During our childhood trips to India, my sister and I would rummage through the few remaining belongings of our father, anything that would give us a glimpse into who he was. Once, we found a sketch he had made in his teenage years accompanied by the words, “Man is born alone and dies alone. In between these two certain points of human existence he tries not to be too alone.” As we traverse through life, we seek meaning and belonging, to learn from one another, to feel a little less alone.
Many of us chose medicine for the opportunity to form human connections. However, despite daily interaction, medical school can sometimes be a lonely time. Family and friends who were once a large part of our support network may now have difficulty understanding the challenges we face day to day. Studies have shown that student performance is linked with social bonds, highlighting the importance of connecting with those who can empathize with us. Similar to individual sports, we must rely on our teammates to pump us up along the way; near peers can provide a listening ear, guidance and support. Joining student organizations such as the Association of Women Surgeons can help mitigate that sense of isolation and provide the reassurance we all need.
The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) at the University of Michigan is a group for individuals who identify as women (and those who support them!) who are interested in learning more about surgery. Our mission is to inform, support and create a united community for women in surgical specialties. We meet monthly for skills nights, panel discussions and casual gatherings, such as ice skating and happy hours. Last August, we hosted a summer series where surgical residents and attendings addressed common questions regarding picking a specialty, balancing work and life, maintaining relationships and having a family. Given the challenges that women often face in surgical specialties, having such panels provide us with mentorship and the sense of community.
Most recently, we visited the Dexter Cider Mill. Folks brought their loved ones and pups to experience the beautiful Michigan fall colors. Through these AWS events, we hope to create a positive and uplifting community in effort to not feel too alone. We enjoyed donuts while sipping on cider, chatting about everyday life, exams, clerkships and residency interviews. It was lovely to take a quick study break to see old friends and make new ones, and a much needed reminder to get out and connect.
If you are interested in learning more about AWS at the University of Michigan Medical School, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter @aws_umich and Instagram @aws.umich for future events. We hope to see you soon!
Sonal Joshi earned a PhD in nuclear engineering & radiological sciences before finding her way to medicine through medical physics. She is currently on a year-long leave from the University of Michigan Medical School. When she’s not making new friends at the library, you can find her experimenting with vegetarian recipes or taking a moment to meditate. A Pacific Northwest native, she enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband and puppy. Find her on Twitter @joshisonal.