UH Med Now
“Medicine is a journey”: JABSOM 2020 alumna shares words of wisdom while preparing for residency completion
Date: February 21st, 2023 in Alumni News, Family Medicine, Graduate Medical Education, JABSOM News, Native Hawaiian, UH Manoa
Dr. Kanoe Quibelan is a third-year resident of the University of Hawaiʻi Family Medicine Residency Program. She is a 2016 alumna of the Imi Ho’ola Post-Baccalaureate Program and received her MD from the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in 2020. As Quibelan is preparing to graduate from residency in June 2023, she shares words of wisdom which she draws from her own life experiences, such as establishing work-life boundaries and being true to yourself. Her foundation in faith, family and community is what led Quibelan to her current path in medicine.
What was your life like before medical school?
What led you to your journey in medical school? Was there a particular event or reason that you wanted to go into medicine?
Why did you choose JABSOM to do your medical training? (You may also mention scholarships that have helped you throughout med school/residency – think we might want to mention those as well)
It actually took me 2 application cycles to “make it” into medical school, for which I’m actually grateful. Looking back, the first time I probably wasn’t ready to be a med student because I didn’t have enough confidence in my “worthiness” of being in med school despite meeting the basic requirements. The confidence in what I was able to bring to the table in terms of life experiences was more apparent during my second application cycle. I was accepted into the ʻImi Hoʻōla Program, and that experience was a year-long exploration of who I was, what I was capable of, who was in my corner, and it proved to me that I was “worthy of doing medicine” and could handle it despite personal challenges. To be honest, ʻImi Hoʻōla is pretty rigorous, and looking back sometimes I think it was more difficult than certain aspects of residency training. The skills I learned during my time with ʻImi have given me some of the tools I needed to build resiliency and succeed in medical school, residency, and life in general — and for that, I will be forever thankful. Also, I have a solid group of lifelong friends and mentors that are irreplaceable.
Medicine is an educational commitment that we take on in terms of financial burden as we sacrifice the majority of our 20s for a minimum of 8 years of post-high education where we could be working, traveling, building a family, etc. Instead of saving income, investing in stocks, or buying property; future physicians are choosing to defer such major life events because many of us value caring for people and value investing in the health of our communities. I kind of wish I was in the time when there were full-ride medical school scholarships as there are no. However, I’m thankful for the financial assistance I’ve received along my path as it plays a role in decreasing my worry about how I’m going to pay off my loans and be able to live in Hawaiʻi, my home and the place where I want to one day own a home and grow old with my family.
I could fill an entire book with life lessons I’ve learned along the way, but there are a few that frequently come up:
a) Always seek to be true to yourself because you can’t please everyone, but you can always strive to do what is right even if it’s unpopular.At the end of the day, it’s important to know who you are and not be bogged down with the labels and sometimes unrealistic expectations others will place on you. There will be times in medical training and life where you get lost and you’ll have to remind yourself of who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going.
b) Life was never meant to be done alone. As humans, we need connections to people, to places, to things. During medical training, you’re going to need a good group of friends to study with, to encourage you, and to sometimes drag you across the finish line when you’re too burnt out to do it yourself. In life, you’re going to need people willing to give you an opportunity, to help you when you’re down, and sometimes you’ll even be the one to do the helping. Life is about building and maintaining relationships.
c) It’s okay not to be okay, just ask for help when you need it. You’re not a robot, and you can’t always be at peak performance. There have been times where I haven’t brushed my hair before going to work, where my house is messy, and when I’ve eaten Cheetos for lunch — it’s okay. I’m human, you’re human, and we all have feelings. Sometimes life gets us down, circumstances set us back, and at times we fail–again it’s okay. What’s NOT okay is to normalize having it all together. We all need help at different points of our lives, and as much as possible try to seek help when you need to because you are worth it.
d) Be kind to everyone, even yourself. My mother always told me there is no excuse for rudeness. We really should learn to treat everyone with kindness even when we feel burnt out because we just don’t know what someone else is going through. It’s equally important to learn to be kind to ourselves also. For many of us, we are our own worst critics and can be so kind to others while not being kind to and loving ourselves.
How did you create a work-life balance for yourself – raising a family, making time for loved ones, all while pursuing medicine?
Boundaries have to be ACTIVELY SET since there will always be competing priorities: professional, personal, family, etc. Over time you have to decide what are deal-breakers and what you are/are not willing to sacrifice. For example: I need to say no to adding on 2 more patients to my schedule because I need to leave clinic on time to make it to my kids’ birthday party, I need to prioritize sleep even if it means not completing these visit notes because I’m just too exhausted, I need to forego family dinner because I need to study for this important exam, etc. I’m still learning how to do this, especially the maintenance of boundaries. It does get slightly easier over time, but it can be difficult to do at times while still in medical training since your negotiating ability is lower. For me, my duty as a mother will always be a top priority, and I will never apologize for that. There will be times I need to prioritize certain work duties above family time, but I try to do what is in my power to uphold my absolute deal breakers. This may look like leaving work on time to attend a sports game my daughter is playing knowing full well that once I get home I’ll be burning the midnight oil to finish the work or being okay with leaving it until the next day so I can be fully present and enjoy life in the moment. I’ve also gotten better at setting boundaries to prioritize myself and my overall well-being. If I need time off to rest and/or see my own physician I will take the time to do so and not feel guilty about doing it. My hope is that we all learn to get better at taking care of ourselves so we can be good role models to our patients in doing what needs to be done to stay physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
What are your next steps after residency?
What’s the legacy you hope to leave behind as you exit residency, as a Native Hawaiian female physician?
Is there anyone in your life you’d like to thank for helping you along your journey?