The food addict that I am, most of my time is spent thinking about what I am going to eat or cook next (if my parents are reading this, don’t worry, I study for school also). Every Sunday, I make it a goal of mine to be a grandpa by finishing my work and getting for bed before 9:00 PM s I can listen to The Splendid Table. It’s described as a podcast that is “public radio’s culinary culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.” I don’t care if I sound lame, but this is actually a highlight of my weekend.
A dilemma that I’m sure has plagued many a college student: It’s the last week of break and you barely have anything in the fridge. You also don’t want to buy any groceries because you’ll be home soon and it won’t be worth it. What is a poor soul like you going to do? What you’re going to do is put down the menu of that pizza place and keep driving past Chipotle because today you’re going to learn how to adult.
Tie: YSL vintage/thrifted
Tiebar: vintage/flea market
Pants and loafers: Banana Republic
“All is flux and nothing stays still.” – Heraclitus, 500BC
This blog post has been waiting a long time to be written. Since my last post in November, this idea existed only as a text document silently blinking in the corner of my laptop, a mess of jumbled ideas and half-thoughts impeded by my Block 4 burnout. Little by little, I’ve been adding to it, hoping for the day that I could finally muster up the inspiration to add form and substance to my ideas. Well, today is that day. And like all good ideas, it comes right before a busy week of a TBL, administrative meetings, presentations, and the start of the Infectious Diseases block.
The theme of this entry is transformation. Quite paradoxically, transformation has been the one constant that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks (my existential rambling will be explained shortly). To put everything into context, our past month was spent on a course called LifeStages, which explores the transformation one goes through from birth through death, and emphasizes the psychological, economic, and sociocultural determinants of health along the way. Although it was explained to many of us as “Winter Break Part 2,” I appreciate that it distilled much of what clinicians amass over years of experience. Thus, it was an opportunity to reflect on the journeys that we all go through, and the transformation that occurs along the way.
It’s funny how different I feel, even within the span of a few months. While I obviously have much, much, MUCH longer to go, I made sure I spent this winter looking back on the things I was able to accomplish. My first post on this blog was an early, but very real concern that I would not hit my stride. At that point, I had my doubts about making friends or succeeding in a new environment. Now, I’m finding my place in school leadership, forging new partnerships between my school and community organizations, and inching closer toward the doctor I’ve always dreamed of becoming. This month my clinic team and I were able to graduate our patient to a different program. From the first day I met her as a med student who knew absolutely nothing about patient care, we have gone on a journey together. The last time I saw her, she looked different. She smiled in a way that I can tell she hadn’t in a long time. As a team, we helped her get health insurance after she left her job due to chronic disability and anxiety, as well as tackle her newly diagnosed depression and loss of autonomy. Eventually, she came to realize that it was ok to ask for help, and that we were there so she didn’t have to go through something like this alone.
Although I thoroughly enjoy my time in clinic as a grounding experience that anchors me in the present, my other favorite aspect about being at a new school is our ability to mold our environment as we move forward; I describe it to students visiting on interview days as a “medical school startup.” We broke ground in this city for a reason; there is a purpose to everything that we do. We are constantly reminded that our mission is to transform and empower a community, and if we don’t do that, we have failed. I realize now that we are not only being groomed to effect positive change in this city, but to transform the dialogue of medicine and society at large. This past Wednesday, an ad-hoc panel comprised of myself and a few of my classmates had our second meeting with senior leadership staff regarding bias in medicine and medical education. I don’t know how often this occurs at other schools, but I am still taken aback by how our dean, vice dean, and other leaders actively engaged with us about how to best address issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and overall respect within our institution. Our requests included additions to educational material to reflect our community and the challenges our patients must overcome, as well as standards that ensured mutual respect between both faculty and fellow students. While we are nowhere near resolving the issues that this community and our nation at large still struggle with, I honestly believe that I am at the right place. I am meant to be at this school surrounded by people I have the privilege of calling my classmates and friends.
Without divulging too much personal information, all I can say is that my classmates are amazing. To end LifeStages, we had a final “Meet the Students” segment. Throughout the course, we had various “Meet the Professors/Patients” workshops integrated into our curriculum, mostly there to shed light on how patients and their families deal with medical disabilities. However, this session was an opportunity for some students to speak in front of the class and faculty to share their life experiences. Mental illness, poverty, domestic violence and child abuse, drug addiction, you name it. And still, the theme was transformation: fighters became artists, users became creators, lambs became lions. There was a sanctity that came over the room when people spoke. At times it felt so raw and uncomfortable, invasive even, that sitting just three feet away from the podium made me feel like I was intruding on a private moment. In an hour and a half, the mood went back and forth between the austerity of a funeral and the ebullience of a wedding, yet somehow it all made sense with the rhythm of the event. What I took away from that afternoon was more important that anything I could learn from a book. In a way, listening to someone tell you a story like that can change you too. I don’t think that I can look at a friend, a patient, or any other person for that matter without thinking about the transformations they’ve gone through. Or perhaps, the transformation they are undergoing right now. You just never know who’s gone through hell and back.
