Educating the Public With ‘Scribblings of a Medic’

Sadira Sittampalam (RP) | Published: 10:29 AM Dec 11 2021
Interviews Educating the Public With ‘Scribblings of a Medic’

Dr. Rashmira Balasuriya is a doctor currently training in family medicine with a special interest in Sexual and Reproductive Health. 

However, in addition to her medical work, she also has an online presence under the name ‘Scribblings of a Medic’ which works as a platform for medical education. 

Recently she has also introduced a new brand ‘Scrub’d’, a healthcare apparel line founded along with Bernards Ceylon to provide all medical staff with good quality scrubs.

We at Ceylon Today sat down with Dr Balasuriya to ask her about her journey up to this point, her thoughts about creating medical-related content and about her new exciting brand.

You are very active on both TikTok, Instagram and you have your own blog but what is your entire online presence about, why did you decide to start this whole venture?

My online presence actually started as a platform for medical education simply with a blog page and an Instagram account ‘Scribblings of a Medic’. 

Working in Sri Lanka means that you see the most interesting cases that many healthcare workers in other countries may not see. It was also a chance to give prospective 

Sri Lankan doctors a glimpse of what it's really like to work in the Sri Lankan healthcare sector.

During the pandemic, this really shifted as the medical community had to initially battle a lot of misinformation surrounding Covid-19. 

I was able to use my social media presence to help combat the misinformation and help educate the public during that difficult period of time. 

It can be quite taxing and I've definitely learnt to set boundaries, and I absolutely love creating medical education content for both healthcare workers and the public.

How has the last year been for you with COVID-19? 

As for all healthcare workers around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has been very challenging - not just mentally, but also physically and emotionally. 

It has been especially difficult for all healthcare workers currently in postgraduate training, our training has faced numerous interruptions due to the 

Covid-19 pandemic waves and naturally, our examinations have also been delayed/postponed at times. 

It has certainly been difficult trying to stay afloat during the past two years whilst navigating an unpredictable future.

Your page is full of incredibly useful educational content, but how do you decide on which issues to post on?

This really does vary - but any predominant health issue at the time will always take precedence i.e. COVID-19 or Dengue fever. 

I try to post content that will engage with all age groups, but I primarily target young adults and the 20-35 year age group; encouraging them to take more control over their own health and to encourage their communities to become more proactive about their health.

I also try to keep things light and offer my audience a glimpse of what it's like to be a young doctor in Sri Lanka because it helps the public understand our lives and make us as doctors more relatable. 

I also make sure that I still provide medical education content and a platform for medical students and doctors to learn and help one another.

How has the response to your page been?

It actually has been largely positive! I never expected to have the large audience I currently do have, but I've met amazing people through having this social media platform and built a wonderful community.

I know you are passionate about reproductive health, why do you think this is an important message to send out? Is there a particular issue regarding reproductive health that you wish people talked more about?

My passion for sexual and reproductive health actually started when I volunteered at the Family Planning Association in Sri Lanka whilst a medical student (and I'm still a volunteer at the FPA).

It really opened my eyes to the vast inequalities and challenges when it came to almost anything pertaining to sexual and reproductive health.

Sri Lankans like to live in a state of ‘ignorance is bliss’. If they don't talk about the problem then it doesn't exist and the excuse not to talk about it is blamed on culture (remove and religion). 

We have significant sexual and reproductive health problems in Sri Lanka.

This includes one of the strictest abortion laws in the world despite an existing high unsafe abortion rate, taxes on sanitary products, a lack of sexual and reproductive health education and an increasing prevalence of HIV amongst the youth in the country.

All of these issues require advocacy and that's why I joined the Arka Initiative. We are a group of young professionals from different fields (including doctors, lawyers, psychologists, researchers) who work towards a common goal of providing tangible and practical support to men and women in Sri Lanka on issues pertaining to sexual and reproductive health.

Through the Arka Initiative, we conduct a number of projects including our own low-cost high-quality Sanitary pad project ‘Adithi’, we conduct HIV testing drives together with the National STD/AIDs Control Programme, facilitate a directory of crowd-recommended Sri Lankan Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and conduct sexual education for schools and institutions islandwide.

What is your favourite thing about being ‘Scribblings of a Medic’?

My favourite thing is being able to help people directly or by giving them little pieces of knowledge or insight that helps them. 

I love when people reach out and give me feedback on the content or tell me how it's helped them, it's a great feeling and it validates all the time I spend on social media!

It still shocks me when people recognise me in public because of ‘Scribblings of a medic’, but it just goes to show the power of social media in forming connections.

What is your latest brand Scrub'd all about and how did you come up with the idea for it/what inspired you to start the brand?

Scrub'd is a healthcare apparel line that I founded together with Bernards Ceylon who is one of the pioneers in the apparel industry. It was actually born out of necessity. 

With the pandemic, Sri Lankan healthcare workers moved towards wearing healthcare apparel as opposed to skirts and sarees. 

Whilst I completely supported this move, it was increasingly difficult to find good quality scrubs. It was then that I started working on developing a line of healthcare apparel that is comfortable, functional and affordable. 

Something that all Sri Lankan healthcare workers deserve! It's been an interesting learning curve, especially with the existing import restrictions in Sri Lanka that made fabric sourcing a bit difficult. 

However, after months of fine-tuning it, we are proud to present our first collection. We are currently starting small with two colour options available but will be expanding the colour and style range in the coming months.

Any plans for the future?

Lots of future plans as always, but with the pandemic I've learnt to be less rigid with these! 

I hope to continue my training in the field of Family Medicine and continue breaking barriers in the field of Sexual and Reproductive health with the Arka Initiative. 

I will continue documenting my journey as a doctor in Sri Lanka on Scribblings of a Medic and I hope it will inspire and educate others. 

For Scrub'd the plan is for it to become a household name among healthcare workers in Sri Lanka and to also start exporting our apparel line internationally. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

Advice for younger doctors – medicine is an all-consuming rollercoaster; make sure you have passions outside medicine that will give you a mental break.

Sadira Sittampalam (RP) | Published: 10:29 AM Dec 11 2021

More News