Student Dr. Kyeisha Laurence.
1st year medical student at Harvard Medical School.
In fact...more than half way through her first year of medical school....already!
"Kye you haven't blogged in months....what happened?"
Well this is my first blog since August. I'm a little embarrassed. I knew life would get busy, I knew I would shift my focus and priorities -- but I didn't expect to go this long without a blog post once I started medical school. It's almost ironic considering how so much of the parts of my life that I shared here on the blog was about my journey to get to this point.
And maybe that's why it took me a while to get back here. After years of hard work, tears, and self-doubt to being accepted to many of the top programs across the country, I poured into this blog, creating post after post sharing my journey on how I got into medical school, mentoring, editing over a hundred personal statements, and more because as soon as I made it - all I wanted to do was to help others do the same.
And this desire has still been here for me - the love of sharing my journey - my dedication to this blog....it didn't go anywhere in fact I think it has gotten stronger. After sharing about my White Coat Ceremony I took an intentional pause from blogging because I wanted to make sure I focused on myself as I made the transition to medical school and reflected on my journey for myself before sharing for others. (This is very different from my college days if you are a long time reader of the blog when I shared monthly updates).
Now I still remained active on my other platforms - I shared days in my life on instagram and TikTok, glimpses of my day on my stories, and shared some reflections in my captions. It has been a fun way to share my journey and keep my love for content creating alive. And I'm honestly really really proud and happy with the authentic platform I have built that is low-pressure, fun, and stays true to myself while still achieving the goals I have for my platforms.
But these posts and updates are still different than this blog - while an IG caption may take me 10 minutes to type and post - I spend hours on my blog posts, often broken up across days into small pieces of time that I can use to write. I reflect way more. Typing and deleting. Drafting and re-reading. Deciding what stories I want to tell and how to best tell it.
Now as I am more than half way through my first year, I feel in my heart it is time to return to blogging. I have grown, learned, and experiences so much in the last few months and I am in a place where I want to take my time to document and share some of those most salient lessons and experiences here.
I hope you forgive my long break and for the long-time readers - thank you for sticking by me! I'm really a medical student now - and here is how my first year of medical school has been.
August 1st 2023.
As I have been doing since high-school (I wore uniforms in St. Martin), I had my first day fit ready to go. I glossed my lips, put on my heels, and grabbed my purse and headed out for the first day of medical school. I moved to Boston the day before and now found myself under this huge white tent on the Harvard Medical School lawn.
We heard from the Dean of the Medical School and the Dean of Medical Education, from students in years above us, and from our advisors - all of whom gave great advice. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking about it being just day 1 of this whole new journey, of not truly knowing what will come next: Would I like it? Would I suffer? - But those emotions only lasted in faint moments as overall I actually felt quite calm and overcome with gratitude that I was here.
I had made it.
The feelings of the first day really sum up my emotions throughout my first year so far (as you'll see). I have had my moments of anxiety, fear, and fatigue but these moments have all been temporary and by far overcome by the peace, happiness, fullness and gratefulness I've felt in my experience so far. From the first day, we were given words of wisdom that have stuck with me.
"You are who you are because of the people who love you"
"You do the best you can with the information you have, there will always be the unknown and you don't know what you don't know"
"Keep the light that brought you here glowing"
I took this advice and promised myself on the 1st day to do the following:
"You are who you are because of the people who love you" I promise to stay true to myself and my core values. The people who love me, the people who poured into me, they believe in me and I owe it to them to believe in myself. I promise to tell them I love them and keep in touch even when times get busy and hard - in fact especially when times get busy and hard because that's when I need them most.
"You do the best you can with the information you have, there will always be the unknown and you don't know what you don't know" I am my own biggest critic. I promise not to beat myself up and instead to know when I have done and tried my best. There will be things I don't know. There will be mistakes made. All I can do is to learn from them and continue to thrive to be my best - not perfect - just my best!
