Tips for Wellbeing: Global Pandemic Edition

By Molly Maxwell

When I entered Year A, I knew that the hardest challenges I would face would be those that I had not considered. A global pandemic was definitely not something I had prepared for. As today is my first day of online schooling, I feel there is no better time to share some ways we can adapt to our new version of normal and get out the other side to help all of the medical staff who are fighting for us today.

 How to: Pandemic University

  1. Most important (for all aspects of life) is routine. Establishing a routine of “normal” study hours is essential to allow us to maintain our sanity whilst in isolation. This includes actually getting out of bed and getting dressed which can be challenging when you don’t have to.
  2. Make an online study group. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, this is not so hard for us through Zoom, Facetime, or the Forest app. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and maintain some socialisation.
  3. Be adaptable. Online learning is not the greatest way for us to learn to be doctors but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good way. Accept our new challenges for what they are and use this time to build resilience and adaptability which is essential for our future.

How to: Outbreak Wellbeing

  1. Remember to exercise. With gyms closing around the country, it’s important to still maintain an exercise regime at home. A plethora of online at home workouts exist for free on the internet so you can look after your body whilst in isolation.
  2. Go outside. With social distancing and isolation our reality, remember to still go outside. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard or balcony, use it. A bit of vitamin D and fresh air can do wonders for our wellbeing in trying times.
  3. Social distancing doesn’t mean distancing socially. Whilst we can’t go and hang out at the pub or with all our friends for the time being it is important that you still make an effort to communicate. This golden age of technology means that remote communication is as easy as ever so find new ways to hang out whether it be a niche PowerPoint night broadcast over zoom or daily phone calls with people you love.

How to: Nurture your mental health

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. This is a scary time for everyone. It is okay to feel frightened or stressed or defeated, but you are not alone. Let yourself be not okay. Remember that this is a temporary situation and that you will not have to feel this way forever.
  2. Reach out. If you are struggling to manage your mental health during this crisis, seek help. If you are already seeing a mental health practitioner, many offer telehealth to attend your appointments from home. There are also many online resources from Beyond Blue and Lifeline that can give you handy tips including this forum to speak with people who are in the same boat as you.
  3. Self- care. Now is a perfect time to incorporate self-care into your daily routine and make looking after yourself a priority. This can be anything from taking a relaxing bath to getting ready for the day. Make sure to prioritise making yourself feel good (easier said than done). We all deserve to go a bit easier on ourselves right now.

Hopefully some of this was helpful to you. If all else fails, download Tik Tok and go on a deep dive. This whole pandemic thing should be over by the time you get out. Wash your hands and be kind to people!

Musings of a Worn-Out Med Student

By Rav Sellahewa 

You’re too harsh on yourself. You have always been your sharpest

critic. You have a strong and over-powering superego, a voice in the

back of your head- that tells you off. You hear it whenever you don’t

study, whenever you don’t gym. It tells you off when you want to

relax. It represents an idealized self-image of yourself. An image

that you no longer have the tenacity to maintain. You have spent too

many years of your life trying to appease it. Too many years fighting

off the urge to laze around and watch Netflix. You’ve finished 4 years

of medical school, a BMedSc(hons), and are nearly done with your first

5th year rotation and you are tired. You’ve earnt a break. You need a

break. Tell your super-ego to go get f****d. It’s time to give in to

your impulses and desires- and let your Id shine. It’s time to watch

that god-awful reality dating show on Netflix and enjoy it, because

you deserve it.”

 

Fifty-Four Years Ago

By: Bowen Xia 

For: The Auricle Writing Competition 2018

Prompt: ‘What is a piece of advice you wish you hadn’t taken and why?’

