“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to go into family medicine.”
“But your board scores are too good for that!” “You’ll never pay off your loans that way.” “You should do internal medicine, instead.” “Oh really? But you’re so smart.” “You want to deal with blood pressure all day?”
“…Why would you want to do that?”
The better question is, “Why would I choose anything else?”
Throughout medical school and especially during our clinical rotations, students are often told to keep an open mind about choosing a specialty. This is sound advice, especially since many people change their minds once they are exposed to other fields. However, that does not mean that all specialties are perceived as equal — even in a primary-care focused medical school, third-year medical students often run into prejudice against FM. Worse, they may run into stereotypes about family med which could be enough to sway them away from the specialty they would really love.
While auditioning, and on the interview trail, we’ve met a surprising number of residents who switched from general surgery or obstetrics to family medicine. They often had an interest in FM and got an earful of unfavorable stereotypes about the specialty … then trusted their mentors over their gut. We’re here to say you should trust your gut and go for what you love — and we want to tell you why.
My interest in family medicine first started when I began volunteering as a patient advocate and medical interpreter at a free primary care clinic in Sacramento, CA. I loved the variety and the continuity of care found in family medicine, as well as the opportunities to get involved with community outreach in order to promote preventive health. What I valued most, however, was getting to know and build a relationship with not just our patients, but also their families. This helped us to provide them with better care and to find them the resources that they needed.
I took a wayward path to medicine, and came into school leaning toward pediatrics. While I love kids, I couldn’t be happy spending every visit ignoring the health of their parents. During third year I loved prenatal visits and deliveries, but could do without the OR and C-sections. Psychiatry was interesting, emergency medicine was amazing, surgery was not my cup of tea. Internal medicine lost my two favorite groups, and made it clear I have a passion for women’s health and pediatrics. Most of all, I love the variety of procedures and the array of practice options I’ll have after residency.
Still having doubts? Let us convince you.
Family medicine is true generalist medicine, requiring knowledge that runs across all ages. For many, it is the chance to do both pediatrics and obstetrics that puts it above the other specialties; for others, it’s the wild range of opportunities in areas like urgent care, emergency, dermatology, sports medicine, adolescent medicine and palliative care. Practice options after residency run the gamut, from in-patient hospitalist to rural full spectrum or urban direct primary care. One of the other perks is that residency training exposes you to many fields within the specialty, allowing FM docs to modify and grow without requiring a fellowship.
If you get bored after two weeks on every rotation, then FM is probably the choice for you. If you love kids, but spent your peds month frustrated by having to ignore the parents’ health issues, FM is for you. If women’s health and labor & delivery are awesome, but you could give a fig about being in the OR, then FM is for you. If your passion is split between geriatrics and psychiatry, if you love rural community emergency medicine, urgent care, palliative medicine, etc … you may sense a recurring theme here.
In closing, we want to encourage you to pursue your passion. Family medicine is a great specialty, attracting people of all kinds, who want to enjoy being a doctor every day. We’re excited, nervous and thrilled as we await The Match, and look forward to you joining us in our future residencies. Choose awesome, choose family medicine!
About FM Student
Last year we realized there were no readily available resources for family medicine-focused medical students, and decided to fill that void by creating FM Student. Our website is written with third-year medical students in mind, and our hope is to provide a free, open-access guide to the clinical years of medical school, and encourage students to pursue residency in FM.
We cover a multitude of different topics, including:
- How to study for shelf exams/boards
- Tips for success in clerkships
- Advice on setting up away/audition rotations
- Preparing your application for residency
- Book reviews
- Student health & wellness
We’re just a couple of fourth years, looking to share information and make it a little easier on those following in our footsteps; which is why FM Student is currently looking for more writers! If you’re a third or fourth-year medical student with a passion for family medicine, we’d love to have you join our team and share your stories, insight and knowledge. Whether you want to write once a year or once a week, we’re open to everyone who wants to contribute to our little project. Interested? Apply now.