I guess you could call me a late bloomer. I certainly wasn’t one of those people who had known since receiving their Fisher Price doctor bag at age five that they would one day grow up to be a pediatrician. And when I started medical school four years ago, I still didn’t have the slightest clue what type of physician I would ultimately become.
In making my third year schedule, I became acutely aware of the ticking clock pushing me toward choosing a specialty, like, yesterday. So, I scheduled the few specialties I had ruled out toward the end of the year (pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine) so that I could “try out” those I was still considering. Thus, by December of my third year I had settled on internal medicine, not because I truly wanted to be an internal medicine doctor or hospitalist, but because the wide variety of fellowships available essentially left the most options open. Basically, I decided to choose the specialty that allowed me more time to figure out my future.
I disinterestedly set up away rotations in inpatient internal medicine and gastroenterology, and continued with the required clerkships. Toward the end of the year, I began my obstetrics and gynecology rotation with a certain amount of apprehension that I attributed to my own fear of childbirth (tokophobia, in medical terms). That first day, my attending asked what I planned to go into and why, and when I gave her my intentions and dispassionate reasoning, her reply stopped me: “you just haven’t found it yet.” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the low-grade panic which surfaced as a result. However, over the next few weeks I came to realize exactly what had been missing: that feeling that this was where I belonged.
Beyond the intangible feelings, some of the logical reasons I chose to upend my fourth year schedule in a mad dash to gather the letters and necessary experience to legitimize my application to OB/GYN residencies:
The patient demographics. For the most part, obstetrics patients are relatively young, healthy and have happier outcomes compared with internal medicine patients. While there is an aspect of primary care that I am grateful for, much of the practice of obstetrics and gynecology deals with conditions that are short-lived, in the case of pregnancy, or curable, like in the case of prolapse repair.
The surgical aspect. Surprisingly, because I could never see myself being a full-time surgeon, I actually enjoyed the OR time on my OB/GYN rotation. The procedures performed by generalists tend to be relatively quick and simple by surgery standards, and often make a huge difference in the patient’s quality of life.
The day-to-day variation. One day a surgeon, the next following patients in the clinic, always with some deliveries thrown in–this constant shifting of activity curtailed that feeling of monotony which came up on some of my rotations.
I could extend this list quite a bit, but that covers the heart of it. Third year taught me a lot about myself, and I feel so lucky to have ultimately found the specialty which fit my personality to a T. I don’t necessarily recommend keeping an open mind, because I don’t know if I would have been as certain about my decision if I hadn’t been initially so resistant to it. My only advice is to wait for that feeling.
Editor’s note: Dr. Nicole Nametz, MD matched into the Kaiser Permanente Obstetrics and Gynecology Program in Los Angeles, CA.