By Suht Wong | July 12, 2021 1:18 pm
Medical Students Aaishwariya Gulani and Rachel Truong, and Class of 2021 graduate Tiffany Nguyen.

Medical students nationwide – including three from UCF – write about the trials and triumphs of training to be doctors during a pandemic in a new book, Diary of a Med Student.

The book’s reflections are introspective, serious, sad, profound and humorous, including students’ feelings about losing a loved one to COVID-19, harvesting an organ from a deceased child, and giving medical advice to a complete stranger while relaxing in a jacuzzi.

Essays from UCF medical students Aaishwariya Gulani and Rachel Truong and Class of 2021 graduate Tiffany Nguyen, a surgical resident at Orlando Health, are included in the book. 

Truong wrote about how different her encounter with a standardized patient (actor) in the medical school’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center was from the  meeting with her first real patient. Despite practicing patient interviewing with classmates and standardized patients, she was caught off guard when the patient talked about a prescription drug she didn’t know. “You can practice, practice, and practice your interview, only to immediately fumble it right out of the gate,” she said. 

Truong said she hopes her message is that, “It’s OK to be overwhelmed and laugh at yourself later, even if in that moment you feel like you haven’t learned a thing.” 

University of California-Irvine medical students Daniel Azzam and Ajay Nair Sharma began the book project as a way for medical students to share their insights with peers, future med students and their families. The editors received more than 200 submissions. 

“This book offers us a space to reflect on our emotions, process their meaning and share them as tales of joy, sorrow or humor told from the perspective of medical students writing in a diary,” said Azzam in a podcast interview. 

Gulani recounted her first day of clinic training when she was asked to conduct a colorectal exam. She describes her nervousness and sense of accomplishment in performing the task for the first time. Weeks later, she helped classmates learn the technique, causing one fellow student to joke, “I’ll always remember you as the girl who taught me how to perform a rectal exam.”

Gulani said she hopes the book provides insight into the challenges, stresses and uncertainties of medical school. 

“I think I brought some realness to how vulnerable our experiences are as medical student,” she said. “Med school is so much more than what I learn from a book or lecture.”

Editors Azzam and Sharma call the book cathartic and informational. “While the act of sharing emotions is itself therapeutic,” said Azzam, “reading about these challenges that we can all relate to is unifying and comforting, providing us with insight through the lessons conveyed in the light of a variety of feelings.”

Dairy of a Med Student is available at and Barnes and Noble book stores, with proceeds going to medical school scholarships at UC-Irvine. 

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