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Madison Fraser

Before pursuing medicine, I was chasing a lifelong goal of mine to be a writer and, eventually, an editor. I graduated from NYU in 2017 with an individualized degree in journalism and media, and up until that point I had thrown all my time towards reaching that dream. Throughout college, I worked and freelance wrote at a variety of women’s publications, such as Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, Seventeen, and Bustle.com, and headed a student publication at my school. It ultimately became clear that the thing I loved most about this job was two-fold: I valued getting to meet and interview new people and learn their stories, and I loved feeling like when I published something relatable, my readers felt understood. It was when I began to publish personal things about my life, such as my struggles with an undiagnosed autoimmune illness in college, or my trouble adjusting to my freshman year in the city, that people really started to reach out in response and be like, “Hey, it is so relieving to see I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

After these experiences, I yearned for a career with an even deeper human connection. During my time in and out of the hospital my junior year (again, for personal reasons), my interest in health care and science peaked and I decided to work some of those curiosities into my individualized major by picking up a minor in Nutrition and Dietetics. When I graduated, I presented my senior thesis on the intersections of health and humanities by exploring how mortality and the symbol of the physician has been represented in media throughout history. From the Hippocratic Corpus, to Thomas Eakins paintings, to contemporary doctors-turned-writers such as Atul Gawande, I saw more than ever how medicine plays into Western ideas about mortality, and how these ideas are reflected within the various chronicles of our popular culture. These questions lead me to think about how we grapple with the idea of death by expressing our thoughts through texts and works of art, and ultimately how each expression influences the way our doctors work and live within a society obsessed modern advancement.

When I started my post-bac journey at Columbia, I knew this: becoming a doctor is not so much an academic pursuit to me as much as it is a personal goal to help those affected by illness take back their personal narratives in a way that my previous career with journalism never could. I see the connection between writing and practicing medicine because each patient has a unique story. But there is an overarching theme in each narrative: a physical and mental pain that cannot be solved by just a pen and paper – pains which only the right combination of science, compassion, and concrete disease management can even begin to treat. This fall, I will (hopefully – if I pass my finals with flying colors!) be starting medical school at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. Despite probing into every piece of medical literature I could find in college, this is the chapter that I cannot wait to dive into.