I Wish I Had Known: The Importance of Writing

A Dermatologist’s Foray into Writing

My trials and tribulations in writing first began in high school. I wrote a humor article in high school for our school newspaper. The experience was fun as I collected my thoughts, tried to be creative and work on my comedic stylings, and determined whether or not I could make others laugh. The feedback I received was satisfying and encouraging. Once in university, I wrote a few pieces for the engineering humor paper and one brief personal essay for the regular school paper. I enjoyed putting my thoughts to paper and loved seeing my name and/or picture in print. I received some modest positive feedback, and my parents had one more reason to be proud of me.

When I got into medical school, I saw an older year medical student writing a paper in the library.

I asked her what it was for and about and she explained that she was applying to a history of medicine conference because it would be a fun experience and free travels and accommodations were provided. This sounded like a great opportunity and my parents—who were with me visiting the medical school—encouraged me to quickly put together and submit an abstract (The Impact of Linus Pauling on Modern Medicine and Society), which was due a mere two days later. My paper was accepted and I attended a very fun and interesting conference with other medical students from across the country – all expenses paid. Thepaper was published in the proceedings of this conference (in a book!) and I was subsequently asked to submit it to and had my article published in a medical history journal. Interest in the power of writing was on the rise and my eyes were opening wider.

Once I realized in my second year that I wanted to pursue a career in the competitive specialty of dermatology, I figured I needed to stand out in some way and start building my curriculum vitae. I began writing more and more articles, first for the medical school journal. I then began asking mentors and dermatology professors to co-author papers with me. I found it challenging and stimulating to come up with a relatively unique or interesting or important dermatology topic, and then research and write the paper, while often collaborating with a much more experienced dermatologist who would edit, critique, and ultimately improve our paper (and me as a writer). After all the effort in getting an article into print, seeing my name and article published was exhilarating, albeit briefly, as I was soon onto my next article. By the end of medical school, I was one of the most published medical students in the country and my curriculum vitae was nicely filled up. Because of this, and presumably many other reasons, I was fortunate to obtain a dermatology residency position.