is the basis of any good deed, and I will ask questions because no matter how far I get there will always be more to learn.

The Way to Change Study Habits (Orientation Week)

MAJOR EDIT to my previous post. Today in our academic discussion portion of orientation we were instructed to forget any old study strategies as they are deemed ineffective for medical school. Re-reading and constantly reviewing notes may help you understand a concept but it will do nothing to actually teach you the information in a way you can apply it to situations. Instead, we were given seven steps:

  1. Plan

  2. Prepare

  3. Participate

  4. Process

  5. Practice

  6. Perform

  7. Pause

The most important step that was emphasized was to PARTICIPATE. Become part of the material as you are learning it for the first time. Stop the professor, ask them questions as the material is being taught so that you do not learn the information incorrectly and therefore have to then correct yourself which takes twice the amount of time. Relate what you are being taught in that moment to something else, create analogies for yourself so that you can be reminded of the concept and topic in more ways than one. This also deepens your understanding and makes it more likely for you to understand the concept in a foreign context.

Additionally, previous students as well as advisers have stressed that students should rewrite the lectures provided in their own words to conjugate the information in a way you personally understand better. Not only that, but condense the information so that you can review it quickly by the time the exam comes. If you feel the need to write down every last detail because you cannot remember it otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.

The Start of Orientation Week (Semester One)

I’m two days into orientation week and reality has yet to hit me. We’re constantly referred to as student doctors instead of medical students because it more accurately speaks to the intensity of what we are learning. Either that, or we’re referred to as junior doctors. Any time I’m referred to as a partial doctor, I have to stop myself from rejecting the notion. I’m here. I’m in medical school. Why does this still feel so surreal to say?

If you’re anything like me, you were stressed out in undergrad as you attempted a hard science major to fulfill pre-requisites for medical school. My major was a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience. There was not a single science course I took that I felt I could do well in without putting in as much effort as humanly possible. Today, during orientation, one of the presenters said undergrad was the easiest schooling in our careers. I still cannot wrap my head around that statement. Also, I’m scared of that presenter. At the end of the day, I know she did not mean that as in the content is in another language and extremely difficult to comprehend. Instead, she meant the volume of material we are expected to know like the back of our hand is A LOT. A lot more than undergrad but that’s understandable.

From the advice I’ve been given and my personal understanding of being a medical student what I know is this: if it were easy, everyone would do it. There is no reason becoming a doctor should be a manageable or simple task. You are expected to be responsible for the lives of other human beings. You are expected to be the liaison between their health and quality of life. This is not a career meant for everyone. Despite having the characteristics, ethics and drive to become a doctor you may not accomplish your goal. Being a doctor is taxing on one’s physical and mental health. Medical school is just the first step to that journey.

My biggest aspiration is to become a prominent and strong doctor. I’m confident in that decision and have stood by it for a very long time. Now that I’m in the process of doing so, I’ve had moments where I need to pinch myself as a reminder that this is real life. I’m fully aware that my hesitation and self-doubt in declaring I am a doctor in training comes from the fears I had during undergrad. I questioned myself every single day, whether I got good grades or bad grades- if I would ever get into medical school. I portrayed confidence and did relatively well in class but I still felt that becoming an actual practicing physician was out of reach. The pedestal that doctors are placed upon often makes people forget that they are just human. They are some of the hardest workers society has and they dedicate so much of their life to training for the one morning they walk into a room and say, “I’m going to be your doctor today,” to a patient. They are not born knowing everything about the human body. No one is born destined to be a doctor if they did not work for it.

My reminder to myself during this orientation week is that I earned this. It was in no means perfect, and I struggled immensely but I came out on top. I revisited my mistakes, retook classes and most importantly- LEARNED. I feel so prepared for my classes to start because I know exactly how to study so that I retain and understand the most amount of information. I don’t think I would have known how to study so productively if I had not tried the several ways I did in undergrad and saw what failed me versus what worked for me. When things feel extremely overwhelming whether you are a medical student or pre-med in undergrad, apply what my Dad taught me. There are three steps to learning any new information, no matter the amount of it.

