How Medical Students Actually Feel About the Med Backpacks

Here’s a truth they don’t tell you when you get into medical school: you’ll be congratulated for it at least a hundred times. Your first congratulations will come from your official acceptance. Then you’ll be congratulated by your family, your friends, your doctor, your hairdresser, that chatty lady on the bus, professors during the first week of class, speakers from organizations vying for your money. But the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will take it just one step further and give you their congratulations in the form of a brand new, brightly coloured, High Sierra backpack.

The backpacks aren’t subtle either; for those who know what they are, it’s an identifier. With every Canadian medical student in the same year having the same backpack, the wearer is visually inducted into a new group: medical student, class of ____.

There’s a sense of unity that comes from sharing an identifier with your class, and a sense of familiarity when you spot someone with the same backpack. In a way, the backpack is also a tribute to the hard work the wearer has put in to get into medical school. “Congratulations from us at CMA. You worked hard to get here, here’s a little something to let everyone else know that too.”

However, the backpack comes with responsibility. New expectations of professionalism and integrity are placed on medical students, even though we have yet to achieve ‘MD’ at the end of our names. The backpacks hold us accountable to the expectations of those who see us wearing it.

Or I could be wrong and it could just be a backpack. I asked some of my peers if they wore their CMA backpacks and how it might tie into their identities as medical students.

Mobolaji Adeolu, Class of 2021

I wear the CMA backpack because I find it valuable to be recognizable as a medical student. It allows me to identify and strike up conversations with other medical students at Schulich and throughout Canada. Moreover, I think it’s important for students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine to be recognizable members of the medical community; both to show people striving for medical school that systematic barriers to admission can be overcome and to act as an approachable source of mentorship for students who want advice that can speak to their unique challenges.

Sarah Cassidy Howard, Class of 2022

I wear the backpack sometimes. I wear it when I have longer days because I have more stuff and it’s a really nice big bag that can carry a lot of stuff. On other days, it’s just nice to wear the backpack that I’ve always worn because it’s really nice, I’ve sewn patches in it, and it shows a little bit of my personality. So I feel like that’s nice to have as well—kind of a mix of both.

Bojana Radan, Class of 2021

I actually don’t wear my backpack. The first reason I always tell people is because my current backpack fits really well on my back, and I need to work on my posture. But secondly, I don’t like wearing it because I feel like I’m around medicine and medical school all the time in London, so it’s nice not being identified as solely a medical student outside of this space. Sometimes it’s nice to just walk around the city or go downtown where I don’t have to associate with that. I can just be that learner, be that person as a med student, but without actually showing it to the whole world.

I think it’s a great marketing advertisement for those that created it because it’s a backpack and its essential to students. I definitely think it [represents] that identity of the med school because it’s so hard to get in, so once you do get in—especially if it’s been your number one goal from the start—it’s kind of like wearing a badge of honour. So, I can definitely see that it plays into it, because other students know, and once … someone tells you it’s a med school backpack, you see it everywhere.

Jane Ding, Class of 2022


Initially, I wore my backpack to fit in, and I relied on the bright red backpacks to identify my classmates and find my way around a new school. I think that because of this, my world was narrowed down to Schulich and its students. It took time to realize that I was part of a greater community at Western. I think that as time goes on, I’m a little less comfortable wearing the bright red backpack that may set me apart. As medical students, we are part of the Western community. As doctors, identifying as part of the community we serve will be even more important.

Dan Li, Class of 2021

The first [reason I don’t wear my backpack] is that it’s really conspicuous. The moment you have that on campus, everyone knows who you are. And not just who you are, but roughly how old you are as well, because it shows your year (each year is different). The second reason is that it’s a little impractical. I’m not sure if you’ve weighed the backpack or not; it’s actually five or six pounds. I only usually take my notebook and my laptop with me, pens, my umbrella, and those things added together is like four pounds. So if the bag is heavier than what I carry around, it’s kind of pointless. And other than that, I just don’t like the look.

Katie Marriott, Class of 2021


I do wear the backpack, but I didn’t always. In undergrad I went to UBC and no other program had an identifier, only the meds. I wanted to be a medical student so badly and whenever I saw the backpack, it made me feel jealous and kind of angry. I felt like the students were flaunting it in my face—very negative things, looking back—which was totally on me. I shouldn’t have let it get to me that way. But nevertheless that’s how I felt. So at that time I vowed that if I were to get into medical school I would never wear the backpack. It’s actually quite dramatic I suppose, because of all the negative emotions that I thought that the backpack had given me. So for the first two months of first year, I did not wear it. I also started to notice some things that were a little bit unsettling to me, like when I would introduce myself to someone. They would ask me what I studied, and sometimes I wouldn’t say medicine. Sometimes I would say physiology or sciences, or just beat around the bush. I would sometimes have a bit of a stutter when I did say medicine, and there would be this horrible, awkward pause, “I study…medicine…”, which just made the whole thing quite awkward.” So from talking with some mentors, some [doctors] who had gone through it too, I came to see that the problem wasn’t the backpack, the problem was me now identifying (or not identifying) as a medical student. I had put so many stereotypes on that backpack and on medical school, a lot of them not good ones, and so I’d thought that by rejecting the backpack I could reject those stereotypes. I’ve since started wearing the backpack because I need to accept that this is who I am. This is what I want to study and I’m going to be a doctor. I can’t (and don’t want to) escape it, and I shouldn’t try to hide it anymore.

Wendy Wang, Class of 2022


I do wear my CMA backpack! Entering a new school with new goals in mind, it only makes sense to pair it with a brand new backpack. Functionally, it is large and sturdy, perfectly tailored to carry everything I need throughout the day. More importantly, the backpack symbolizes identity of medical students. The bright red backpacks of the class of 2022 fosters a sense of community, and with that, a sense of belonging. It is a comforting feeling to see a group of red backpacks on campus, knowing that they are my friends and my colleagues. Whereas it creates unity within medicine, the bright red colour of the backpack significantly stand out amongst a crowd. Wearing the backpack, therefore, holds me accountable to professional values, and serves as a visual reminder of the power and privilege I possess as a medical student.

Michele D’Agnillo, Class of 2022


Don’t wear the backpack, primarily because I like this backpack better. It’s smaller, and I like to separate my things, like have a lunch bag and a gym bag. And I like to scatter, like the lunch in the lounge or in the locker room. It’s kind of an aesthetic thing too. The backpack they give you is a little bit of a cheap one – I’m not a big fan of that. It may be subconscious, but it could have something to do with the fact that I may be a bit of a contrarian, I see myself as a black sheep, but I don’t think it consciously factors into the decision. Maybe a little bit.


Author: Nicole Lam

Nicole Lam graduated from Western University with a BMSc in Interdiscplinary Medical Sciences. She likes writing about science, pop culture, and student life. Nicole might be spotted on campus with a black, teal, or red backpack.


Photo Credits: CMA 

10 Traveling Tips for Global Health Electives

By: Adriana Cappelletti (Meds 2018)

1) Read up: Find out as much as you can ahead of time about the place you’re visiting.

Learn about the country’s history, current political situation, and local customs. Find out what people wear to work and around town to make sure you pack appropriate clothing. Some countries have more conservative styles. For example, where we stayed in Uganda, women almost exclusively wear skirts (usually to the knee or lower), while men wear button-down shirts and full pants, even in the heat.

2) Medical supplies: Bring your own masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. In low resource settings, you do not want to put a dent in their supply.

Also, try to snag any surgical gloves or sterile sutures you can get your hands on. You can ask surgeons, residents or scrub nurses you have worked with about any slightly expired, unopened sutures they’d be willing to donate.

3) Little Pharma: Stock up on your own mini drug supply and plan all vaccinations well in advance.

This takes up more time than you’d expect! You’ll need prescriptions for both drugs and travel vaccinations. Useful prescription drugs can include antimalarials, HIV post-exposure prophylaxis, and ciprofloxacin (or alternatively azithromycin) in case of bacterial gastroenteritis.

Travel vaccinations you might need include yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis A/B. Yellow fever is in limited supply in Canada and is necessary for entry to many countries in Africa and South America, so don’t leave this to the last minute. Do not expect to get travel prescriptions filled by a walk-in clinic. You can either pay $80 for an appointment at a travel clinic, or if you have a family physician, they may provide you with these prescriptions and save you eighty bucks. Over-the-counter drugs for your mini pharmaceutical kit might include polysporin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, bismuth salicylate, PEG, and immodium.

4) Moula: Seek out any funding opportunities for global health initiatives.

