The Role of Dance and Art for My Personal Identity

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“Ta-din-din-dha, ta-din-din-dha.” The music of the tabla created a rhythmic lull, guiding my tired feet during a Thursday evening kathak class. It wasn’t until my second year of medical school that I decided to pursue kathak, an Indian classical dance form often likened to tap dancing. I fell in love with the intricate footwork and complicated rhythms, which most kathak dancers begin to learn at a very young age. Despite being a trained dancer learning alongside school-aged children, I kept at it. Dance was always an integral part of my life and my first encounter with lifelong learning.

From dance troupe competitions in high school to weekend rehearsals in college, I learned many valuable lessons (from my mentors and fellow dancers) along the way – lessons in team-building, dedication, perseverance in the face of failure, and self-discipline. More than anything, dance taught me the value of practicing something until you no longer have to think about it methodically – no longer focusing on what the next step is, but rather on infusing your own “flavor” into each routine. These are some of the same attributes that drew me to internal medicine. Watching experienced physicians infuse their own flavor into daily patient encounters really brought to life the ‘art” of medicine for me. Such physicians routinely went beyond a laundry list of questions or physical exam maneuvers in order to establish mutual understanding and rapport with their patients. Although I initially thought I would pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology – (assuming a leadership role in Medical Students for Choice and conducting research on fertility preservation in female cancer patients) – I soon realized that I could pursue similar interests while starting with a broader base.

I wanted to work in a field that provided exposure to a breadth of patient presentations and pathologies, while still preserving a great level of depth. During my third year of medical school, I realized internal medicine would allow me to do just that. The cerebral nature of internal medicine appealed to my problem-solving, analytical side; while the interdisciplinary nature of the field is something I genuinely enjoyed. Each day on the floors, I witnessed specialists provide guidance during times of difficulty, while the primary team integrated each recommendation into a deliberate and meticulous decision shaped by evidence-based practice. They also expertly managed patients with multiple comorbidities, paying careful attention to how improvement in one body system might adversely affect another. Most importantly, these physicians were advocates for their patients in the truest sense – acknowledging each patient’s unique needs to promote not only physical health, but also overall healing. Most of all, it is the patient encounters in internal medicine which have left the greatest impression on me. I can remember many evenings spent working at the student-run free clinic in Queens.

Working at the clinic allowed me to establish longitudinal relationships with patients who could not access care elsewhere – helping them reconcile medications, obtain necessary blood tests, or facilitate specialty referrals. As the first point of contact between many of these patients and the health system, I took pride in developing the confidence and skills needed to deliver effective patient care in a limited-resource setting. In addition, serving on the Curriculum Committee and Admissions Committee of my medical school has affirmed the importance of staying involved in my community, something I hope to incorporate into my future career. I am looking for a residency program that can help me continue to develop these skills in an environment that emphasizes clinical practice, teaching, and research. In turn, I will bring my strong work ethic, enthusiastic commitment to patient care, and willingness to take on new challenges at any stage.

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