When I became a medical student I was astounded by the number of opportunities available. The more I looked, the more awesome things I found. My interests in policy and leadership development led me into a number of roles with my medical student society and a summer working in the Canadian Medical Association Leadership in Medicine office as an intern (program now sadly defunct) were the highlights. These experiences led me to discover a ton of other cool things medical students could do.
As a senior medical student I was dismayed to note that some of these opportunities were not widely advertised to the students. They had to go looking for them and often found them too late! At the same time, they were often given advice that I disagree with which may have dissuaded them from doing so. I used to give an annual talk to the 1st year students titled “Choose your own Adventure.” Sponsored by the awesome novels of my childhood:
Last week I advised medical students to “do what you love” but was somewhat vague with the details. I provided only a single example: how I combined my love of teaching and writing with emergency medicine in this blog. If you haven’t read that post yet I highly recommend you click here as I will build on it in this post by providing a myriad of other ways you can combine your passions and medicine in a mutually beneficial way and choose your own adventure!
Of course, step 1 is figuring out what you are passionate about. If you are not sure I’d suggest you spend some time figuring it out. There’s been enough ink spilled on that topic elsewhere (like oprah.com) so I won’t get into it in this post. However, if you have that part down you should start hunting for ways to incorporate it into medicine. For example, if you love…
Medicine holds a lot of inspiration for artists of all kinds. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to many students that “used to” write/paint/sing/dance but gave it up because they were “too busy” in medical school. Consider trying to tie incorporate your art into what you are learning.
For those of you out there who feel this is a bit too wishy-washy who might be encouraged by having a more formal framework:
I think most of us have seen or are familiar with the story of Patch Adams. As outlined in this major motion picture, Patch is the founder of the Gesundheit! Institute. He also travels around the world dressed as a clown attempting to heal with humor. If that kind of stuff is your cup of tea, consider checking out the Gesundheit! Institute for an elective or joining him on a humanitarian clown trip.
If these things are your cup of tea, consider applying for the Humanistic Elective in Alternative Medicine, Activism and Reflective Transformation (HEART) offered by the American Medical Student Association (I spoke to them a few years back and they would consider offering Canadian students a spot at that time). This month long elective is intended to be a capstone for medical students and offers training in: physician social responsibility and activism, racism, humanism, gender in medicine, health policy, mentoring, the practice of CAM, medical history, death and dying, suffering and compassion, healing through the creative arts, sexuality, body image, violence, substance abuse, childbirth, religion, self-care, and more.
Additionally, many medical schools operate student clinics for underserved populations. In Canada some successful examples include SWITCH, SEARCH, WISH and CHIUS. If your school doesn’t have one, consider building one.
Athletic medical students with an interest in sports medicine might consider volunteering to be a trainer of a sports team. There is also a cool sports medicine elective offered at the University of Ottawa.
This post was not and never could be comprehensive. I’d recommend finding the activities that give you energy and ask Google for a way to incorporate it with medicine. If you don’t find anything, use your imagination and consider applying for funding through the Canadian Federation of Medical Students or another agency.
In the end if there’s no way you can find to combine any of your other passions with medicine, still keep them up. There’s nothing less boring than a CaRMS applicant that has done nothing but obsess over their specialty of choice for the past four years.
And if you can think of any more ways to combine your passions with medicine, please respond in the comments below! I will likely update this article every once in awhile to keep track of them.
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