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. Don’t forget to read our article on interviewing virtually this season.
What’s your elevator pitch?
I’m a 29 year old first-generation student who grew up on a turkey farm and am now on my way to Family Medicine residency in Rochester, NY! I love concerts, podcasts, reading, baking/cooking, and spending time with my husband, family/friends, and my rescue beagle Clarence.
Why Family Medicine?
I had an inkling pretty early on in medical school that I would end up in Family Medicine. Being first in my family to go to college and medical school meant I had no idea how specialties worked; I thought you chose between doctor and surgeon! I went to every intro panel the first couple of weeks of medical school to learn the difference between all the specialties.
Having worked for a crisis nursery prior to medical school, I had a vision that my work as a doctor would be taking care of mothers and children together. One of my now mentors spoke on the Family Medicine panel and shared she had been told “you have to pick mothers (Ob/Gyn) or children (Peds)-you can’t do both.” Once she found FM she knew this wasn’t the case. It was like hearing someone speak my own vision!
It took going through 3rd year to really “try out” all the specialties – I ended up even liking surgery which was a surprise to me, but I was totally committed to FM by the end of my 3rd year. Also, liking every clerkship is a good sign that FM is a good fit for you!
Were you advised against FM?
Not directly, but I have definitely experienced the vibe that primary care/family medicine isn’t “specialized enough,” isn’t fitting for those interested in academic medicine, isn’t for hardworking or smart students…..there are stereotypes and misconceptions about every specialty and it is unfortunate that many still don’t appreciate the work that FM trained docs do. I am grateful I became involved with the FM community locally through mentors, our FMIG group, and the PAFP/AAFP to see what FM really is all about.
What would you say to medical students still trying to choose between FM and another path?
At the heart of FM, to me, is the desire to address social justice issues. FM is a broad field, but as Dr. Anita Ravi shared at AAFP Conference two years ago, we specialize in “community health.” I think many people get the advice to choose medicine vs surgery or to choose a specialty based on a desired lifestyle.
I think it makes more sense to choose a specialty based on your values system and the type of patients you want to be able to treat. I wanted to be able to treat mothers and children, families really, all together, and to have the training to take care of any patient from any background in any setting. Family Medicine is really the only field that can prepare you to do that!
How did you narrow down programs to apply to?
I started with a regional focus as I wanted to live within driving distance of either my family or my husband’s family. There are so many FM programs across the country so it is important to try to have some sort of focus- whether it be region, special programs, or patient population.
From there, I researched programs with strong obstetrics, reproductive health, and substance use disorder treatment training. I also wanted a program that had a community focus but in an academic setting, which is actually more common than you would think!
Talking to residents at the AAFP conference as well as reading programs’ mission statements on their websites were the two most helpful ways I found to narrow down my program list.
Did anything complicate your interview process?
There were a few bad snowstorms, and my husband wasn’t able to get the time off to visit most of the programs with me-but we made it work! Nothing compared to the complications this upcoming class may face.
How many programs did you apply to? How many interviews did you have and did you rank them all?
Applied to 15, interviewed at 12, and ranked 10.
You recently mentioned writing a research paper on MCH, is this a passion of yours or something you have new-found respect for?
Absolutely! I was able to enroll in a “pandemic elective” that my school put together very quickly in response to COVID. It was a great course and super interesting to learn about COVID-19 in real time. We were allowed to choose our final research paper topic, and I was really interested in learning more about how hospital policies in response to the pandemic were affecting labor and delivery settings in addition to well-child care.
Are you considering future training (beyond residency) or considering a fellowship?
Yes! I’m strongly leaning towards a maternal-child health/obstetrics fellowship but am also considering addiction fellowship and/or a medical education fellowship.
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!
My dream job five years post-residency would be: splitting my time between a community-based clinic (where I take care of women in all life stages including pregnancy and their children, with a special focus on families affected by substance use disorder) and precepting medical students and residents and teaching lectures/doing health policy work on the local and state level.
How has COVID-19 affected your medical school experience, graduation and moving for residency plans?
Our Match Day and Graduation ceremonies were cancelled and will be taking place online instead of in-person. My friends and I have been keeping in touch on the phone, FaceTime, and Zoom much more. I will be moving earlier than planned for residency so I can quarantine two weeks before orientation. I think I’m speaking for many classmates when I say I am grieving the loss of my fourth year celebrations, but also very grateful for the way technology allows me to stay connected to my family and friends, and that I have the time to serve the community that has served me the past seven years through our 412Med initiatives. It is an honor and privilege to be joining the medical field at this time!
What is 412med?
412Med is a group of classmates who I have been working closely with since our rotations were suspended in mid-March to meet community needs during the pandemic. What started as a conversation between my classmate and his research mentor about how clinics and hospitals in our area may need back-up staff has snowballed into a school-wide community advocacy and service initiative with over 200 students signed up to receive volunteer requests.
We focus on meeting the needs identified by our community’s healthcare workers and organizations as most urgent: childcare, food insecurity, access to medication, and educational resources. While I have grieved the loss of my last few months of medical school, working alongside my classmates and friends on this initiative has been one of the most gratifying experiences of all of medical school.