How Dr. X got his groove back

I have a friend. Let’s call him Dr. X. And like many of my other close friends and family members, as he went through medical school and residency, he lost his core.

Before Dr. X became an M.D., homeboy had it goin’ on! He was fit, he played all kinds of sports regularly, went to the gym often, and even let it drop to the ladies that his six-pack was in fiiiine shape. But with the long study hours, the all-consuming focus on medicine, and the insane hours of lectures, rotations, and residency, everything changed. And he started to notice changes around his middle, as his rectus abdominis slackened and (gasp) love handles started to appear. His low back had even started to hurt.

He was determined to get his groove back. He called me up and bemoaned the physical changes, asking for advice. Talking to the ladies was not feeling the same. He still had at least six years left of residency and fellowship – what to do?

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3 Conscious Breaths: The 20-Second Meditation

As a medical student, you may currently be in one of the most demanding phases of your life.  Meeting academic challenges, taking care of patients’ needs, dealing with hectic schedules, and trying to have a personal life, could easily exhaust you.  Achieving all of this requires a calm, focused mind and a strong sense of center.  In order to expend your energy in so many different directions successfully, you have to operate from the deep, calm core of who you are.  This way, everything you do will be much more effective and seemingly effortless.

Meditation increases your ability to stay calm and focused.   It’s not as mysterious as some may think.   Read More »

Calm your mind with the Wei

You’re not done studying for the shelf exam, you still have a power point presentation to work on, and—even though you’re exhausted–you’d really like to be prepared for rounds tomorrow morning. Sigh. With so much to do, you’re not even sure where to begin. If only your mind were calm, you could do more and enjoy life more while in med school.

Enter flower essences.

Allow me to explain: Flower essences are aqueous infusions of flowers that elevate your state of mind through the acupuncture meridians. Flower essences are therefore like acupuncture without the needles. Read More »

The Bones manifesto

Bones is at once a skeleton and yet so much more.

As a skeleton, Bones is a complex interlinkage of, well, bones. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that his endoskeletal frame belies the fundamental similarity and connection between all human beings. You agree? Stripped of our skin—of our outer layers of fashion, fascia, age, sex, education, income, beliefs—we all look like skeletons. Yup, we’re all the same, bony creatures. And Bones represents that. He represents the shared, physical framework of our humanity. Read More »

Bring your anatome to life!

Spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis.  Months after the end of Gross Anatomy, these terms (names of the muscles essential for back extension) had trickled from the center of my consciousness to its edges—barely held onto by my sieve-of-a-memory that was already sifting through new material.  Yet on April 1st, I attended a living anatome class: a yoga-Pilates hybrid emphasizing the functional movements of muscles and bones.  Through movement, the class made true to its promise, emphasizing the living aspect of muscles and bones that Grey’s Anatomy just doesn’t quite capture with its diagrams on a page.  Not only did the class bring these muscles back into consciousness (even adding some new ones—the multifidus muscles were judged unimportant by my professor) but it solidified my understanding of my spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis.  Even now, when these terms should have surely fled my mind, I still think of stretching my back as extending my erector spinae. I would highly recommend the classes to any medical student interested in understanding not only anatomy—but their own bodies—better.


About the author

Steven A. McDonald is currently finishing his first year of medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, where he is a wellness representative for his class.

Manage your energy, manage your time (a.k.a. Life outside the hospital is possible!)

The long hours and high levels of stress experienced while training to become an MD are legendary.

As a former neonatal intensive care nurse, I understand the pressures and time management issues associated with being both a student and clinician.  Currently I am a Holistic Health & Nutrition coach with a mission to improve the health and wellness of health care professionals.  I truly believe that if the people delivering health care are taking care of themselves that both they and their patients will benefit. Read More »

Born to run… in medical school!

The end of the school year is always a convenient time to step back and reflect on last year’s events and next year’s goals.  So as endocrinology lectures wind down and New York summer days approach, I am inclined to think about medical school thus far—what I’ve learned both in and out of the classroom.  It is taken for granted that we students of medicine hold health above all else.  The health of our patients, family, and friends is of supreme importance.  But what about our own health?  We spend so much time in the classroom learning how to be doctors, but what about how to be patients? Read More »

Gotta kick it up a bit (a.k.a. A skeptic’s newfound love for Pilates)

Med school’s one thing, med school in New York city is another. Living in the busiest city in the world, while being another one of the workaholics that make up this concrete jungle, definitely presents a challenge in balancing my professional forays with staying healthy physically and mentally.  Even as a fourth year medical student, the hospital hours can get long, and more often than not I find myself consumed by my responsibilities, leaving little time for maintaining the fitness level I desire. And I do put a premium on being fit; I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I’m the guy who spends his spare time in the gym or on the basketball courts behind Aron Hall (where the Sinai students live). I’ve got a full-on workout routine that I’ve pretty much maintained throughout these past 4 years—despite the fact I’m going into cardiothoracic surgery, in my non-spare time. Read More »

To bagel or not to bagel, that is the question…

(This entry is a three-part series, detailing Jenny’s  tips on how to maintain a sound Body, Mind, and Spirit through clinical rotations)

As the alarm blares for my 4:35am wake-up, I think back to leisurely days of 9am lectures, wondering why I had been so excited to start clinical rotations. Sure, actually seeing patients, performing procedures, and discussing real cases was the reason I came to medical school, but life on the wards can be incredibly challenging, and not just due to the medical expertise required. Without much control over long, unpredictable days, even a health-conscious MS4 such as myself finds it difficult to stick with good habits previously cultivated, like 90-minute yoga classes, the occasional (antioxidant-filled!) glass of red wine, or a full 7 hours’ sleep. In addition, it sometimes feels superfluous to focus on myself amidst the demands of the wards, from writing admission notes to re-reading Surgical Recall. But throughout the past two years on the wards, I have realized that I am able to function as a more competent, caring clinician– and actually enjoy the experience– when I practice habits that keep me energized. Here’s what has worked for me during the last two years of med school:

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Doin’ the surgeon’s shuffle

What is the surgeon’s shuffle?

You’re scrubbed-in, assisting a case in the OR that’s supposed to take three hours. But it takes six.  And while holding the surgical clamps is sooo engaging, you can’t help but notice you’re shifting your weight from side to side, and it’s not because you’re grooving to the beat of the anesthesiologist’s tunes—it’s because multiple parts of your body are terribly uncomfortable. You’re suffering from a clear case of the surgeon’s shuffle. Read More »