Q+A: Michelle Izmaylov

From the Summer 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Michelle Izmaylov Medical Student. Shot for the Q&A feature in Vanderbilt Medicine. (Daniel Dubois / Vanderbilt University)
Photo by Daniel Dubois

Michelle Izmaylov is a third-year medical student from Atlanta, and a successful writer of fantasy-fiction books for young adults. Izmaylov, 24, has already published three novels and one novella and received several literary awards including the 2010 Blumenthal Award for Best Undergraduate Essay, among others. She holds the Hollis E. and Frances Settle Johnson Scholarship.

Q. How did you get into writing?

A. I was 11 when I wrote my first book and 13 when it was published. When I saw the words I’d written bound together, it left a big impression. I realized something I write can really matter to people. I can give this to someone, and someone can read this.

Q. Why did you choose to attend medical school?

A. Choosing medical school does not have to be at the exclusion of my writing. When I was shadowing doctors back in college I realized it’s a lot about listening to a patient’s story and how that story evolves over time. I often bring my writing into medicine. Writing has really helped me to analyze a character which has translated well to evaluating patients and their medical story.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. Another student and I are working on a project called Sick, MD. We are collecting nonfiction short stories from medical students, residents, fellows and attending physicians at Vanderbilt in which they describe their experience with their own illness and how that has affected how they care for patients. Also, when I’m not studying for class, I’m working on my latest novel.

Q. How do you do it all?

A. The question is what are you willing to give up? What’s important to you and what’s not important? School and studying take up most of my time, but I usually have about an hour a day to get some writing done. I’ll write 100, 150 words, which does not seem like much, but over a year it comes to 150,000 words.

Q. What do you say to people who think you can either be a right brain or left brain person?

A. There is a false division in society which wants to separate logic and reason from emotion and feeling. There are times in medicine and writing where it’s really important to be logical and not just write a scene because you love a character. And on the flip side, the best medical decision for a patient has to be weighed against other things going on in his life: personally, culturally, religiously, that come into play. The best approach to either medicine or writing is to remember that the other side will always bring some benefit if you bring it in. n Ashley Culver

A. There are different parts of my job at Shade Tree, and the everyday routines can become really draining and tedious. But, just being in clinic is always a re-energizer for me: seeing patients and talking to them and seeing their gratitude, and understanding that if we weren’t there, most likely, they wouldn’t get their medications that week. Running continues to be a great outlet for me as well as spending time with my husband, Kevin. Cooking brings me joy as does spending time with my dog.n Kathy Whitney/Photo by Daniel Dubois

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