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

 

 

Humans of Medicine – Jack Gerrard

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m Jack, I’m a final year med student, and I’m originally from Cairns. I moved down to Melbourne to complete my last few years of schooling before starting my studies at Monash. This move exposed me to a variety of new challenges and gave me the opportunity to personally develop in the sport of swimming. Whilst medicine and swimming take up most of my time, I’m currently enjoying working together with an amazing team in my role of Convenor for the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference. In my spare time, I love relaxing in the sun at the beach or exploring the outdoors with friends.

How did you get into swimming? 

The climate in Cairns is very different to that of Melbourne! It’s pretty much always summer in Far North Queensland, so swimming is one of the most popular sports up there. Like most Australians, I learnt to swim whilst also learning to walk, and after learning the basics I loved everything about it. I enjoyed the challenge of it, being able to spend time with my squad, and having something to do after school – it was an awesome way to balance life.  

When I was 9, I started competing. I still remember these three really talented kids in my age group that I would compete against, and I was always the fourth kid who was chasing their tails. Gradually, I found ways to improve my technique, fitness and resilience with the help of my coach at the time. Slowly but surely, this allowed me to move onto state competitions, and eventually Nationals. 

Did it feel different swimming in Melbourne? 

Moving down to boarding school at 15 was a big adjustment for me. The whole experience at Melbourne Grammar was definitely more intense than the slower pace of life up in Cairns. On top of that, I was riddled with injuries for about five years, which meant that although I was still able to compete at various National Championships, I wasn’t physically and mentally performing at my best. It wasn’t until I was able to find a balance between training and studying medicine, that my swimming really improved. I love the feeling of being in the water, and I find swimming to be a great outlet after a long day of studying or placement in hospital. 

Did you ever find it challenging balancing both? 

For sure. In some ways the academically stimulating nature of medicine and the physical demands of swimming complement each other well. However, international competitions required considerable travel, which made it very difficult to combine sport and study. Towards the end of my second year, at a time when year two still counted towards the infamous z-score, I made a squad that was going to the US Open. I knew it was poor timing but I decided to go for it anyway. The event was the largest meet I had competed in at the time, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to race against Michael Phelps. I ended up missing over two weeks of course content that I had to cram upon return – definitely not a fun way to end my pre-clinical years. That experience was formative in making me realise that I wanted to take time away from study the following year for the 2016 Olympic Games. Otherwise, I was going to end up disappointed with both my academic performance in medicine and my performances in the pool. 

What was 2016 like for you? 

I was fortunate enough to have a really good performance at the Australian Olympic Trials before the 2016 Rio Olympics, but unfortunately missed out on the 100m freestyle team by half a second. It was disappointing at the time, but I was motivated to continue with the momentum that I had built, so for the rest of the year, I competed in a series of World Cup swimming competitions. At the end of the year, I had the opportunity to represent Australia as part of the World Championships team. Being able to wear the green and gold was amazing; a childhood dream come true.

Tell us about one of your most memorable swimming experiences. 

I was fortunate enough to represent Australia again at the 2018 World Championships in China, which was a surreal experience. It was the final evening of the event and there were over 11,000 people in the Hangzhou ‘Little Lotus’ stadium. I remember hopping onto the block for one of the legs of the relay, where Australia was competing against the USA, China, Russia and Brazil. As the third swimmer, I was racing against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who was a huge crowd favourite. The top teams were all within a second of each other and as I prepared to dive in, the crowd roar was so loud that my ears began to ring. The energy in the stadium was like nothing that I had ever experienced before.

So, where to now with your swimming? 

At the start of March, I would have said that my plan was to cut half a second from my freestyle time to try and make the Australian Olympics team this year. Reflecting on my training and preparation at that point, I felt that I was certainly making good progress. It’s hard to say what will happen with coronavirus now, but regardless, I’m looking forward to my internship next year. I’ve dedicated more than 15,000 hours over the last 15 years or so to swimming, and have learnt a lot about myself through the sport. Whilst I’ll always enjoy swimming, my true passion lies in medicine and I cannot wait to commit my energy to a challenging but fulfilling and rewarding career.

Tell us about your exchange. 

When I was made aware that the elective rotation in final year had been replaced with a research component for MD students, I was keen to obtain exposure to a different healthcare system. I decided to apply for an exchange with Harvard Medical School. I wanted to gain insight into their incredible innovation and technology as well as experience a different healthcare system that faced its own unique difficulties. 

I ended up being placed at the Boston Children’s Hospital as part of the paediatric surgery team, and really enjoyed it. There were 30 operating rooms running every day, and patients would not only fly in from all across America but also from the Middle East, China and other parts of Asia. The Boston Children’s Hospital was located within the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, which was a mini city of innovative medicine and technology. I really enjoyed the culture of inclusivity and the dynamic learning environment. Considering the hospital was neighboured by Harvard Medical School, I was fortunate to be able to study on campus and meet medical students who I am still in touch with today. 

If time and resources weren’t an issue, what is something you wish you could invent? 

Something that I am passionate about is the interaction between medicine and our environment, specifically when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of medical waste. I became aware of the magnitude of this problem as a third year student on a surgical rotation, where every single drape and many instruments would be discarded after each procedure. While disposability is time efficient and allows all equipment to be sterile, it isn’t sustainable, and in future I’d like to conduct research into creating cost effective, reusable equipment.

What is one issue within medicine that you wish you could change? 

Australia is fortunate to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. I don’t want to come out as an expert as to where we should be moving into the future, but I’d like to see more camaraderie, equity and opportunity for everyone in medicine across all specialities. The important role of general practice in primary health care is vital and should never be underestimated.

 

 

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 🙂 

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