Dr. Lena Liu is a neurology resident at Mass General Brigham. She recently shared a personal story of resilience in the BWH Clinical and Research News. We sat down with her to go behind the article.
What went into the decision to share this story, and how much of it?
For me, writing this piece was something that I had always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the time to do until now. I felt compelled to write this article because it is one of my goals to raise awareness and destigmatize mental health issues within the field of medicine. Mental health and wellness are such important topics, but they are hardly ever talked about. I want to normalize the experience for others going through similar difficulties in training and beyond.
What are your hopes this article accomplishes for fellow residents and for yourself?
For fellow residents and fellows, I hope that this article encourages others to seek help if and when they need it. It is scary to ask for help not only as a trainee, but especially as a trainee in medicine. We are constantly wanting to help others in need, but we often forget to help ourselves first. We need to put our own health first in order to be able to care for others, so I hope this article will embolden those who need it to speak up.
For myself, writing this piece was a cathartic experience. I actually cried while writing it, and it also allowed me an opportunity to give a shout-out to who I call my “guardian angels,” Dr. Meridale Baggett and Dr. Efrat Shavit. The two of them never stopped caring about me and pushed me to become a better version of myself. This piece now stands as a testament to what I went through and also acts to commemorate my experience.
Tell us more about the initiative in mental health for residents that you are working on, how and why, and what you envision for it.
I have spearheaded and organized a new formal Mental Health Committee for the Mass General Brigham Neurology Residency program. This Mental Health Committee is comprised of about 10 residents and fellows who are interested in bettering mental health and wellness initiatives across the residency program. There are many specific initiatives that I envision for this committee, and to me, this committee will embody what it means to put mental health first and to treat mental health as an extension of physical health. Some specific events we are hoping to establish for the MGB Neurology residency include an annual Mental Health Panel, a monthly House small group session, and an annual mental health survey that will attempt to quantify the prevalence of mental health disorders within our residency cohort and then identify areas for improvement moving forward.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you are going for fellowship, what your scholarly work is, and what you are doing during the pandemic to keep you shipshape?
I grew up in Auburn, Alabama and then attended Cornell University, where I studied neurobiology and cognitive science. During my undergraduate years, I conducted research in a biomedical engineering lab on a rat model of focal epilepsy and developed an interest in understanding neurologic disease mechanisms. Afterwards, I attended medical school in Long Island at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, and my love for clinical neurology was only strengthened during my four years there. I have been a neurology resident at MGB for the past three years now, and I love MGB Neurology because of all of the genuine and caring people in the program!
For fellowship, I will be staying at MGB as an Epilepsy fellow at the Brigham from 2023-2024 and then as a Women’s Neurology fellow at MGB from 2024-2025. I am conducting clinical research with my mentor, Dr. Emma Voinescu, on topics important to women with epilepsy. I have also recently gotten involved with a nonprofit organization called My Epilepsy Story (MES), which is dedicated to raising awareness and bettering women and girls with epilepsy. Please check them out at www.myepilepsystory.org. I hope to become a clinician educator and am interested in developing new ways to teach EEG through social media platforms. Please check out my website www.eegsnippets.com to see how EEG can be taught via Instagram!
During the pandemic, I have been cooking frequently with my boyfriend and have a newfound love for baking. Most recently, I have also adopted a new hobby in jewelry-making and beading and have founded a jewelry brand called Brain Beads Boutique on Etsy, with all of the proceeds going to My Epilepsy Story (MES). Please check out my Etsy shop at: www.etsy.com/shop/brainbeadsboutique.
For more on Dr. Liu, follow her:
Instagram: @lenaliumd, @eegsnippets, @brainbeadsboutique
Twitter: @lenaliumd, @eegsnippets