1. Read
2. Memorize
3. Apply

Read the relevant information, memorize the concepts you read and then combine the two skills to be able to apply it to any and every scenario you are given. Do not go through these steps only once. Go through them several times, as many times as you need to before you can teach the information on your own. But follow them in this order.

The Prologue

There was a moment in high school where I questioned if being fascinated with medicine was enough to actually pursue it. I decided it was not, and confidently announced to my parents at 16 years old that I would not become a doctor under any circumstance. My parents were rare angels among most South Asian parents because they merely nodded and said, “Okay.” It was the same answer I had gotten when I initially told them I wanted to pursue medicine a few years prior. “Okay,” was a common response in my family. For example, flash forward four years later to me telling my Mom I got into med school. Her response? “Okay.”

My decision did not change because I wanted a job people would always be in need of. Nor did it change because I felt an intense calling to help others. I was not pressured by circumstance or society. I was privileged and could have chosen to pursue just about anything I wanted. My senior year, I made the choice to go to Pace University in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The University offered just about every major you could think of. They had a well-known performing arts program. They were renowned for their school of business. Yet, I submitted my intended major as a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Two things had changed. The first was exposure. After deciding not to pursue medicine, I volunteered at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, CT. I needed to ensure that I was making the right decision. My career choice could not be based on fantasies while watching Grey’s Anatomy or any other TV show. It could not be based upon the sole experiences of others, no matter how wise they might be. I needed to witness for myself what working alongside other doctors and nurses is like. For a year, I committed myself to the Post-Op (Operational) wing where patients remained once they came out of a surgical procedure to the time when they were discharged. I tended to their emotional and physical problems under supervision. I also brought food provided by the hospital to the patients and sometimes made them toast, tea or coffee depending on dietary restrictions.

My first day there, I was asked to make toast for a patient. I put the bread in the toaster and had begun to wait when a nurse came over and asked me to bring paperwork to a doctor. I told her I would go, as long as she kept an eye on the toast. My supervisor had specifically instructed me not to turn the dial on the toaster past the number 4/6. I thought my supervisor had instructed EVERYONE on the floor that as I was NOT the only person with access to the toaster. I was wrong. As soon as I stepped foot back into the wing, the fire alarm went off. There was smoke everywhere. Patients were coughing, confused and distraught. The nurse had turned the dial on the toaster to 6/6 thinking the toast would be done faster and she would not have to wait as long. Instead, the toast caught on fire and the fire department showed up. While I helped the others clean up, the nurse went around telling everyone I was the one responsible for making toast. On the way out the door, a firefighter and surgeon suggested I pay attention to what I’m responsible for. I went home and cried.

I realized, while crying, what scared me was getting in trouble and losing the job. I cared enough to want to go back and continue interacting with patients and checking in on the ones I had already met. I had become friends with a female surgeon and asked her questions frequently. My curiosity led me to YouTube, where I watched endless procedures. People inserting chest tubes, delivering babies, and performing organ transplants, to name a few.

My obsession grew and led to the second factor: stepping into the labs at Pace University. During my accepted students tour, we visited a section designated for students studying science. The home for Biology, Physics and Chemistry majors. Meeting the professors, viewing the labs and hearing from other science students speak on their research and coursework ignited my fascination further. I was handed a list of all the courses Biology majors could take, some were required and part of the major but others were electives. I remember thinking I could not choose between electives when I read they offered reproductive biology, virology, microbiology and an intro to neuroscience course. I wanted to take all of them.

In the time between that visit and my first day of classes, I was sure I wanted to pursue the sciences. My insatiable curiosity geared me towards becoming a physician over conducting research. I found myself wanting to know more and more about the human body and its intricate workings. The causes behind diseases and the interactions between pathogens and pharmaceutical drugs. How to deliver someone’s baby. My path to med school has been anything but easy. There were difficulties I encountered that I was not sure I would overcome. I questioned myself and my abilities to stay on this track multiple times. But I did and now I’m able to write this entry awaiting my first day of orientation for medical school.

*My next post will explain some of these obstacles and how I handled them to get to where I am now. Thank you for reading!