Being at the top of the class was the norm for Kalan Barnes, OMS I. But when she started medical school at University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNTHSC-TCOM) last fall, she was filled with self-doubt.
“When you get into medical school, you can’t help but compare yourself to the highly intelligent individuals you are surrounded by, and you automatically think, ‘I am not good enough to be here’ or ‘I don’t belong here because these people seem so much smarter than me,’” said Barnes.
Barnes graduated high school in 2014 in the top 3% of her class. In 2017, she graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University with a BS in biology. Even though she graduated with a Master’s degree in medical sciences at UNTHSC with a 4.0 last year, she wondered if she belonged in medical school.
Barnes was experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary “as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck.”
Barnes said those feelings are captured by actress Viola Davis’ description: “It keeps you striving for excellence, and wanting to do better, and wanting to get it right even when you feel like you never hit it.”
Barnes asked others if they struggled with similar feelings and discovered she wasn’t alone.
Barnes opened a campus conversation that started with a long email to fellow medical student Hadia Aziz, OMS II. She outlined a plan for a podcast that would allow graduate students to delve deep in mental health issues.
A new podcast
After six months of planning, Barnes’ idea hit the internet as a series called The MIND Mental Health Podcast. The first episode, “A Look into Imposter Syndrome,” was released on Jan. 29.
Listeners from more than five states tuned in within the first 24 hours of the launch.
Students from TCOM and UNTHSC’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ Medical Science master’s program produce the episodes. The podcast crew includes “leads” or anchors, editors and writers who produce the episodes.
The crew kicked off the podcast with a catalog of five installments.
The show’s episodes include discussions on taking care of one’s emotional self during Valentine’s Day week, coping with feelings of missing out during Spring Break and overcoming feelings of failure.
Imposter Syndrome and other mental health issues also are a continuing focus for the student-led advocacy group, Mentality Initiative to Nurture Doctors (MIND).
Joshua Seale, a graduate student in the Medical Science program who also works on the podcast, said students can fall into isolation.
“We get to see all our friends doing fun things, and we are here in the library because we want to be,” said Seale.
Aziz, who also attends UNTHSC-TCOM, said MIND works to break stigma against mental health issues faced by graduate students. The group hosts events throughout the year that allow students to share stories about real-life worries.
The group also encourages students to share their stories through blogs. Now, students also have the podcast for support. Episodes are being released every two weeks this semester.
“This podcast is so great because it is another medium for students to share their stories and to continue the conversation around mental health,” Aziz said, noting that if someone doesn’t like reading blog posts, they can listen to the podcast when they are driving or working out.
The overarching message MIND wants to share with students is that “it’s OK not to be OK,” Aziz said.
Listen to the first episode of the MIND Mental Health Podcast below.