For our January-February Edition, Co-Editor Jordi Shahab spoke to medical student and lifeguard Izzy Greer.
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.
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: