Maintain Your Shelf of Mentors

Name: Shana Zucker

Medical School: Tulane University School of Medicine

Year: Third Year*

*Shana Zucker was a second year student when these answers were given.

1. What technology is essential to your study routine?

Quizlet! I am surrounded by Anki-lovers, but I have found Quizlet to be the best strategy for me because I have to make my own “notecards” and be engaged; Anki enabled me to passively say “Yeah I know that ‘well-enough’” and skip concepts I should have been solidifying. It takes more time to make my own virtual notecards, but it is definitely worth it. And I can still learn from card decks other users have made. Quizlet also lets you include pictures (for free if someone has used the picture you’re looking for before), and has a free mobile app!

2. What is your #1 study tip?

Stop studying when you are no longer able to study. It was definitely the most important lesson I have learned so far, and it is hard to abide by because the guilt of not studying can really shake your confidence if you do not distract yourself. In my experience, it is unreasonable to demand of myself to be able to study 24/7 and give my best effort, so when it feels like nothing is sticking, it is time to pause, take a breather, and reassess: can I keep studying? Should I take a break?

3. How do you keep yourself motivated or get out of study ruts?

During first year, I consistently had one major study rut: biochemistry. Shadowing doctors and assisting in the patient experience in student-run clinics and the hospital reminded me why I was putting in this hard work, and that I could power through. One day in clinic, the attending asked me what diet should be suggested to our patient with steatorrhea — the answer: medium chain triglycerides. Seeing how purely biochemistry was relevant motivated me to study the moment I got home. In my second year, I find that I stay motivated by being involved with first-years, making sure they feel supported, just as upperclassmen did for me and cheered me on (I cannot thank them enough).

4. How do you relax?

One of the ways I best relax is by making mosaics out of Mardi Gras beads! Living in New Orleans, I have an abundance of them, and so to relax, I’ll listen to TV and meticulously glue individual beads or strands to canvas. It requires concentration, so I am able to put studying out of my mind, and I find it so decompressing — and a way that I can engage with art. I have made mosaics of the Rod of Asclepius and a Fleur-de-Lis (both on 11x14in canvas), as well as a map of the city of New Orleans along the Mississippi, with each of the 73 neighborhoods in different colors (18x24in canvas). My next plan is to depict the cover of the original Gray’s Anatomy out of beads of varying shapes and colors!

Photo by Shana Zucker

5. What would your classmates be most surprised to learn about you?

I had minimal research experience before coming to medical school. I had never written an IRB, abstract or manuscript, presented a poster or presentation, or designed my own project. However, since coming to Tulane, I have become deeply ingrained in research and cannot imagine a career without it. My work has included trauma surgery, ENT, public health, diversity and inclusion in medical admissions, and preclinical medical education — including developing curricular interventions which have been retained.

6. Who are your mentors?

One mentor gave me the advice of creating a “shelf” of mentors: individuals across disciplines to whom I could turn to for a variety of opinions; this method has worked well for me. At Tulane, I have been so lucky to have a group who I refer to as “my team”: people in my corner I can turn to during tough times. This network of course directors, faculty, and staff in the Offices of Multicultural Affairs and Medical Education, and peers, have been integral to my resilience. Additionally, I am a part of the Norman E. McSwain Trauma Surgery Research Group, in which every attending and resident has taken the time to advise, teach, and encourage me.

My longest-running mentor-mentee relationship has been with a pediatric emergency medicine physician, who has mentored (and continues to mentor!) me since my junior year of college, without whom I would not be where I am today. Most excitingly, last year, she attended my dream conference “”FIX17: FemInEM Idea Exchange,”” during which she posted pictures to social media, tagging me in them because she thought of me. This year, she is attending the upcoming FIX18 conference, and I was so lucky to be selected as a speaker, so I will have the opportunity to present to her!

7. What piece of media would you recommend to all medical students?

I would actually recommend Twitter. MedTwitter is a fascinating arena of idea exchange in rapid time, from physicians and allied health professionals engaging in exciting public dialogue in any topic (from advocacy to research to FOAMed [free open access medical education] to personal experiences, etc.), journals posting their latest publications, and societies and organizations sharing opportunities and articles (including @Doximity!).

8. What would you been doing if you weren’t in medical school?

I would likely be an interpreter — probably a medical interpreter because I love this field. I speak French fluently, and in the past have attempted to teach myself Russian (I can hold a short conversation at best), German, and Hindi (both of which I have not practiced and now am completely abysmal), and currently I am trying to learn American Sign Language. Conveniently, I am not self-teaching ASL, so hopefully it will go better!

9. How can medical students better support each other inside and outside the classroom?

As my friends and I have begun Step 1 studying, most are working independently at this stage: finding out a sign that peers could use more support is important. One of my friends sends videos every morning lip-syncing to the radio as she goes to Crossfit; if those become less frequent, I know to check in on her. Another friend stops eating meals and resorts to granola bars. Random texts of “hey, I was thinking of you, how’s it going?” have been met with “good” or “I’m eating granola bars,” and in the latter case, I follow up with how we can best support one another. Sometimes, you just need to tell someone “I’m not okay.” Sometimes, more is needed, in which case we provide support and remind peers of their mental health and wellness resources.

10. What did you do during the summer between 1st and 2nd year?

I had a very busy summer! FIrst, I completed an externship with Medical Students for Choice at Planned Parenthood — River North in Chicago. I then returned to New Orleans for an oral presentation at a regional conference, and then took an amazing course for my Masters of Science in Anatomy: Advanced Surgical Anatomy, wherein the class learned surgical procedures across subspecialties from attending and retired surgeons. After that course, I spent most of my time on research: I received an NIH TL1 scholarship through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Grant and Summer Training Program at Tulane in partnership with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and another research stipend from a research program at Tulane, which allowed me to make major progress on one of my projects. I also began work on an independent study for my public health degree, and did some field data collection (which was quite intense given the Louisiana summer heat!). Still, I had free time to relax, spend time with friends, and explore coffee shops (for awhile I maintained #shanasquestforcoffee, in which I rated nearly every coffee shop in New Orleans).

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