In a small house, a year 6 student sits in a dimly lit room studying hard all day to prepare in the hopes of entering a prestigious selective school. Surrounding him are boxes of certificates, medals and trophies of various competitions and outside that, on a patchwork couch, his parents and siblings huddle together watching the latest episode of the ‘Simpsons’ on an old box TV. They ask him to join but he has more important things to do. Ha! His family’s periodic bursts of laughter mix over the TV static and he blocks his ears. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

6 years later…

In a prestigious high school, a year 12 student sits in an empty classroom studying hard all day, to prepare for his VCE exams, in the hopes of studying medicine at a prestigious university. His blazer is adorned with numerous academic and leadership badges and his brow is furrowed and beaded with sweat whilst gazing at the citric acid cycle. Bam! A ball hits the window and shouts of his friends playing outside fill the room he shuts the window and closes the blind. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

4 years later…

In a prestigious university, a fourth-year medical student sits in the medicine building foyer silently studying hard all day, to prepare for his end of year exams, in the hopes of gaining an internship at a prestigious hospital. In his bag sits his Netter’s flashcards, four medicine textbooks and his trusty Classic III stethoscope. Slam! The silence is broken as his peers leave the building for their weekly pilgrimage to the ‘Nott’. He stares back at his Anki cards. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

3 years later…

In a prestigious hospital, an RMO sits in the staff breakroom revising hard all day, when he is not on shift, to prepare for his eventual registrar exams in the hopes of joining a prestigious speciality. On the table sits his fourth cup of coffee, a Cardiology III stethoscope, two patient files and a model of the brain. Creak…! Some colleagues leave the room and head off to Zoukis for a well-deserved break, but he resolutely refocuses on his studying. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

9 years later…

At a recently founded clinic, a neurosurgeon sits in a consulting room working hard at night. It has been a long day chock full of patients and paperwork but hopefully, he will be finished soon. On his desk sits a framed picture of his family, a pile of bills, a neatly drafted cover letter and a brochure titled ‘AMA Nominations Opening Now!’. Click…! He opens the main door to his house. All the lights are turned off except a small night light in the lounge room where it shines dimly on the couch and two small sleeping figures are illuminated. He picks up a piece of paper lying next to them and inspects it. A squiggly drawing of his family is on it and underneath is scrawled ‘please come home soon Dad!’. A tear rolls down his eye. One day my hard work will pay off and then my family will be truly happy.

12 years later…

In the nation’s capital, a high-ranking member of the AMA studies some documents in his empty boardroom. When he is not attending meetings all day, he prepares his family’s finances. In his wallet sits a real-estate business card, a prescription for Xanax and a well-worn photo of his children. Ding! A message appears on screen ‘where are you dad? I can’t see you in the audience from the graduation balcony’. As the Prime Minister and his panoply of staff enter the room, the text message is dismissed with a sigh. One day my hard work will pay off and then my family will be truly happy.

20 years later…

In an inviting, large, well-kept house no one enters except for the occasional cleaning staff. On the balcony, a recent retiree idles all day on a sunchair waiting for the clock to strike 5:30 pm. In a bin next to him sit two empty pill boxes, one bisphosphonates and the other NSAIDs, and a torn brochure titled ‘Europe travel guide’. Beep… beep… beep! He unsteadily gets out of the chair and shambles towards his phone. Every movement seems to be painful but made with determination as he stops the alarm. His daily ritual has begun as he calls the two people that matter the most to him. Both go to voicemail but not without him sending two text messages that are left on seen. As the sun begins to set and the darkness approaches, he begins writing a letter.

My dearest angels,

I am truly sorry that I could not make you happy, but I hope this letter can. Fifty-four years ago, I a young, eager boy promised myself that I would not stop pushing forward into the world until the right moment to enjoy life to its fullest arose.  Alas, that day arose too late and I an elderly frail man will bountiful time and material can make neither you nor me happy.

 I blame this on ill-disciplined motivation and determination and insufficient time. If only, my promise was made when I was younger, and I tried working harder, today’s grief would be avoided. Our past conflicts were due to our different outlook on life but as your father, I cannot let you continue making the same mistakes as me. I implore that you resist being complacent and discontinue your premature enjoyment of life. If you do not stop working hard for the future, you may be happy in the end.

