Hi everyone! Welcome to Proteon Pulse, a healthcare podcast from Proteanmed. I’m Rajee Hari, President of Proteanmed, a healthcare staffing and recruiting solution provider based out of The Woodlands, Texas.
I have a very exciting day today because we are going to have a guest who is young, enterprising, charming.
Her name is Shilpa Romalla and she’s a longtime resident of The Woodlands, and she recently graduated from University of Texas in Austin with degrees in Human Biology and Human Development and Family sciences.
She will be beginning her studies as a medical student at UTMB in Galveston this upcoming July.
We are super excited to have you on the podcast.
Welcome, Shilpa. Thank you.
Super excited to be here today.
Like you mentioned, I recently graduated from UT Austin with majors in human biology and human development and family sciences.
And I’ll be starting medical school this upcoming July.
I really loved being able to explore my interests in college.
I took five years mainly because I did want to figure out exactly what I wanted to pursue and why I wanted to pursue medicine.
And during college, I really gained a deep interest in the humanities and humanistic practice and how that can be applied in healthcare settings.
So that’s definitely an interest I’m holding with me as I continue to pursue my medical school journey.
I’m totally intrigued by this humanities part that you’ve been discussing.
Can you tell me a little bit about what exactly you did in this?
This is something that I was wondering about because usually I’ve heard students finish their undergrad, then do an MPH to get that a little bit of a time to prepare for their MCAT and then go into med school.
But this is something very interesting, the humanities aspect of it.
Can you tell me a little bit about it?
So my interest in the humanities really grew while I was in college.
During my second year was when COVID hit.
And with the Pandemic, alongside other challenges, I think I realized that there’s a lot of difficulties that I was facing and will continue to face, and I really wanted to find ways of navigating those difficulties in order to take care of myself and those around me.
So that kind of drew me to the humanities.
So a little bit after COVID or actually it was a little bit before COVID I had met a group of other undergrads who were also interested in the humanities, and we really wanted to understand how humanistic practices could promote connection and human relationships.
And then when COVID hit, that became all the more reason to pursue our interest.
So we partnered with a mentor who taught us about digital storytelling, which is a creative process that uses different forms of media such as photos, writing, etc, to create a story and we partnered with her to create a digital storytelling project with young people in Bosnia and Herzegovinia.
I think it was spring 2021, which would have been my third year of undergrad.
We led this virtual digital storytelling project with these young people, and we created stories regarding the different borders that exist in our lives.
And from this experience, I personally really learned how digital storytelling can be used to connect communities that otherwise might not have the opportunity to connect.
That kind of invigorated my interest in storytelling and humanities in general.
And I think moving forward, I’m really interested in learning how storytelling and narratives in general can be integrated within healthcare practice to really strengthen the patient practitioner relationship and really deepen how we help patients in their journey to healing.
That is interesting.
So what kind of stories were they?
So, in the project that I helped to conduct alongside other students, these stories were pertaining to experiences with borders.
When we define borders, we define borders as psychological, physical, societal influences in our lives that really affect how we relate to ourselves and others and our surrounding society.
The students talked about all different types of borders, and some talked about borders in positive ways, some talked about borders in a negative way.
But we were really just trying to understand how all our experiences with borders really affected how we came to be today.
And from their stories, I really learned and got to have a deeper understanding of my own border and my own borders.
I think one border that I kind of deal with sometimes is uncertainty and not necessarily knowing what lies ahead in the future, which can be scary.
And hearing their experiences with borders really taught me that uncertainty, it can be scary, but it can also be seen as an opportunity, an opportunity for something new to happen, an opportunity for possibility.
And I think that reframing of my own border has really taught me that storytelling can really help us understand experiences that can sometimes be difficult to understand.
In terms of health care, how do you define these borders and humanistic approaches, how do you think that is going to impact the healthcare industry?
Where do you see that coming into play?
Yeah, so I’ve definitely reflected on this question a lot, and I hope to continue reflecting on it as I continue my medical school journey.
I think a big opportunity that storytelling has in clinical spaces is in the patient practitioner relationship.
I think that making sure that there’s a level of trust and understanding between patients and practitioners is really crucial in order to help patients achieve the health outcomes that they’re desiring.
So I think that somehow finding a way to involve patient narratives and patient stories into the health care process would allow practitioners to really understand exactly how their disease is affecting them both on a physical level, but also maybe on an emotional level and really help to create a sense of trust that would further strengthen that relationship between the provider and the patient.
Do you have any example or any project that you did around this?
So after my third year of undergrad, during that summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Maya Angelo Center for Health Equity, which is a center affiliated with the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
And in that center, I had the opportunity to further learn about my interest in digital storytelling by conducting a digital storytelling project with a former patient.
And so I had the opportunity to speak with that patient using different digital storytelling exercises and learn about that patient’s experience with healing, what healing meant to that patient.
And using storytelling, I really got to understand from their perspective how healing can be understood in many different ways and how healing can be influenced by many different means.
It can be influenced by relationships with others.
It can be influenced by how we perceive and our perceptions of our current situation.
So it really taught me how healing is so much more complex than just maybe overcoming a physical illness.
There’s also a social side to it.
There’s also an emotional side to it.
And I think that perspective is really important in order to help further health outcomes.
I totally agree with you because it’s not just about taking a medicine and curing yourself.
It’s also a lot more holistic approach that we are looking at.
As you said, we go to a doctor based on trust.
We trust that we will be healed when we go to this physician.
How do you think this can be taken on a bigger scale?
How can all healthcare professionals use this kind of a humanistic approach to heal patients?
Do they do it, or is it currently in practice, or is it something that’s an upcoming aspect of it.
