Humans of Medicine – Sarah Rav

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m Sarah, and I’m currently in Year 4C. Outside of medicine, I have a keen interest in health and wellness, particularly nutrition and weight training. In my spare time, I am constantly listening to music. I can’t make music, nor can I play it, but I just love listening to it. Music makes life that much better. I also love meeting new people and catching up with friends over brunch!

Tell us about your Instagram. 

I started my Instagram account about 6 years ago and it has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It started out primarily as a fitness account, but it has since transitioned to being more lifestyle-based. This has enabled me to raise awareness about issues I’m passionate about, and to share many more aspects of my life with my followers, such as my favourite cafes & food (I’m a huge foodie!), workouts and brands that I adore. The account has garnered a bit of a following since it started, and I’m very fortunate that it’s given me a platform to connect with people, both within Australia and internationally. I’ve also met some of my best friends through Instagram, who I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to meet otherwise. A lot of these friends don’t study medicine, so they’re able to give me a really different, refreshing outlook on life. When I’m feeling particularly stressed about something academically related, they keep me grounded and give me perspective.

How does Instagram fit into your daily routine?

My routine tends to vary, but on an ideal day, I’ll wake up and go to the gym, where I’ll usually take a photo, or film a video for Instagram. Depending on how much time I have before placement starts, I’ll spend 1-2 hours going through the DMs and emails that arrive in my inbox overnight. There can be up to 50 emails with invitations for collaborations, so I’ll always sift through the ‘ab-stimulator machines’ or ‘weight loss pills’ that I have absolutely no desire to endorse! I’m usually home from placement at around 5pm, and this is when I’ll upload my posts, usually content that I’ve spent most of the weekend shooting. I’ll then spend 30 minutes to 1 hour online afterwards to respond to comments and to assess whether or not the post is well-received.  Instagram takes up a lot of time, and in that sense, it’s a full-time job, but I don’t mind it at all! 

What is something you’ve observed about Instagram that people might not know? 

I’m really grateful that this is still a viable job for me, but for the most part, Instagram is a relatively quiet platform now. It’s increasingly hard to grow a following nowadays, and I am constantly losing followers on a daily basis. Just like so many other social media platforms have reached their peak, such as MSN and Facebook, in the same vein, I don’t think there’s much future in Instagram. At this point, however, I’m not interested in numbers. I care more about creating an impact, and promoting a positive message to the wonderful followers that I do have. 

What have been your favourite brands to work with? 

That’s very hard to pick, but something that does make brands more enjoyable to work with is if they allow me creative freedom. Botanica Blends, for example, which is a vegan protein powder company, allows me to do my own thing with my photos and videos, which I appreciate because it allows me to be creative, and inject my personality into the content. Above all, I want to be genuine in what I promote, and this is why I love working with them. I also love all the brunch places that I work with, because they give me the unique opportunity to eat and connect with my friends. They literally force me to socialise! 

What is your dream brand to collaborate with? 

Apple! All of my products are Apple, so I am well embedded into the Apple family. Apple, if you’re reading this, please send me your iPhone 12! 

Would you like to share a bit about your experience with an eating disorder? 

So, I would say that I’ve had an eating disorder since year 8, but I didn’t receive an official diagnosis until 2018. I had just started third year, which I would say is a pretty big transition from pre-clinical years. I remember being concerned about how I was going to balance running an Instagram account, going to Dandenong hospital everyday, and maintaining my gym routine. I felt that everything around me was out of control, and because of that, I began to focus on the factors that I could control – diet and exercise – and became really strict with myself. I didn’t see it as a problem, and eventually I got to the point where I was at a BMI of 10 and weighed 29kg. 

I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, which helped me to realise that I couldn’t continue this lifestyle if I wanted to have a healthy future, or even a future at all! Since then, it’s been a ridiculously difficult, emotional road to recovery. I stayed as an inpatient for one week, and started working with a psychologist, GP and dietician for the purposes of weight restoration and psychotherapy. 