 

With Love,

A Sorry Old Man

The Adventures of Pen

By Rav Gaddam

There are many things that bind the medical student community together; our love of stealing food, the ability to still be bamboozled by an ECG, and of course, our innate skill to lose pens at a rate that Ebola has got nothing on.

But have you ever truly wondered what happens to a pen? Where does it go? What adventures does it have? Ever wonder about the people and things it sees?

Well, if you’re reading this article, you can guess that I have.

My pen’s journey began last year, when I lent it to my consultant who snapped their fingers at me and gestured to my pen as they were on the phone. “Do you also have some paper?” I was also asked, while begrudgingly handing over my favourite black pen.

I was unfortunately called away by a registrar, lured away with the promise of being able to cannulate the next patient. As you can expect, I never did get that pen back, and I assumed it had been lost in the depths of the pen blackhole that is a hospital.

At the same time though, I also imagined that my pen saw many exciting things in its life. It would likely have been used to draw up a drug chart to save a patient from a DVT, or sign path forms for a renal patient on dialysis. It could have been used to write down obs on a glove in ED, or provided comfort to that paeds patient who had left their mark on the hospital (likely on the walls, possibly on the bed covers). It could have also vacationed in world of hospital administration, and heard all the juicy gossip about the number of beds that were not available that week. Who knows what the pen could have done; the possibilities are endless!

Well, in some exciting, awe-striking news, I found the pen.

Nearly a year later, as I rocked up to the first day of my new rotation, I found “pen”, as I affectionately now call it, sitting innocuously in a surgical theatre. “It couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “After all this time?”

Now, I can imagine some of you scoffing at this story, and some perhaps even accusing me of stealing a pen that perhaps did not even belong to me anymore, for it now belonged to the hospital. Pish-posh, I say. This event was a reunion that would have put The Notebook to shame, and made you weep like the time Mufasa died (it’s been 24 years, and I still cry. Every. Single. Time.)

It would have been a reunion story for the ages, a tale so splendid that David Attenborough would have wanted to make a documentary about it.

That is until the consultant snapped their fingers, and off my pen went on an adventure again.


Featured image from user FP Network on The Fountain Pen Network

Dating Medicine

By Ning Yih Kam

My relationship with Medicine has been a tumultuous one. It is very much like I’m dating medicine…

My love for Medicine started with an infatuation – a crush, as some might say. I was attracted to the prospects Medicine offered me. ‘He’ appeared reliable, strong, caring and sometimes even mesmerising. But that is all I know about Medicine. I was attracted to the security he provided me with, the respect everyone seemed to have for him, and his seemingly endless intellect. But that’s not why Medicine was attracted to me. He seemed to respect my diligence, my willingness to make sacrifices for the things I wanted. He appreciated the fact that I could hold my own against him.

Then Medicine asked me out. I vividly remember the day he did so – it was nearly 3 years ago now. Even the fact that he bothered to ask me out seemed like such an honour – people were practically throwing themselves at him – and here I was, a plain Jane, that Medicine asked out. I was elated to say the least. On our first date, he woke me up at 8am in the morning, with a call – telling me not to worry, the first few months of a relationship he said, were always the best – the Honeymoon period, or so he called it. And he was right, Medicine for those months, never ceased to be charming, provocative and ultimately seductive. He could’ve seduced those who were at first, totally uninterested in him, and put off by his demanding attitude. I did not just want to be with him, I wanted to be him.

And then we celebrated our first anniversary. The first of many, I would’ve hoped. He gave me a utilitarian, digital watch and says, ‘I don’t want you to miss any of our appointments – they’re all important’. I was so pleased at the gift – I hadn’t expected any, but at the same time, I was profoundly confused – surely, we will have some time outside of each other?

It was by third year that the cracks in our relationship started to appear. At first, the thought of spending all my time with him had made me so happy, but all of a sudden, as I watched my friends enjoy their social lives, I realised how restrictive our relationship had become. And that wasn’t all. There were stories. People who had dated him before told me to beware of the initial allure, of his initial charms. ‘He doesn’t work out for everyone, you know’, said a friend.

