Mikayla Brockmeyer is passionate about science and has a love of the liberal arts and humanities. That combination was inspired in part by her Spirit Lake, IA, High School science teacher, Kathy Kleen, and experiences she had in “January terms,” special learning opportunities that the school was the first in the nation to offer. That’s when she began reading scientific articles and books and spent one term in Costa Rica, where she took surfing lessons.
A 2019 graduate of DMU’s master of science in biomedical sciences (M.S.B.S.) program and now a first-year osteopathic medical student, Mikayla worked her interests, along with experiences as an internal medicine scribe in a Des Moines emergency department, in an article she had published in the fall 2020 issue of Intima, a journal of narrative medicine. Titled “Turbulent Undertow,” the article ties together a disastrous surfing attempt with her scribing experiences during the pandemic.
“There are really no words to fully describe the upending loss that the year 2020 has had on us as global citizens, as Americans,” she wrote in the article. “We all started the year by paddling out, inherently hoping to catch good waves. But wave after wave of unexpected turmoil hit us with unrelenting force, battering our souls with every new headline.”
The theme for the fall issue of Intima was “Creativity in a Time of Crisis: Rethinking Vulnerability in Response to Care and Social Justice.”
“My writing is reflective of my experience working as a hospitalist scribe during the beginning months of the pandemic this year,” Mikayla says. Her interest in narrative medicine also was nourished by liberal arts courses she took as an undergraduate biology major with minors in chemistry and Spanish at Luther College in Decorah, IA.
“I took a course titled ‘What Does It Mean to Be Human?’ As I go through medical school, I think about that all the time,” she says. “It reminds me that in addition to taking a patient’s medical history and understanding their pathologies, you shouldn’t forget who the patient is as a person.”
In August, Mikayla participated in a narrative medicine session hosted by the DMU Medical Humanities Club and presented by Daniel Waters, D.O., M.A., a cardiothoracic surgeon, an adjunct professor of medical humanities and bioethics at DMU and an award-winning author of numerous scientific publications, medical essays, two books of surgical advice and three novels. After his talk, Mikayla contacted him; he helped her edit her article in Intima.
“His talk set the tone for the year,” she says.
Being published in the journal was especially meaningful given that another contributor to its fall issue was Rana Awdish, M.D., FCCP, FACP, a pulmonary and critical care physician and author of In Shock, a critically acclaimed, bestselling memoir based on her own critical illness.
“She has been a role model in narrative medicine for me for a really long time. It was an honor for me to be published in the same issue as her. When I saw her name, my mouth hit the floor,” Mikayla says. “I’m very grateful for all the inspiration I’ve had.”