Confessions of A Slightly Off-Her- Rocker Medical Student

Mental Health, Uncategorized

Hi, my name’s Elaine and I’m a third year medical student. First off, let me just say that this isn’t going to be one of those slick and shiny pieces about how important mental health is, with well-organised paragraphs and possibly wanky language. This article is just me saying something I’ve wanted to say for a while, in a very informal way.

Medical students have crappy mental health. That’s pretty much the size of it. We all know from our first year HEP lectures that 28% of final year medical students are burnt out by mid-year*. It rarely ever seems like 28%. Most of the time, we can’t tell when our peers are struggling. This stems from two factors: we don’t want to tell our friends when we’re struggling, and we don’t really want to hear about how our friends are struggling.

We’ve all heard the age old adage about how showing your weaknesses and being vulnerable actually make you stronger. I’m sure we all encourage others around us to do so, but we don’t do so ourselves. Instead, we suppress our stressed out state, along with our insecurities and quirks, for fear that our future colleagues will see us as weak and fragile, or weird.

I can remember countless times when I’ve been asked how I’m going, and my thought process went along the lines of: ‘I could tell them about how I’ve had a crap week, but they may judge me for not being able to cope with my problems. All my problems probably seem insignificant to other people anyways! Plus, what if I have to work with them in the future, or they tell other people in their group? I’ll just say I’m going alright. That’s the safest bet.’ I fear that my friends will view me as incapable and incompetent, especially since it’s so easy to forget that not everyone in medicine is perfect. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way every once in a while.

I’ve also mentioned that we don’t really want to hear about when our friends aren’t doing fine. I don’t mean to say that we’re all monsters who couldn’t care less about the wellbeing of our friends, but it becomes much harder to want to know more about how your friend Dean is behind on study and he’s got a long shift at work tomorrow plus the fact that his girlfriend is going crazy and his mum keeps nagging him about his family dinner, in addition to the fact that he got told off today by a consultant for not knowing something that he really should know but doesn’t because he’s behind on his study (phew), when you’re experiencing a similarly stressful situation. Many of us would much rather not have to deal with someone else’s stress in addition to our own.

You may be wondering what the point of this article is, seeing as how I haven’t yet told you anything you don’t already know. I wrote this to show those who feel like everyone around them is perfect, or has unachievably high standards, that that isn’t true. I believe we all know that, but there are times when it becomes difficult to remember. So here I am, putting my hand up and admitting that I am far from perfect, even though I seem mostly put together on the outside. I have anxiety and self-esteem issues, and these affect my relationships with those around me as well as my academic performance. But despite all this, I know that I am still a completely capable medical student and that I have the capacity to go on and become a great doctor. So I guess the gist of it is, no matter how lowly or flawed you feel sometimes, you have the same capacity too.

* I actually trawled through my first year HEP notes to check this so it’s legitimate.

Can Pokémon Go change the health sphere?

Fitness, Technology, Uncategorized


“Oh my goodness, there’s a Pikachu nearby!”

“Excuse me, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you catch that jigglypuff?”



You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen scores of strangers playing it on the streets; perhaps you yourself are a budding Pokémon master. There’s no doubt that Pokémon Go has truly taken the world by storm, transforming the old and young alike into avid adventurers and uniting total strangers in their quest to “catch ‘em all”.


Naturally, some critics have accused the game of essentially ‘turning multitudes of people into walking zombies’, heads down and clutching phones in chase of imaginary creatures. But amidst stories of players walking into poles, near-misses with vehicles and even accidently discovering dead bodies, comes an enormous potential for augmented reality games – such as Pokémon Go – to positively influence gaming in a world where obesity and sedentary lifestyles are on the rise. Perhaps most interestingly, the benefits of augmented reality games don’t just cease with increasing physical activity; many players have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter to comment on the positive impact the game has had on their mental health.


Here are just some of the ways Pokémon Go has positively benefited the health of players:

A wholeeeeeeee heap of walking!


Traditional videos games have long received criticism for increasing screen time and reducing physical activity in players. Pokémon Go is one of the first – and by far the most successful – games to challenge this stereotype. Players realise relatively early on that progression within the game is almost impossible without moving around – a lot. Through rewarding players who get up to move – whether it be to new physical locations to catch different Pokémon or walking a certain distance to hatch eggs (the longer the distance, the rarer the Pokémon hatched), the game proves to be an incredible motivator to encourage players to literally, get ‘out and about’.


My experience: I was certainly no exception to this. Within the first fortnight of downloading the app, I had walked over 71km just to catch Pokémon– (which was probably more than I had walked this entire year)! Interestingly, data from Jawbone – a wearable activity tracker – show that its average self-declared Pokémon Go user’s daily step count jumped from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 steps following the game’s release.


Fresh air and sunlight (in winter?!)

‘Pokémon Go is literally the only reason I decided to step out of my house and into the cold’.

It’s a statement that I’ve heard over and over again from friends and strangers alike, and words that I too can relate to. Melbourne weather, especially during winter, is notorious for being gloomy and unpredictable; for many, this is a disincentive to go out to the local park for a stroll.

Pokémon Go gives players, who may have otherwise preferred to remain rugged up indoors, a reason to step out into the real world, get some fresh air and discover new locations (and Pokémon!). There is plenty of evidence to show that breathing outdoors improves mood and health, as well as boosting vitamin D levels!


My experience: Since the launch of the game, I’ve observed a roughly threefold increase in the number of people at my local park (a Pokémon hotspot). It seems that players will go to any length to defend their local Pokémon gym – through rain, hail or shine.


Uniting friends and strangers alike – in real life


Many popular video games have online communities, where players are able to interact with other players – such as talk, trade items and share tips – often through a pseudonym. Pokémon Go takes this to a whole new level, bringing players together in the real world, in often unexpected ways. Public locations in vicinity of Pokémon Gyms, Pokéstops and lure models are hotspots for player interactions, and interestingly, as many have discovered, Pokémon Go is an incredibly successful conversation starter. It still surprises me how small interactions with total strangers – sharing locations of where they caught their rare Pokémon or tips on Gym Battles – can lead on to fruitful conversations on just about anything and everything in life. And who knows – in a world where community division is increasingly prevalent, games like Pokémon Go might just be what we need to bring unity across people from all walks of life.


My experience: I was walking along the banks of the Yarra with a friend when my 10km egg finally hatched into an Onix; ecstatic, I squealed with excitement. A couple on a Pokémon date (yes this is actually a thing) ran up to us and asked us what Pokémon we had caught. Although slightly disappointed that my haul was from an egg, we proceeded to spend the next few hours chatting away about holidays and uni and life whilst taking over a few Pokémon Gyms in the vicinity. The true power (or madness) of Pokémon Go – uniting total strangers in the quest to catch imaginary monsters!


Improving mental health

There’s no doubt that exercise, fresh air and social interaction are part of the recipe to good mental health. Pokémon Go has been commended for being a source of motivation for many struggling with their mental health – getting players out of the house and being a bridge for interacting with friends and strangers alike – tasks which can be huge milestones for those suffering from anxiety or depression. What makes Pokémon Go so successful in this sense is the fact that the game is not presented as a tool to help treat mental illness, but rather, cultivates healthy behaviours for all players alike. Although by no means a substitute for professional treatment, the game can be the first step towards self-care and a stepping-stone towards healthier habits.


Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Pokémon Go has had an unprecedented effect on society – in both positive and negative ways. As technology continues to advance, games based on augmented reality such as Pokémon Go will become increasingly numerous. As for whether Pokémon Go can change the health sphere? There’s no doubt that it does encourage healthy behaviours in players, and will be a huge step forward in the battle against obesity. And unlike other gaming innovations such as the Nintendo Wii – which similarly was commended as a physical activity booster but whose popularly quickly faded – the ‘shared hallucination’ of Pokémon Go and augmented reality provides the extra dimension of face-to-face social interactions with other players, contributing to the technology’s huge success.


No matter what the answer is, this is undoubtedly just the beginning for augmented reality games.



Baked Oatmeal Cupcakes

Recipes and Food, Tips and Advice, Uncategorized

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie,

Stayed up late trying to draw out those metabolism pathways? Slept through your alarm? Running so late you barely have time to get dressed and brush your teeth, let alone eat breakfast? We know the feeling! But getting a nutritious breakfast in you before those early morning lectures is super important! These are perfect to whip up on a Sunday so that your breakfast-to-go is sorted on those hectic mornings!

Time: 25 min. Makes: 24-25 cupcakes.


  •      5 cups rolled oats
  •      2.5 cups mashed banana (measure once mashed)
  •      1 tsp salt
  •      Sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, agave) – add to taste.
  •      2.5 cups water
  •      ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp oil (coconut, vegetable, whatever  you choose)
  •      2.5 tsp vanilla extract
  •      Optional add-ins: mini chocolate chips, cinnamon, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts or almonds, dried fruit.


  •      Preheat oven to 190°C, line 25 cupcake tins
  •      In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients.
  •      In a separate bowl, combine and stir all wet ingredients (including banana).
  •      Mix two bowls together, pour into cupcake liners.
  •      Bake for 20 minutes.
  •      You can eat them straight away, or freeze and reheat as needed on those busy mornings!

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

C&W Events, Uncategorized

Have you seen an abundance of daffodil-coloured bake sales popping up in the months of May and June? The cheery bright colours vaguely reminiscent of Emojis don’t quite seem to match the browns and reds of autumn particularly well. Ever wondered what they were for?


The Cancer Council is an established NGO that works closely with national and international cancer organisations, as well as the Australian Government’s Cancer Australia, providing evidence-based advice to relevant parties. Playing a significant role in cancer research and funding, as well as advocating for improved cancer control policies, they have numerous fundraising initiatives, organised by the community: the Biggest Morning Tea is one such event.

The Biggest Morning Tea is an annual charity event conducted to raise funds for the Cancer Council. It can be anything from a bake sale, to a barbeque, or even a fancy ol’ tea party with top hat and all, bedecked in sunny, bright yellows of the daffodil’s petals. Bright yellow: a symbol of hope. Organised by members of the community, the Biggest Morning Tea simultaneously supports the Cancer Council whilst offering food– and who doesn’t love food?

And thus, as the “Community” and Wellbeing committee, the C&W organised our own Biggest Morning Tea on the 27th of May, 2016, plonked down right in front of 27 Rainforest/Building 15/that one tute building. Three days right before Swot Vac, a week before exams– all the better to feed hungry stomachs and brains.

The event was a success, raising $175 all towards this crucially important cause. We would like to extend a huge thank you to Baker’s Delight, who donated a massive range of bakery goods for our morning tea; and to those of you who baked for us, who helped out on the day, and who purchased food or made a donation!



Winter Chicken Soup

Recipes and Food, Uncategorized

With winter coming up and the cold and flu season starting, what’s better than a bowl of

warm delicious chicken soup? This soup is super easy to make and is packed with lots of

veggies. You can add more or less as you desire!


1 kilo of chicken thigh fillets or legs

1 leek, halved and then thinly sliced

2 zucchini diced

1 large brown onion finely finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled, finely chopped

2 celery stick, trimmed, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1L water

1L chicken stock

Optional: 300 grams of mushrooms, quartered

Optional: pasta


Optional: parsley or thyme


1. Place the chicken, leek, zucchini, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and pepper into a large

pot with 1 litre of water and another litre of chicken stock. Bring to boil on high heat.

2. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and leave half uncovered for 45 minutes. Stir


3. Optional: you can throw in some pasta however long it takes for it to cook al dente.

That is, if your pasta takes 8 minutes to cook, throw this in 8 minutes before you

finish cooking the soup. You can also add mushrooms at this time.

4. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the soup and remove any bones. Roughly

chop this up and add back to soup. Season with salt and any fresh herbs.

100 Happy Days: A Review of Sorts

Mental Health, Technology

So this was a social media craze a while back – not so relevant now, but as I reach the end of my life as a medical student and look back on the challenges and the highlights, it definitely came to mind.