Third year, the relationship had become a chore. He wanted more and more. He was insatiable. My time, my intellect, my life: everything was not enough for him. Nothing was ever enough. Maybe our shabby foundation had started to rattle us. We decided, or rather, I decided, that I needed time away from him – time to do what I loved to do, without him intruding. I just didn’t feel like me anymore – I felt like my life was overrun with assignments, OSCEs, hospital placements and more.

During our time away from each other, I realised how shallow my reasons were for dating Medicine. What had attracted me to Medicine? Was it the unattainability? Was it the glamour? Was it the constant challenge? Was it the allure of making a difference? Perhaps it had been the strange amalgamation of all of the above.

As I contemplated my return to Medicine, I knew I would have to confront all I had learnt in the past 3 years. The reasons that had drawn me to Medicine initially, now appeared feeble – or even slightly repulsive. A return to Medicine would require stronger foundations. I needed to be able to justify the long hours, the years of less than desirable working conditions, the intellectual rigour and the physical exhaustion.

At the end of my deliberation, I decided to return to Medicine. In my cynical moments, I thought I was returning to him because I had nowhere to go. In my moments of positivity, I felt I was returning because of a faith that things would work out between us. But ultimately, the appeal of either of these extremes never lasted. I didn’t want to return to Medicine cynical or hopeful. What I did want to do however, was to return to Medicine not in a way that consumed me; but in a way that allowed me to retain who I was.

This is why we couldn’t date anymore. I look at Medicine now, as an equal. I’m not exhilarated by his presence, and I am no longer ignorant to his flaws. I want Medicine to be part of my life, not my whole life.


Featured image from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

 

Humans of Medicine – Manoj Arachige

Tell me about yourself. 

Hi, I’m Manoj. I’ve (thankfully) just finished Year 4C, and am about to go into my BMedSc year. Over the last few years, I’ve been involved in a few things within and outside of medicine. I was part of the MUMUS committee in 2nd and 3rd year, and during this time, was also trying to make the most of my time at uni by taking some risks and doing random things that would put me out of my comfort zone. Some of these things included joining a consulting club at Monash, being an ambassador for the Monash Generator Project, and participating in an accelerator, which is essentially an intensive start-up program. Over the last couple of years, I’ve also been running an education/online tutoring company with a couple of friends. I’m still doing this today, and it’s something that I’ve been having a lot of fun with! 

Can you provide some insight into how you got involved in these different endeavours? 

When I started uni, I decided to take first year as a pretty chill, experimental year to become accustomed to uni life, get a sense of the course and to make friends. I started to gain a bit of momentum in second year, being involved with MUMUS and volunteering with the RCD foundation. However, at a certain point, I just had a bit of an existential crisis about how I wanted to expand my experiences while I was young and had nothing to lose (except sleep!). 

This is when I joined a consulting club at Monash. I had no idea what was happening, and I was surrounded by law and commerce students who had been studying their degrees for 3-4 years, but I just threw myself into it. I ended up having a lot of fun, and learnt a lot about a field that we’re not exposed to in medicine. It was a bit of a gateway drug, in that it opened me up to aspects of different industries that I hadn’t ever had experience with before. After that, I applied for a lot of similar committees and roles, and this gave me the opportunity to gain insight into the worlds of finance, corporations, law, politics, arts, technology, etc. 

Things started to build when a friend and I decided to found a tutoring company. I also then went through the accelerator at Monash, which is essentially an intensive program where you’re provided mentoring and ten thousand dollars worth of funding for a start-up. I’ve still been working quite intimately with the team, and working on the company alongside (or instead of!) studying. That’s probably a brief overview and a highlight reel of how things started off. I didn’t ever expect things to turn out like this, but it’s definitely opened my eyes to outside the confines of the hospital. 

What do you think was the most intoxicating part about being exposed to the world of business? 

Initially, it was kind of instinctual; I just naturally gravitated towards it. I guess I realised that it was something I was really interested in when I was doing business-related work or research until the early hours of the morning, and it didn’t feel as if I was working. It was productive, but I was also having so much fun with it. 

