Published by AFAR
I have settled into my homey little cubicle here at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. A sign graces my door/entrance and reads, “Lori Myers, MS2 MSTAR Scholar.” I feel so official. I have a stapler, an office phone, an array of colorful pens, and even my own roll of tape. I have yet to use my tape, but I can see it in my peripheral vision just begging to stick something to something. In the meantime, it contributes to my “official” office experience. I am here every day from about 9-5, 8-4, or even 7:30-3:30 (if I’m feeling really ambitious), attending meetings, working on my project, and reading articles. The people are extremely nice and helpful, and the building is pleasant, well-lit, and usually a perfect temperature (usually). I like the feel of going in to work. I like the normalcy. Being a student at 23 seems to delay entering the “real world,” but I like this grown up feel I’m getting working as a researcher. I’m sure 99.9% of working America would think my contentment with my experience so far is ridiculous or naive, but I beg to differ! Let me explain, and I promise it’s not just about my tape roll.
I began worrying about grades, extracurricular activities, studying, and general over-achieving in the 7th grade. This puts me at about 11 straight years of spending the majority of my time thinking about grades, medical school, whatever. I would not allow myself time for hobbies or recreation, and if I did, I felt guilty. I can’t express how nice it is to go to work, work hard while I’m here, then have the evenings and weekends of my summer open for reading, drawing, working out, spending time with friends, and just getting to know myself all over again. Yes, I’m learning a lot about geriatric research and research processes in general. Yes, I’m excited about my project and think about it often (even when I’m off work). Yes, I have a very intelligent, kind mentor. All of these elements are expected of a great summer experience, and I knew MSTAR would likely exceed my expectations. I did not, however, expect the comfortable and accepting environment that the MSTAR program directors, assistants, and mentors have fostered. For once, I don’t feel like a frazzled medical student with the constant weight of upcoming tests pressing on my shoulders. I feel like a normal working adult, but I’m still accomplishing things. The program means guidance, mentorship, structure, and challenges, but at the same time it incorporates an opportunity to learn and explore interests without stress and pressure.
I consider the opportunity to be a medical student a great, great privilege, but I consider the opportunity to be a student with time and interests outside of school an even greater privilege. I think it is rare to find a program that allows a student to pursue research and build life-long professional relationships and mentorships without seeping into and absorbing his or her free-time. I am enjoying my 9 am-5 pm now. I did sign up to be a doctor, however, and no matter the hours, it’s what I’m meant to do. So when 9 am to 5 pm turns into 5pm to 9 am, I will reflect back on this time fondly, and I will think of my dear roll of tape, wishing it was here to tape my tired eyelids open.
Indiana University School of Medicine
"Diary of an MSTAR Student" follows scholars in the 2011 Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) Program, highlighting their summer experiences. As they continue their path of research, training and clinical practice, read their daily thoughts at www.afar.org/mstarblog. New diary entries are posted every day, so check back soon.