Leadership Blog Series – Survival

This month, the NMSA will not only recognize one of our Chapter Presidents, but also a local leader at NUNM: Aubrey Corbett.


Inevitably, as a medical student, I am frequently asked by various friends and family about how school is going.

Usually, my response is something optimistic, where I reflect on my privilege and honor to be where I am, and to one day serve those around me using various healing modalities. I say this with a smile on my face and a confident assurance in my voice. What people do not know is that I actually feel like a duck who is calm and swimming peacefully around on top of the water, while frantically peddling my feet underwater to stay alive.

As fun as medical school is, it’s honestly more similar to an intense game of survival. You’re the gentle loving gazelle, running through the fields with a hundred lions chasing after you to attack your emotional stability. Tests, attending doctors, residents, deadlines, case papers, board exams, internships, and your plan for when you graduate all suddenly become these lions chasing you and threatening your sanity.

It doesn’t all start this way though. It starts as excitement and thrill rushing through every blood vessel in your body. You’re invigorated with the excitement of finally fulfilling your destiny. One week later, you’ve seen your first cadaver. Six weeks later, you know more ways that a human can die than you ever thought imaginable (and you may have even diagnosed yourself with a few). 6 months later, you watch a patient get diagnosed with a terminal illness for the first time. One year later, you are so surrounded with death and mortality that you only have one option: survival.

By this time, it’s not only your school that is stressful. You begin to feel the pressures at home, too. Relationships that once walked with you through those fields become a threat to your ability to survive. Maybe it’s that they don’t understand the time commitment, maybe they don’t understand your emotional battles you face, or maybe they get jealous of your time at school and begin to look around for someone else to fill that void. Whatever the case, there is no time to figure out the logistics of it when you’re running for your life, so you cut that free to move faster and think clearer. It may not be what is healthy for you or even what is right for you, but you do it anyway because nothing else seems to make sense.

So for four years, you run like hell. You lose sight of your heart and soul, over and over again, as you become spread too thin to even recognize yourself. But there are times where you can sit, rest, breathe, and pray. Moments of silence allow you to turn inward and reflect on the parts you’ve been neglecting in lieu of staying afloat. Those times allow you to recharge and remember why you are on this adventure in the first place.

I guess this is why I continue to respond to that question in the way that I do. If I admit to the chaos that is my life, then I admit to defeat. Instead, when I decide to maintain confidence in my situation I am making my stance to the primal world around me. I am strong, I am able, I am intelligent, I am successful. Each of these things I reiterate to myself as they become a mantra for me.

In the end, there is one thing I’m always thankful for: I’m not running alone. There’s an entire pack of intelligent gazelles running at my side with me feeling the same way. I realize that some of those lions who I once thought were chasing me are actually fighting for me and encouraging me to follow my soul’s journey. It all becomes a matter of perspective in this game as we figure out the delicate balance between running from the perceived enemies and turning to face and embrace those very things that cause us the most fear. Fight or flight, which do you choose?

Aubrey is a third year ND student at NUNM in Portland, OR and is originally from southern New Jersey. While earning her degree, she is also a pathology and physiology teacher at The Wellspring School for Healing Arts. Her greatest loves are the ocean, surfing, yoga, reading and spending time with nature and animals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *