TCOM student starts new self-help podcast after struggling with Imposter Syndrome

February 13, 2020

By Diane Smith

Mind Podcast Web

Being at the top of the class was the norm for Kalan Barnes. But when she started medical school at UNT Health Science Center last fall, she was filled with self-doubt.

“When you get into medical school, you can’t help but compare yourself to the highly intelligent individuals you are surrounded by, and you automatically think, ‘I am not good enough to be here’ or ‘I don’t belong here because these people seem so much smarter than me,’” said Barnes, a first-year student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Barnes graduated in the top 3% from Harker Heights High School near Killeen in 2014. Later, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in 2017. Even though she graduated with a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences at the Health Science Center with a 4.0 last year, she wondered if she belonged in medical school.

Barnes was experiencing Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary “as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck.”

Barnes said those feelings are captured by actress Viola Davis’ description: “It keeps you striving for excellence, and wanting to do better, and wanting to get it right even when you feel like you never hit it.”

Barnes asked others if they struggled with similar feelings and discovered she wasn’t alone.

Barnes opened a campus conversation that started with a long email to fellow medical student Hadia Aziz. She outlined a plan for a podcast that would allow graduate students to delve deep in mental health issues.

After six months of planning, Barnes’ idea hit the internet as a series called, “The MIND Mental Health Podcast” by UNTHSC students. The first episode, “A Look into Imposter Syndrome,” was released on Jan. 29.

Listeners from more than five states tuned in within the first 24 hours of the launch.

Students from TCOM and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ Medical Science master’s program produce the episodes. The podcast crew includes “leads” or anchors, editors and writers who produce the episodes.

The crew kicked off the podcast with a catalog of five installments.

Upcoming episodes include discussions on taking care of one’s emotional self during Valentine’s Day week, coping with feelings of missing out during Spring Break and overcoming feelings of failure.

Imposter Syndrome and other mental health issues also are a continuing focus for the student-led advocacy group, Mentality Initiative to Nurture Doctors (MIND).

Joshua Seale, a graduate student in the Medical Science program who also works on the podcast, said students can fall into isolation.

“We get to see all our friends doing fun things, and we are here in the library because we want to be,” said Seale, who graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2018 with a major in Biology and minor in Psychology.

Aziz, a second-year TCOM student, said MIND works to break stigma against mental health issues faced by graduate students. The group hosts events throughout the year that allow students to share stories about real-life worries.

The group also encourages students to share their stories through blogs. Now, students also have the podcast for support. Episodes are being released every two weeks this semester.

“This podcast is so great because it is another medium for students to share their stories and to continue the conversation around mental health,” said Aziz, who graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s of Science and Arts in Biology in 2016.

“If someone doesn’t like reading blogposts, they can listen to this podcast when they are driving or working out,” Aziz said, adding that they have an ongoing message to students: “It’s OK not to be OK.”

Listen to the first episode of the MIND Mental Health Podcast below.

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