JABSOM’s first art and literary journal inspired by medical student

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mauli journal cover graphic

The student-led journal, Mauli, is taking submissions until December 15

It would not be an unusual sight to see a first-year medical student in a hospital. But after an acute attack of right lower abdominal pain, Vera Ong, an MD 2024 candidate, found herself hooked up to an IV pole and confined to a hospital bed while worrying about doing well on her final exams, which were less than a week away. Being an out-of-state student with her family miles away in California, she found comfort in forming a genuine bond with her hospital roommate, “Mrs. T,” who could not have anyone visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions. This sour-turned-sweet experience inspired Ong to create Mauli, the first art and literary journal at the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine (UH JABSOM).

After reflecting on her hospital stay and after attending various JABSOM lectures with recurrent themes of student/physician burnout, “I acknowledged the fear and beauty of life’s unpredictability and how we ultimately have the power to tell our own stories through art and writing,” “Ong said. “I felt called to help spark a humanities journal to facilitate a platform for self-expression.”

She pitched this idea to her classmates and Dr. Shannon Hirose-Wong, who became the journal’s faculty advisor. In December 2021, they began collecting writing and visual arts pieces from medical students, faculty, staff, alumni and other JABSOM affiliates. The publication was truly a student-led effort: Kelli Kokame and Kyung Moo Kim actively helped in brainstorming the structure of Mauli while Brianna-Marie Hollister and Melia Takakusagi served as writing editors. Rae Ruixue Zhang and Richard Ho served as the visual arts and layout editors, respectively. Amity Tran served as the journal’s graphic designer. All are MD 2024 candidates.

The name, Mauli, embodies ideas of growth, connection to humanity, and a bridge between the fields of science and humanities. Its inaugural issue debuted in July 2021 and can be found viewed online at https://osa.jabsom.hawaii.edu/mauli/

“We also couldn’t have done this without the input and help of Dr. Malia Purdy (who bestowed the group with the journal’s name, Mauli), Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, Mr. Arnold Kameda, Ms. Sandy Liu, and the JABSOM Communications Team,” Ong said. “Hopefully Mauli will continue for years ahead, encouraging all those in the JABSOM family to keep creating and to live life in color, love, and passion.”

Mauli is currently taking submissions for its second issue, from now until Dec. 15, 2021. Go to their webpage or see the flyer above for more details.

-By Deborah Manog Dimaya, Interim Communications Director

Below is an excerpt from “My First Clinical Experience as a Medical Student” by Vera Ong. The full story and the inaugural issue of Mauli is viewable online:

As I was studying the pathophysiology of myocardial infarctions, my roommate peered through her curtain and made her way to the restroom. I noticed her eyes grimace with each step. My desire to assist her was constrained by my own pain and inability to get out of bed. Despite her discomfort, she smiled at me and continued on. It was clear she was in a more severe state, yet she still remained positive. She introduced herself as “Mrs. T.” Mrs. T mentioned how she missed going to work and seeing her family. She shared how she was recuperating from a renal cell carcinoma extraction and how COVID-19 added more stress to her decisions.

Restrained to our hospital beds and separated by a thin curtain, we kept talking and encouraging each other. We shared stories, jokes, and prayers, doing what we could to stay positive. Considering our inability to see our friends and family, we served those roles for each other.

We ended up getting discharged on the same day, and Mrs. T thanked me for listening to her and wished me well on my exams. She told me that I have the makings of a great doctor because of my ability to set aside my own agenda to check in on her. Her words were more than enough to help me push through my final exams.