Like many, I have multiple roles and responsibilities: first and foremost, I’m a PA student (in arguably one of the most rigorous and challenging graduate programs) in clinical year of training which itself keeps me plenty busy. I also have several ongoing projects and activities that most would call volunteer work, including crisis counseling with Crisis Text Line, youth mentoring with CareerVillage, and community education and outreach using evidence-supported training programs such as Mental Health First Aid and REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education.

Then there’s Roanoke 250: Training 250 Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aiders in Roanoke, VA, which is a community outreach project designed by yours truly and made possible through the generous support from the nccPA Health Foundation’s Kathy J Pederson Grant to Promote Equitable Care. The project was born out of recognising ongoing behavioural healthcare disparities affecting the Roanoke Valley, and aims to increase awareness and decrease stigma around mental illness and substance use disorder by hosting free Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid training sessions. The 12-month project officially kicked off in August 2019, and while it’s my pleasure and privilege to be able to do what I do, it does require a significant amount of time, focus, and energy outside of learning to practice medicine in order to stay fully committed to my projects AND carry them through effectively and efficiently.

My to-do list, however, doesn’t end here, which is precisely why, over time, I’ve needed to find a way to get things done while maintaining my mental health and well-being. First, I start with a list of all the things on my plate that need to be done, including any deadline associated. If there’s nothing that needs urgent action or close deadline, I pick one thing (and only on thing!) off the list to focus on, either for now or at a later time. If there’s an urgent assignment or a deadline for something, I’d prioritise it to be attended to now or at a later time. The ‘trick’ here is to focus on only one thing, and work on that one task without being distracted by the other dozens of tasks on my list. And this deceptively simple trick always helps me refocus and get things done. Once I’ve finished working on task #1, I’ll move onto task #2, and so on.

For tonight, I’m prioritising exercise, boba tea, and studying for end-of-rotation (EOR) exam, in that order.


  • Hwal Lee

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from Radford University

    Hwal Lee is a community health PA and mental health advocate. Besides movies and boba tea, mental health education and outreach is his favourite hobby. Hwal completed his counsellor training in Australia, and is a nationally certified Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor in the U.S. He may have recently graduated, but learning must go on.