Do you dream of a career as a doctor? Growing up I never did.
I knew I wanted to help people, and I come from a family with many doctors, but I decided I did not want to be a doctor. Instead, I earned my teaching certification and taught high school for a couple of years before going back to medical school. I didn’t really make the decision to go to med school until after I was out in the “real world.” Fortunately, even though I wasn’t in a pre-med program as an undergraduate, I had completed all of the pre-med requirements.
Once I knew exactly what I wanted, I studied like crazy, took my MCATs, and applied to the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The dean of admission told me that research experience would make me a better applicant, so as someone who is passionate about adolescent health care, I took a chance and asked at the department of adolescent medicine if I could volunteer as a research assistant. They agreed, and after about a month they hired me in a paid position!
While studying medicine, I quickly found out there was an overwhelming amount of information to learn. It’s important to identify your own best study habits. I had a great study partner. We’d draw out the connections of the arteries over and over again until we could replicate them all from memory.
I did my residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Residency can be challenging on many levels. The hours interfere with your personal time and your first night on call can be terrifying as you accept the responsibility for other peoples’ well-being. Becoming a doctor is a lot of hard work and requires serious perseverance, but if you love what you’re doing, it’s worth every bit.
After finishing my residency, I joined a private practice in Ludlow, Massachusetts. Then my husband was offered his dream job in Westerly, Rhode Island, and I decided to open my own practice there. I worked as a part-time solo practitioner, sharing coverage with a small number of other pediatricians and family doctors. Unfortunately, as nice as it was to be my own boss, financially it was difficult.
When I was in medical school, we didn’t learn much about the business side of medicine. In residency they tried to prepare us for the frustrations ahead, but in order to run a medical practice, you either need to know both accounting and law and have a lot of spare time on your hands, or you need to have really good people that you trust on your team.
When my third child was born, practicing solo was no longer feasible. Luckily, there was a great pediatric practice close by in need of a part-timer. They welcomed me (and my patients).
Doctors who choose pediatrics can truly make a difference in our world, and I feel privileged to be counted among them. I treat many sick kids each week, but the heart and soul of pediatric care is helping parents take their newborn babies and raise them into healthy, happy, productive young adults.
In pediatrics the child is the patient, but most of the care is delivered via the parents and other family members. It is especially important for pediatricians to remember to communicate clearly at both the child’s and the adults’ levels.
If you think you have the skills to do this job, consider pediatrics as a specialty. I do it because I love the kids, I love the challenges of medicine, and I love knowing that what I do can make peoples’ lives better! Can you think of a better way to choose a career?