This is part of a series of interviews with current PGY1s, done during May and June 2020, asking their thoughts about residency application, interviewing and Match. We hope this is helpful to the current #Match2021 applicants, despite all the differences of applying during a pandemic.
What’s your elevator pitch?
I have spent my life split between the seacoast of New Hampshire and the foothills of upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Prior to my medical training, I received my MPH degree from University of New England, researching interventions to mitigate rural food insecurity.
In medical school at New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYIT-COM), I fostered my interests in LGBTQ+ healthcare, osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), and occupational/environmental medicine. Although most of my upcoming time in residency will be spent in the hospital or clinic, you can typically find me hiking a peak, practicing knots for rock climbing, or adding to my growing pile of unfinished knitting projects.
Why Family Medicine?
I have been a family medicine advocate from the start of my medical school training. I hail from a rural area with limited access to healthcare and had been inspired early by the wide scope of local family medicine physicians had adapted to assist our community with these barriers. I pursued family medicine with aspirations that I’d be able to help fill this gap in care and providers in under-served communities like mine. Admittedly, my psychiatry rotation and underlying interest in behavioral health did offer a gentle tug in a divergent direction, but I now recognize that family medicine offers boundless opportunity to provide mental healthcare.
Were you advised against FM?
I personally did not experience any mentors recommending against family medicine. If anything, I encountered mentors, both in and outside the family medicine field, that were strong advocates for me in my pursuit of family medicine.
What would you say to medical students still trying to choose between FM and another path?
First, remember that your future career in medicine is to be a part of your life, not your entire life. Aligning with this sentiment, pay attention to the personal relationships you foster on your clinical rotations and be sure to engage with your attendings and residents. Take note of how many of them mention their families, weekend plans, and hobbies. I found that my family medicine attendings were often the ones recommending new recipes to trial, showing off pictures of their newborns, and offering impromptu lessons on bird-watching. I was refreshed hearing about their outside endeavors and longed for the same for myself.
And second, I was confounded by just how expansive family medicine’s purview was, and I want others to really understand this. I found that a single day of family medicine clinic seamlessly captured my somewhat cluttered list of interests. If you’re juggling family medicine with a few other specialties, reflect on what specifically you like about that alternate field.
Considering psychiatry because of an interest in addiction medicine? Many of the family medicine physicians with whom I worked prescribed buprenorphine and counseled a panel of patients with opioid use disorder.
Thinking about OB/GYN because you take pride in providing health maintenance to women of all ages? Family medicine offers opportunity to conduct Pap smears, discuss contraceptive options, and assist women through menopause.
What about those quick and easy outpatient procedures that made your surgery rotation so fun? Family medicine clinic is filled with shave biopsies, incision and drainages, joint injections, and even cosmetic procedures (that’s right, family medicine even has its hands in dermatology!).
How did you narrow down programs to apply to?
My family medicine residency applications focused on two factors: the opportunity to train in a rural area and location preferences my partner and I had discussed. We wanted to be relatively close to our families in New York, needed to consider job opportunities for his career in social work, and insisted on programs with easy access to the mountains for recreation.
I ended up applying to programs in the Northeast that had specified rural medicine tracks or that had residents whose biographies stated their devotion to rural and/or wilderness medicine.
Did anything complicate your interview process?
My interview process was astonishingly…easy. No complications! I was able to drive to each of my interview locations, had budgeted well for travel expenses and purchasing a new suit, and didn’t even encounter any of the Northeast’s infamous winter storms!
How many programs did you apply to? How many interviews did you have and did you rank them all?
I applied to 30 programs, received 20 interview offers, and attended eight interviews. I ranked all eight of the programs at which I interviewed and was matched to my top choice at NH-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency Program in Concord, NH.
Are you considering future training (beyond residency) or considering a fellowship?
I am considering a fellowship in either geriatrics or hospice/palliative care – but, still undecided!
You’ve expressed interest in rural healthcare, and talked about how to encourage trainees to share that interest. Tell us more about this passion.
I grew up in a rural locale where cows outnumbered people and our one stoplight sometimes isn’t functioning. I experienced firsthand the difficulties in accessing healthcare that burdens rural communities. One example of this is my own unfortunate discovery that I had an anaphylactic reaction to beestings – just one month after the nearest hospital had closed due to funding obstacles. The next closest hospital was nearly an hour away and over state lines. I am lucky to have lived through that harrowing day, but am now a firm advocate that your ability to live or die, to get care, should not depend on where you live.
My rural community offers so much to its residents and visitors – fresh cows’ milk, neighborly waves on morning runs, a sense of pride in a state football championship – now it’s time for me to give back to the communities that gave me so much.
Imagining your post-residency self are you considering academic, rural or urban practice? Full spectrum or multi-spectrum, tell us what professional life looks like in five years!
Looking into my crystal ball or, more appropriately, the metal sheen of my stethoscope bell, I see myself in an outpatient practice in a rural area. I am hoping to be practicing as a nearly full-scope family medicine physician, providing whatever services are most needed in my rural community, while still allocating a dedicated time in my schedule to practice and provide OMM to my patients. I find a lot of joy in teaching, so I’m hoping to also educate medical students either in a formal medical school environment or alongside me in the clinic.
How has COVID-19 affected your medical school experience, graduation and moving for residency plans?
I was about to start my last rotation of fourth-year when the pandemic began to intensify; it was an emergency medicine rotation that was required for my graduation. The night before my first shift, the rotation was cancelled by the host hospital due to an increase in patients suspected to have COVID-19. I was devastated and worried about its effect on my ability to graduate on time. Thankfully, NYIT-COM was able to make arrangements for me to complete my EM rotation’s learning objectives and assured me that I would graduate on time, if not earlier than expected.
After a Match Day filled with FaceTiming my medical school pals, our school offered us the ability to graduate early so that could offer assistance in New York City or in other areas hard-hit by the virus.