Exact role of storytelling in healthcare definitely is something that I do want to explore further as I continue my medical school journey.
But I think that really putting a focus and acknowledgment on services such as art therapy, music therapy, and really making sure that we’re creating spaces within clinical and healthcare systems for those types of therapies to be integrated is very crucial.
With storytelling, all of those different types of humanistic practices, I think validating those spaces in clinical settings is really important.
And I think that having trained experts who know how to facilitate these types of artistic practices is really crucial in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
So what exactly interested you in the medical field?
What is your push towards that?
What made you decide, okay, this is what I want to do, this is where I want to go?
So it was kind of an evolving journey, as I would assume it is for many people.
I came into college with an interest in science and helping others.
So it became kind of clear that, okay, maybe medicine is something I want to do.
But when I started college, seeing all the challenges that happened around me, including those that arose from the pandemic, it really started to make me wonder what it truly means to heal.
So like I mentioned previously, I learned how diverse healing can be during my internship.
But even before that, going through the pandemic, going through all of the different challenges that were going on at that time, I really learned that healing is something that happens both at an individual level, but also a community level.
It involves our relationships with others.
It involves our perceptions of the world around us.
And it’s not something that can necessarily happen instantaneously.
It’s something that requires a continuous effort.
And I think that question around healing and my understanding of healing and how that changed over time really made me excited.
And it’s just that idea about healing and how it can be so multidimensional is something that really interests me in medicine, because I want to continue exploring that question and I also want to validate different perspectives of healing and on healing in healthcare spaces.
This is going to be an interesting journey that I would like to follow as well in your life, to see where it goes.
This fantastic amalgamation of science with this healing through different aspects of humanity.
This is really interesting.
On a personal level, I know both your parents are physicians.
I have heard both sides right?
Once youngsters have said, I have seen my parents slog it out.
They’ve been in the hospital.
I could not take the effort that they had to put in to heal patients.
I thought it was too much.
So I decided not to pursue.
And then another set of youngsters said, oh, I saw my parents. I was inspired.
I wanted to follow their footpath.
How did your parents journey or their profession influence your choice of career?
So with my parents, they’ve always been incredibly excited about the work that they’ve been doing.
They always talk about how much they love getting to know their patients and being able to establish a long term relationship with their patients.
They tell me that sometimes they get to meet patients over the course of many, many years.
And so they get to really form a deep relationship with them.
And seeing how motivated they are about their careers and how much satisfaction it’s brought them has really just validated and encouraged me to pursue this field.
I know your parents very well, and I know they are the kind they would say, you make a choice.
Whatever you make, you do, or whatever you choose to do, we will support you.
So I was wondering how much of it was interest.
Great to know what you’ve said.
So you’re entering into this field and you’re going to start in July.
Do you plan any trips or anything fun between now and July.
So I don’t have too much time because my first week is or I start the first week of July, so I really have less than a month before I actually settle down in Galveston.
But I did just come back from a week long trip to California with a group of friends and my brother and his girlfriend.
So that was really fun.
I’m super happy that I got to be on that trip.
And then beyond that, honestly, I’ve been pretty busy with getting my apartment prepared, doing some last minute tasks for the school that I’m required to do.
So kind of just logistical stuff I’m doing as of now, but I’m still excited about it.
As a new entrant to med school, I mean, you must have heard how exhausting it can be, how much hard work is required to plow through the whole process.
So how do you plan to balance your personal life and your work life balance and also your mental health, because we are focusing a lot more as a community on that as well.
So what is your go to thing to balance your work life?
Yeah, I think self care is something that I definitely want to prioritize in medical school because I have heard that it is a very difficult journey.
The transition can be very tough.
I think for me, it’s going to be something that I’m going to continue, but as of now, I’m hoping to have a good exercise routine.
I really love running, so I’m hoping to keep running up.
I really want to make sure that I’m visiting my family often and keeping those relationships really strong.
I am really into music.
I love playing the piano and guitar.
I don’t think I’m going to have space in my apartment for a keyboard, but I do hope to bring my guitar and hopefully practice some self care through that.
And I think those are the three main ways I hope to take care of myself.
You have it all planned out and you’re on the right track there, so good luck with that.
Anything that you would like to give as an advice to future professionals who want to enter into the field of medicine?
What would be your top three advice for them?
That’s definitely an important question.
I think one thing is to keep an open mind.
Coming into college, I didn’t expect my interest in the humanities to come about, but it did, and I think part of that is because I kept an open mind to what was going on around me and kept an open mind to what my interests were throughout all of it.
So open mindedness is definitely important.
I think resilience is also really important.
It’s a difficult journey and sometimes you try your best and things still happen.
So I think learning how to navigate challenges when they inevitably arise is something that is really important.
And then I think also, giving grace to yourself is a big thing.
It’s a difficult journey and sometimes we try our best to do what we can.
And like I mentioned, things don’t go the way we want them to.
And trying not to be too hard on yourself when mistakes happen.
And practicing self care, practicing kindness and self compassion, I think is really important, not only throughout college, but of course, throughout that journey.
So, honestly, I think medical school or not, I think that those are just three important qualities for whatever you want to do in the future.
So true. So true.
I am with you on that. Thank you so much.
I really appreciate your time and good luck in med school.
I will be following your journey and I really look forward to having you again here after you become a full fledged doctor.
Good luck to you, Shilpa.
Thank you for coming on our podcast.
Thank you so much for your time as well.
Thanks everyone for listening to our podcast with Shilpa Romala.
She is going to be a future physician and we look forward to her journey and we wish her the very best.
Don’t forget to subscribe to Protein Pulse and don’t miss the Beat.
I’ll see you in the next episode. Thank you.