"Keep the light that brought you here glowing" I promise not to let medicine change the core of who I am, I promise to show up as my full self and my true self because it is what makes me who I am. I will stay focused on my "why medicine" and use that as my motivation. I won't let anyone dim my sparkle.
Of course, things are often easier said than done and I have not been perfect with my promises to myself but I have been intentional with trying to keep them. The challenges came quickly - everyday was incredibly social as I tried to make friends and get to know my classmates but even for an extrovert like myself it was freaking exhausting making that much small talk. It can feel like everyone is better at making friends than you are. I felt like this was only amplified as a Black women in medicine as being a minority in the class made me feel even more like an outsider of the friend groups seeming to form. I knew these feelings to well from undergrad at a PWI and was like "nah fam I'm good" and went right to my fellow Black classmates where I felt safe and easily built connections to.
I share this because I know I had this perception of "oh this is medical school - we are all adults, we're much older, things will be different." But honestly it felt very reminiscent of college - some of my friends as we reflect on the first month of school were worse than me and said it was like high school haha - and I don't think I was fully prepared for it.
The next challenge in my first weeks of medical school was the coursework. I was in Foundations and learning biochemistry, cancer, cell biology, immunology, pathology, genetics, histology, and more. I was also adjusting to our way of learning called Case-based Collaborative Learning in which we have prep material to review the day before then are broken up into groups of 3 to 4 and go over cases based on the material. This set up pushes you to apply knowledge in order to learn it, it encourages wrong answers and "I'm not sure but..." and for us to do this as a group. But there were days in the beginning where there was so much new material and I didn't grasp it, it felt so uncomfortable to not know the answers to the questions.
In my journey to medical school, I often felt as though I had to work twice as hard. Be twice as good. Prove that I had belonged there. I honestly did feel those feelings creep back up for me. The comments I got of people telling me I only got in because I was Black. That I was not as capable I just had a good "diversity story." Those comments only add fuel to the imposter syndrome I had been fighting for years. I remember leaving a class in Foundations in tears because I felt that no matter how much time I spent going over the material I still was not able to grasp it all. Maybe they were right....maybe I'm not smart enough to be here....
What helped me to get past these challenges was being open with what I was feeling and what I was going through. I found that the more honest I was with my classmates, the more I realized that many of us were going through the same struggles. Being vulnerable and going beyond the small talk also helped me to know my classmates on a deeper level and form friendships. I also spoke openly with my professors and advisors who were able to provide me with support during this transitionary time.
I also realized that I wanted to have the tools to really create the life I wanted for myself and that meant working on ME first. So I started therapy in the fall to begin addressing things in my life I had gone through and how I can cope in a way that is healthy, productive, and conducive to the person I want to be.
Working on Myself & Choosing Me
Therapy began and I started to learn more about myself than I have before. I've always been a really positive person, I get my strength from my mom and other women in my family who have been through so much but who take on each day with such grace and focusing on the good. I've always been someone who could have their whole world falling apart and my reflex is to still show up...literally. This is what happened to me in my freshmen year of college when St. Martin was destroyed by Hurricane Irma and I still went to class only to then have a panic attack when I was asked if I was ok.
Basically, my resilience and ability to keep going despite what is happening is a strength...but also a weakness for myself because it was often to easy for me to not address the things in life that were hurting me. I knew that with starting medical school I was entering a really tough field that is going to present many challenges, academically, physically, and emotionally and I wanted to be able to ask for help and actually address and deal with situations I was going through instead of ignoring them.
This was all easier said than done. I remember bawling my eyes out in my first therapy session because there were so many emotions that I didn't allow myself to feel. But as sessions went on, I was able to go through my emotions and analyze why I felt the way I did, why do I act the way I do. What are some of the guards and barriers that I had up because of past hurts? Probably some of the most revealing sessions was realizing how much blame or responsibility I put on myself for situations that are completely out of my control....Talk about first daughter issues!
During this time, I also focused on my relationship with God. This was always something I wanted to work on and to get closer to God, but I honestly put other things like studying ahead of this in the past. I took the pressure off of myself, I didn't need to be "perfect" or try to emulate other people's relationship with Him - I just needed to craft my own, study his word, and build my faith.
