See, Hear, Feel

EP101: Happy Valentine's Day! Dr. Angelina Hong on love and medicine

February 14, 2024 Professor Christine J Ko, MD / Angelina Hong, MD Season 1 Episode 101
See, Hear, Feel
EP101: Happy Valentine's Day! Dr. Angelina Hong on love and medicine
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Angelina Hong wrote about love and medicine, describing  “the blurry spectrum, balancing out physical, mental, and emotional pain with the immense honor of saving and cherishing human life, while simultaneously struggling to reconcile our altruistic goals with realistic but necessary human incentives.” Her writing resonates with me. Dr. Angelina Hong, MD, is currently an internal medicine resident at HCA Healthcare in Florida. She attended the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine and the University of Houston for her undergraduate degree. She is a poetess who has written about love and medicine, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, she is here today.

Christine Ko: [00:00:00] Welcome back to SEE HEAR FEEL. Today I am with Dr. Angelina Hong. Dr. Angelina Hong is currently an internal medicine resident at HCA Healthcare in Florida. She attended the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine and the University of Houston for her undergraduate degree. She is a poetess who has written about love and medicine, and in honor of Valentine's Day, and a recent article she wrote, she is here today. Welcome to Angelina.

Angelina Hong: Hi, Christine. Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here. 

Christine Ko: First off, can you share a personal anecdote? 

Angelina Hong: Yeah, of course. Most recently we had a meeting with our program director and my co residents for internal medicine. We were just talking about like the future and graduation plans over the next few months. It just really hit me how fast residency goes by. Looking back it happens like in the blink of an eye. I do think it's pertinent to the theme of our discussion today on love and friendship. Because, [00:01:00] for me, the friendships I made in residency, that's been the best part of the last three years. A lot of my writings and my poems sometimes tend to focus on the darker aspects of medicine, the less glamorous, less ideal components, the risk of things like burnout and depression, things like that. At the same time though, I can say I've been very fortunate to experience so much happiness, and true joy with my co residents and to have these friendships through all the highs and the lows. Um, it's really been a real blessing.

Christine Ko: I love that. Before we talk a little bit more about writing, when Angelina first came on, I hadn't seen her before. She has very short cropped hair, and I asked her if she could talk a little bit about her hair, and she said she's willing. Can you tell everyone what you told me?

Angelina Hong: Yeah absolutely. I get a lot of questions about it, like in the hospital, sometimes when I'm at the gym. It's a little more extreme of a short haircut than maybe other women might have. I never [00:02:00] cared a ton of what people at work thought or anything, but I never wanted to do anything that would seem almost rebellious in a way. But then I realized even after I cut my hair, my personality is the same, it hasn't changed my femininity in any way. So you know, now I feel pretty comfy walking around with it. I'm so used to keeping my hair short like this, I forget that it's not super common. So the reason why I do is pretty much just because it's convenient. It saves me time, from going to work into the gym. It's comfortable. And I like it that way. 

Christine Ko: You do, you seem very comfortable in it. I actually consider that really cool. The listeners can't see you, but I think you look beautiful. It's a different standard of beauty that I think you're creating. 

In terms of your writing, can you talk about that a little bit?

Angelina Hong: The main poem that I recently published that you saw online -it was called, And Yet, a poem I wrote about love and medicine, the mixed emotions that we have during medicine. It's not always this perfect, romantic, love story, so to speak.

For me, I think love in the [00:03:00] field of medicine, it's interesting to me because just by nature of the craft of being in the hospital, there's so many different levels of interactions and relationships that can happen, not just with patients, but also between doctors, between residents to students, and so on. There's a lot of opportunities for relationships and communication there. On the other hand, this is something I tried to convey in my poem and my other writings. It's definitely not always easy to maintain those relationships and also to work with a mindset of joy and peace. It's a journey to find this kind of healthy balance between love in your medical career, but also having peace in other spheres of your life, your personal life, your identity as well. And I think the other thing I tried to kind of write about was this duality in medicine where in a way it's like a vocation, almost like a higher calling to serve and to help people. But at the same time, [00:04:00] realistically we're all human. At the end of the day, we are selfish by nature. We have our own emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, and that is completely okay. That's normal. We have our limitations as part of being human. To balance our humanity with this very heavy responsibility to care for ill, complicated people over very long periods of time can be very exhausting. It can bleed into our personal lives as well. There can be conflicting emotions. 

