Today’s Match Day Spotlight is brought to you by a familiar face here at in-Training. Brent has been a part of the team throughout his time in medical school. He has matched into psychiatry at Wright State University and joins us here to share about The Match, the decision to pursue psychiatry and more.
Tell us about yourself:
For one of the last times, I can introduce myself as a medical student — a fourth-year from Dayton, Ohio. I’m married, and we have a one-year-old son. He was born during my third year, and becoming a parent during medical school has been both challenging and rewarding. We love getting out and exploring, whether it’s playing in a park, riding bikes, finding a new local restaurant or my personal favorite: good coffee. When I’m not on rotations or spending time with my family, I enjoy reading, writing and exercising.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
I don’t know if I have any mind-blowing advice — and maybe that’s the point. I would say what others may have said to me, which is that the experience will be what you make it. You don’t have to follow the mold or what’s typical, but can find both time and support to pursue your own dreams and goals in addition to the prescribed curriculum. In fact, pursuing those things is probably the only way to make it through. I also would echo the sentiments of some of my best professors: You have a unique perspective and voice as a medical student, so don’t let others try to silence that or put out the spark.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
On the other side of these tests, it’s clear how little importance they hold for becoming a doctor. We know this intuitively, and anyone past the test will say so. But I also recognize how futile it is to say that when you haven’t yet taken them, and how important they are for certain career aspirations. So my advice is to take them seriously — as if you wouldn’t — but remember that you are not defined by your score or performance on this test or any other. Separate your self-worth from your academic performance, and I think you’ll have a more satisfying career and life. I know how hard it is to do that, but I’m working on it because I think it puts everything in perspective.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
Again, remember that you are important as a medical student — not as a future doctor. You are there to do a blend of patient care and learning, and you should speak up if you’re not getting enough of one or the other. You can make a difference for patients now, and the way you spend your hours now matters; it’s not just a hurdle to jump over. There will be times when everything feels awful; find solace in your classmates who understand and your friends outside of medicine, even if they don’t. I found that when I started to despair, talking to patients helped remind me of what really matters.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
Find moments that belong to you — outside the hospitals and clinics when you can, but even during work hours you might be surprised what you can manage for yourself. This might mean pursuing an aspect of patient care that you love or looking into a question that fascinates you, or it might just mean taking a few minutes to get yourself a coffee and a snack. No one can give of themselves endlessly without breaks or boundaries. This may be a personal bias, too, but read something besides a textbook every now and then — there is a wealth of beautiful clinical writing that may refresh your love for medicine and even more that’s non-clinical to remind you about the broader human experience.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
It’s hard to say now what I even was expecting. Medicine has always been for me one of several possible paths, and it’s offered me truly amazing opportunities to learn and think and read and write about health, illness and people. If anything, I thought I might know more by the end, but I realize now that residency is where much of the hands-on learning happens. Also, I’m sure that the imposter syndrome stays around for a while, so even now I probably underestimate my own knowledge and abilities.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
All my interviews focused on my writing and editing, which are not necessarily unique but are also not usually pursued to the degree that I have. I also got a lot of comments on my personal statement, probably because I spent hours crafting, editing, rewriting and revising it. I knew that if I was going to list writing and editing as hobbies and jobs the personal statement would be scrutinized, and I think that paid off. I got a lot of questions about what I plan to do with those interests moving forward, and I answered as honestly as I could: I don’t really know, but I’m excited to keep trying new things.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
Psychiatry won me over slowly, but now looking back it’s becoming difficult to imagine myself doing anything else. I was initially attracted to the enthusiasm and joy the psychiatry faculty exhibited, in addition to the lifestyle benefits. Later, I became interested in the pathologies and opportunities for listening to and really helping patients. Finally, I was attracted to the specialty because when I talked to residents and attendings, it felt like where I belonged. I love the opportunity to help patients that no one else is able to help, to manage problems that other specialties don’t have the time to manage and to improve health just by listening, sometimes. It’s also a field that meshes well with writing, which was important to me.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
Like everyone, I think, fears of inadequacy — will I make a good doctor and a good psychiatrist? Secondary to that, I fear about losing myself, not having or not making the time for friends, family and pursuing my hobbies and interests.
What advice would you give third-year students about to start the Match process?
Talk to current residents at your home program — they will have the best and most recent pulse on the application, interview and Match process and can be a really helpful resource. Use your friends and colleagues in school, too, to make sure your application is correctly submitted. Beyond the logistical basics, just try to enjoy it; I know it’s stressful and exhausting, but it can also be a good time for reflection.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
I love making breakfast food — no recipe required! Scrambled eggs with onions and peppers, bacon and toast are really easy and always delicious.