The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Paulina Mazurek uses her personal and professional experiences with anxiety to inform and encourage students to take an active role in creating a positive and meaningful medical school experience through self-care, resilience, and holistic health. She is dedicated to a daily practice of vulnerability and self-acceptance through reflection, meditation, and running.
Excerpt from Journal Entry: 2-25-19
“They can tell I’m nervous. They are probably all laughing at me. I am supposed to know this stuff, but I cannot seem to talk about it in an educated way, I bet I sound so stupid. I thought I was qualified for this, but maybe I am just not cut out for this. How many more times am I going to look like a total fool before someone discovers I’m a fraud?”
As medical students, everyone experiences imposter syndrome at one time or another. You may have felt inadequate during your interview trail when the interviewee sitting next to you began telling you all about the research he/she was working on. It may have been your first day of medical school, when you felt out of place. Maybe you are reading this and still feel like a fraud, even though you have been in medical school for quite some time. It is likely that you will experience feelings of incompetence sometime in your personal and/or professional life. At the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine in Texas, medical students have been able to address imposter syndrome by participating in ScribeMD, an anonymous pen pal program of self-reflection and journaling.
ScribeMD was started by a group of medical students as a way to reflect on their medical school journey, the good and the bad. Now, this student organization has gained popularity among students at various stages of medical training. The program is designed to promote peer support, class camaraderie, and personal reflection. At the start of each semester, students sign up to participate in the program and commit to exchange letters every other week. Two leaders of the organization are responsible for pairing students and coordinating the anonymous exchange. At the end of every semester, students have the option to reveal themselves to their pen pal at a ScribeMD end-of-semester event.
Journaling is an excellent stress-management tool used to process emotions, release tension, and reflect on your lived experiences throughout medical school. Through self-discovery and exploration of your feelings, you are able to build resilience and professional identity. Participants in ScribeMD have reported feeling happier and more connected with their classmates. The program has been incredibly successful and rewarding for students at the Long School of Medicine. I strongly encourage other medical students to utilize journaling and self-reflection as a method to minimize stress and burnout.
Now to let you in on a little secret, the journal entry above was not written by a medical student. I wrote it, four hours after I presented about imposter syndrome to fourth-year medical students preparing to enter residency. We may all experience a lack of confidence throughout our lives. Self-doubt can happen at any age, across any profession, and at various stages in a career. It is important to recognize that you are not alone. You are great because of your strengths, despite your weaknesses. Every day is an opportunity to set positive intentions and embrace who you are — all of you!
Paulina H. Mazurek, MA
Director of Wellness and Professional Formation
UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine