In August 2007 I began studying at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. I was under more stress than I had ever experienced. I started getting migraines, in part because I was drinking multiple cups of espresso daily and was sleeping very erratic hours. I also skipped meals and was sedentary. I took my Step 1 board exam on no sleep because my test anxiety kept me up. My score came back average, and I knew it did not reflect my true intelligence. I realized that I had not been taking care of myself, which was limiting my potential.
By my third year, I knew something had to change. I started studying lifestyle medicine on my free time. I made gradual changes to normalize sleep schedule and adopted better eating, stress management, and exercise habits. I was enjoying my life again. I overcame my test anxiety and got outstanding evaluations from my professors. By my M4 year, I was performing sleep medicine research, coordinating a community education event for National Sleep Awareness Week, and studying for my second board exam—and, surprisingly, I was not stressed out.
When I got my board exam results back, I was amazed that I scored in the 99th percentile nationally. This attracted a lot of attention from other medical students who asked me for advice on how to deal with the stress of medical school. The more students I talked to, the more I felt an obligation to share what I had learned with as many people as possible before I graduated. I created the first academic course on wellness at the University of Illinois College of Medicine entitled, “Physician Heal Thyself: Evidence Based Lifestyle”. The course was wildly popular and it allowed me to share my lifestyle medicine research with my peers.
From day one of medical school, I realized I was different. I loved medicine, but I also loved the feeling of discovery and drive for innovation just as much as I enjoy taking care of patients. I wrote in my residency application, “As challenging as medicine is, my ambition expands above and beyond the completion of my M.D.. My goal is to not only make an outstanding pediatrician, but also become a part of the business side of medicine through entrepreneurship and consulting.” This was an interesting foreshadowing to my future career.