Jason Petitjean, who recently matched into internal medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical School, is with us today to share some humorous insight on medical school, hobbies and a “recipe” for the tougher weeks.
Tell us about yourself:
I am currently a fourth-year medical student at LSU Health Shreveport. Before I was a medical student, I lived in Lafayette, Louisiana. I studied kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but my primary passion during my undergraduate years was the arts. I drew a lot of pictures and made digital paintings. I also performed for many years, mostly through my improv theater troupe. I also dabbled in plays, musicals and stand-up comedy. I even played my drum set weekly at a local jazz jam. I don’t have much time or many opportunities to perform nowadays, so I just practice drums, draw and write when I need a break from medical school.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
Pathology is not a good career option for you. And stop surfing Twitter during lectures.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
Make a study schedule that would allow you to take a day-long break or two if you need. Becoming frustrated with the material is inevitable and the best way to deal with your frustrations is to relax. Revisit the material tomorrow with a rested brain. I also recommend having a playlist that drowns out your surroundings but isn’t distracting.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
Be confident during rounds, even if you are distressingly wrong. No one will care that you are wrong, but they will care that you are willing to participate. You should also make a habit of learning the names of the nurses on your floor.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
Have outlets that aren’t related to medicine. If you are feeling burnt-out, watch an episode or two of your favorite show. Read an easy book. Throw a baseball with your child or play catch with your dog. Write a poem, even if you aren’t any good at it. Meet with a friend who will let you vent about all the problems they wouldn’t understand. Do anything. Just make sure that medicine isn’t the only thing in your life.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
My clerkship year felt more rewarding than I anticipated. I was not expecting our residents and attending physicians to let us play such vital roles in patient care. I participated in plan formulations, obtained histories, helped with procedures, etc. I assumed we would simply shadow without ever touching a patient.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
Interviewers asked a lot of questions about my hobbies, so I suppose being a well-rounded person was a selling point. I also think my time as the president of my school’s Internal Medicine Interest Group might have been important. The most important factor, however, was the fact that my fiancée was already an intern at UAMS. I groveled and begged and pleaded with the residency director to hire me lest I slowly slide into an emotional hellscape. In hindsight, a pitiful display of desperation is an effective tool on the interview trail.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
I enjoy unironically talking about individual patients for 30 minutes at a time. Talking is how I learn. I also enjoy the amount of time spent with patients on both inpatient and outpatient services.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
I am afraid of how little free time I will have. If I don’t have enough free time, I am afraid I won’t be able to care for myself or my relationships to the degree I would want. However, I think I will survive if I have a supportive enough team and if I plan my free time carefully.
What advice would you give third-year students about to start the Match process?
Finish assembling your curriculum vitae and personal statement as soon as possible. Have someone review and edit both now. Ask fourth-year students for advice specific to your intended specialty.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
The Taco Bell $5 box!
Prep time: distressingly nonexistent on Taco Bell’s part
1 Taco Bell
2 functioning vocal cords
1 credit card
Use the one car to drive to the one Taco Bell. Pull the car through the drive-thru and stop when you see a menu and a speaker. You should hear a voice emanate from the speaker. When you hear the voice, use your 2 functioning vocal cords to tell the voice that you want to use your 1 credit card to purchase a Taco Bell $5 box. The voice will tell you to drive to the window. Obey the voice. When you reach the window, a Taco Bell employee will open said window and ask for the 1 credit card. Hand the 1 credit card to the employee and wait 30 seconds. The employee should hand back the 1 credit card followed promptly by the Taco Bell $5 box! Thank the Taco Bell employee then use your 1 car to drive yourself home where you can finally eat your feelings. Garnish with tears.