From a young age, Sophie Gmeiner knew she wanted to become a doctor. Anatomy in particular has always interested her, and after studying biology at her university, she is now entering her third year of medical school in Austria.
In Austria, completing medical school takes six years, with the last two years focusing on clinical experience. Sophie has always been a diligent and dedicated student. She attended a high school that focused heavily on science, which helped prepare her for the workload she currently has in medical school. Sophie is interested in psychology and pediatrics, and she currently works with children at a small clinic outside of school.
Art has been another huge part of Sophie’s life.
“Art was always something for me,” Sophie says. “Being autistic, I love the sensation of, for example, clay, and turning it into something. With my art, I love to focus on the details. Creating something is so calming to me.”
Being an artist came naturally to Sophie, and her family has always been supportive, buying her art supplies and encouraging her to continue with art when she was a child.
“I never had a great art teacher,” Sophie says. “Art was a lot of learning by doing for me.”
When she first started out, she would try her best to replicate things around her, like nature and the human body. She finds inspiration through fellow artists, and she describes her style as detailed and full of color.
Sophie has been able to combine her two interests in medicine and art in a unique way. She continues to use her drawing skills in medical school today, drawing anatomy diagrams to help her study and understand the human body by using art.
To pursue her artistic side, Sophie created an Etsy shop to sell her artwork and a YouTube channel where she shares her process of making art. Being able to share her art online has become an outlet for Sophie to show the world what she can do.
Sophie also gathers inspiration from her emotions and experiences as a person who has autism. She is a passionate autism advocate who wants to help others around her who may be struggling. Sophie was diagnosed with autism about two years ago, and she explains that receiving this diagnosis helped her understand herself more.
“I always felt like I was different, but I didn’t know why,” she says.
Sophie has struggled with her mental health throughout her life, and for a long time she could not understand why she had these struggles. Her autism diagnosis gave her a lot of relief because she finally could understand why she had struggled.
“I was like, ‘Thank god!’ because I was always beating myself down,” Sophie says. “I finally realized that it wasn’t my fault, and I am allowed to do things differently. People who aren’t diagnosed yet and feel like a failure are not failures. They just need to do things their own way. Accommodations have helped me a lot.”
Autism in girls is something that is not discussed often. Sophie explains that many people misunderstand autism in girls and some even believe that autism only exists in boys, but this is not true.
“We try so hard to fit in, and people need to be reminded that life can be hard for us,” she says. “I want to show people that autism does exist in girls and it is very important for me to be an advocate.”
Sophie has faced challenges with her doctors and therapists not understanding her autism. Before her diagnosis, she felt like some of her healthcare providers did not understand her needs. She has suffered from intense periods of anxiety and panic, and doctors would simply tell her to “calm down,” to which she would reply, “As if I hadn’t already thought of that!”
During a stay at a psychiatric hospital, Sophie says she was excluded from a lot of the group activities and mistreated by the staff there. Sophie’s past experiences have made her want to help people who are struggling, and she hopes to change the way healthcare providers treat autistic people. After she finishes school, she hopes to become a doctor who truly understands her patients’ needs.
We try so hard to fit in, and people need to be reminded that life can be hard for us. I want to show people that autism does exist in girls and it is very important for me to be an advocate.Sophie Gmeiner
She has already started to fulfill this goal at the clinic where she works. Recently, she met a young boy there who also has autism. She noticed how uncomfortable he was in the office and how the doctors and nurses did not fully understand his needs.
“I felt a connection between us because I understood what he wanted,” she says. “I gave him a toy that I thought would be stimulating to him, and it worked like a charm. All of a sudden, he was calming down. I felt like I really can help these kids and create a change.”
Sophie is also the founder of her online small business called “StimmyCharmBracelet,” where she sells bracelets made for people who stim. Stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior, is repetitive body movement, like finger-flicking or rocking back and forth. It is a common thing for neurodivergent people to do to help regulate emotions, and Sophie was interested in creating a bracelet that would help people who need to stim. She says that she had a dream about making a bracelet out of all of her different fidget toys, and this dream inspired her to create her own “Stimmy Charm” bracelet that she hopes to sell on Etsy. It is a goal for Sophie to be able to keep selling her bracelets to help people who use fidget/stimming toys.
Sophie is a firm believer in being able to have multiple paths in life. Rather than feeling like you have to pick between your different interests, Sophie believes that we all should try combining our interests and reap the benefits of both things.
“The world always tells us only to focus on one thing and maybe have a hobby, and for the first time this is a message telling people that they can do both,” she says.