A Med Student Finding Balance — and Helping Others Do the Same

Image: Jordyn Feingold

Name: Jordyn Fenigold

Medical School: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Class: 2020

1. Where are you located?

I am at Mount Sinai, on the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem of NYC. It’s a very cool place to live and attend med school; we have an incredibly diverse patient population and the community feels quite different based on which direction you walk in. Plus, we’re right on Central Park!

2. What did you do before medical school?

I went to the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad, where I was premed, but in my junior year decided I would take a gap year to stick around and get my master’s in Applied Positive Psychology. So, after graduation, I got a full-time research coordinator position at Penn and simultaneously worked toward my master’s. I studied the science of human flourishing, individual and organizational well-being, and wrote my capstone on promoting medical practitioner well-being, on par with and in service to optimal patient care.

3. What are you involved in outside of classes?

I am the co-secretary of my school’s student council, as well as a class rep to the class of 2020. I am also the co-chair of our student wellness organization, IcahnBeWell, and manage/work on several other well-being projects at Sinai. I’m currently working with some graduating fourth-year students on a longitudinal well-being and resilience curriculum that will be delivered to Sinai students throughout all four years of medical school. This summer, I am developing an elective course called “Positive Medicine,” which, through didactic and experiential learning, brings together the science of positive psychology, cognitive behavioral techniques, positive interventions, and medical humanities to help students craft deliberate professional identities and a philosophy of practice to guide them through their training.

4. What study tools, apps, or programs can you not live without?

SKETCHY MICRO totally changed my life. I’m currently in microbiology right now and cannot fathom how anyone learned this subject before Sketchy. I also loved Essential Anatomy for my Structures course. I haven’t gotten super into Anki yet, but my classmates who use it swear by it. Also, I use my own technique in which I write little songs or chants to remember things. For instance, I wrote a song called “Patella” to Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” which was obviously all about the knee, and “Clostridia” to “Disturbia” (somehow just now realizing that I use a lot of Rihanna songs…)

5. How do you take notes in class, and how do you organize your notes?

At Sinai, about 90% of our lecture classes are optional, but I’m a class-goer, so I rarely watch from home unless I’m out of town or have meetings scheduled during class time. I try to use lecture as my first pass through the material, absorbing whatever I can, but I’m by no means exam-ready after lecture. First semester of this year, I hand wrote everything. I’d make these beautiful, colorful, hand-written study guides in Structures and Molecules & Cells that really helped me learn the material and gave me a tangible product to review when I was done. However, I realized this was just taking way too much time…

Once I entered Immunology and Pathology, I started taking notes during lecture on the PowerPoint slides and changed up my study routine. Instead of working through the material on my own to make my study guides, I started having study groups in which 2–5 of us would get together right after lecture, read through the lecture slides together, compare any additional notes, and make sure we all had a consensus on the material. Since January, this has been my move. It’s so much more fun to work with friends than it is to sit alone in the library for hours. Now, in micro, we go through slides and once we finish a bacteria or virus, we watch Sketchy, review the Sketchy from memory, and then keep going through the lecture. It’s been an awesome method so far.

6. Where do you like to study?

The group studying typically happens in our dorm, ideally on someone’s bed for optimal comfort. Although depending on the size of the group, we’ll often use the group study rooms in our medical school.

7. How do you relax?

Exercise really helps me to decompress. I will go to the gym in my dorm or I will walk or jog around the reservoir in Central Park. Seeing the sun reflect on the water of the reservoir and all the adorable dogs outside in the park always lifts my spirits. Singing is also super therapeutic for me. We have a piano in our medical school student lounge and in our dorm, so I’ll often recruit my classmate Charles, who plays piano professionally, to accompany me while I belt out some Broadway show tunes or songs from the Moana soundtrack…. Kind of dorky, but hey, no shame. I also worked super hard on our school’s first ever parody video this year, which was the ultimate passion project for me. While it wasn’t exactly relaxing, it was incredibly fun to be part of:

8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Growing up, my mom always used to tell me, “not to put all of my eggs in one basket.” By this, she meant that I shouldn’t let my entire identity be wrapped up in a single activity or group of people, because if that thing didn’t work out, or if a certain group of people let me down, I would always have other elements of my life to look to for well-being and joy. In medical school, I think this is particularly relevant as it is very easy to let your whole identify be tied up in medicine. Let’s be real, medical school can be all-consuming. I have had to be very deliberate this year in making sure that I am looking beyond my work in medical school to sustain me. Leaving Sinai’s campus and getting downtown to explore the city, spending time with my family and non-medical school friends, being part of organizations that are not affiliated with medical school, and even diversifying my activities at Sinai have all been really great ways to ensure that my identity is not exclusively that of “medical student.” This way, I am certainly less likely to get burnt out by my work, and if I am ever feeling at risk of burnout, I will have many supports to help buffer against that.

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