Resident Roundup: Alex Rice, MD

By Alex Rice, MD


A New Doc’s Playlist

Music has always been a constant companion throughout my life. For my first resident blog, I thought I’d share some of the songs that have meant a great deal to me as I start my medical career.

“Octavia” by Jamila Woods

Don't ever let a textbook scare you

You the missing piece, OG technology, they stole you

“Imposter syndrome” is the enemy of so many of us from underrepresented (read: historically excluded) backgrounds in medicine. I have a deep interest in the fraught history of medicine, particularly with respect to how this field has contributed to the racial health disparities we see and how best to affect change. Though I still have many days as a brand-new physician where I feel more like a 5th year med student, Woods’ song (and the work of Octavia Butler, the titular author) causes me to reflect on claiming my place in this field and building upon the work of those who came before me in order to shape its future in a liberatory direction.

“Yes We Can Can” by Allen Toussaint

I know we can make it

One of the aspects that first drew me to DFM for residency was the involvement of recent graduates and program leadership in community-based work around the COVID-19 pandemic. In my first few months at Duke, I have had the opportunity to participate in several vaccination events through the African American COVID Taskforce+ (AACT+), which seeks to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on the Triangle’s Black community. Being able to not only provide injections to community members but also serve as a friendly face offering information, reassurance, and encouragement regarding the vaccine and how to stay safe during the pandemic has truly been a beautiful experience. I have learned more about my new city and felt part of a group making positive community-wide change. In the midst of an unprecedented and ongoing pandemic, the work of the AACT+ and those around me inspires me to believe that I can make a difference.

“Giant Steps” by John Coltrane

This is the song that plays in my head when things go just right, particularly when I feel confident I’m giving good care to patients. For me, it’s the sound of things landing exactly where they need to be. From starting a patient on an antidepressant and seeing a dramatic improvement in their mood to providing discharge teaching to new parents on the care of their new baby and feeling confident answering their questions to helping someone who formerly lacked medical care get caught up on their recommended screenings, this feeling pushes me forward on days when things don’t go so smoothly.

“Red Room” by Hiatus Kaiyote

It feels like I'm inside a flower

It feels like I'm inside my eyelids

And I don't wanna be anywhere but here

This song is an ode to mindfulness. One of the most memorable sessions for me in our wellness curriculum thus far has been a breathing exercise in which we were asked to close our eyes and focus on different aspects of our surroundings: every sound we hear; our left elbow or another random body part; just our breath. When I’m feeling stressed, I’ve returned to this exercise and can’t help but feel calmer, more grounded, and more grateful.

“Juice” by Lizzo

If I'm shining, everybody gonna shine (Yeah, I'm goals)

I was born like this, don't even gotta try (Now you know)

This song feels like flourishing: getting to a place where I can be my fullest self and operate at my maximum potential. Since starting residency at DFM, I’ve noticed I have code-switched less than I have at any other time in my journey to medicine. Most importantly, I feel people listen when I speak. I feel respected by my patients, race-concordant and -discordant alike. I’ve made fast friends with my co-residents and am able to ask questions of attendings, give and receive constructive feedback, and learn without fear of judgement or pressure to compete with those around me. While of course things aren’t always easy, it is truly a pleasure to hone my clinical skills in a program where I feel supported.

“I’m Going All The Way” by Sounds of Blackness

Whatever it takes to make it

I'm going all the way

I may be down sometimes, but I won't be down always

The terms “resilience” and “grit” can often feel like ways to blame trainees when they have difficulty coping with the high stress, long hours, and daily challenges of residency. However, tending to my internal drive to “roll with the punches” has been instrumental in my ability to get this far. Finding ways to nourish my mind, body, and spirit each day, including staying in touch with friends and family, scheduling in time for myself, and listening to songs like those above, are crucial parts of my self-care.

Alex Rice is a first-year resident with the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program. Email with questions.

Editor’s note: Duke Family Medicine residents guest blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.