If you look for it, there’s plenty of money out there to help fund your global health elective. Check out this link  for the opportunities available to students at Schulich.

5) Safe living quarters: Don’t skimp on accommodations and compromise safety for savings.

When going somewhere unfamiliar to you, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose trusted accommodations. We connected with a Guest House owned and operated by Massachusetts General Hospital for medical trainees and staff. For $25 USD per day, we had a private bedroom and bath, 24/7 on site security, and we were walking distance from the hospital. We felt safe and at home, and we met other Global Health aficionados.

6) Expectations: Establish mutual goals with your supervisor abroad.

Either ahead of time online or in person on your first day, try to establish a sort of contract of expectations with your supervisor. Let them know what you’re hoping to get out of your elective. Find out from them what they’re expecting of you and what is actually possible at their site. This can prevent disappointment or misunderstanding on either end.

7) Dive in: Embrace the culture, food, and local language(s).

Get to know locals, either from the hospital or through your accommodations. Ask them about their lives: how did they grow up, what is medical school or residency like for them, and what do they like to do for fun in their spare time? Immerse yourself in daily living by going to market and visiting shops. Find out if there is a nearby cultural centre. When we went to the Igongo cultural centre for the Ankole district of Uganda, we learnt about how farming, construction and traditions evolved in the area.

Try traditional foods. Avoid street meat, which can be undercooked, or raw vegetables, which may be washed with unfiltered water. Learn some basics of the local language. In Western Uganda, the academic language is English, but many people speak only Runyankole, the regional dialect. Knowing simple phrases like, “How are you?” or “How was your night?” can go a long way in building patient trust. If you show interest in the country’s culture and language, people will notice and be appreciative that you are making an effort to understand their way of life.

8) Ethical tourism: Support local businesses when buying groceries or gifts and planning weekend getaways.

As a visitor to a developing country, you have the opportunity to contribute to that nation’s economy and be a responsible traveler.  When grocery shopping, hit up local markets. At supermarkets, try to buy food items manufactured within that country. If you’re planning something tourist-y (we went on safaris), book transportation and accommodations that are operated by and employ local people.

Gifts for your friends and family back home (or, let’s be real, for yourself) are also an opportunity to contribute to the economy. In Uganda and many other developing countries, tailors can be commissioned to make custom clothing at low cost. We bought fabrics in traditional African patterns from the market and had one-of-a-kind clothing made for $30 or less per item.

9) Emotional support: Know who you can talk to about your experience.

Global Health electives can be extremely enriching, but they can also be emotionally draining. Your clinical experience in a low resource setting might raise moral and ethical dilemmas you didn’t anticipate.

Let’s use an example: a young man gets in a bota-bota (motorcycle) accident and needs an emergent head CT. The cost isn’t covered by the government, and he and his relatives cannot afford the $200 CT that is needed to save his life. Everything is stalled while he is dying. Do you pay the $200 out of your own pocket? If you do, what happens when other patients’ families find out that the international student (you) can pay for imaging or drugs?

Don’t keep this inner turmoil to yourself. Rely on physicians with experience in Global Health. Share your thoughts with them, and have a discussion around the complexity of these situations. Back in Canada, debrief with the Office of International & Health Equity Learning (IHEL) and a physician mentor. It’s also really helpful to complete this type of elective with another medical student, for both safety reasons and to have someone who understands what you’re going through abroad and back home. For moral and ethical cases to work through in preparation for your elective, check out this link .

10) Share: Make use of the new insight you’ve gained by publishing or presenting about your elective.

You’ve had a life-changing experience! Take advantage of your unique perspective and the learning you’ve had to contribute to medical journals, blogs and conferences. You can write reflections or poems for the UWOMJ Blog or the CMAJ Humanities Blog. You can partner with your supervisor abroad to publish a case study. You can prepare a poster presentation on your experience and attend a Global Health conference in Canada or internationally.


Author: Andriana Capelletti

Adriana Cappelletti (Meds 2018) completed a Global Health elective in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Uganda in November 2017, alongside Rachel Loebach (Meds 2018). Adriana is pursuing a career in Family Medicine and intends to incorporate Women’s Health and Global Health within her practice. Adriana’s clinical experience in Uganda was cut short by an unfortunate physician strike, which left countless patients without care. Witnessing the repercussions of political turmoil on population health has only heightened her sense of social accountability and motivation to engage in international partnerships.
Twitter @cappelletti07.



