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My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Whitney Jackson, MD (ACP Associate Member)

Dr. Whitney Jackson was featured in ACP’s multimedia profile Match Day 2009 at Jefferson Medical College. This profile serves as a follow up on Dr. Jackson’s first two years of residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Dr. Whitney Jackson’s journey to her residency in internal medicine at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital began in Canada. She was born in the province of Manitoba and moved to New Jersey at the age of three. However, her Canadian roots factored into the decision to return to Canada for university because of her familial connection to the country. She chose McGill University in Montreal because of the “European and metropolitan” feeling of the campus. Always interested in studying science, McGill was well respected for its science program; the university was a perfect fit. .

Whitney Jackson, MD
Dr. Jackson (left) and her sisters.

She began pursuing her interest in science by working in a lab during college as well as volunteering to spend time with patients with epilepsy at the Montreal Neurological Hospital. Volunteering at the hospital sparked her interest in a career in medicine but at the time, the idea of becoming a physician was a difficult concept to grasp since she did not have any family members or close friends in the medical field.

After college, Dr. Jackson worked in the same lab where she interned in college. She formed a close relationship with her neighbor, and a radiologist, Dr. Joseph Tsai, who became an important mentor for her and encouraged her to take the plunge and apply to medical school. Dr. Tsai, gave her the advice: “If you have ever thought about going into medicine, it is a field that you will never regret being part of. As a physician, you will be able to help your family and so many people around you.”

Later, she realized that going to medical school had always been in the back of her mind, but she just needed the extra push to start applying to schools. Taking her neighbor’s advice, Dr. Jackson applied to medical school and was accepted into Jefferson Medical College. Although Jefferson is considered a larger medical school with an incoming class of around 250 students, Dr. Jackson found that she got to know her classmates very well and they formed a support system for one another. “Medical school is extremely challenging in the sense that you are studying all of the time, but you are also in this amazingly supportive environment”.

She enjoyed her third and fourth year clinical rotations and felt the hands-on experience provided a completely different way of learning from the first two years of medical school in which students learn primarily from lectures and text books. During this time, Dr. Jackson realized that what she enjoyed most about medical school was her interaction with patients. She felt that as a third-year medical student she was given a lot of independence in her internal medicine clinical rotation and found that the situations in which she worked independently with patients were the experiences she valued the most. “I chose to go into internal medicine because I knew I liked working with adults. I really loved the thought process of internal medicine and going through different diagnoses to figure out what is going on with the patient.”

Because of her positive experience in medical school, she wanted to stay at Jefferson for her residency and was ecstatic on Match Day 2009 when she matched at Jefferson. She had many role models and mentors among the faculty and attending physicians at Jefferson that influenced her decision to stay. “I found myself wanting to be similar to the attending physicians, especially in the way that they interacted with their patients.”

As a first-year resident, Dr. Jackson has faced many challenges. One of the most difficult parts of her intern year was the experience of working in the intensive care unit and “night float,” which is the hospital shift from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., an experience which many incoming residents fear the most about residency. “The concept of being alone with a patient at night and realizing that you are going to be the person who assesses the patient’s health and develops a treatment plan for the patient is an intimidating experience. But, if you take ownership and responsibility for your patient, there is a lot less room for error and nervousness.”

Dr. Jackson’s day-to-day schedule is dependent on her rotation. When on the wards, an average day starts by seeing, examining, and evaluating all her existing patients and writing notes on each as a record for other consultants and staff. After this, she makes teaching rounds with her team and updates the plan of care for each patient. She attends morning report from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where an attending physician will give a lecture to the residents or help with board review questions. Her afternoons, depending on her rotation schedule, consist of admitting new patients, educating and discharging existing ones, and when able, teaching medical students that are rotating through on the service. At the end of the day, she signs out care to the night float team to ensure that all the patients in the hospital receive the appropriate treatment overnight.

Reflecting back on her first year of residency, Dr. Jackson was surprised by how much she has matured professionally. “One of the greatest surprises in residency is the idea that you can gain so much experience and knowledge that you did not think was even possible. In medical school, I could never have seen myself taking care of patients on my own. It is shocking to see how much you grow, how independent you become, and how much you learn to trust your instincts in patient care.”

Dr. Jackson loves the unpredictability of her daily life in residency and enjoys the fact that every day when she walks into the hospital she does not know what she will face, but always knows it will be an exciting day.

After residency, Dr. Jackson will complete a three year fellowship program in gastroenterology at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Back to July 2011 Issue of IMpact

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