Written by Joanna Hughes

Exercise. Yoga. Meditation. Time with family and friends. These are just a few things medical students do to decompress during their notoriously challenging studies. Now comes news of another outlet for at least one med student in the US: cartooning the process. Here’s a closer look at Mai Stewart’s story, as recently reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Scalpel-Sharp Humor”

A fourth-year student at a Philadelphia medical school, Mai Stewart shares many of the same stresses as her medical school classmates. In order to relieve some of the stress, Stewart began cartooning about her journey to becoming a doctor -- addressing topics including panic, fatigue, and inadequacy.

Additionally, some of Stewart’s illustrations are instructional, such as an illustrated depiction of a heart attack -- which she completed as part of a medical school project.

A Relatable Story

Stewart’s efforts have earned her more than 11,000 Instagram fans.

One fan said, “The illustrations show things everyone is thinking as a medical student.

Another echoed, “Literally me today and [almost] every day.”

But it’s not just medical students who follow Stewart’s account. So do those who have moved onto careers as physicians. One such person said, “What’s funny is I used to be that student and now I am the attending asking the vague and esoteric question.”

Nor is Stewart the first medical student to address the challenges of medical school through cartoon. Said second-year internal medicine resident and medical illustrator Mike Natter said, “She’s phenomenal. Her consistent and eloquent style tells a rich narrative of the trials and tribulations of this crazy, stressful, and rewarding journey it takes to become a doctor.”

How does Stewart feel about the enthusiastic reception of her work? “At times, I feel like I’m going insane a little bit. It was kind of nice to see so many people had similar experiences. It saved me from that feeling.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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