Ryan Pate, who recently matched into psychiatry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, shares about medical school expectations, the interview trail and more.
Tell us about yourself:
I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, with three siblings, and attended college at Louisiana Tech University in the same town. After finishing college I went to graduate school at Mississippi College. I started medical school the year after at LSUHSC-Shreveport where my dad and uncle also attended medical school. I’ve always been a huge fan of the outdoors and camping, which is always an awesome bonding experience with my sister and two brothers.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
Don’t stress about not knowing what you want to do, and don’t try to pick a specialty because you won’t know until third year. Also, don’t say that there’s something you aren’t going to do, because you may say that and then end up going into that specialty (exactly what happened to me).
What tips do you have for USMLE?
Take a deep breath, read First Aid, do lots of UWorld questions and take a couple practice tests towards the end of studying. Also, don’t listen to everyone else and psych yourself out.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
Be humble because you’re still a student and learning. Always be on time and ready to work. Act interested but don’t be over-aggressive about it. Know about your patients and their pathology. Don’t become frustrated with a difficult patient because there is most likely a good reason why they are challenging, be it their social situation or something else.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
Get a dog or find/continue a hobby you enjoy. I got my Boston Terrier second year, and he definitely was a major stress reducer. Plus, it is fun to take him on walks because he is always in a good mood. Coming into medical school, I always enjoyed music, so I always had Spotify playing while I was not in an intense study session. Basically, find something you love and makes you happy and keep doing it.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
I thought it would be an intense environment and it would be difficult to make friends. That was only partly true. I’ve met some of my closest friends in medical school that I will always love and cherish. This also was a crucial part of me remaining sane. It’s nice to have people you like to spend time with that are also going through the same tribulations that you are.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
I think it was being a hard worker from day one. A lot of my letters conveyed this, and I was able to get letters from multiple specialties. Also, the diversity of clinical rotation sites I was exposed to including our academic hospital, the VA and private hospitals. Something that also came up multiple times was the ability to handle adversity, and I think my personal story is something that definitely helped me on the interview trail.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
Well, I thought I would never pursue a career in Psychiatry. After doing my first semester of third-year clerkships, I really didn’t like anything and was upset. After coming back from winter break, I rotated through Psychiatry and saw the light. I finally had that moment everyone talks about when you realize what you want to do with your life. What attracts me is the patient population, and I really enjoy working in the mental health setting. The social aspect and therapy is also intriguing to me. Another thing I love about Psychiatry is all the different subspecialties one can choose to pursue.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
Most likely the new responsibilities of being directly responsible for patient care. This, combined with increased autonomy and still being fresh as an MD, is definitely anxiety-provoking. I’ve seen some awesome interns that were in my same situation only a year ago, so I know it will all come with time.
What advice would you give third year students about to start the Match process?
Apply to anywhere you think you may want to live/train. Don’t be scared to apply and move away, unless, of course, you have extenuating circumstances. Apply to reach programs. You most likely will only go through this process once, and you don’t want to have any “what if” thoughts at the end. I really enjoyed interviewing, too. I was able to visit so many different cities from California to New Hampshire all in just three short months. The process also gives you a chance to see how your specialty is practiced in multiple different clinical settings. Finally, find a resident in your specialty and get to know them. Get them to help with your personal statement. Find an attending, and get advice on what programs to apply.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
I don’t like to cook that much, but something that got me through a tough week was to turn on Spotify and listen to some Jewel. Hands down my favorite artist. Then I’d call up my friends for dinner out and some bonding time.