Humans of Medicine – Florence Ho

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

I’m Flo, and I’m currently a final year med student. Outside medicine, I’m a violinist, I enjoy exploring the Melbourne food scene, playing board games and travelling during my breaks. Some of my favourite places that I’ve been include Spain, the south of France, Vietnam (for the food) and Japan . 

Tell us about some of your experiences outside of the academics of medicine. 

I’ll probably start with MMO, where I was 1st year rep, pre-clin rep, then co-chair. Being Co-Chair of MMO was my first experience of leading a team where there wasn’t any direct supervision above me; where I was responsible for the decisions that would make things happen. It also allowed me to continue playing violin, which was a pretty major aspect of my life before med. I’m really grateful for the role that music has played in my life – from learning how to practise and persist through challenges, to meeting new friends!

I then wanted to put my hand up for a role that engaged with a wider proportion of the cohort, which led me to apply for 4th year academic rep in 2018, and then academic VP of MUMUS  in 2019. Having these roles was an invaluable experience for me in terms of advocating for a large student base, and I had the privilege of working alongside a wonderful group of motivated student reps. 

Last year, I was looking to try something a bit different, to see how I would fare in a new environment. At the time, a management consulting firm was calling for applications for one of their scholarship and internship programs, and I decided to apply. I was fortunate enough to receive the scholarship, and this gave me the opportunity to do something that was not directly related to medicine, but would contribute towards developing skills that would be useful in my future career. 

Was your internship experience different to what you expected it to be? 

I went into this internship expecting to do something completely different, which I certainly got. I think knowing that I could work in an environment that was pretty foreign to me has helped my confidence. What I wasn’t expecting was the emphasis on individual working styles and communication. There was emphasis on personal development; on how you get something done rather than just getting something done. I also wasn’t expecting to encounter their style of feedback – it’s really great that they have ‘upwards feedback’ built into the culture of the company, where feedback from more junior members of the team is actively encouraged by the more senior members. 

If time and money weren’t an issue, what would your ideal side hustle be? 

I’d love to run a cafe where smartphones are banned! I’d want it to be a space for people to go so they can switch off from work and social media, absorb their surroundings, and just chat to someone they’re with or someone new.  It would be very aesthetically pleasing with good food, of course, but ultimately a space where you could avoid outside distractions. 

What would the colour scheme be? 

Either pastels or white! 

Is there an issue within medicine that you wish could change? 

I don’t know if I have enough authority to speak on issues within systemic medicine, but something I’ve noticed within medical school is the attitude to fixate on a certain specialty pathway or end-career goal, and gearing everything towards achieving that . This often defines every choice made, from choosing which hospital to intern at, to what research to get involved in, and what extracurricular societies to join. 

I can’t comment on whether or not this mentality is helpful to getting us  to our end goals, but I do think it can be a very stress-inducing culture. This hyper-competitive attitude, and I think a lot of my peers would agree, can be damaging towards student mental health and detracts from the enjoyment of medical school and life in general. I’ve definitely fallen into this mindset from time to time – and I’m not convinced that this tunnel vision is the healthiest way to approach med school.

What is your advice to all the medical students who have fallen victim to this culture?

I think the opportunities that I’ve enjoyed the most throughout medical school, have been those which have a clear purpose, allow me to learn and gain skills, and are in an area that I’m genuinely interested in. My advice on that thread would be to not spread yourself too thin, and to engage in activities that you actually want to do. I feel like the culture in med school makes it very easy to compare one aspect of your life or your achievements to that aspect of another person’s life, for example with leadership roles or research papers.  I don’t have the answer to escape this mindset – it’s something I definitely also fall into. I would say, however, that sharing and vocalising this reminds me that these thoughts are common and I am not alone. So I guess my overall, my advice would be to talk openly with friends about any stresses, try to run your own race and focus on what you want to get out of your 20s! 

If anyone wants to have a chat about anything, I’m more than happy for people to get in contact with me 🙂 


A Home Away From Home

By Tessa Lim 

I remember it vividly. As I entered the little refugee school back in 2016, the children were eager and friendly, welcoming me almost instantly.

“Teacher! Teacher! Teach me! No! I want her to teach me!”

You could tell that they were smart, excited and ready to learn. Everyone was smiling and welcoming me whole-heartedly with a sincerity I had never seen before.

I was especially captivated by the face of one little girl . She had a pretty face, and she seemed happy, but her smile did not reach her eyes. My instantaneous impression of her was that she had a kind soul, but also a painful background. It was almost as if she had seen so much in the world, despite only being six years old.

She was Huai Nu, a refugee child from Myanmar. When I first walked up to her, she was shy and afraid. She ran to her elder brother, pulling away from me, probably wary and distrusting of strangers. Either that, or she couldn’t be bothered to have a conversation with me. But I liked her.

Overtime, I got to know so many of them: San Kheh, Vung Bawi, Nuam Boih, Khai Lam. One of my student’s name was Saw Thoot, which was directly translated to “Saw Blessing”. Apparently, his family name was Saw but I guessed his parents wanted him to “see blessings”. The children also always had something interesting to say. I remembered asking them to spell the word “laugh” in a spelling test but they misunderstood it as “love”. We went on trips to the National Science Museum, the bread factory and even shopped for Rohingya traditional clothes together. We were like a family.

Huai Nu began to open up, and I realized that she was artistically inclined. One day, she grabbed me a chair and told me to sit beside her. She took out a piece of paper and started drawing a man, then a woman, then a child. She told me that was her family portrait. However, her father had left her when she and her mother relocated to Malaysia as refugees. I gently patted on her back and told her not to be sad, but she did not say a word. She looked straight into my eyes and just nodded. I felt helpless and felt that she deserved better. Slowly, Huai Nu became one of my favorite students even though she struggled academically. But the silver lining was that she was independent. Even though she struggled with English, she gave it her best effort. She was tenacious, and jovial, despite her circumstances.

My job was to teach them but they have taught me even more. They’ve taught me key life lessons. No matter what your background and circumstances may be – there is always a reason to smile and laugh. Even with all the hardship they were going through, they found time to play and be joyful. They were friendly with no judgment.

It was important to me to help nurture these children into thinkers and doers; to polish these rare gems from the underprivileged community. They also made me want to be a better medical student. They made me want to study harder to be the best doctor I could be. More than anything else, they made me want to be a better person.

Just a few months ago, Huai Nu and her mother moved to America.

“Nganinkolwante, teacher Tessa!’’

“I will miss you too, Huai Nu!’’

Even though my roots are in East Malaysia, the Christian Fellowship Centre in West Malaysia will always be home to my refugee students and my home away from home.

Nick’s Healthy Bolognese Sauce

By Nicholas Wilkes 

With many of us off placements or back home and learning from online lectures, now is a good time to try some new healthy recipes when you need a break from studying. This week, I’d recommend trying this healthy Bolognese sauce recipe that I shamelessly stole from my mom. It’s a great meal prep item as you can easily scale up the size of batch to match your needs, and as most of the ingredients are optional, can still be readily made with the limited supplies on the supermarket shelves!

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