Floating in the Bathtub of Medicine




Having recently finished my psychiatry rotation, I have become more attuned to the importance of mental health in our profession. It’s been estimated that rates of depression are about 15-30% higher in medical students and residents compared to the general population. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help us to stay afloat in a profession that demands much of our sanity.

I picture myself as a rubber duck. I don’t physically resemble one, at least not usually, but I think it’s a good analogy. I am floating along, happily in the bathtub. I feel weightless. I meet a few bubbles here and there. All’s good.

Once in a while, though, I have patient encounters where I find myself not only empathizing with their struggles, but also bearing their burdens. In the end, it’s like a couple of small bubbles have been added on my back, and I must carry them around on my journey in the bathtub. I carry around these bubbles, and I sink a little lower down in the water. That would be fine, however, in addition to my patient bubbles, I also have “improve your hand-writing and stop losing pens” bubbles, “don’t lose your cool at the anti-vaccinators or the crying babies” bubbles and “smile-and-nod no matter what your preceptor says” bubbles, etc. All as to say, at some point, I have taken on too much. I am expecting myself to stay afloat, when I physically cannot. I have to make some sort of change, or I sink.


There are three ways I can help myself from sinking:

  1. Inflate myself with more air and act like a floatation device.
  2. Increase my surface area so I can hold more bubbles.
  3. Just let the bubbles roll right off my back.


Let’s start with #1: Inflate myself with air.




This means, I’ll need to breathe more and increase my tidal volume. What better way to do that than through exercise?

A recent JAMA article and 2013 Cochrane review show that exercise causes a greater reduction in depression symptoms than placebo or other interventions like relaxation or meditation.1 Depression has also been found to be associated with lack of physical activity.2

Exercise may provide physiological effects such as increases in endorphin and monoamine levels, and reduction in cortisol levels.2 Exercise stimulates the growth of nerve cells and the release of brain-derived growth neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for learning and memory.2,3 Exercise has the ability to improve executive function and increase neuroplasticity. In fact, neuroimaging studies show that there are changes to areas involved in higher-level cognitive functions such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.3 This improvement allows for a sense of mastery, positive thoughts, and enhanced self-efficacy which all improve mood.3

Even a small amount of exercise appears to be helpful, as there is no indicated type, intensity or frequency that has been associated with alleviating depressive symptoms.2 There is even some small evidence to suggest that exercise may work as effectively as pharmacological or psychological therapy, however more studies are needed.2

Needless to say, do anything active, and your mood will be uplifted. You may even lower your risk for developing depression.4


#2: Increase my surface area.




No, this does not mean I physically increase my surface area. Though it would be fun and delicious to binge on junk food, I actually want to increase the proportion of healthy foods that I eat. By eating the right proportion of foods, we gain the energy to power through the day. A good guide is to follow these 5 tips from the Dieticians of Canada5:

  1. Go for whole grains.
  2. Load up on veggies and fruit. Making a smoothie is a good way to get 2-3 servings at once.
  3. Have 2 cups of milk or fortified-soy beverage per day. The Vitamin D is not easily found in other foods.
  4. Choose lean meats or meat alternatives (chick peas, lentils, kidney beans).
  5. Limit saturated and trans fats. Healthier unsaturated fats are found in: avocados, nuts, seeds, oils (olive, flaxseed, nuts, canola)

More tips here:


I was also recently made aware of the positive effects of Vitamin D on depression. A meta-analysis published in 2013, revealed that lower serum 25-OH Vitamin D3 levels were associated with a higher risk of depression.6 In fact, another recent study found that depressed older persons had significantly lower 25-OH and 1,25-(OH)2 Vitamin D3 levels compared with non-depressed counterparts.7 Another study found that lower levels of Vitamin D3 were associated with increased severity of depression and an increased risk for depression.Proposed mechanisms for this association include that vitamin D: 1) has receptors that are distributed in neural areas involved in emotional processing and affective disorders, 2) regulates serotonin synthesis, and 3) impacts the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that influence mood by activating the stress response.9

Despite these findings, a meta-analysis published this year in March, looks at 9 randomized controlled trials and found that there was no significant reduction in depressive symptoms after Vitamin D supplementation.10 However, these authors do identify that perhaps the duration of follow-up was not yet long enough to determine any effect.10 And, even though Vitamin D was not shown to have a significant effect in those who are already depressed, lower levels are associated with depression, and thus supplementation may play a role in prevention. Given the low cost and limited issues with toxicity, it cannot hurt to take extra Vitamin D supplementation and to incorporate foods that contain Vitamin D into our diet.9 Perhaps this is also a perfect excuse to bask in the sunlight more often.




The Family Medicine Practice Guidelines recommend 800-2000 units of Vitamin D per day in adults.12 The Canadian Cancer Society recommends 1000 units of supplementation to all adults who live in Canada, especially in the fall and winter months. The daily upper limit is 4000 units. Supplementation is contraindicated in hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia.12

In addition to taking big gulps of sunlight whenever you get the chance, there are some foods that have Vitamin D. These include: fish like salmon and tuna, liver, fortified milk or soy beverage, fortified orange juice, margarine, egg yolk.11 One glass of fortified milk or soy beverage has about 100 units of Vitamin D. Fish can range between 100-700 units.

For a full list of foods and number of units associated with serving size visit:


#3: Let the bubbles roll off.



Finally, what better way to shake it off, than to sleep it off. A meta-analysis of 21 studies showed that non-depressed people with insomnia have a two-fold chance of developing depression compared to people with no sleep difficulties.13 Treating symptoms of insomnia may help to prevent subsequent development of mood dysfunction.13

I mean, just look at that baby.

In order to get good sleep, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. This includes not doing any stimulating activities 1 hour before bedtime: no exercise, no big meals, and no TV-watching or use of electronics. Limiting fluid intake before bed can help to decrease the occurrence of nocturia. It’s also really important to decrease caffeine intake especially later in the day.

Going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning can help, too. Yes, even on weekends. Avoid naps if you can, they throw off your sleeping schedule.

The best way to wind down before sleep is with a good book. Not a reader? Then find another activity to help you relax, whether it’s meditation or listening to music. The worst thing is to think about all your worries before bed. Forget them, or write them down an hour before you decide to sleep. Then, let your body know it’s time to shut down, and let all your problems roll away.




And that’s it, the three ways I’m going to stay afloat in medicine – exercise, healthy eating, and sleep.

  1. Any little bit of exercise counts.
  2. Eat more healthy foods and get enough Vitamin D.
  3. Follow good sleep hygiene.

I think it’s a simple enough concept; sometimes it’s just hard to do. But when I don’t prioritize these things, I sink deeper into the bathtub of medicine and I gradually neglect my own mental health.

After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we manage to take care of others? And so, today I’ll be going for a run in the sunshine, whipping up a smoothie, and rewarding myself with a plentiful night of sleep. Every minute counts.


So, what will you do to stay afloat?



  1. Cooney G, Dwan K, Mead G. Exercise for Depression. JAMA. 2014. 311(23):2432-2433. <>
  2. Cooney G, Dwan K, Greig C, Lawlor D, Rimer J, Waugh F, McMurdo M, Mead G. Exercise for Depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013. <>
  3. Erickson KI, Gildengers AG, Butters MA. Physical activity and brain plasticity in late adulthood. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2013;15(1):99-108. <>
  4. Mammen G, Faulkner G. Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression: A Systematic Review of Prospective Studies. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2013. 45 (5): 649-657. <>
  5. 5 Tips for Health Eating. Dietitians of Canada. <>
  6. Ju SY, Lee YJ, Jeong SN. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nutr Health Aging. 2013. 17(5): 447-455. <>
  7. Voshaar R, Derks W, Comijs H, Schoevers R, Borst M, Marijnissen R. Antidepressants differentially related to 1,25-OH2 vitamin D3 and 25-OH vitamin D3 in late-life depression. Translational Psychiatry. 2014. <>
  8. Milaneschi Y, Hoogendijk W, Lips P, Heijboer AC, Schoevers R, van Hemert AM, Beekman ATF, Smith JH, and Penninx B. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Molecular Psychiatry. 2014. 19: 444-451. <>
  9. Kerr D, Zava D, Piper W, Saturn S, Frei B, Combart A. Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult women. Psychiatry Research. 2015. In press. <>
  10. Gwoda U, Mutowow M, Smith B, Wluka A, Renzaho A. Vitamin D supplementation to reduce depression in adults: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition. 31 (3):421-429. <>
  11. Food Sources of Vitamin D. Dieticians of Canada. <>
  12. Guideline for Vitamin D testing and supplementation in adults. Toward Optimized Practice. 2012. <>
  13. Baglioni C, Battagliese G, Feige B, Spiegelhalder K, Nissen C, Voderholzer U, Lombardo C, Rieman D. Insomnia as a predictor of depression: A meta-analytic evaluation of longitudinal epidemiological studies. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2011. 135(1-3): 10-19. <>

Dine While You Dash!

How often do you want to eat a full breakfast, but have absolutely no time to make it, let alone sit down and eat it? For me, that’s every morning. That’s why I’ve taken to making smoothies in the morning. I use my trusty blender, toss in the ingredients, press “blend” and then start getting ready for the day. By the time I’ve gotten dressed, my breakfast awaits. How perfect. I’m living the life.

Seriously though, you can guzzle it down in the car, on your walk to work, while you’re waving to passersby, or cleaning your stethoscope. Whatever. The point is, it’s the fastest breakfast and it has all the right nutrients.

The idea is to pick some of your favourite fruits (you can freeze them before they go bad so you can use them instead of ice cubes), pick a vegetable like kale or spinach, add some honey if you want it sweeter, invest in some chia seeds and almond milk, and toss them in the blender until it’s smooth. Here are a few of my favourite smoothie recipes.



Let’s start off simple. Like they say, the first five days after the weekend are always the hardest. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and make too many elaborate smoothie plans. This one is super simple, and you can pretend you are still out having a drink with your friends. The weekend’s not over, I refuse to believe it!


Strawberry Pina Colada Smoothie

Erica Hoe - 1








  • A handful of strawberries
  • ½ frozen banana (keep them in your freezer, and snap them in half when you want to use them)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup coconut almond milk (or just almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut (in the smoothie and for garnish) – you fancy huh?
  • Ice cubes
  • Honey



Monday was tough. Tuesday isn’t going to be any better, so let’s just make a smoothie filled with all the most delicious berries.


Very Berry Smoothie

Erica Hoe - 2









  • A handful of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 2-3 kale leaves (use the leafy green part) – The bitterness of the kale is masked by the berry medley; also the colour of your smoothie won’t be that scary green colour!
  • 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • ½ cup coconut water or orange juice
  • A few mint leaves
  • Ice cubes
  • Honey



It’s the middle of the week. That means you’ve been working really hard for the past two days and you deserve to celebrate with a tropical drink. Yes, that means mangoes. This is one of my favourites.


Mango Coco-Loco Smoothie

Erica Hoe - 3










  • 1 mango
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon coconut Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Ice cubes
  • Honey



You might not have time to bake a cake, but this tastes just like it. It might even improve your vision without expanding your waistline.


Carrot Cake Smoothie

Erica Hoe - 4









  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  • Ice cubes
  • Honey



It’s Friday, treat yo self. Indulge in this chocolatey goodness. Lather your intestines in sweetness. Too visual? Too bad. This smoothie is THAT badass.


Chocolate Almond Smoothie

Erica Hoe - 5








  • A handful of spinach
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup chocolate almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder (optional) – if you want it even more chocolatey or if you’re using plain almond milk
  • Ice cubes
  • Honey


I hope you like these just as much as I do. May you now power through the morning without your stomach growling with hunger. Bottoms up!



Post-call R&R

Okay, I admit it. I love post-call days. There’s nothing better than knowing that while everyone else is driving to work and experiencing morning struggles, I get to drive home and snuggle under my warm blankets. I get to finally shut my brain off.

It’s really tempting to enter the door of my apartment, throw my things down, run to my bed and flop, face-first into the covers. But I find that when I do that, I don’t wake up as refreshed. I actually feel even groggier sometimes.

Recently, I’ve been trying a new thing where I take 30-60 minutes to give my body a little R&R (rest and relaxation) before I shut it off completely. Kind of like a gradual entrance into the serenity of sleep. Here is my recipe, feel free to add your own ingredients and modify as you please!


