When I started medical school, I feared I would lose my love for writing. I figured that writing in medical school would be possible somewhere in the margins of my otherwise busy day as a doctor-in-training, but I wouldn't have time to love writing.
As an undergraduate at Yale, writing was not optional — even my science classes required me to use words effectively. But I loved to write. I wrote and edited hundreds of papers, having served as the editor-in-chief of two of Yale's busiest healthcare journals. Luckily, I didn't lose that love in medical school, largely because UCLA's curriculum allows students the flexibility to do more than just the foundations.
Discover what inspires you
I enjoy writing through many avenues, including a personal blog, which focuses on global health and human rights, and a number of medical websites and journals that accept prose submissions related to humanism in medicine.
I am inspired to write by many of my clinical and international research experiences. Every patient tells a story (or a few), and every journey overseas teaches lessons that are meant to be discovered and shared. I write because writing is an act of listening, understanding and teaching — much like medicine.
Write for yourself and for your patients
For me, writing isn't just about sharing a story with a reader. It's also a cathartic experience. As a writer, my work helps me to reflect on and digest the often overwhelming experience of being a medical student. Writing has helped me translate my own feelings of sadness, shock, hope, amazement, ignorance and more into essays and poetry for an audience both within and outside of the medical community.
My writing usually concentrates on individual patients and revolves around the experiences that we shared together, whether in the clinic, the emergency department or on a hospital ward. Focusing my story on an individual allows me to connect with that person even more closely, taking in the small details that might otherwise become background noise in a demanding hospital environment or fast-paced clinic. At the same time, this individual focus allows me to connect with a much wider audience, because my stories capture an experience that we've all had as a patient at some point.
I would encourage all medical students, whether they're natural writers or looking to try their hand at writing for the first time, to share what insight they have gained with a wider audience. In many ways, writing in medical school gives our patients a voice and allows their suffering to be heard.
To my surprise, not only did I retain my love for writing in medical school, I gained the opportunity to write about something I love.
By Abraar Karan, Student Body President at The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA