Art & Poetry in Medicine, Featured
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The Life of a Medical Student: A Photo Essay

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As of today, I am a third-year resident in internal medicine-pediatrics. I went straight through on my path towards becoming a physician, and after just passing the halfway point of residency, I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the journey continues and overall has proven to be more turbulent than my younger self would have imagined. Residency is hard, but the transition from the real world to medical school was probably the largest challenge I have ever faced in my life.

During my medical school journey at the University of Maryland, I created this photography series as an introspective representation of my experiences and to portray some of the unseen challenges and realities of medical training that, for example, are not seen on “medfluencer’s” pages — some feelings, experiences, and stories I wish I would have known prior to embarking on this career path. After just the first few weeks of starting medical school, I felt not only my mind being tested, but also my will. As a class, we were informed that medical school would consume our lives, and I initially refused to believe it, but then quickly understood the meaning of that and made it my mission to achieve proper work-life balance.

The pieces were created chronologically throughout my journey.

1. “The Mind of a Medical Student.”
This comments on the challenge of adapting to binging information during the preclinical years which quickly became overwhelming at the time.

2. “The Uncertainty of a Medical Student.”
This comments on the weight of receiving our white coats several months into medical school and the feeling of imposter syndrome that accompanied. This piece is a play on having “big shoes to fill”, though instead, it was the coat that needed to be filled.

3. “The Temptation of a Medical Student.”
This comments on substance use, procrastination, and unhealthy coping strategies.

4. “The Isolation of a Medical Student.”
This comments on how alone one may feel inside during the pre-clinical years, despite being surrounded by classmates daily.

5. “The Creation of a Medical Student.”
This comments on looking towards the future as a driving force to help make it through a difficult present. This piece is inspired by Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”.

6. “The Preoccupation of a Medical Student.”
This comments on how consuming the medical journey can be, and that despite that, life continues – how in the pursuit of learning to help people, we may still be unable to help those we love. This was dedicated to several classmates who at the time had some personal tragedies of this nature.

7. “The Match of a Medical Student.”
This comments on how being single and dating while in medical school may not be as easy it may seem when also trying to “match” into the career of your choice.

8. “The Differentiation of a Medical Student.”
This comments on the challenge of “trying on” specialties until one fits just right.

9. “The Quarantine of a Medical Student.”
This comments on a lackluster experience of what should otherwise have been the climax of this four-year journey, limited by social distancing during the match, graduation, and the transition into residency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ankur Vaidya, MD Ankur Vaidya, MD (1 Posts)

Resident Physician, Contributing Author

University of Miami/Jackson Health System

Ankur Vaidya is a current PGY3 resident in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics at the University of Miami/Jackson Health System in Miami, FL. He intends on practicing combined adult and pediatric hospital medicine upon graduation. He attained his BS in Biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and later earned his MD from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.