Osmosis Team Spotlight: Marina Horiates Kerekes, MD, Content Manager for Questions
Published on Sep 2, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
September is Women in Medicine Month, a time to celebrate the incredible contributions women have made to the medical field, and shine a light on the disparities that still impact women who are pursuing a health profession or seeking treatment themselves. Today, we’re highlighting one of the awesome and accomplished women on the Osmosis Clinical Team: Dr. Marina Horiates Kerekes, Content Manager for Questions at Osmosis. Get to know Marina a little better by reading today's interview and joining her webinar on Overcoming Test Anxiety tonight at 5 PM ET / 2 PM PT.
Hi Marina! Hope you’re having a good day. To start things off, can you introduce yourself to our readers and provide a bit of information about your early life and education?
Of course! I’m Marina Horiates Kerekes, and I am the content manager for questions at Osmosis. I was born into an awesome Greek-American family in Dallas, TX. I grew up with three brothers, and after high school I moved to the East coast to attend Yale University. I majored in English Language and Literature, and I also completed my pre-med coursework and applied for medical school.
After graduation, I went on to medical school at Johns Hopkins, though I took a bit of time off during school to work with a regulatory affairs consulting group who specialized in rare diseases. This job was my first introduction to medical writing and a career outside of clinical medicine, and it’s what led me to search for a role at Osmosis after graduation!
Did you always want to be a doctor?
Yes. I had leukemia when I was a little kid, and I grew up with pediatric oncologists (and doctors in general) being superheroes. I always wanted to give back to that community that helped to save my life.
However, when I started to go through my clinical training at Johns Hopkins, particularly in the pediatric electives I pursued, I began to realize that it took a lot out of me to take care of these kids who had stories similar to or (more often) worse than my own. It was hard to reconcile my survival with these cases I was working on; I had a tough time with the randomness of that suffering, and I struggled with those awful moments when some kids pulled through but others never would.
I took a lot of those emotions home with me, and the stress started to wear on me physically—I started getting sick a lot, and I was having trouble getting through some of my schoolwork. I realized that this feeling wasn’t sustainable, and I needed to find a way to give back that wasn’t going to take so much from me in the process.
When did you decide to pursue medical education as a career? What prompted that decision?
Despite those concerns about the emotional toll it might take, I was all set to apply to a residency in pediatrics, when an unlikely series of events changed my plans entirely. I was completing a sub-internship in pediatrics at Yale (where my husband is a general surgery resident), and I actually had a seizure and gave myself a pretty nasty concussion in the process. It was horrible. I couldn’t drive for a period of time, I could barely think! I knew that it wouldn’t have been possible to apply to residency and go through the interview process while I was recovering, so I decided to postpone my application and look for a different job in medicine for after graduation.
That’s when I actually started looking for jobs in medical writing—I love to write, and I figured I could use my English background and my medical background to contribute to an organization. But I was really looking to find a company that was value-driven and was actively trying to give back—medical education seemed to be the perfect combination for my skill set and my desire to help people.
How did you find out about Osmosis?
I actually used Osmosis as a study tool in medical school! The organization was founded at Hopkins, and I found out about it from some senior classmates. I loved studying with Osmosis, but I had no idea how incredible of an organization it was until I started looking for jobs in medical education and medical writing. My husband and I were scrolling through the internet looking for different roles I might like, and I was filling out some random applications here and there when my husband actually stumbled across the job posting—we both took a look at the role and thought “Wow, this could be perfect.”
What’s a typical “day in the life” at work for you?
I spend at least half of my day editing new board-style questions for the Osmosis platform. I love this part of my job, I get to really just be in the zone and think about medicine and good writing all at the same time. I also really love thinking about each clinical vignette as a real patient—it feels like I’m still seeing all kinds of patients all the time, and I get to think of ways to let their stories teach learners as much as possible.
The other part of my day is spent managing my question writing team! I currently manage a team of eleven fantastic question writers, and they bring so much joy and inspiration to my day. They live all over the world, and they bring a really fascinating perspective to our work. I learn from them every day.
Which Osmosis value resonates with you most strongly?
I really love the values at Osmosis—they’re part why I deeply wanted to join the organization. I actually think if I had to pick just one, I’d choose Reach Further. The way that Osmosis encourages creativity really empowers every single one of us at the organization to dream up big solutions and go that extra mile to make something meaningful.
When I had my biannual 1:1 with my direct manager, Dr. Maddison Caterine, the Director of Curriculum, I was all excited to show her my little organized, color-coded list of goals I’d set for myself for the quarter—it was filled with things like this many questions edited, this many question writers hired, etc.. But Maddy did something for me that I think really embodies the Osmosis spirit of Reach Further. She said, “These are great, but what about you? What goals would you like to set for yourself so that you can really grow professionally and personally this year?”
Wow. That changed the way I see my role here—I’m not just a content manager in a small niche of the org, I’m much more than that, we all are. And as a result, I get to dream and create in a way that goes beyond my day-to-day work, so I can really make that difference I’ve been seeking. In fact, it was that same conversation when the idea for my webinars was born!
Can you talk a little bit about your webinars, and why Osmosis learners should tune in to watch?
I struggled with test anxiety quite a bit in medical school. There was a period in which it was really affecting my work, and I couldn’t see how I was going to make it through. I sat down with my advisor, and he connected me with the learning specialist at our medical school, who is fantastic. She really empowered me to do some research and work together to find the right tools that were going to help. I realized that test anxiety was almost a real turning point in my medical career, but it didn’t have to be!
Test anxiety is a painfully common problem, but the resources for beating it are out there, and I want students to know that. I’m not afraid anymore—and now, I build test questions for my job, and I totally love it.
What advice do you have for medical students thinking about a career outside clinical practice?
Know this: difference does not mean failure. We start off thinking there’s one clear path that will serve as the definition of success in this world of medicine, but that’s not true at all. Every one of us will walk a different journey in this career, and every single path is valid. Allow life to lead you, and don’t be afraid of those moments when it brings you to opportunities that weren’t part of the original plan—that’s part of the beauty of it all.
What’s your #1 tip for students who are adjusting to the new learning environment under COVID-19?
Find a way to make some space! This pandemic has been so isolating, and it’s shrunk our lives to the size of our homes, which might mean you’re learning, studying, eating, relaxing, socializing, and sleeping only at home. It gets really difficult to separate work from home, but it’s more important than ever to be able to do so. So my tip would be to find a way to at least mentally separate your study space from your living space, even if that means just staying away from your desk when you eat, watch TV, etc.—that way, you train your brain to know that when you’re at your desk, it’s focus time, and when you’re elsewhere in your home, you can let yourself relax.
Finally, can you tell our readers a fun fact about yourself?
I really, really love theater. There’s something so human about it. I did a lot of acting throughout high school, college, and medical school, and I’m really excited to have theater back in my life when this pandemic resolves!
Thanks for speaking with us today, Marina!
Are you kidding, thank YOU for the opportunity! This was fun!
Today at 5 PM ET / 2 PM PT, Dr. Horiates Kerekes will be hosting Part 2 of her Overcoming Test Anxiety webinars. Catch Part 1 and register for Part 2 by heading to our Events Page. See you there!
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