When I learnt more about it, I realised that commerce actually aligns with a lot of my values. Business is an area that can have some associated stigma in comparison to something like medicine, but I personally think it also has the potential to aid the world in so many different ways. It’s one of those industries that has a legacy. It doesn’t just focus on the moment, but on the future and thinking about what comes next. I like to think about the saying ‘we’re standing on the shoulders of giants’ when I think about business, technology or science. Every single time someone makes a scientific breakthrough or starts a new company, they become giants for future innovators. Medicine is more of a reactive field, where you’re dealing with problems faced in the moment. There’s tangibility and instant gratification when helping a patient. While I derive a lot of joy from helping patients in this way, my brain also prioritises long-term thinking, and I gravitate strongly towards this legacy effect. 

How do you see the business and medicine sides of yourself meshing together, if at all? 

I think it’s two-fold. Firstly, being in medicine has probably been one of the greatest experiences of my life. While I credit this largely to the friends I’ve made and people I’ve met, another big reason is that the skills I’ve learnt during my time in medicine have been surprisingly transferable to a lot of different contexts. For example, during my consulting job, I realised that instead of treating an individual, I was being asked to diagnose a problem and then treat a business. This, alongside critical thinking, empathy and problem solving, are definitely skills that are invaluable regardless of the industry. 

Secondly, medicine is an area which is slowly developing. With enough impetus, it’s an industry that can change really quickly. Although our roles as future healthcare professionals won’t change too much, the entire field of medicine is undeniably being changed by technology, and I look forward to seeing how medicine will look in 40 years time. I think there’s a lot of potential for all the aforementioned industries – business, commerce, technology – to come together to improve medicine. 

What’s something that people might not know is involved in starting a business?  

At the end of the day, the most exciting and hardest part about starting a business isn’t just coming up with an idea, but more so the execution of that idea. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to have an idea, start it up, build it and make it successful. I think around 60% of businesses fail within the first three years of their formation, so the odds are definitely not in your favour. I think pursuing anything within business that isn’t a natural passion makes the entire process quite difficult, and it takes a lot out of you. 

One of the most vital things when it comes to starting a business is something called product-market fit. It can be a complicated concept when fleshed out, but at it’s core, it’s about building and creating something that people want. In order to carve out your own niche, you need to provide a service that people are not just looking for, but willing to pay for. In some cases, it’s more straightforward, such as with our tutoring company. In other cases, especially when you’re starting up with new ideas that are left-of-field, it’s a little more difficult. Once you have an idea, it’s important to put it to the test – put something scrappy together and see if people respond well to it. It’s kind of what we did at the very start, and that’s something I’d consider to be one of the most crucial aspects of starting up a business. 

Who do you admire and why? 

Hmm…can I say Batman? 

As long as you provide a justification for it! 

Well, I think a generic answer would probably be to say Elon Musk or Bill Gates, and of course, these are people that I greatly admire. From my perspective, however, I relate a lot of core values back to the concept of Batman. I just read a book about why Batman is so cool, and I think the reason I look up to this fictional character is because when you think about it, he’s just a guy. Sure, he has the advantages of wealth and status, but besides that, he’s just a human being amongst a world where every other superhero has superhuman special abilities. I think Batman embodies the idea of someone making a tangible difference and becoming something greater than just themselves, and that’s what I admire. This translates to some of the great leaders and entrepreneurs – Barack Obama, Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel, Bill Gates. They’re regular people, but they’ve built a world they’d like to see. 

What do you wish you’d known going into medicine? 

I’d like to preface this answer by saying that I wouldn’t change any of the decisions that I made for anything in the world. What I would’ve liked to know, however, is what the day-to-day work would be like in medicine. As a high school student, a lot of the jobs that we’re exposed to are glamourised. There might be some students who chose medicine because of Grey’s Anatomy, for example, or some who chose law after watching Harvey Specter! Seeing the realistic day-in day-out of a job is important, because we’ll be in this job for the next 40 years or so. What’s been really cool to see though is that for a lot of the people in our cohort, they’ve arrived at the right career pathway and are extremely passionate about wanting to be good doctors, and that’s super inspiring. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years time? 