For those of you who haven’t come across it, the challenge is to have #100HappyDays, in that the goal is to try and find one thing to be happy for each day for 100 consecutive days. And document it by posting about it on your preferred social media platform. You can read more about the idea here – I’m sure the founders will be able to explain it much better than I can!

Like all things on the Internet, it had its supporters and it had its haters.

A lot of people really got into it and loved sharing their special moments with everyone and seeing other people’s’. They connected with the idea of taking time out to just appreciate something and let that appreciation improve their mood.

Others, like this guy, weren’t so keen. And I see his point. It does have a lot of potential to be attention-seeking, quite “narcissistic” and contribute to this fake image of success that gets promoted on social media and eventually makes people feel like they’re not having as much fun as everyone else. Which is bad, it puts people in a bad place and is no good!

So how does it balance out? Is it a good idea or isn’t it?

I’m in no position to declare #100HappyDays a good or bad thing. What I can do, though, is talk about my experience with it. #100HappyDays featured around the middle of my meddie-life, when I was finding things quite difficult and very much wanting to just pack up, call it a day and go home. It wasn’t so much the ‘busy-ness’ of life that the 100 Happy Days website talks about, as much as the monotonous, grey situation that it was. I think that’s the best way to describe it. Life was a bit grey (it did not help that Melbourne in winter is literally grey as well!), and 100 Happy Days was very, well, yellow. Refreshing and bright.

Now, Delegato is quite right in his Thought Catalog piece – a lot of the posts I made were very boring! I remember posting about what I thought was a cute teapot at a café (it was white with a crack in it?), or beating my personal best on a run by about a minute (which was probably due to error on my phone’s GPS) or eating things which were very plain and boring (I’m sorry, but yoghurt, blueberries and a TimTam chucked into a bowl is NOT worth a photo!)

But it helped. I sound like a parrot, but honestly, taking time out to think about something that made you smile, to document it, to be able to look back on it in the future when you’re feeling glum – it inexplicably did put me in a better mood.

One of the criticisms of the concept is that it’s all a bit fake and temporary. A bandaid solution, Day 101 we’re back to unhappy. But I don’t think it has to be that way. I think it’s about making happy a habit. The default. It’s 100% ok to not be happy! To get upset and angry and disappointed and all the million combinations of those emotions. It’s healthy and necessary even! But slowly moving your baseline up from neutral to slightly positive helps you cope with those nasty lows, and helps you enjoy an average day much more than you would have otherwise. Plus, actively seeking out things that make you happy means you’re actively seeking out things that are good for you – people, places, experiences that put you in a better mood and frame of mind. It’s not about having a picture-perfect life, but about finding and actively incorporating happiness in the day-to-day. When that becomes a habit – and 100 days is a long time, plenty of time to start forming a new habit! – I think you definitely develop some tools and skills to help you get that point.

I mean, it’s not for everyone, I have a few friends who started but then found it seemed a bit pointless and that they didn’t need it or it wasn’t working for them.  But for anyone even remotely interested, I would 10/10 recommend giving it a go. If nothing, it’s fun and the camera on your phone certainly gets a good workout!

Incidental Exercise for a Busy Schedule



As a medical student life can get very busy, juggling classes, clinics, seeing patients and fitting in essentials like sleep and a social life to keep sane! As the workload piles up, exercise is usually the last thing on our minds, but it’s crucial that we keep active for our physical and mental wellbeing. Some seek solace in the gym, team sports or cycling, but others find it difficult to slot exercise into their hectic schedules.

This is where “incidental exercise” can help you out – things that are already part of your daily routine, which you can extend to get an extra workout on the go.

Here are some suggestions for incidental exercise in the busy life of a medical student, or for anyone struggling to get their recommended 30 minutes a day! (Adapted from Lazy Girl Fitness: “11 Easy Ways to Add Incidental Exercise to Your Life”

·      Getting off the bus two stops early: Public transport can be a pain, especially in peak hour when the bus seems to move slower than the people walking. Well how about joining those people and walking? As your fitness increases, start getting off earlier and earlier – you’ll notice a big difference in your energy levels as the day goes on!

