Well ladies and gents, it is that time of year again. The temperatures are getting cooler, the leaves are falling off the trees, and for thousands of fourth-year medical students, myself included, it is residency application and interview season.
Fourth year year is a special time for all medical students. It means we are but mere months from achieving those oh-so-special added letters at the end of our names. It means no longer introducing yourself as a student doctor, but rather as an actual doctor. It also means choosing and applying to the medical specialty you so desire.
For me, I have chosen to go into family medicine. Now that I am officially out on the interview trail, one question that comes up time and time again is why I have chosen to go into family medicine. I’ve thought about the reasons for quite awhile, but until the time for interviews, I had never really verbalized it, or as is the case here, put my thoughts on paper—or the Internet, as it were.
For me, my journey into family medicine may have started when I was seven years old. No, that wasn’t when I started medical school, although it certainly feels like I’ve been in school that long sometimes. That was the year my father passed away from a terminal illness. Since my mom had to work to help support the family while my dad was sick, I served as the primary caregiver for my ailing father. I remember feeling some degree of guilt when he passed, and it wasn’t until I talked to my family doctor that I really began to get over that feeling and move on with my life and, eventually, get into medical school.Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t have that relationship with my primary care provider?. Those sorts of lasting impacts and relationships are a chief reason I have decided to go into family medicine, but they are not the only reasons and certainly exist in other specialties.
Recently, I was chatting with a classmate at another classmate’s daughter’s second birthday party (try saying that five times fast). We were all catching up on who was going into what and how many interviews we’d been on and what our thoughts were on different places. When I said I was going into family medicine. this classmate said, “You know, I used to think family medicine was just for guys who couldn’t cut it elsewhere. Then I did my family medicine and holy moly do you guys have to know a lot. It is astounding.”
This leads me to reason two: family medicine is a very broad field where knowing a lot about a lot is not only encouraged, but necessary. I’ve always been a pretty inquisitive kind of guy. I like to know things. It is why I was on the Knowledge Bowl team in high school (nerd humble brag). It’s also a large reason why I really like family medicine. Cardiology? Check, gotta know about that. Endocrinology? Oh yeah, better know about that. Obstetrics? You bet. Pediatrics? Uh huh. Psychiatry? Good Lord yes. Family medicine is a perfect fit for me because I have really diverse interests and have a strong desire to know tons of information about a ton of subjects.
Having to know so much information also leads me to my third big reason for going into family medicine. There is tons of flexibility in what you can do once you’re done with your residency. I’ve interviewed at programs where residents go on to do so many things! Some are working in ERs, some are staffing urgent care clinics, some are in private practice, some are hospitalists, and others have gone on to do fellowships in fields like sports medicine, advanced obstetrical practice, and even behavioral medicine.
For me, I’m not 100% sure on whether I’m an outpatient medicine person or an inpatient medicine person, or what I want my practice to look like once I’m actually out and practicing. The good news for me, and maybe for others who are reading this, is I don’t have to decide right now. I’m going to get enough exposure to both during my residency that I can make those decisions when the time comes. That kind of flexibility is really neat and exciting when thinking about the future.
Two other reasons I’ve decided on family medicine I am grouping together because they’re really related in my eyes. Family medicine, in general and in this ever-changing medical climate we find ourselves in, is a really big need. Not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a shortage of physicians in this country, especially primary care physicians. Choosing a specialty that is a fit for my personality and happens to be a huge need is a really rewarding proposition. The other reason is that you can be a family physician anywhere. You’re not restricted by the need for large academic centers or large metropolitan areas to achieve a patient base. I like that I could conceivably go anywhere I wanted and practice the medicine I want to practice.
If you’re still reading by this point, you can see that I’m really excited about family medicine and why I am going into it. My hope with this article is that maybe one or two of you will read this and have a revelation. Perhaps family medicine is for you, too!