Mid year wrap up

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In the flurry of activity leading up to my move to New York, I neglected to post my wrap-up of the first half of my fellowship. Apologies for that, my readers! These past six months have flown by, and I have acquired a whole new skill set I never imagined I would be experimenting with. Transitioning from a lifetime of preparing for medical school to half a year of intensive journalism, communication, multimedia production, and social media training, I feel as though I have exercised a whole other region of my brain that has been dormant since college. I cannot wait to learn more here at NBC News with Dr. Snyderman.

My adventure with medical media started in June 2011, when I was chosen to be the inaugural Stanford-NBC News Global Health Media Fellow. Rather than being scared that I was the “guinea pig”, I was (and still am!) thrilled that my experiences and input will help shape the future direction of this very unique program. My first two months were spent at Stanford with the Center for Innovation in Global Health, where I interviewed interdisciplinary student and faculty teams developing unique solutions for global health challenges. I learned about a whole variety of diseases and the innovative attempts to prevent and treat these epidemics, from developing immune-boosting vaccines for Chagas to creating point of care diagnostic tests for diabetes or schistosomiasis.

The summer was spent in Geneva, Switzerland, where I worked closely with Christy Feig, the Director of Communications for the World Health Organization. The month of August was taken up by prep work for the UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), an epidemic that I sadly did not know is accountable for 63% of the world’s deaths. I read through reports on statistics, economics, policy, and strategy, and learned about the devastating burden of disease represented by this group of NCDs (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). I practiced framing global health issues in a context that laymen can understand, and I acquired communication skills about medicine and health that will no doubt be useful for future interactions with my patients.

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Christy Feig, Director of Communications at WHO, and me

Fall quarter I found myself back on the Farm, where I was given the opportunity to take three journalism classes through the Stanford Journalism master’s program. The journalism classes blew my mind away. My professors, with Pulitzer and Emmy Award winners under their belt, took the time to teach me, a medical student with little background in the field, everything from scratch. Professor Brenner painstakingly and patiently went over with me time and again how to get to “the heart of the matter” within the first few paragraphs, and how to craft a news story to keep the reader interested and reading more. Professor Migielicz helped me time and again through all my computer glitches and FinalCut questions, enabling me to shoot and produce multimedia pieces I never thought possible. Professor Grimes gave me never-ending support and helped me learn through the experiences of multiple guest speakers at our journalism seminars. I emerged from that quarter with a newfound respect for journalism, a field that, much like medicine, is after the truth to better the lives of the public.

I’ve learned that I love the idea of creating content, starting at the beginning of reporting and getting the facts all the way to finishing a news piece or finalizing a video documentary. I do miss a lot of things about medicine, but I don’t miss the long hours of trying to memorize drug or disease names or microorganisms and the features of their cell walls. This half a year has allowed me to be creative and explore how I can use my medical background to my advantage in the journalism field.

I already know the next leg of my fellowship here in New York will be an amazing time. I promise to write an update about NBC soon.

To finish up, this is my final project for my multimedia class. Having gone to high school in Palo Alto, I know firsthand the academic pressures and cultural environment teens are exposed to in this town. A few years ago, we experienced a suicide cluster from Gunn High School students that highlighted the dire need for mental health awareness and support. Here is my video telling the story of what we as a community have done in the wake of such tragedies.

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