LKSOM student Mai Stewart builds Instagram following with her whimsical drawings about medical school
Mai Stewart, a fourth year student at LKSOM, has been drawing illustrations about her life in medical school that have been blowing up on Instagram. She now has 9,958 followers @maidoodles, and each drawing gets as many as 1400 likes. She also posts on her website, www.maidoodles.com.
Each of these drawings is a story, a reflection on her experiences in medical school, and a way for her to process and share her feelings.
She’s able to recognize what is often a universal feeling in medical school and express it so cleverly, succinctly, whimsically and effectively in an illustration, a comic.
She has always drawn for fun. Then she got an iPad and began drawing on it. Friends urged her to post on Instagram, to share with the world, and one day she just took the plunge.
Why does she draw about medical school? “Laughing at it is better than crying about it,” she says.
“I’m very grateful to be in med school and have all the opportunities I have,” she says. “I do think that people who don’t go through it could misunderstand that. It’s still a terrible process, whether you’re happy to be going through it or not. Everyone has moments where, `I just can’t do this’ or `it doesn’t make sense.’ Among each other, we understand it. But I’m not sure everyone else understands it. I’m not sure if people outside of medicine understand that.”
“Nobody can really know what medical school is like until you go and do it,” she says.
“I know I’m a very cynical person,” she adds. “I was born that way. It was not med school per se. I think if you were a positive person, there’d be no good comics. There’d be nothing to draw about. “
She’s not sure who her audience is now, but thinks it’s mostly medical students and pre-med students. Many viewers comment on her drawings and sometimes she’s tempted to reply, but usually settles for a ❤️ acknowledgement.
“I feel like you never regret not commenting,” she said.
These days she tries to do one or two a week, though she probably has an idea every day.
She says each drawing takes about two hours, but it’s rarely a linear process — often interrupted by sleep, studying, Netflix — so it’s hard to tell exactly how long. She plans each illustration carefully. “The actual drawing is the quickest part,” she said.
“I’m actually concerned for my life after medical school,” she says. “What I’ll even draw about. I’m sure residency will be significantly worse, and I’m sure there will be tons of fodder. But after that, it will be interesting how it changes.”
• • •
• • •
Michael Vitez, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the director of narrative medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org