When Alesha Kotian's year of teaching English in Spain was cut short by the pandemic, she had some time on her hands. The first-year medical student wanted to do something productive with her pandemic summer.
So she started a podcast. As one does.
She joined forces with her friend Charlotte Thill, a first-year medical student at Wayne State University Medical School, to create "From Skirts to Scrubs." Exploring women's historical and contemporary roles in medicine, the podcast combines Kotian's interest in feminist theory (she minored in gender studies at U-M) and her love of medicine.
In the midst of their busy first year of medical school, Kotian and Thill completed their first season of 10 episodes, as well as a bonus episode, "Women's Work," on the ways prestige and salaries of medical specialties change based on the number of women in the field. The bonus episode includes interviews with Erin McKean, M.D., MBA, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and assistant dean for student services, and Deborah Berman, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and faculty director of M-Home.
Kotian's favorite episode is "Flibanserin: Viagra's less popular little sister," about the medication used to treat female sexual dysfunction. Taking the lead on that episode, she researched the history of sexual health and sexuality. "It's very serious in a lot of ways, but also really amusing."
An adventurous person with many interests outside of medicine, Kotian projects a confident and optimistic vibe. "I like to be able to come into a situation and put my best foot forward. For me that means bringing a lot of energy and lightness to situations. … I really thrive on connection, and it helps me get through really tough times."
And when it comes to tough times, romantic comedies don't hurt either. "I've somehow given myself the reputation as a holiday rom-com enthusiast," she says. "My friend sent me a list of 27 rom-coms you have to see, and I'd already seen 14 of them!" When we spoke in December, she was enjoying "Holidate" and "Operation Christmas Drop" on Netflix. But her medical hackles got up while watching "Christmas with a Prince," in which a royal is sequestered in a pediatric ward to avoid paparazzi (and, of course, falls in love with a physician). "They were really milking this fake hierarchy people think exists between doctors and nurses, which was really problematic," says Kotian.
What Kotian has loved most about her first year of medical school is connecting with her classmates, even within the constraints of COVID-19 protocols. "I think what makes Michigan special is that emphasis on community and fostering that even in a global pandemic."