In the mix of doing this work, I was able to return home to St. Martin for my Christmas break and - ah what a refresh at the perfect time. I spent Christmas home on the island for the first time since I had left the island in 2014. Being around my family, being able to take a dip in the ocean, being HOME - it gave me everything I needed to heal with that I was going through and re-centered me to enter 2023.
As someone who has been working non-stop for years to get to where I am now, the sacrifice of leaving my island, the pressure I put on myself, the big goals I have for myself - I really see a whole different story where I could have started at Harvard and put my head down and grind for "perfect grades", and research, and trying to "achieve" so many things and let work distract me from myself.....I am so glad I chose this path. I'm really proud of myself to approaching this first-year with a big picture mentality - I know the woman I want to be. I know the impact I want to have. I know the kind of doctor I want to be.
And to be HER I needed to choose ME and work on myself while allowing myself the grace through this transitionary period.
Becoming Dr. Laurence
Every Wednesday, I wake up and grab my white coat, a cup of coffee, and head to clinic or to the hospital for my practice of medicine (POM) course.
At my foundational clinic site, I work in a primary care clinic and help to see patients of all ages with a variety of health needs. In the hospital, I met with patients and practiced my interview skills as I learned how to collect a thorough history in the best manner. My POM experience has been my favorite part of medical school by far. Being with patients was a weekly reminder of why I entered medicine and there is such a great feeling when something you learned in class is significant of the patient in front of you.
Medicine is truly a field of trust. Your patients trust you with their stories, their fears and hopes for their health, and come with not only their clinical concerns but with their full lives. I think what has been so significant to me is how much of this trust is given from the time I became a medical student and enter the room and start asking all of these deeply personal questions about my patient's health and their story. It's this trust that the patients have for me and my colleagues that motivates me to earn that trust each and every time. We have patient clinics where a patient will come and talk to our class and the most common piece of advice given to us every time is "listen to your patients."
As a first-year medical student, I am in a position to truly listen because my clinical knowledge is low so I don't go into an encounter with any preconceived idea of what is going on. I'm also not on the care team and don't have time pressures so it is really great to sit with a patient for some time and hear their story. I'll always remember one patient whom I was able to sit with after finishing my interview and just hear more about her life - her demeanor reminded me of my great-grandmother. As I was leaving she told me how much she didn't think about her pain while we chatted. This really stuck with me because it can often feel a bit of a nuance to patients to be a first-year student who isn't contributing to the patients care...but this reminded me that I don't need to be prescribing or ordering test to be part of patient care. To care for someone, to be there for someone...it makes a difference.
As my responsibility over patient care increases through the years, I hope to remember these first year experiences. To always listen to my patients, to take time to hear their stories, and to continue to look for the ways that we are all connected.
In my foundational clinic, I take a bit more of an active role in the patient care. I am able to start the visit and gather the history and targeted questions for the visit. I do a targeted physical exam, then present to my preceptor and we discuss the plan of action. It's been amazing to see my skills grow as I learn more and able to connect concepts from class to my patients. Clinic has also been my favorite because I see a diverse patient population at my location. Many of my patients speak a language other than English and are from immigrant backgrounds. This is the patient population I want to serve and it has been so rewarding to have this experience in my first year.
Life Outside of Medical School
It is so easy for my life to be consumed by Harvard Medical School. I live in the student housing and literally walk 1 minute to class in the morning haha. We are in the Longwood Medical Area all week long, I have to make an intentional effort to get out and be in different parts of the city.
To aim for balance, I try to do something fun at least once a week. I've had nights out in the city, grabbing drinks with friends, date nights, picnics in the park, game nights, girl nights, spontaneous boat rides, and more. I've made it a goal to make friends outside of HMS and now my next goal is to make friends outside of medicine because of course all my non-HMS friends are also pre-med or medical students.
