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Music & Medicine – An Unlikely Combo

July 4, 2021

Dear pre-med-der,

Today, I would like to give you two things: (1) hope in your dreams and (2) faith in yourself. NOT faith in your Google searches nor hope in other people. Sometimes, I wish my early Google searches would have told me with certainty that my unusual path to medicine was not that unusual. I wanted to hear others tell me “it’s all good; you’re on the right path; medicine is all BUT usual.” I never felt like the advice I received was truly tailored to me, my path, my life.

I wished I had learned this lesson sooner.

In hindsight, if I knew that any path I choose could still lead me to medicine, I probably would not have tried as hard. I would not have shed those tears around exam time. I would have chosen the simpler path.

Certainty would take the fun away of life.

I wouldn’t have taken a gap year in a foreign country. I wouldn’t have been able to graduate early or somehow survived a pandemic. I wouldn’t have figured out for sure that medicine is truly for me. Does any of this ring a bell? Hope it does, because, believe it or not, we’re all in the same boat. All of us are struggling. We all are surpassing our own abilities. We just have to open our eyes and appreciate what we have just survived. We have fought those monsters of uncertainty and, slowly but surely, we are winning this battle.

Say it with me: “I am winning this battle.”

Now, let us get to the main reason why we are all here in the first place. Medicine and Music. Is it even possible? I’d say yes. Take a look at the following video.

Like Dr. Christopher E. Jackson (in the video above), Dr. James Robert Webb, Dr. Doug Angel, and countless other doctors, medical, and pre-medical students are testaments to the fact that committing to both music and medicine is absolutely possible. At a BRAINterns session I attended, Dr. Randy D’Amico, a neurosurgeon at Lennox Hill (and retired rock-band guitarist), once said: “I can’t play guitar and do neurosurgery, but I can do neurosurgery and play guitar.”

Essentially, it’s all about your priorities.

My schedule last semester looked roughly like this: Mondays through Fridays I’d attend my college classes and labs, both online and in-person. I’d also have weekly club meetings and virtual shadowing sessions. On the weekends, I’d catch up on work for my internship here at The Premed Scene and prep for musical gigs. In between all of that, I still had to make time for my family (as I do not live on campus), do homework, and occasionally work out. I don’t even know how I was able to manage to go to orchestra rehearsals before COVID-19 hit.

Anyways… I wanted to share my personal schedule with you, not to create mini-me’s, but because I want you to know that it is possible. I persist through my pre-med journey because I continue to do what grounds me, what charges me up, what keeps me going strong.

That “thing” that I do is music, although that thing might be something else for you.

You might love to jazz-dance, Spartan-race, hula-hoop, raise your children, or self-reflect. DO IT! Unlike common belief, or unlike what might have been the case in the past, the path to a medical career, as well as the career itself, does allow for a beautiful work-life balance. Ask your primary care physician. You will be surprised at how much control they have over their work schedule. If medicine is truly your passion, you will find it easy to make room for it, just as you make room to do the other things you love. The people who truly care about you will eventually understand why you’re able to find the energy after work to do the things you love to do.

In a year, I will be nearing the end of my pre-med journey. I do not know what to expect, nor am I creating a detailed map for myself. A few weeks ago, I was on the verge of adding a music minor to my degree. We will see how that plays out. All I am asking you to do is to keep your eye on the target. You might change it along the way, or you might deviate from the path to smell the flowers along the way. It is all going to work out. Whatever continues to leave you with a smile at the end of the day, that’s what you should do.

All the best on your path to medicine.

Happy 4th of July!

Ryen Belle Harran



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