If I could see ten years into the future, I would buy a lot of stocks! Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to predict that I would be where I am today, so I have no idea of exactly where I’ll be in ten years. However, I’m definitely going down a path of a lot of discovery and exploration. I’m currently going through the process of figuring out what I enjoy, and what aligns with my values the most. Once I find that, that’s what I’ll be doing 10 years from now.

BREAKING: Local lecture becomes too high-yield, detonates

BY JAMES GUNASEGARAM

MELBOURNE – Pre-exam season is a turbulent time for all med students, doubly so in the current COVID climate. The preclinical students have been hit especially hard – their days are now occupied by sitting at home and staring at their computers intently, when only months ago they were sitting at home and staring at their computers absent-mindedly.

This high-octane environment has been the cause of many a mishap in the past, but the latest one dwarfs its predecessors. The Auricle understands that Joshua Leung, a first-year student from the Clayton campus, was watching a biochemistry lecture to revise when yield levels became supercritical, resulting in a chain reaction much like nuclear fission. Through an unofficial arrangement with a member of St. John’s Ambulance, the Auricle managed to contact Joshua for an exclusive interview as he was being raced to hospital.

The teen explained that he hadn’t realised how dangerous of a situation he was creating. “Well I used to watch lectures at 2x speed, but now everyone’s doing that. So I figured that I had to reach at least 4x to be competitive. And after that, hacking Moodle’s webserver to reach 6x felt like a natural step.”

“I realised something was wrong when I started seeing less and less “Do Not Memorise” tags, but it all happened so quickly that I had no time to react. One moment the slides were flashing across the screen as usual, the next there was this loud bang and I passed out. When I came to, my computer was smoking. I was in the middle of calculating its pack-year history when I passed out again.” [UPDATE – The Auricle has heard that Joshua is in a stable condition at Monash Medical Center. While he sustained no major injuries in the explosion, he is being treated for an unrelated case of egomegaly.]

With more and more high-yield content appearing over the years, supercritical yield had been theorised by numerous researchers but never achieved in practice. Previous experiments had focused on PSP revision lectures for their unusually high concentration of relevant content. Researchers believe the high speed of Joshua’s lecture may have been the key, with a table of useful information providing the critical moment that caused the detonation. After one of them spent two hours unsuccessfully trying to explain the concept of nuclear fission to The Auricle’s editorial staff, Chris Wright, who had not been contacted for comment, barged in and declared it further proof that Physics should be a prerequisite for Medicine.

The incident has raised safety concerns for other lectures as SWOTVAC fast approaches. The Medicine faculty has considered introducing speed limits for video content, and has proactively issued yield advisories for most courses. HEP lectures were noted to have dangerous yield spikes when one of the four relevant statistics were mentioned. Population Health and Med Law lectures are currently considered low risk.

The Auricle will continue to update you as the situation develops.

2020’s Obituary

By Anonymous

Hailed an auspicious year at first, who knew

Extended gloom and heartache would befall,

Reducing all things as the days swept through,

Enshrouding thousands in their deadly shawl?

This world, by human lives, is linked, bound tight,

Whose varied threads criss-cross the sapphire sphere,

Enabling talk and trade, but also blight

New-found to spark and spread this fateful year.

The plague ignored our man-made boundaries,

Yet triggered bubbling fault-lines deep as seas

The poor sank low, and age-old wounds dehisced,

Whilst leaders floundered round in childish games,

Evading such a length’ning problem list,

Not least our globe that groans in fumes and flames.

This year, like glass, has magnified our ills,

Yet clouded and upheld our stubborn wills.

Let’s fix our vision with hope and goodwill;

In true repentance, let’s our faults dispose,

Else this year’s ghost shall trail and haunt us still,

Shadowing us beyond December’s close.