How Osmosis Scholarship Winner Nat Jones "Imagines More"
Published on Jun 2, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
The Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship is back, with applications open until August 17, 2020. Today, we're sharing an interview with one of our prize winners, Nat Jones, a second-year medical student at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.
Last November, Osmosis hosted our inaugural scholarship competition. We reached out to Osmosis learners across the US and asked them to share how they would embody their favorite Osmosis value in their clinical careers. Six winners were chosen to receive one of five $1,000 prizes, or a single grand prize of $5,000.
Today, we’re interviewing Nat Jones, one of our $1,000 prize winners. Nat chose to “imagine more,” envisioning a more inclusive future for trans and gender-nonconforming people seeking clinical treatment, particularly in their chosen field of oncology. Check out their full video on our scholarship page, or scroll down to the bottom of this article to watch it!
How did you hear about the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship?
My friend and classmate (Charles Jang) recommended Osmosis to me last semester, and since I ended up using it every day he also told me about the scholarship and encouraged me to apply.
What was your application process like?I had just finished a huge finals week (microbiology, heme/onc, immune, and GI) and after a day of twiddling my thumbs and not knowing what to do with my newfound free time, I decided to be productive and send in this application. I wrote all the essays in one sitting, had a lunch break of banana nut cereal, and then used my friend’s whiteboard (which had been left at my apartment from finals week) to plan out my video speech. It took a good chunk of time, but it was what I needed after a long finals week and reminded me of why I chose this career path in the first place.
You chose “Imagine More” as the Osmosis value you identify with most strongly. If you had to choose another Osmosis Value, which one would you pick, and why?
If I had to pick another Osmosis value, it would be “Spread Joy.” This is probably the most important value in terms of my daily life, as I find it is so easy to get bogged down in the stress of not only medical school but also contemporary events. That’s why I try to reserve a little bit of each day for spending time with my partner, my dog, and my friends. Whether it is acting silly at the gym, meeting up to “hate-watch” reality TV, or adventuring out to Costco for samples and giant breakfast muffins, spreading joy is an absolute requirement for my mental health and happiness.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a medical student, and how have you worked to overcome it?
One of my biggest challenges was learning how to transition from undergraduate studying to medical school studying. I regret to say that I spent my whole first year of medical school going to lecture, taking notes from the professors, and then re-watching the same lecture at home and taking even more detailed notes. As you can imagine, this was a huge waste of time and I ended up feeling extremely burnt out after a few months of this. Eventually I learned to shake up my watching lecture/note-taking routine by incorporating flashcards and practice questions, which cut my studying time in half and also made me remember the material better.
What drew you to the field of oncology? What are some specific challenges you’ve seen transgender people face when seeking treatment for cancer, or other illnesses?
Five years ago, my partner was diagnosed with a hematological illness. As a result, I spent a lot of time helping her get through bone marrow biopsies and appointments. Her oncologist, “Doctor Bill,” was one of the kindest and most genuine people I had ever met. When I shadowed him and saw the same story echoed in all his other patients, I knew there was something special about the field of oncology.
Unfortunately, I have known many transgender patients who were not treated as warmly as my partner was in the field of oncology—whether that meant being constantly misgendered or even being denied care. When I first heard these stories from my transgender siblings, I immediately thought of how I could potentially be their Doctor Bill and treat them with all the acceptance and kindness they deserve in their emotionally and physically draining oncological journeys.
What are some ways for current and future clinicians to be more inclusive in their clinical practice?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been forced to choose between “Male” or “Female” on clinical intake forms. As a non-binary person, having the option to check an “Other” box means the world, and also provides a great opportunity for providers to screen their patients’ genders before they enter the room. As a starting point, I would recommend that every practice update their intake forms to be inclusive of diverse gender identities. Also, I would recommend to never be afraid to ask a patient to explain their identity to you if you do not understand it; we are all learners, after all. Putting a little rainbow flag sticker at the front desk means a lot, but implementing concrete strategies like these can mean even more.
How does it feel to have won the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship? Anyone you want to shout-out or give thanks to?
The thousand dollars is nice and all, but there is nothing better than having an official Osmosis cartoon figure!!
Seriously, though, I am so honored to have received this award. It means a lot to know that my passion for combating transgender health disparities is being heard and valued. I’d like to thank my friend Anna for leaving her whiteboard at my apartment so I could map out my thoughts for the application, my friend Charles for telling me about the scholarship, and my partner Kira for calming me down and making sure I have enough to eat during medical school.
How has COVID-19 impacted your studies, and what advice do you have for students navigating these circumstances?
As a second-year medical student I am currently in the midst of preparing for my USMLE® Step 1 exam, which is essentially the final checkpoint before I enter the rotations of third year. While I am trying to remain focused on the end goal of my upcoming entrance into the wards of Tampa's hospitals, I find myself worrying constantly about the COVID-19 chaos around me. I was one of the unlucky students who had their exam date cancelled due to COVID-19 social distancing regulations at my testing site, which resulted in a huge last-minute scramble for a new date and a massive change in my study schedule. It was hard for a while to focus on anything other than COVID-19, let alone my rigorous Step 1 schedule. However, I am settling into my new normal now—studying at home in my little study corner, taking my mid-day stretch break, and FaceTiming my classmates for social hour on the weekends.
For my fellow productivity-minded students who are also struggling to settle into a new routine, I recommend scheduling out three NON-SCHOOL related tasks that you would like to accomplish each day (I keep a hand-written "to-do" list of things I want to bake, exercise videos I want to watch, chores I need to do, etc). This has really helped me take my mind off of studying for a bit and value the non-school related aspects of my days more. If you are used to volunteering on a regular basis, ask around in your community for testing sites that might need phone volunteers or health worker support groups that secure groceries/childcare for your local health workers. I am fortunate to have been able to channel my desire to help out into assembling 3D-printed COVID-19 swabs through my university, and I can say that being able to give back just a little bit makes me feel so much lighter. If you find that you are too burdened with your worries and that this productivity-minded advice seems completely unattainable, then listen to your body and give it the break it deserves.
These are tough times and if you need a break, by all means allow yourself to breathe, relax, and take things one day at a time. After a few days of listening, you might find inspiration for your new normal.
Nat is a second-year medical student at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. Nat is interested in improving health care for transgender and gender-diverse individuals, particularly in the field of oncology. Nat’s favorite pastimes include power-lifting with friends, using their art history degree to paint scenes around them, and studying the Japanese language.
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