Who is K-Fong?
Tēnā koutou katoa. I’m known as K-Fong, but my birth certificate reads ‘Kevin Mark Fong’. I was born and raised in West Auckland. I have a degree in Biomedical Sciences (but no knowledge to show for it). This year I have the privilege of being your Welfare Officer on the OUMSA council. My job description is to overlook the general welfare of the class, but it’s really the collective effort of the whole OUMSA team. I’m the purple Wiggle in the photo, and I love stories and storytelling.
So K-Fong, tell us a story…..
Sure. It started like any other day in January. Woke up, vegetated for an hour under the blankets, then off to the bathroom to proceed with my routine morning business. But I wasn’t expecting this.
I remember how uncanny the change in mood was. One second there was a cadaverous calm. Next thing I know, I’m jumping up and down hysterically calling “MUM, MUM, COME QUICK!!!”. I’ll spare you all the graphic details (or rather Dan and Tash talked me out of sharing them), but it was perched over that white porcelain bowl that I received the acceptance email into the Otago Medical Class of 2018.
And it was here I did some reflection. I often hear people describe their journey to Medical School as a ‘rollercoaster ride’. Mine started off more like Rainbows End’s “Fearfall”. It rose slowly to the top – my ego that is when I started out-achieving the dropkicks who went to my college. This led me to think getting into Med was going to be easy peasy.
But then it plummeted. University was the first time in my life I’d been around anybody with talent, and this reality check led to a harsh and abrupt fall from grace. Despite my utmost efforts, first year Biomed left me broken and med-less. Dark times would ensue. I think this makes a good segue to your next question;
Why is wellbeing so important?
My biggest regret from my undergrad days was my self-neglect. Determined to get in as a postgrad, I slowly started sacrificing things that were important to me and replaced it with study. Out of respect for the many people who have been through worse, I want to make clear that this isn’t a plea for sympathy. But the truth is that I did burnout, and having alienated myself from any support circles I felt pretty despaired and depressed. Defeated by my pursuit of medicine, I decided to look to other career options. Ironically, it was this burnout and a belief I was too dumb to become a doctor which allowed me to rediscover a passion for learning. Without the pressure, I got the grades required for medicine.
It’s also ironic is how this ‘fall from grace’ would become my most valued blessing in disguise. Like anything we take for granted, it is difficult to appreciate until its gone. And wellbeing is no different. The hardest thing for me as Welfare Officer is that so many of us still take our wellbeing for granted. For instance, there is still a strong stigma against mental health, and we’ve become cynical about effective ways of managing stresses; such as in mindfulness and expressing our feelings and vulnerabilities.
As future doctors, we need to look after ourselves before we can be fit to serve our patients. And its dangerous that we can be so dismissive of what gets preached in HIC and Behavioural Med about our wellbeing. It’s early days for us Meddies, and testing times are to come. I only hope that in sharing my thoughts and experiences, you go away with a bit more appreciation for the importance of looking after yourself.
Sorry if you turned emo reading this section. I’ll try lighten the mood.
Are there any Doctors who inspire you?
Apart from Dr. Dre, not really. Although one doctor that left an impression was Dr. Nick Paltos from Underbelly Season 2 (based on a true story). After completing medical school, Nick started a family and went into private practise. But before long he found himself gambling, smoking and drinking himself to an insurmountable debt. I won’t ruin the plot, but he comes up with a solution which lands himself in jail and without a medical licence. I remember thinking at first “woah this guy’s a dipshit”, but it eventually dawned on me that I was watching the likely story of future-Kev. Moral of the story; don’t drink, smoke or gamble, and make good life decisions.
What can we do to help our wellbeing?
This lecture – although important – is one we’ve all heard before. Get good work-life balance, exercise, keep on top of work, and get involved. We’ll be preaching more of this during Wellbeing Week in August. One thing I will add though is that I wish people were more open to mindfulness and meditation. Meditation has helped me overcome so many stressful situations; from insomnia to morning wood. It seems pointless at first, but there is so much clinical evidence outlining its benefits. I hope everybody gives it a crack with an open mind.
My two favourite online resources are;
- The “Keeping your Grass Greener” pamphlet (http://mentalhealth.amsa.org.au/) from Australasian medical students has some interesting yarns from people who have been through similar experiences. Reading this is definitely worth your procrastination time.
- This website (http://www.calm.auckland.ac.nz/) is your one-stop-wellbeing-shop. A lot of my wisdom about wellbeing was plagiarised from this website, and I couldn’t speak more highly of it.
What should I do if I’m struggling?
It’s really hard asking for help. When we need help, we fear being judged as much as we don’t want to waste other people’s time with our issues. I want to make it clear that the OUMSA exec want to help you, and will do it in a respectful and confidential way. So all I ask is that if you or somebody you’re looking out for needs some guidance with anything – from mood, workload or motivation – get in contact with somebody from the Exec. If you can’t hunt me down, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can get hold of Tash at email@example.com. I promise if we can’t help you directly, we’ll at least guide you in the right direction.
We’re also very charitable here at OUMSA. If you are being disadvantaged by your financial situation, OUMSA and the medical school can offer financial assistance. If you feel that a lack of funds is affecting your welfare, get in touch with us. More information is available here.