Allison Lyle, fourth year student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and columnist here at in-Training, shares about her journey through medical school and what is coming next:
Tell us about yourself:
Allison Lyle: I come from a small town in southern Indiana near Louisville, Kentucky. I have wanted to be a pediatrician since I was 14. My undergrad degree was in Biochemistry and Honors Research from Indiana University. I then earned a Masters in Bioethics and Medical Humanities from the University of Louisville. After that, I got married, traveled and worked for two years in medical research at the Indiana University School of Medicine before coming back home to Louisville for medical school. My husband and I started a family in medical school, and our daughter is now almost three years old. We love hiking in the national parks and trying to visit all 50 states.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
AL: Be more confident! I applied to medical school four times before I was finally accepted, and all of those previous rejections damaged my confidence. I definitely suffered from Imposter Syndrome! I worried that because of my history, I would always be struggling to keep up with my classmates. Then, in first year, I was pregnant with my daughter and I felt like everyone would perceive me as being undedicated to medicine. It was a challenge, but I wouldn’t have done things any differently … other than being more confident.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
AL: Start UWorld and First Aid early! I held off until spring semester of second year to really delve into both of them and I think it was a mistake not to start earlier, as early as first semester. What worked best for me during my dedicated study block was to stick to a schedule and not worry about how anyone else was studying. Doctors in Training (DIT) worked wonders for me, but I also used UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
AL: So much advice! First and foremost, have fun! The clinical years were much more fun than the didactic years. Start studying for the shelf early, be a good team player and spend as much time as possible with your patients. And remember to smile!
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
AL: Find your outlet and stick to it. Running, yoga, meditation, time with family, whatever it is, do it and stick to it. There IS time. Even if it feels like there is not.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
AL: I knew that medical school would be challenging, but I never imagined I would be a medical student and a wife and mother all at the same time. Medical school itself is not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but being a mother and being in medical school definitely is. I never thought I’d be this sleep deprived and stressed yet this HAPPY. I never imagined that I would have such close friends and mentors that are so brilliant, so caring, who are just amazing human beings.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
AL: Having interests and being passionate about something. I hold a Masters in Bioethics, so outside of my studies and rotations I have taken an interest in perinatal ethics and communication with parents and I let that shine in my interviews. Nearly every program asked me about it.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
AL: I love kids! I’m a mom so I have lots of experience with kids already and I liked connecting with parents and being able to say that I had been there, too. Then, my very first patient on pediatrics was a one-year-old who wanted me to hold her and play, and I was hooked. Kids are the best!
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
AL: That I don’t know everything and will hurt someone — but that is why there is supervision!
What advice would you give third year students about to start the Match process?
AL: Use your resources! My home program’s Program Director was amazing about helping me in the selection process and how and where to apply. My advisor was also a wealth of knowledge and expertise in helping me with deciding if/when/how to cancel interviews. Start writing your personal statement early and have lots of eyes read over it. Go on a mock interview and prepare with standard interview questions so that the words don’t sound weird coming out of your mouth the first time—you don’t want to sound rehearsed, but you do want to sound confident in your answers. Pick one or two things that you want the program to know about you before you leave and find a way to work that into your answers to interview questions. Go with your gut when it comes to ranking.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
AL: Before medical school, I loved to cook and bake. I always joked that if medical school didn’t work out, I was going to open a bakery. I don’t do nearly as much cooking now, but when I do, this is one of my favorite things to make!
Ingredients: Two chicken breasts, cooked and cubed; ½ box thin spaghetti; 2 (10 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup (cream of chicken soup works well too); 2 cups of shredded cheese; 1 can Rotel tomatoes (mild is good but hot is great!); 1 cup milk
Directions: Cook pasta until almost al dente; turn off heat and drain, leaving a small amount of water in the pot. Add all other ingredients, stirring sparingly. Serve with garlic bread.