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On Teaching

A graduate student came to my office recently to say that she was increasingly bothered by anxiety and the ‘terror’ of having to speak at laboratory meetings. She had also learned a month ago that she was expected to lecture to a class organized by her mentor. The thought of having to lecture to 20 or so complete strangers had now led to sleepless nights and she was physically ill as well as mentally distressed. She had been told that all of this could be ‘fixed’ by a small dose of a beta-blocker or an anti-anxiety drug like Ativan. She had tried this but it did not help her enough and she was now seeking my counsel because she had been told that I had written that I suffered from similar symptoms when I was a young scientist. Did I have a secret I could share? She confided in me that she was considering giving up her life long dream to become a ‘college professor’. I gave her several pieces of advice and told her how I was first able to get some relief after my first attempt to lecture to medical students in 1966. It occurs to me that this student may not be alone and I have heard from a number of people that reading my ‘confession’ that I had suffered from panic attacks early in my career had been helpful to them. So perhaps the readers of my favorite blog might find it helpful as well.

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