·      Park further – for drivers out there, try the same kind of thing by parking further and further away from the hospital/classroom.

·      Stretch while watching TV – one hour of stretching in front of the telly has the same benefits of a gentle yoga class, can burn fat and leave you feeling refreshed.

·      Take the stairs – next time you’re moving between floors on a ward round, stop waiting ages for the lifts and take the stairs instead! It will save you time and keep you active (a win-win situation).

·      Socialise on your feet – we all (and need) our coffee, but next time you plan to meet up with a friend at the usual café, why not take a coffee to go and take a walk in the park together instead?

·      Do the ironing – it burns fat whilst keeping your clothes looking in tiptop shape.

·      Phone calls – next time you’re talking or texting, try pacing around or doing things around the house at the same time.

·      Take advantage of ads – try doing 10 push ups, 10 sit ups and 10 squats each time your favourite show is interrupted by Rhonda from AAMI or the latest German car.

·      Stand more often – unless you’re in a lecture where it would be super weird, take every opportunity to stand and move around instead of sitting down all day.

·      Lifting groceries – instead of battling supermarket trolleys with minds of their own, try using a shopping basket or two to lift your shopping and give those arms a workout.

There’s my two cents, just to show that there are many ways you can add exercise into your busy lives without having to commit to a yearlong membership at Fitness First! I urge you all to find ways of keeping active that work for you.

Get a GP 2.0 – Why YOU should get a GP!

Mental Health, Tips and Advice

In a profession where we spend our lives looking after people, it’s ironic that we don’t pay enough attention to our own health. Perhaps the most important step you can take to maintaining good health is getting yourself a GP. Why?

1. Your GP is your insurance policy

Unfortunately we don’t get to choose when we get sick. It’s not really something you can schedule on your Google Calendar with a starting and finishing time. Illness is unpredictable and strikes when you least expect it. Or worse, it creeps up on you and by the time you realise you are unwell, damage has been done to your academic performance and your personal life. Being connected with a GP when you’re well is your insurance policy, it ensures you have somebody who understands you and knows your history when you become unwell.

2. Doctors and medical students are not great at looking after themselves

It is well established that doctors and medical students have higher rates of mental illness and suicide than the average population. While the reasons for this are not necessarily clear, we can postulate our Type A personalities, combined with a high stress working and studying environment, along with some lack of self-care sprinkled on top provide a deadly recipe. We work hard, play hard and don’t sleep much in the process, or eat, or exercise. If there is somebody well-placed to counsel and guide you towards better self-care, it is not your mother, it is not your bodybuilding housemate, and it is certainly not Ashy Bynes on Instagram. A GP can provide you with objective advice away from personal judgements of family or friends, and guide you towards making positive steps to staying healthy. If you need some counselling or psychotherapy, your GP can write you a Mental Health Care Plan, a document that provides you with ten Medicare-funded visits to a psychologist per year.

3. Self-medicating is BAD

While having a best mate’s parent or an older sibling who is a doctor means you can get your script for the contraceptive pill or some codeine for when your migraine hits without seeing a doctor, there are many reasons to avoid asking your doctor friends for favours. This practice puts the prescribing doctor at medico-legal risk, and it is not a responsible way for you to look after your own health. Most medications require some level of follow-up with a doctor. Further, it does not matter how much knowledge you have, even the most experienced doctors can make fatal mistakes when trying to self-manage and medicate. Stories of opioid or benzodiazepine abuse amongst doctors are far too common. Being well-connected with a GP means you have somebody who can manage your medications appropriately and safely, without putting yourself or others at risk.

4. Your parents or close friends can’t be your GP

One of the many perks of having a GP is having somebody who will listen non-judgementally to you as you share your embarrassing ailments. While I applaud anybody who can openly discuss their sexual life with their own parents, there is no way I would ever feel comfortable or want to put my parents through such agony, even if they were doctors. There are many other times when your parents, close friends or family members are not well-placed to listen to your personal health information. For the benefit of objectivity, medico-legal responsibilities as well as your privacy, it is absolutely essential to have somebody who is not a family member be your doctor.

