Skip to main content
Finding the Right Balance as a Medical Student

You are listening to Health Library:

Finding the Right Balance as a Medical Student

Dec 03, 2022

Medical school isn't easy—the work is complex, the schedule is demanding, and students need mental endurance to balance all of their responsibilities. But with the right support, they can find meaning in everyday tasks—and inspiration in the relationships they make in class and at conferences like AAMC Learn Serve Lead.

In this Conversation:
• Tom Hurtado, EdD, Senior Director of Student Affairs, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah
• Trisha Enqiruez, MS2, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah

Episode Transcript

Tom Hurtado: All right. I'm Tom Hurtado, and I'm from the University of Utah. Excited to be at the Learn Serve Lead Conference at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah booth. I'm with Trisha Enriquez, who's MS2 and someone who's been working on the RealMD program, and we've been working on this together.

I guess I just want to jump into a conversation we've been having the whole time, which is this is your first time at a national-level conference, right?

Trisha Enriquez: Yes.

Tom: And you know the work we're doing with RealMD. What are you noticing that's either happening or not happening nationally with the work we're kind of doing together? 

Trisha: Sure. Well, first, I just want to express what a privilege it is to even be part of the RealMD program and also be able to be sponsored by the school to be able to attend these events, because it is such a privilege to be part of kind of the bigger association of medical colleges.

So, within the interactions that I've been having with other folks, it seems like the idea of having an intentional and formal professional identity formation program isn't really the popular thing for schools to have.

I think that the expectation to develop a professional identity is there for all medical students and even all forms of graduate education. But the intentional program where students can opt into something that is already there . . . They don't have to pave the way themselves. They can just show up, and then if they are engaged and present in this space, then they can get something out of it.

And so just being able to hear from other schools that that is not necessarily the norm in their school has been very empowering as a member of the RealMD program, not only to improve the program that we have currently at our university but also to begin to have these conversations with other people from other schools. Emphasizing how important it has been for me personally as a medical student but also for the medical student body as a whole as we become physicians very soon.

Tom: Yeah. You've mentioned feeling energized while you're here. What makes you feel energized about being here?

Trisha: I think that even as I engage with the RealMD program at our school very heavily and I'm in that space where I'm being told to . . . or where I'm being encouraged to find greater meaning and purpose in the things that I do every day, I think that I've still fallen into the trap that most medical students fall into where things just kind of become tasks. Conversations just become emails. And inviting people to speak just becomes another meeting that I have to go to.

And adding that to the schoolwork and the other responsibilities that we have, and even just balancing that with our outside-of-school relationships and our own responsibilities to ourselves, I think that I have fallen into that trap.

And being able to have a lot of conversations this weekend with people about professional identity formation and the importance of having these outlets for students has been kind of . . . It's been an isolated time for me.

One specific isolated experience that I've had, where I felt like the work that I was doing was my own work and my own legacy within the school, and something that contributes to my character and the person that I am becoming and the physician that I'm becoming as well. It's taking something that was a task before and making it now something that I can do with more intention and really make my own.

Anyway, I was able to kind of reignite that passion this weekend. I was really excited about that. And people were really receptive to that and supportive of me kind of making this mean something more to me, if that makes sense.

Tom:  I mean, we talk about RealMD all the time. It's about building meaning, community, and purpose, and it's about connecting people to their why and all of that.

And then I agree with you. Ultimately, we have a lot of boxes to check if we're adulting and we have all the things that we're supposed to be doing. We can get lost in the checkboxes just like anybody else.

I think if I could distill it all the way down, RealMD reminds you to tune into yourself more and reminds you to enjoy the journey more.

Trisha: Yeah. And I've talked about this before in that my original drive to pursue medicine as a career has always been about relationships. I grew up in a very community-heavy culture and even household, and so my relationships are the most important thing to me. And this weekend, I was able to just put away my . . . well, put my responsibilities on hold for a little while, schedule them for another time.

Tom: Schedule them for another time. I love it.

Trisha: And really just form relationships with the people here just based on this mutual drive to create spaces for students to also find what it is that they find meaning in.

Tom: Yeah. That's true.

Trisha: What drives them and what makes them feel the most like themselves?

Tom: I really like that. Yeah. That's great work, right? I mean, I think overall in any of the interactions that we're having and what we're doing, if we're not able to engage people on those deeper levels, then I think we're really missing out on having great community and great people around you. Yeah, that's good.

So what are you going to take home from this conference?

Trisha: From this conference, I'm going to take home that there's meaning to the work that I'm doing, and the time, the energy, the mental endurance that it takes to balance such responsibilities with an already busy and tumultuous lifestyle.

There's meaning in the things that I'm doing. And instead of letting my everyday tasks muffle who I am, just reframing how I think about my everyday tasks and actually realizing that they don't muffle who I am. They actually bolster who I am, and they lift me up and they make me feel the most like myself.

And that is a huge privilege that a lot of people don't get. And so coming away with gratitude also is a big idea that I have from this conference.