Christine Ko: Yes, I'm going to read off something that you wrote. You wrote, "The blurry spectrum balancing out physical, mental, and emotional pain with the immense honor of saving and cherishing human life while simultaneously struggling to reconcile our altruistic goals with realistic, but necessary human incentives." I thought that was just beautiful.

Having read just one piece by you and listening to the things you're saying right now, you touched [00:05:00] on emotions. You touched on love and medicine. I'm curious if you were taught social and emotional learning or emotional intelligence?

Angelina Hong: Yeah. I took a few humanities type of courses in college and medical school. I've never had any formal training in that specifically. But definitely, the topic of emotional intelligence, that's definitely interested me, even before high school, maybe by middle school or so for me. I think the big reason why is because I was homeschooled for a very large majority of my childhood growing up. It really allowed me to pause a lot of times, take a step back, and think about how people's personalities can be so different. 

Christine Ko: Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor? 

Angelina Hong: That's a good question. When I was very young, I don't think so. I don't think I really thought about too much as a young kid. I think in middle school, I started to think more about it. I think middle school, high school, when I realized like, I enjoyed the sciences. Around then I realized if I didn't go into [00:06:00] biology and pre med, maybe I would have chosen English, something very different, but now I'm glad that I have time to still write and do that throughout residency and as a doctor as well, so it was the best of both worlds.

Christine Ko: Yes. That's awesome. Do you have any advice for peers, those junior to you in training or those senior to you in training? 

Angelina Hong: Yeah, I guess if I had to narrow it down to like maybe one main takeaway, at least that I've learned from the past several years, I think I would advise trainees or people going through the process of studying and going into the medical field is just to keep a clear vision, just an understanding of who and what is the most important to you. I think that whole process sometimes of pre med and then college, medical school, residency, it can be so time consuming and it's very challenging, and it can it can happen so fast in a way that I think sometimes it can feel overwhelming and it's hard to really [00:07:00] stop and process like everything that's happening.

So I think just like anything that we pursue, I think it's just important to know your why and have a true conviction of it yourself and be able to visualize that goal. Almost the way an athlete or an artist, when they're working on something, if it takes years, they can still see their goal. Even though it's so far away. I think that's what allows people to work with joy, and happiness and show love to other people. And I think the moment that vision starts to go away, and we don't know why we do what we do every day, I think that's when the burnout really starts to kick in.

I think that's when the love and the joy really goes away, in our daily work. So I think that's what I would tell maybe my peers or people who are up in the process of going into the medical field.

Christine Ko: That's cool. And do you have any advice for people who've been around in medicine and healthcare for a long time?

Angelina Hong: I would preface this by saying that I am very young and naive. I have not had a lot of experience in the medical field. [00:08:00] I think a concern that I've heard from my peers and even attendings who are on to talk about it is, it's the risk I think of burnouts, and becoming jaded, and forgetting why you went into it in the first place.

So, I think part of it is just again, taking the time to remember, who you were when you started, the kind of person you want to become and really having your focus on that and having clear goals. 

Christine Ko: Yeah, yes. Do you have any final thoughts?

Angelina Hong: I just want to thank you, Christine. Thank you so much for inviting me. This really is very humbling for me. I've never been on a podcast before, so it's quite an honor. And I think just having a very unique podcast that you have and a platform to discuss these subjects in health care. That's very rare. This is the first podcast of its kind I've heard of really in medicine. So I think any opportunity to meditate and discuss more about why we do what we do, why we think about certain things and feel these things, it's always a really valuable opportunity. On behalf of [00:09:00] all your audience, we really appreciate everything you do. 

Christine Ko: Oh, thank you. Thank you for spending the time with me. 

Angelina Hong: Of course. Of course. My pleasure.