So how do you find a GP who you trust?

1. Visit a GP from a long time ago who you liked.

Some of us are not well-connected with a long-term GP but rather see whoever can treat us at the nearest convenience. While I would highly recommend having ongoing contact with a single GP, GP-hopping is useful if you are testing out different GPs’ styles and practices. If there was one you struck upon who was particularly good, why not book in to see them again when you next need to see a doctor?

2. Immunisations

If you are a first year student, you have the perfect opportunity to see a doctor: you might need advice on what immunisations you need to get as you start your journey in medicine. This is your shot to get to know a GP. Alternatively, it is flu shot season, take the opportunity!

3. Check yourself

Chances are, if you are a young person over the age of 18 it is more likely than not that you have been sexually active (though it is perfectly ok if you have not!). The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that people between the age of 15 and 30 should have a yearly chlamydia screen, and depending on your sexual practices it may be in your interests to be checked for other sexually transmitted infections. There is nothing like the relief of a negative result, and the most common STIs easily treated with a short course of antibiotics. If you plan to encourage your patients to get themselves checked, you better practise what you preach.

4. Certificates of absence

Flu season is well and truly on its way – you fall ill, you might need a certificate of absence to hand to the university. Use the opportunity to get to know a new GP if you are looking for one, or return to one who you’ve been to previously.

So where do I find a GP?

Sometimes, admittedly, finances are a barrier for students. There are many GPs who are happy to bulk bill medical students as an extension of the doctor-doctor professional courtesy, but some may not. Lucky for you, MUMUS has prepared a list of bulk-billing services for medical students across Victoria. In most urban areas there are clinics with GPs who bulk bill every patient, and universities often run bulk billing clinics for students. In rural areas, while it is best not to see your own supervising GP, they may be able to connect you with someone who might be able to bulk bill you.

Happy GP hunting!

Overnight Oatmeal

Recipes and Food

Often the mornings are a bit of a rush and breakfast can often be missed, even though we all know that having a healthy, nutritious breakfast is important to have an energetic and bright start to the day. Overnight oatmeal is a super easy way to prepare breakfast in advance so that when the morning comes and time is pressing, you can just grab a delicious, fast, homemade meal and head out the door.  This basic oatmeal recipe can be spiced up in 5 different ways, shown below – 1 for each day of the week, and is a great way to start your day on a positive and tasty note!

Thanks for this recipe!

For the basic oatmeal:

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

¼ cup Greek yogurt

¼ – ½ cup almond milk (soy, hemp, rice or dairy work too)

Carrot Cake

¼ cup carrot, shredded

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp pecan, chopped (optional)

¼ tsp cinnamon

Blueberry Lemon

1 tbsp blueberry jam

½ tsp lemon rind

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup blueberry

Chocolate Strawberry

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp chocolate, shavings

¼ cup strawberries, hulled and sliced

Banana Nut

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp natural nut butter

2 tbsp walnuts, chopped (optional)

½ banana, sliced

Pina Colada

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp coconut, shredded

1 tbsp almonds, slivered

¼ cup pineapple, diced

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar.

Add less milk or more milk based on how thick you prefer your oatmeal.

Shake well and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy it cold, straight from the fridge or heat it up for a healthy, hot breakfast!

World Family Doctor Day

Mental Health, Tips and Advice

Happy ‘World Family Doctor Day’!

This day is an initiative of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) which represents 126 organisations, one of which is the RACGP. This day serves to recognize the important work carried out by GPs worldwide.

GPs are the driving force behind a healthy Australia. They are experts in prevention, diagnosis and management of complex conditions and are the centre of the healthcare system. GPs are often the first port of call and are the providers of continuity of care. They have to wear many hats to successfully fulfill their role and for that, we should all be very grateful.

Here’s how to celebrate World Family Doctor Day

1.) If you don’t have one, find yourself a GP!

2.) Follow the hashtag #IchoseGP to see why current GPs chose it as their specialty

3.) Consider a fulfilling career as a GP!