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ALUMNI VIEWPOINT: 9 Ways Meditation Can Help You as a Med Student (and Future Doctor)

October 15, 2015

Sommerhalder and Veatch, RUSM alumni
RUSM alumna Raheleh Sarbaziha, MD, Class of 2010, is a hospitalist at EmCare, California. She is the author of two books about her experiences in medical school and beyond. Dr. Sarbaziha will begin an integrative medicine fellowship at University of Arizona in 2016.

This article was written by Ross University School of Medicine graduate and internist Raheleh Sarbaziha, MD, Class of 2010. Check further down for more information on Dr. Sarbaziha.

The mind and body are undoubtedly connected. So, is it possible that you can use your mind to affect your body? Clinical research shows that the mind has the ability to shape and change the way you and your body respond to daily stressors and bodily conditions.

Here are 9 reasons why meditation is bliss:

❶ Meditation can help you better deal with various stressors in your life. Things like studying, exams, and living away from home during medical school are immediate stressors in the lives of many medical students. When I first started medical school, the culture shock of moving to a new country was hard enough, but the addition of medical school studies made the process even more daunting. Learning to meditate once or twice daily— for even a minute at a time—can help guide you through these stressors in a more functional manner, thus making your transition to a medical school much quicker and easier. 

❷ Meditation can assist in alleviating chronic and acute pain. This may not necessarily pertain to you as a medical student, but it’s certainly advice you can give to your patients when you’re a practicing physician. Meditation may help patients alleviate their pain and assist to titrate them down or even off their pain medications.

❸ It can improve your concentration, especially during times where your concentration is low! For me, that was during exam season, as you might expect. The times when you need your brain strength the most are also the times when you become the most sleep deprived or perhaps start eating comfort foods (foods that do nothing for brain health)—two things that can ultimately lead to poorer outcomes.

❹ It can help strengthen your immune system, which is both beneficial to you as the medical student and as a future doctor trying to guide your patients through tumultuous times. This will keep you healthy and strong during days where you might not be getting much sleep or are studying around the clock.

❺ You are able to better train and control your emotions, which is a trick we all need to learn at some point in our lives. During my time in medical school, I dealt with some tough things that were related to family and friends. Invariably, many students will experience some hardships that may not be related to their schooling. Having the strength to endure them while also keeping up your grades and attendance in medical school is key to finishing medical school. Medicine is not very forgiving as a trade: You have to learn it all, and if something distracts you—whether it’s “important” or not—it can be the difference between a C and an A, obtaining the clerkships you want during your rotations, or even earning the residency you’ve always wanted.

❻ Meditation can help alleviate depression and anxiety—two conditions that are, unfortunately, not uncommon in medical school students. Learning to meditate can help you as the medical student, and you could even teach tactics to your fellow students to help them reduce their stress and anxiety levels.

❼ It helps you cope with acute or chronic physical illnesses. Again, this may not necessarily apply to you as the medical student but it can be useful for you as a physician when dealing with your patients. Trying to incorporate meditation in your treatment plan could help your patients cope with their illnesses while trying to recover as quickly and as easily as possible. 

❽ It can be used as an adjunctive treatment when attempting to wean off of addictions. This is a more advanced use of meditation, and should you or anyone you know suffer from addiction, you should consult with an addiction specialist prior to proceeding with cessation of the addiction. 

And as for the ninth and final reason?

❾ If practiced well, meditation can lead to decreases in health care expenditures by helping you control your symptoms and even disease progression. This is important to note both as a patient and as a responsible health care practitioner, as healthcare costs in the United States have been estimated to be somewhere above 3 trillion per year. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/02/02/annual-u-s-healthcare-spending-hits-3-8-trillion/). 

About the author: RUSM alumna Raheleh Sarbaziha, MD

Raheleh Sarbaziha, MD, graduated from Ross University School of Medicine in 2010. Currently, Dr. Sarbaziha is working as a hospitalist—a type of physician who cares mainly for for hospitalized patients—at EmCare in Southern California. Her residency training was at University of Southern California (internal medicine), and she will begin an integrative medicine fellowship at University of Arizona in 2016. In addition, Dr. Sarbaziha has completed a medical journalism internship with ABC News in 2013.

She's written two books about her experiences with medical school—In the Jungle of Medicine: Journeys Through Caribbean Medical School and US Residency Programs: Guide to Application—and has traveled to Uganda to provide medical care to citizens there.

Dr. Sarbaziha lives in Los Angeles.

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