To those who wish to pursue medicine: I don’t have much experience yet, but I can honestly say that I’m living my dream. What I do know is that you should stay focused, be compassionate, have empathy, advocate for your patients, and embrace transformation. In the end, those qualities are all that you really have to offer and the only ones that actually matter. And that is something that will never change.
Thanks for stopping by.
I spent this past Saturday at my alma mater for my fraternity’s Initiation Banquet. Not only was it relieving to take a break from memorizing some neuroanatomy and pharmacology, it was also a nice reminder of my first foray into menswear. Before pledging, I really had no business wearing a suit, but alas, the tenets of being a gentleman demanded otherwise. I learned a few things over the years, including what tweed was, how to tie a bow tie, and that pastel doesn’t have to be incorporated into every aspect of your wardrobe.
College style is interesting. For a lot of us, it’s the first time we really get to dress ourselves without our parents having to approve what we wear. That’s awesome for a night out or days when you just want to wear sweats to class, which are most days honestly. But what about those moments when you have to actually look decent? There are meetings with professors, career fairs with prospective employers, dates with people (real dates, dining halls don’t count), or just wanting to transition to a more mature style. How do you make yourself stand out?
As mentioned in my previous post, there are several key items that you’ll want to have in your closet, one of which is the khaki sport coat. It’s an awesome alternative to the classic navy blue blazer, which can get a little too boring and prep school. With a piece like this, you’ve got an excellent base on which to build a solid wardrobe. It’s figuratively and literally a blank canvas, so don’t be afraid to play around with color and pattern here.
- These are fun, and probably afford you the most freedom regarding how you want to wear your blazer. If you’re going somewhere casual, this look goes great with a pair boots, jeans (dark or distressed work fine), and even a vintage-style graphic tee. If you’re headed somewhere a little more formal, try upgrading your shoe to a nice loafer and your pants to slacks or dark jeans with a gingham shirt for added color and pattern. You might also want to try pair of colored chinos (wine/merlot colors play off the khaki very well here, just don’t spill actual wine on the jacket). Make sure to keep your shirt solid and accessories relatively sedated, let your go-to-hell pants do the talking.
Meeting with a professor
- Whether you’re looking to go to med school, grad school, or planning on directly entering into the workforce, letters of recommendation are vital. Start building relationships with your professors early and get noticed (a topic I’ll discuss in future advice posts). One way to do so is to dress like you mean it when you show up to class or office hours. While I’m not saying you need to go full suit-and-tie, this occasion might require an intermediate level of formality (let’s say you were interviewing for a research position or asking for a letter of recommendation), so the outfit should reflect that. Try my look above, dark pants with an oxford (repp tie optional, but awesome). The look is classically collegiate and put-together without being too stuffy. If you want to try something a little more bold, a turtleneck would be an unexpected yet welcome addition here. Try to keep the fabric thin so it doesn’t interfere with the silhouette or add unnecessary bulkiness.
Career fairs/research symposia/formal events
- These situations are the most formal of the three; you’ll be meeting potential employers or presenting in front of department heads, so you should take these the most seriously. Normally I’d recommend dressing more conservatively and wearing a navy suit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Depending on your industry, the nature of the event, or the pieces you pair with your blazer, you’ll stand out against a sea of blue and black if you can score a khaki suit. You can always wear the jacket as a separate! As always, fit is important; you don’t want to look like a boring beige blob. Additionally, use classic colors like blues and neutrals to help to ground your outfit and to provide contrast to the khaki. Feel free to try an accessory like a pocket square or a larger faced watch to keep your look interesting.
Bonus look (previously posted outfit for a dinner at school)
- Don’t be afraid to play around with your look, I’m wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots, a pocket square, and an air tie, you can too.
Until your next visit,
Now onto the other aspect of my blog that isn’t worrying about school: menswear and personal style. While I’m perfectly content in a pair of sweatpants (slim-fit joggers, mind you), there is something special about buttoning up a suit jacket or lacing up a pair of boots . As I mentioned previously, the white coat still needs some getting used to, but even that makes you feel different, more composed. You stand a little straighter, you hold your head up a little higher, you walk with a purpose (at least until a resident calls you a “shortcoat” which isn’t exactly a good thing). While I might feel uncomfortable in it now, I’m sure I’ll wear it like a second skin soon enough.
As for my layperson clothes, I’m on a strict grad student budget, so I try to get the most bang for my buck. On this site I hope to share my tips on dressing for certain occasions, secrets to snagging the best deals, and how to cultivate your overall personal style. I like to use style instead of fashion because I think it connotes a sense of personality and individuality that fashion does not. I admit, finding your own sense of style can be difficult. Barriers can come in the form of price, access, or general apprehension of trying something new. But if you follow a few simple rules, you too can put together a killer look that’s more than just the matching shirt/tie combo that comes from the same box. Here we go:
Rule 1 – Comfort
- In my opinion, the first rule of style is that there are no real “rules.” For example, “no white after labor day” is probably one of the most well-known, yet absurd fashion rules that we follow. It’s an outdated custom from the upper-crust elite that should have died when they did. Nowadays, it’s more acceptable to wear year-round. When I say comfort, I mean more than physical comfort, I mean comfort with yourself and how you look. Yes, a look may be very popular and trendy, but if it doesn’t feel right, don’t wear it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment and push your boundaries, but it’s important to find what you think looks best on you and what makes you happy. Everything else is extra.