There was definitely a point where I blamed myself. I remember thinking ‘why couldn’t I have been stronger?’, and I think that this is one of the worst parts about having a mental illness. My journey is now one of the topics that I talk about most on social media. I hope that others will see it and realise that it’s a serious condition, and that it’s okay to be open about it, to talk about it and to seek help. 

You can read more about Sarah’s battle with anorexia nervosa here

What’s been your favourite moment during medicine? 

Again, this is very hard to pick, but one of my favourite days was actually earlier this year. It was on one of the Fridays when the hospital was extremely short-staffed due to COVID, and I was scheduled onto a Caesarean section list with just the registrar and the consultant. Unfortunately, the registrar cut herself on the first case of the day, and had to proceed with all the safety protocols, which meant that by default, I became the first assist! It was really cool being able to get hands-on experience, and to stitch and suture and make incisions. 

What are three traits you admire in people? 

I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve achieved, so personally, I find it really refreshing to meet someone who also possesses drive and ambition. I also strongly admire kindness as a trait in others. I have these two friends who stand out in this respect, because they are so genuinely kind and caring, and that infectious warmth makes me want to be a better person. Lastly, I value it when people have insight and perspective, and can consider the bigger picture (which is much easier said than done, because I am definitely guilty of freaking out over something small like an OCE or tutorial presentation!).

What changes would you like to see for the future of medicine? 

The change I want to see actually stems from my experiences as an inpatient. Although I understand that there is a need for strict hospital protocols, especially those with eating disorders, there were times where I felt like my treatment was dehumanising. I wasn’t allowed to walk for an entire week, for example, which meant that when I needed to go to the bathroom, I would be wheeled in. Sometimes, the nurse would forget about me, and I’d be sitting there for 15 minutes. Additionally, I only saw the treating team twice for the duration of my stay, and I felt like I didn’t have much say in my treatment. I was kept in the dark, with no idea what was going on. Given that at the time, I didn’t even realise I had an eating disorder, I was terrified. It’s because of this that I’m hoping we can see even more integration of compassionate patient-centered treatment in the future.


If you’d like to know more about Sarah’s journey and experiences, visit the following links: 

Sarah’s IGTV series 

The Mentor Project w/ Fahad Khan – Sarah Rav – The Pursuit of Perfection

Humans of Purpose – 132 Sarah Rav: Healthy Influence

 

 

Sunsets

By Caroline Younan

We may be in different places, and our individual 24 hours may look different, but we all have something in common. Every single one of us. Wherever we are, the sun will rise and the sun will set.

We all know the recipe to good health because we’ve heard it a million times:

  • A generous serving of good sleep
  • A splash of balanced diet
  • Sprinklings of exercise
  • And a dash of social connectedness is vital

What’s missing from the list? Yes, that’s right, I bet Craig Hassed’s voice popped up in your head with the cursed ‘M’ word, ‘mindfulness’. Whilst being in isolation, ‘tricks for mental well-being’ were constantly brought up and I, for one, have tried becoming the most ‘zen’ I can be with all this extra time. It became overwhelming though, trying to juggle all of these aspects at once.

Irrespective of how my day might’ve played out or how I was feeling, however, my constant was that I knew that I loved watching the sunset. There’s something about watching the transition between the light of day gradually turning into a pitch-black sky. It is grounding. It puts things into perspective for me and I realise how small we really are. Our worries can get the better of us sometimes and it can be hard to get away from our own thoughts. When I see the sky painted in different colours, it helps me breathe. I feel present. I feel calm. I feel grateful. Even when it’s been cloudy and the sky is grey you can observe where the sun is setting somewhere else, with that part of the sky tinted gold. This habit of watching the sunset daily allows me to catch those breathtaking views of pink, gold or, orange skies we see from time to time.

