#MedCanes Chronicles: Being Gracious and Kind to Yourself

“#MedCanes Chronicles” offers first-person perspectives into the lives of medical students on their journey to becoming health care leaders. The series delves into the personal narratives of these aspiring doctors and scientists, shedding light on their struggles, triumphs and the resilience that propels them forward.

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Victoria Jenifer, M.D. Class of 2026

Miller School of Medicine student Victoria Jenifer

As a child, my parents instilled the importance of academic excellence. My mom is an educator who has been working in academics my entire life. My dad wanted to make sure when I was growing up that I got an early start to my education, so I ended up starting school at a younger age than most of my classmates. I understood that academic performance was a strong indicator of opportunity and success in the future.

I worked relentlessly on my academics as well as the sport I loved, volleyball. I secured a spot on my college team but juggling the two proved to be much more challenging than I anticipated. I had labs at 6 p.m. on Thursdays and three science courses on Fridays. I was taking difficult pre-med classes that I would have to miss almost every week during the volleyball season because we were a competitive, traveling team.

After two seasons, I decided to retire from volleyball to have more time for academics and to maximize my chances at acceptance into medical school.

Medical student Victoria Jenifer with Dr. Latha Chandran, both wearing white coats and flashing the U hand symbol
Victoria Jenifer with Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., executive dean for education and chair of the Department of Medical Education at the Miller School.

Not being involved in athletics was an unexpectedly tough transition. I missed seeing my teammates on a consistent basis, and I missed the sport itself. However, the decision to move on from volleyball offered me a chance to develop skills needed for medical school and figure out what activities outside of school provided value to me.

I also needed to know if I was comfortable in clinic and liked a life of interacting with patients. So, between my sophomore and junior years, I shadowed an OBGYN. In the year between graduating and starting medical school, I worked full-time as an ABA therapist for small children with autism. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences and realized I wanted to work with a pediatric population. I felt confident in saying, “Yes, this is what I want to do with my life.”

I also began to identify strategies that would sustain me during times of stress and uncertainty. I quickly learned that spending time with friends and family is integral to my personal well-being. Additionally, I discovered a new passion — lifting weights. Frequenting the gym gave me a sense of what I missed about volleyball.

Now a second-year medical student, I try to prioritize what keeps me going, even if it means only a short phone call with a cousin or a 30-minute session in the gym. And one important thing I stopped doing is playing the comparison game. Imposter syndrome is real, especially in an environment like medical school, where everybody is so talented and so brilliant. I had a lot of anxiety entering school because of that, but now I do not compare myself to anyone, because we all lead completely different lives outside of school.

Instead, I try to be gracious and kind to myself. It may sound funny, but doing something simple like getting my hair done or treating myself to my favorite food can make a significant difference, especially when something unexpected happens.

In my first two years of medical school, I lost two grandparents, which weighed heavily on me. However, being kind to myself helped me overcome the sadness of both losses. Medical school is an incredibly busy time, but making yourself a priority is important. Who says you can’t find new passions during this time? You may find that you love swimming or have a talent for crochet. Do whatever keeps you going, and it will help you become the person you want to be.

Tags: #MedCanes Ambassadors, Department of Medical Education, MedCanes Chronicles, medical education