It has only been two weeks.
Okay, more like two mornings.
And yet, on a Friday night, I cannot stop thinking about the patients I have recently met. The glimpses into the intimate stories of betrayal, violence, compassion, and great resilience they graciously let me receive are reverberating in my thoughts. Some of these women are pioneers—one is among the first women who joined the U.S. Marines in the early seventies and paving the way for others after them. Another endured years of separation from her lover due to a homophobic immigration legal code in the U.S. There is the woman surrounded by devastating illness in her family, one of which is consuming her former abuser who is now dependent on her care, and still, she mustered the strength to enter the room with a jubilant gait and wide smile on her face. Then there is the woman who was sexually assaulted since her teenage years and throughout her military career—the assailants being her supposed comrades—and her body transmuting years of emotional agony into great physical pain.
These are just some of the women I saw being interviewed by a psychiatrist at the VA hospital. I am doing summer research with two VA physicians and crossed paths with a psychiatrist on the same floor as one of my PIs (Principal Investigator – one of two I will be working with closely this summer) during one of my first days; he is truly becoming like a mentor to me. Similar to him, psychiatry was not on my mind as a potential career option when I entered medical school. However, just these couple of hours of shadowing and conversations with him have compelled me to begin thinking seriously about psychiatry.
This professor has taken the time to recommend several readings to me, with some directly related to psychiatry and others that address the nourishment of the individual psyche such as religious texts, by actually handing me hard copies after describing the relevance of each one. I currently have a pretty big hefty stack on my desk and am fervently trying to get through them as I excitedly strive to absorb this new field. Just today, he lent me a DVD of Saving Private Ryan. It’s been a while since I have last seen that movie and he suggested I try watching it before next week’s shadowing session as the patient’s traumatic experiences would be similar to the protagonist’s in the movie.
Needless to say, I am really looking forward to spending the rest of this summer getting knee deep into my research and exploring medical fields outside of the role I may have precociously carved for myself. I had spent several months meeting with various faculty members to learn more about their research and how I could feasibly fulfill my own niche. It took some time to finally decide on the research group I would end up working with for the summer, but it was very well worth the effort. Only in a matter of weeks, I already recognize that I am fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant and caring individuals who will undoubtedly impact the serious introspection I intend to engage in. Here’s to my last free summer!
About Tehreem Rehman
Tehreem Rehman is a first year student at Yale School of Medicine. She recently graduated from Columbia College as a John Jay Scholar with a B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies. As a Co-Founder of Columbia’s Public Service Initiative, Tehreem was selected to be a People for the American Way Foundation’s Young People For (YP4) Fellow for the 2012-2013 academic year in order to expand the program. Tehreem has previously served as the National Chair of the American Medical Student Association’s Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Health committee and as a National Editorial Advisor for the New Physician Magazine. She is currently a Humanity in Action Fellow through which she intends to create a multi-school platform to address institutionalized racism and sexism in the medical school admissions process. Tehreem is interested in clinical interventions for violence, addressing gender power dynamics in the clinical setting, and the impact that health inequities have on women of color and low-income backgrounds.