Rule 2 – Fit
- You might be wondering why I’m talking about fit when I just finished talking about being comfortable. Both are important, but fit is what elevates your outfit to the next level. It’s amazing what changes you can make to your look when you pay attention to how clothes drape your body. For men, that would be in your jacket, shirts, and trousers. Ideally, you don’t want to have a lot of billowing fabric around your waist, and this holds true even for some of the bigger guys. Just as in women’s fashion, the same holds true for menswear: hiding underneath a tent won’t make you seem smaller, you’ll only look bigger/sloppy/like you’re trying to hide. My personal style hero Dan Trepanier and his team at articlesofstyle put together some great guides for men of different body types, here’s one for the larger guys. I don’t plan on doing too many posts about dressing for your body type, but there is a lot of great information out there regarding that.
Rule 3 – Keep it simple
- Style isn’t always about being the loudest one in the room. Most of the time, it’s about putting your best face forward and tackling the world while looking and feeling good af. Style is about building confidence, and the best way to do that is to not let your clothes speak for you. My best advice regarding that is to start off with a few key staple pieces that you can build your wardrobe around. Here are a few that are in constant rotation in my closet:
- brown penny loafers and brown leather boots (and my trusty LL Bean boots)
- dark denim, black denim (your go-to pants)
- faded/vintage wash denim for the spring and summer
- oxford cloth button downs in white and blue
- a navy blazer, a lighter blazer (in gray or khaki)
- a casual crewneck sweatshirt, a cardigan, and a denim trucker jacket
And those are your three simple rules for being pretty. Now go ahead and show the world who’s boss, (student) doctor’s orders.
“Hi, I’m student doctor James, nice to meet you. What brings you in today?”
I never really intended on blogging, but after starting a maybe-kinda-sorta-project on Instagram a few months ago, I decided to chronicle my adventures in medical school. I have no intentions of being famous from this, I just want to share my story (but with the way my student loans are looking, that actually wouldn’t be so bad). Though I initially intended my IG account to be a superficial collection of lifestyle posts, OOTDs, and awesome food, it soon became apparent that I needed to do more. While I believe my IG account will continue to stay as it is, I hope to use this to share more detail: thrift store hauls, style tips for the sartorially inclined, an awesome meal I’ve had, advice and fears about medical school for premeds and fellow medical students. I also hope you all can share with me, even if I only have 5 followers. So, let me start off with my first few months of medical school.
Like many of you premeds and med students out there, this is a goal that I’ve worked toward for the majority of my academic life. It’s interesting being back at square one, especially after being so laser-focused on getting into med school for over 10 years. It’s humbling (yet funny), going from knowing nothing to still knowing nothing, but about different stuff. I’m adjusting well both academically and socially, but to be honest, I’m still uncomfortable in my white coat. I just don’t feel like I’ve earned it yet.
Before my white coat ceremony I thought it was nice that my school waited until after our first exam to don us with the symbol of our profession (although if I had to change one thing, maybe it wouldn’t have been directly after our exam that morning). In contrast to some of my peers at other schools, I thought “yeah, I’ve earned the right to wear this.” I was right, kind of.
Since then, I’ve demonstrated proficiency on two exams in genetics, biochemistry, physiology and most undergraduate science majors combined and condensed into two months. I’ve had simulated office encounters on standardized patients and had the opportunity to become part of the healthcare team in our student-run free clinic. I’ve rotated through different departments in the hospital (OR, IM, Peds, OB/GYN, ICU, ED) and contributed my knowledge as a healthcare professional in laboratory medicine. And yet, I’m still unsure. Our professors tell us all the time how different our school is, how special our class is, how they wish they had received same the immersive, integrative training when they were in school. I try not to take this experience for granted, I’m in a special place after all. But, and I think this is the first time I’m admitting this, I’m actually terrified.
It’s amazing how quickly the nagging monsters of self-doubt come back to haunt you after you thought you’ve laid them to rest, especially when you’re caring for a real, live person. I just want to do good by them, by all of them. The ones I’ve seen and have yet to see. I just want to be a good doctor. I see the M3s and M4s walking into patient rooms, talking to them with confidence and assuredness, impressing the attendings and residents with their knowledge. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, we’re only a few months into school after all. We’ll all get there soon, call me impatient.
WELL. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a downer. I hope to keep this blog relatively light, but I don’t want to be afraid to tackle real issues if they come up. Thanks for reading, everyone.
Come back soon for your refill,