What does a medical student do with their final summer?

It is our last summer and how we have each chosen to use it is interesting. Many moved from the classroom to research, others took on advocacy projects or work in other areas, a good deal of the class traveled (a few got married or had children too). I thought I would share one of the projects I put time into before we enter the clinics this fall.

Over the last year I have found some success writing, having had a few reflections and articles published. At the same time I see many issues with my writing and decided to find ways to improve. This project took the form of reading books on writing, reading ‘great’ novels and watching classic films.

This project actually started last summer when I read Keys to Great Writing and The Elements of Style. This summer I re-read both books along with a dozen other books on writing and made notes of key points from each. I learned a lot about fiction and non-fiction, story and scene structure, and the joys and difficulties of writing. I took the opportunity to absorb the thoughts of many people on the subject and in the future I’m sure their advice will crystallize and be drawn on in future writing projects.

Apart from the books on writing I also read a number of influential novels. These ranged from classic to modern. The Odyssey and Dead Souls (Part 1) are now two favorites; they were books that I saw on my Grandfather’s shelves many times, but never read until this summer. Catch-22 was great in small doses and I finally got through The Castle and then read The Trial by Kafka. Lots of ideas gleaned from my reading, not all of it pleasurable, but I’m glad I did it. Since I looked through lists of great books my queue is now longer than ever. Not sure when I will get the chance to cut it down with clerkship approaching and residency on the horizon.

I also realized I had not experienced many important films, ones that I often saw or heard referenced during my life. Thus, I watched ~40 movies this summer. When not with family or enjoying the weather I’ve watched films by Charlie Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock and many more.  The Bicycle Thieves, Cinema Paradiso and Dr. Strangelove were some of my favorites.

I have enjoyed experiencing and learning from these sources, though I know they are not exhaustive by any means. It was great to have the time to read and watch movies along with enjoy many other parts of life this summer.

The book queue residing on my desk:

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