Inspired by NPR’s “This American Life,” as a Stanford med student Danica Lomeli, MD, started a podcast series to document and share the intense clinical experiences of her classmates. Through digital storytelling, she captured the growth and distress she saw among third-years and provided a space for her peers to reflect on profound personal experiences. Lomeli, MD, now in her first year of post-graduate work in family medicine at UCLA, hosted and produced five podcasts before collaborating on one installment with and then passing on her project on to med student Emily Lines, who uses the platform to share stories of pre-clerkship students. Lomeli and Lines have produced their podcasts under the guidance and support of Stanford’s Medical Scholars Research Program.
Below, Lines answers questions on her podcast series, Becoming Doctors: Stories From in Between.
Can you describe some of the stressors a medical student undergoes, or which challenges med school presents to a student’s sense of humanism and developing identity as a physician?
There is a growing body of work cataloguing the experiences of clerks, interns, and residents through their transformation into physicians, but little has been recorded about the lives of medical students prior to the clerkship years. These years, however, are a period of rapid growth and transition for pre-clerkship students, filled with experiences worthy of documentation. Pre-clerkship students live at the bottom of an extensive hierarchy and may tend to minimize their emotions or the intensity of their experiences when they compare themselves with all they have heard from clerkship students or residents. By giving voice to these trainees early in their careers, I hope to spark an early interest in reflective practice and empower students to see the intrigue in their daily experiences.
We all have a story of our first patient, the first death we see, the first big mistake we make, and the ways that our personal lives are forced to change to make space for dedication to medicine.
How do you decide on topics to cover, and your approach to a given subject?
I just keep my ears open all the time for stories my friends are telling. Sometimes I’ll approach folks and ask them to tell specific stories I’ve heard them tell before. Other times, I host storytelling parties, which are just informal get-togethers at my house where people can come and share stories in a group setting. We set a microphone out and pass it around as we talk about whatever happens to come up. Most recently, I hosted a themed storytelling party where a group got together to talk about primary care – experiences, passions, motivations, anything! In short, it’s pretty free-form and I take a varied approach to getting stories – whatever method fits the style of the storyteller and his or her story.
Any dream interview subjects?
A lot of people my age don’t see themselves as having a story to tell, but I think that everyone has a great story to share. They are my dream subjects! I hope for my classmates to see the uniqueness of their experiences and to come share them with me.
What are your plans for after graduation? Will you continue to be involved in telling stories?
I’m a pretty gregarious person and I think I’ll always keep telling stories (recorded or not!) I see podcasting as just one way that people can tell their stories – we can write, share in the moment with our friends, take photos, or made podcasts. I am a longtime college radio music DJ and, for me, podcasting was an obvious arena where I could blend my life in medical school with my life at the radio station. I’ve also brought music into the podcast, tapping into the musicians in my class and their recordings, so it’s been great to continue working with music as I develop my storytelling and hosting skills.
The podcast series is your Med Scholars project. Who is your faculty mentor, and how has the program supported the development of your project?
My mentor is Erika Schillinger, MD, and she has taught me a great deal about medical student education and reflective practice. In terms of creative support, Maren Grainger-Monsen, MD, has been an excellent source of mentorship. She is a filmmaker and has helped to teach me about the artful construction and presentation of my stories.
I am a concentrator in Bioethics and Medical Humanities and receive MedScholars funding support for the project. The concentration directors, Audrey Shafer, MD, and David Magnus, PhD, have both been important mentors for me in helping to shape realistic goals for the project and to understand its potential inside and outside of the curriculum.
Photo of Emily Lines and Danica Lomeli courtesy of Lines