The theme of these past months for me has been crafting the life I want. I realized that the things I want won't just happened. I wanted more Caribbean friends and community so I started a WhatsApp group for West Indians in Boston and we had our first link up recently!
I've been getting back to passions and hobbies that were put to the side. One thing I missed was singing. Singing was such a HUGE part of my life. It's what I was known for and growing up everyone was convinced I'd pursue it as a career. I started joining a group of classmates who played instruments and sang and realized how much I had missed it. So I took the opportunity to perform at our school's annual cultural show Fabric and I sang in our class music video.
The times I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone have been the most rewarding for my growth and my happiness.
I also was able to return home to St. Maarten again for Spring Break. I can't describe my thankfulness and happiness with words. Since leaving the island nine years ago, there was never a time I was home so back to back. After being home for my first Christmas since leaving I was now home in April for my first Carnival since leaving!
I miss home every. single. day.
There have been times where there was 3 and 1/2 years since I had been home - so I really don't take the opportunity to be home on my island lightly. The way the tears start flowing from the time the plane lands and then again when it takes off...whew.
If you are like me, and live away from home - my advice is to keep focused on why you are away and let it motivate you. It is such a sacrifice living away - but in the times where I couldn't go home due to finances and the demands of being pre-med, I put all of the homesickness into my work and studies. And I am so glad I did, because the hard work has already started to pay off. If I could go back, I would hug and thank my past self so much, because it was seriously not easy and I could have given up but I am so thankful I didn't because now WE MADE IT.
While home, I am able to be my truest self because there is no place like home. I was sure to truly enjoy it to the fullest, I hit the beach almost everyday, I laughed with my cousins until my belly hurt, I spent time with my little cousins and the deep talks with my aunts, I ate all my favorite foods and drank all my favorite drinks (I think I was 90% rum at that point haha)...honestly being home twice in my first year of medical school has played a HUGE part in my year and being able to cope with all the difficulties of medical school.
I'm going to make another blog post talking a little bit more about home, being a medical student from the Caribbean, and the impact I hope to have --- stay tuned!
Following My Passions
In between the hours and hours of studying, finding balance, working on myself, and transitioning - I am really happy to have been pursuing additional passions. Long term blog readers know that one of my core motivations is to help other underrepresented students get into medical school. I have been able to work on this mission in several ways.
I have been serving as Director of Marketing & Media within the MV3 Foundation. We are a non-profit focused on the professional and academic development of Black undergraduate students entering health and biomedical fields. The work of this non-profit is truly incredible and it has been amazing to see what
You may also recall my passion for SNMA! I have had an amazing time serving as Co-President for the Harvard Medical School chapter. Through this role, I do one of my favorite things: build community. Through our chapter, we fulfill the SNMA mission to diversify medicine, addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physician. I have the most fun planning social events for us - there are seriously some of the best people & most down to earth here at Harvard med and they inspire me while having me cracking up laughing all at the same time. It's a really beautiful thing to feel like you found your people and that's one reason I chose HMS. I also served on the programming committee for SNMA AMEC which was AMAZING.
We hosted our 2nd annual Empower conference - a free virtual conference of underrepresented students in medicine and are underway to planning the next one for September. I continue to mentor students on my own as well. I recently had a check-in call with one of my mentees who I met 2 years ago and it is so amazing to see her growth and to be able to share the lessons I learned and wish I knew at her point in her journey.
There's a lot else in the works and I'm excited to share with due time!
Looking Forward....What's Next for Me
I am really looking forward to the rest of my first year of medical school. I am so thankful for my family, friends, mentors, and everyone who has poured into me, been there for me, and helped me get to this point of being happy and thriving in medical school. It has been quite a transformative year for me and I am going to keep this energy going. I have faith that God has bigger things planned for me than I could dream of, so I am trusting him, aiming to fulfill His plan for me, and giving my best each day.
I am so happy to be returning to blogging, they may continue to be spaced out, but its because I am aiming to write and share with intention with quality over quantity.
Thank you for following me & supporting me on this journey to becoming Dr. Laurence.
Small island gyal doing big tings...