During the Pre-Health Chat: Finding Balance as a Pre-Health Student at Penn, Maya Moore CAS ’20 and Jakub Jarmula CAS ’19 shared reflections on managing competing priorities as pre-health students. Maya, a current medical school applicant, suggested tips for navigating the medical school application cycle, and Jakub offered practical advice based upon his current experience as a medical school student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.
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Tell us about yourself.
Maya: I have been passionate from a young age about the social determinants of health and seek to become a public health physician with a focus on addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. At Penn, I was on the cheerleading team, served as a resident advisor, and did research on-campus among many things!
Jakub: Hello! My name is Jakub Jarmula (C’19), and I graduated from Penn with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a Concentration in Neurobiology. On campus, I was involved with Riepe College House, PennCAP, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, and the Penn Polish Club. I am currently a medical student, and outside of class I enjoy reading, cooking, playing tennis, and hiking.
What systems have you developed to balance academics and other life priorities?
Maya: Two key systems definitely kept me afloat during my pre-med time at Penn. The first is my support system – which comprises my parents, extended family, and close friends. I informally consider this group my “cheerleading squad”, as they are always there to support me when I am overwhelmed with school and also guide me in my decision-making. The other system I rely on is creating harmony between activities that bring me joy and that also can develop my skills as a physician. I believe in being intentional about my time and invested in activities that were an asset to my application but that I also really enjoyed!
Jakub: I have found staying organized to be critical for balancing my academics with my personal responsibilities and hobbies. I use my calendar as a central place for my class schedule, meetings, and appointments. I finalize my calendar the night before, and the first thing I do each morning is review my events for the day. Taking a few minutes each day to stay organized helps me locate information quickly, which saves me time in the long run. It also helps me make time for the people and activities that are important to me.
How do you manage stress and prevent burnout?
Maya: Exercise is a key element in my stress management toolbox. The rush of endorphins from getting in a good weightlifting session or afternoon run helps to clear my mind. I make sure not to forgo activities, like exercising and speaking with family, even when I have a lot on my plate. I can be far more productive when performing these activities for even a short time every single day.
Jakub: Surrounding myself with supportive, passionate people has been very important in helping me manage stress in my life. Although quarantine has made it difficult to stay in touch, I make an effort to connect with my friends and family. I also make time for my hobbies because they allow me to recharge, and it is always rewarding to learn a new skill. Finally, I think it is vital to deliberately choose rewarding extracurriculars that I am truly passionate about, like teaching! These activities give me energy, rather than take it away, and help prevent burnout.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about balancing responsibilities?
Maya: You can’t pour from an empty cup. Being a doctor, you are in a field where you will serve many. You can only be the best for your future patients if you treat yourself with care and compassion. Keep this in mind when you feel overwhelmed with the stresses of academic life.
Jakub: “You can do anything, but not everything.”
What specific Penn resource(s) would you recommend to Penn Pre-Health students to help with stress?
Maya: Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, Your Resident Advisor, Mentors + Professors, CAPS
Jakub: There are many great resources at Penn to help manage stress. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers professional psychological support for Penn students, including stress management. Your Residential Advisor/Graduate Advisor (RA/GA) is also there for you, and they can connect you with other resources on campus. Penn Benjamins and the Reach-A-Peer Line provide confidential peer counseling, and the Office of the Chaplain also offers support for students experiencing stress and challenging personal events.