Georgetown University School of Medicine students shared stories about their identity and wellbeing at this year’s “I, Too, Am Georgetown Medicine” event, which highlighted how identity and background impacted medical students’ experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual event was first hosted in 2017 to discuss the ways in which students’ identities, backgrounds and experiences affect their time at medical school. This year’s event, held April 7, had the theme “Out of Our Element: Vulnerability, Fatigue and Misinformation — Caring for Yourself and Your Community in Isolating Times” and focused on students’ shared experiences, highlighting the importance of wellbeing throughout the pandemic, according to Lead Organizer Naveen Gupta (MED ’23).
“This event is important to connect people of all different stages in their medical career to the same spot and discuss topics that are shared experiences between all groups,” Gupta wrote to The Hoya. “In a sense, this event takes away feelings of isolation on any level and instead empowers through feeling part of a diverse community that can empathize and remind us that we are not alone here.”
The virtual event offered participants various breakout rooms that focused on wellness and identity topics ranging from mindfulness to antiracism advocacy. Gupta was a facilitator for the racial justice breakout room, which centered on racial biases in medicine, and said she was moved by the intimacy of the discussion.
“The most memorable part for me was near the end of my breakout room, when I took a step back and realized that everyone in the room had shared an experience that was troubling to them,” Gupta wrote. “They felt supported enough by the community to share and sympathize with others’ situations as well.”
The event also featured a conversation on America’s multicultural identity with keynote speaker Wajahat Ali, author of the memoir “Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American,” and Dean for Medical Education Lee Jones.
Ali’s discussion reaffirmed the experiences that many students of color face at Georgetown, according to Jones.
“His book is powerful, poignant, and funny, highlighting the experiences of many in our community,” Jones wrote to The Hoya. “Waj answered our questions with complete honesty, insight, and support of our journeys; it was an incredible conversation.”
The American Medical Association found that approximately 51% of physicians experienced stress related to COVID-19, with multiracial and Black physicians reporting the highest levels of burnout. The event sought to educate students on symptoms of burnout and strategies for stress prevention.
Jake Whitney (MED ’24) said he was inspired to lead the breakout room “Identity and meaning: finding our new normal during pandemic and burnout” after noticing a common struggle among peers to maintain both professional and social obligations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Don’t get me wrong, I feel called to practice medicine and am happy I am where I am,” Whitney wrote to The Hoya. “However, the idea of ‘work life balance’ or how people choose to spend their limited time is something I hear other students struggling with all the time.”
Whitney said the pandemic has forced many students to explore new avenues to find meaning in their lives and foster connections with those around them, with many people reprioritizing their own well-being after realizing its importance.
“The pandemic has made life very difficult, yes, but when we really think about it, most people can see particular identities that have become more salient than others over the last few years for the better,” Whitney wrote. “For me, I have chosen to prioritize spending time with family and loved ones even more so than in the past in order to avoid isolation and burnout.”
According to Gupta, the event was successful in bringing students together and providing them with an opportunity to unpack the difficulties experienced throughout the pandemic and find solace in shared experiences.
“I would also say that this event is about finding your space in our community, and appreciating our similarities and differences as people,” Gupta said. “We should always make time to celebrate our community and each other.”