Jamie Katuna is a first-year medical student and spoken word artist. Her spoken word and rap videos, highlighting issues in medicine and healthcare, have reached over 2 million viewers in less than a year.
Jamie Katuna, just a first-year student in medical school, is already revolutionizing the face of medicine. In addition to her rigorous course load, she raises awareness on health care-related issues and drives discussion among physicians — all through the art of language.
Katuna is a spoken word and rap artist, determined to make her mark on the field of medicine. Through poetry-inspired videos, she blends rhyme, rhythm, and voice to shine light on controversial or critical matters in the medical profession. Since publishing her first video in September of last year, Katuna has generated a fanbase of over 2 million. She covers topics ranging from mental health and burnout in physicians to creativity in medicine and residency Match Day.
After deciding on a subject, Katuna thoroughly educates herself on the chosen topic by reading medical journals, conversing with professionals, and scouring the internet. That’s when her creative process begins. She artistically integrates her medical learnings with poetry, meter, and song in writing her spoken word scripts. In doing so, she hopes to make her videos both informative and entertaining. She also emphasizes the therapeutic nature of writing, noting that it offers “an excellent outlet from the everyday life of a medical student.”
So far, Katuna has accumulated nearly 25 videos and plans to continue producing them throughout her medical career.
AS: What messages do you try to convey through your videos?
JK: Since I am so early in my career, I have the luxury of still talking about big picture concepts, ideals, and future-oriented subjects. Some of the themes that pop up often include empowering physicians to lead change and be the backbone of healthcare and medicine, increasing humanity and creativity within the culture of medicine, revolutionizing healthcare education, and deconstructing the current culture of medicine, which I think is obsolete.
I’m hoping for a culture of medicine where people feel connected, supported, loved, and artistic, and I want all of that to be led by physicians.
AS: How does your involvement in spoken word affect your life as a medical student?
JK: It’s definitely a creative outlet. It gives me something else to work on, when everything else feels so academically-focused. But, it’s also definitely changed the way that I think about medicine and healthcare, and the culture around them. It’s shifted my paradigm in how we speak about problems. We’ve always blamed physicians for problems; but from everything that I’ve learned and everyone I’ve talked to, I’m realizing that a lot of these problems are systemic. So, my videos have allowed me to think about problems in a new way, where I’m always looking to empower the physician in any situation.
AS: One of the biggest messages in your videos is the importance, but lack, of creativity in medicine. How does creativity affect the way physicians may think or act, and why do you feel it’s so necessary to have?
JK: I think creativity is where people express themselves and come up with new ideas; it makes people feel powerful and autonomous, and it’s how they connect with other people. So, I think that safeguarding and protecting creativity is crucial as far as the future of healthcare and medicine goes. I think it’s insanely important, but I think the paradigm that we live in pushes it to the side because it’s not measurable; you can’t test it; it’s not standardized. It’s a loose concept, and it’s hard to acknowledge the importance of something when it’s so hard to measure. But, I would love to change the paradigm of that, where we treat creativity and connection the same way that we treat the math and science of the world.
AS: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem in today’s medical education system, and what steps should be taken to resolve this issue?
JK: What I would like to see across the board is the excitement and enthusiasm and originality of people going into medicine be maintained or augmented throughout their [careers]. If people have an idea — a crazy, fun idea — I would like to see those ideas be honored and supported. Creating futures takes creativity. But, I think the current culture of medicine streamlines motivated and brilliant people into sections, where they practice assembly-line medicine, and aren’t able to practice in that creative way.
AS: What advice would you give to young or aspiring physicians who have an interest in the arts?
JK: I would tell them to hold on to their creative endeavors with everything they have. I think that’s so important. The arts and creative activities are the things you do for yourself, when no one’s looking. They’re fun to do. School is important, but it comes and goes. Work is also important, but there are always a bunch of different things you can get into. The things that you do for yourself, for your own happiness, and for your own fulfillment and wellbeing are the things that you have to protect with all your might.