Medical Student Perspective: Why & How I Chose Internal Medicine
We all go into medicine because we want to help people. In the midst of my residency interviews, I was able to delve deeper and reflect on this chosen career path and really understand why and how I have chosen internal medicine. I want to provide this as a guide to students who have not yet decided on a specialty.
1. Keep an open mind.
The best advice I received was to treat every rotation as if it were the specialty you were going to do. Only when you see yourself in that role will you truly be able to determine if it is right for you. I was devastated because I heard you should do the rotation you are considering as your career path somewhere in the middle, but I had pediatrics as my first rotation and internal medicine at the end. Feeling defeated before I even started my third year, I heeded the advice and put my energy into fulfilling the role of a future pediatrician. As the year went on, I started to see that although I enjoyed all of the patient encounters and procedures, I did not feel like myself with the gloves of a gynecologist, or the struggles of a psychiatrist.
2. Listen to yourself.
As I sat in the emergency room at 2 a.m. on a slow weekday, I asked my attending if he could see me as an emergency room doctor. I pleaded that I was quick on my feet, good with procedures, and a good communicator. His answer stuck with me, "Listen to yourself." He told me that I would be a great doctor whatever field I choose, but I would have to do what feels right to me and not react to external pressures. Armed with this advice etched into my brain, I continued the second half of my third year trying to explore what I truly liked and did not like about each branch of medicine. Once I started listening honestly to myself, I began to understand what I did and did not like. I like procedures but not the operating room; I like clinic but not dealing with children and their parents at the same time.
3. You deserve it.
After completing my internal medicine and surgery rotations, I discovered that I preferred internal medicine. On my internal medicine rotations I had world-class attendings and inspiring residents who served as mentors in the field and showed me how to become a master clinician. In the early months of my 4th year was participating in an elective rotation at an outside hospital, and I had the opportunity to work with a gastroenterologist, who gave me excellent advice about my medical training. I felt comfortable talking with him about my career plans, and asked him about where I should apply for residency and how I should navigate the seas of ERAS. He told me that I deserve to be picky. He reminded me how many years I had been in school, how many hours I had spent reading, in the anatomy lab, discussing cases. His advice to me was that I deserve the best and should not settle for anything less, and that happiness is not underrated. Going to the best program in the world is only worth it if it gives you the happiness you deserve.
At the end of it all, I went into medicine because I like helping people. Along the way I have discovered aspects of medicine that I value the most, including educating my patients, serving as their advocate, and providing them the tools to be successful in caring for their own health. Internal medicine allows me to continue to study all of these branches of medicine, while providing me another opportunity to experience different specialties.
Some people may tell you, go into internal medicine—you can delay your decisions about what to be when you grow up. Although this may be true for some, as I stand at the helm of entering this field one thing is for sure: once you decide to become an internist you are dedicating your life to becoming a clinician. Your heart and soul belong to unearthing diagnoses and treating patients with humility. Whatever comes after is just icing on the cake.