  • 1 scented candle
  • 1 playlist
  • water
  • cucumbers, raspberries, mint or clementines
  • pen & paper
  • yoga mat
  • lacrosse ball/tennis ball
  • 1 wall


RELAX (2 minutes):

Erica - Pic 1First, I light a scented candle. Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but believe me – once you smell that citrusy aroma or lilac infusion, you’ll forget all about those stale hospital sheets and the scrubs you wore all night. I try to stay away from sugary scents (Bath & Body Works, I hate you) because then I’ll just abandon my routine and search my shelves for chocolate or candy and spend the next 15 minutes eating them.

After this, I also flip on my favorite playlist to set the mood. I usually try to go for some slower beats – some R&B slow jams do the job quite well.


HYDRATE (3 minutes):

This is the most important part. I grab a tall glass of cold water and drink the whole thing. Sometimes two, if I’m feeling dangerous.

Too often, we don’t drink any water while on call. Our bodies are aching to be hydrated by the time we get home.

A tasty cucumber carbonated water beverage
I love slicing up some cucumbers and splashing them in the water. I also pre-make trays of ice cubes frozen with mint, raspberries or clementine slices and add them to the water. It just adds a little extra zest, and I can pretend I’m getting  more vitamins.


REFLECT (5 minutes):

Erica - Pic 3This is the second most important part. I write down two things:

1) One thing that I learned from the night

2) One thing I did well

The objective is to do some reflection and identify what the previous day meant to me. Writing down things I did well, also encourages me to improve for tomorrow. If you don’t encourage yourself, who will?


STRETCH (5-15 minutes):

Okay, I lied. This is equally important. I unroll my yoga mat and do 15 minutes of easy yoga. Sure, downward dog seems impossible at first, but once I get started, I find that it’s exactly what my body needs.

A good resource is Sadie Nardini’s youtube videos. She has a bunch of yoga videos online. This 15-minute one is my favorite:

She also has a good 5-minute morning one if I’m feeling lazy and I just want to stretch:


RELEASE (15-30 minutes):

Now I grab my lacrosse ball and find a wall. A friend recently gifted a lacrosse ball to me, but you can also use a tennis ball. This thing is glorious. It’s an easy do-it-yourself myofascial release and releases your trigger points.


Start with your upper traps.

Erica - Pic 4After spending a night slouched over hospital charts and patient’s bedsides, it is impossible not to have tight shoulders. This routine can help you prevent upper-crossed syndrome. Put the lacrosse ball between upper back and the wall. Work the ball up and down your back. Keep your arms folded in front of you, moving your shoulder blades out of the way. Here is where the R&B slow jams really start to make sense – yep, you’re grinding with the wall, but hey, no one’s watching and it feels great.

When you find a point in your back that is more sensitive or painful – stay there. Don’t move and add some more pressure against the wall. This is a trigger point. Breathe into it for several seconds. Even though it hurts at first, you’ll find that after some time, you relax into it. Do this for any points you find throughout the routine.

Now finish your entire back.

I probably don’t need to tell you to do this because you will naturally want to. Roll the lacrosse ball all the way down your back on one side of the spine. Repeat on the other side. This releases all your spinal muscles and your lats.

Don’t forget your pits.Erica - Pic 5

The idea is to work the lacrosse ball where your lats insert and improve lymphatic drainage. Place it under your armpits, and with the same arm behind your head, roll the ball up and down against the wall.

Release your IT band.

Erica - Pic 6Lie on your side on your yoga mat and place the lacrosse ball between your hips and the mat. Now roll so that the ball slides down the side of your thigh. Tight IT bands can cause a lot of injury and knee pain. So keep it nice and loose by doing this.

Staying on your side, work the lacrosse ball in circular motions around your hip joint. Your glutes insert here, so you want to get them good.

Release your lower extremities.

After standing all day and night, you want to release the main muscle groups of your legs and your feet.

Erica - Pic 7Lying supine on your mat, work the lacrosse ball on the bulk of your glutes and your hamstring insertions. Work in circular motions around your ischial tuberosity.

Now move the ball down the back of your thigh to get your hamstrings. Work it down to your calves.

Erica - Pic 8

To get your hip flexors, sit in kneeling position and roll the lacrosse ball across the front of your thighs. It’s easier than trying to lie prone in plank position (nobody needs abb work at a time like this!)

Erica - Pic 9

In standing, put the ball under one of your feet and move it up and down. It feels amazing, trust me. Your clogs are no match for this.


Finally, it’s time to hit the sheets! My body feels like jello, but the best kind.

See you on the other side!