Where and how I watch it differs from day-to-day. Sometimes, I stand in my front yard or at the park nearby and sometimes I am walking along a trail. Regardless, I find that listening to songs complements the view and helps me calm down and focus on what’s in front of me. Lately, I’ve been listening to ‘Mystery of love’ by Sufjan Stevens but you might find it easier not to listen to anything and instead listen to nature’s sounds. Whatever you decide to do, this is a great way of informally practising mindfulness.

If listening to mindfulness podcasts seems like a hassle and like a chore that doesn’t fit into your day, I prompt you to watch the sunset. You’ll be amazed at how rewarding it can be to and how easy it is. It’s a great way to get a fresh breath of air if you find yourself spending a lot of time indoors.

Sometimes, you will be busy doing something else and that is okay too. There’s always the night sky to look at. I use an app called ‘SkyView Lite’ to identify planets and constellations that can be seen on a clear night. Sometimes, clouds will obscure the view, but don’t let this deter you. It’s more about the act of slowing down and looking up; taking a break from our busy day and busy minds. You could do this in the middle of the day as well and appreciate the sky as it is at that time. What does it look like?

It is humbling to realise that we all live under the ‘same roof’, despite our varied lives. It can be hard to implement the overwhelming advice that’s out there about how to live a ‘healthier’ life, but I prompt you to take these simple instructions. With our lives having moved online for the past few months, take your eyes off whatever screen you’ve been behind and go outside. Look up. Take in the scene.

Med Student Syndrome

By Mika Sood

I remember sitting in a lecture theatre learning about types of strokes – how it’s possible to have a brain aneurysm just sitting in your brain, how slowly the artery wall can weaken to the point that it can burst randomly and unprovoked and how it could, in theory, happen to anyone – including me. I don’t know why, but after learning more about it that day, I started to relate the symptoms to myself: “Do I have neck stiffness? Am I nauseous? I probably have a headache”. I could talk myself into thinking I had a brain aneurysm, and it wasn’t far-fetched at all.

I think we can all say that at some point so far in our medical education, all of the signs and symptoms begin to sound far too familiar as soon as we have studied a certain condition. This leads to a jump down the rabbit hole with a bit of help from Dr Google, and we self-diagnose ourselves with a condition or disease that had never crossed our minds before.

Medical Student Syndrome is defined as a condition frequently reported in medical students where they think they have the symptoms of a disease that they are studying. Don’t worry if this has happened to you – it’s significantly common and there have even been studies and research done about it. It has many names including “Third Year Syndrome” or “Disease of the Week”, but in essence, it’s a temporary kind of hypochondria based on being extremely aware of psychological and physiological dysfunctions and relating those signs and symptoms to oneself.

The wider community is also not immune to the effects of Dr Google, and in the age of this digital hypochondria, it’s important for us, as future doctors, to realise these effects for ourselves and the general population. It is true that you can find solid, evidence-based information online, but most Google research will not be directing you to the therapeutic guidelines. The easy access to health information is definitely convenient, and it is much less embarrassing than going in for a consultation to ask if it’s possible to have cancer and a brain aneurysm, but it’s also more than likely to be an incorrect diagnosis that can increase anxiety levels unnecessarily (1).

So, I guess this is a big red stop sign to get you to halt your daily activities and call out the irrational thoughts in your head. As medical students, it’s hard not to worry and stress about basically everything, but here is a little friendly reminder that you probably don’t have a life-threatening brain aneurysm or a rare deadly form of leukemia.

Take home message: Close all your google tabs. Stop self-diagnosing. I promise you don’t have the disease you think you do.

P.S. On a serious note, if you are really worried about something, definitely go see your doctor.

 

(1) MedicalDirector. Dr Google Survey 2019 [Internet]. MedicalDirector; 2019 [cited 2020]. 24 p. No: WHI00047Med – AUSV1. Available from: https://www.medicaldirector.com/resources/doctor-google