Learn how real students navigate their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Carly, a second-year pediatrics resident at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Carly, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Was there a particular person or experience that inspired you to go into medicine?
Carly: Yes. I am the oldest child in my family and have younger brothers who are twins. One of these twins was born breech and had a Grade 4 intraventricular hemorrhage at birth. Because of this, he now has a shunt that helps drain the fluid from his brain. He has had to have 17 shunt revisions during his life and has had to stay in the hospital for several months at a time.
Having seen him and my family experience this is what inspired me to pursue a career in medicine, particularly pediatrics. Seeing how his doctors tended to and cared for both him and my family made me realize how important that connection is and inspired me to share that with my own patients.
Looking back, what did you enjoy most about medical school?
Carly: What I enjoyed most about med school was seeing all the different aspects of medicine and interacting with all different types of physicians. Being able to rotate through a variety of specialties and work with so many different residents and attendings helped me mold the idea of the type of doctor I want to be.
Could medical schools do more to ensure graduates are prepared for residency?
Carly: I think most of what is missing from medical education is not really related to medicine at all but to other life lessons. I think it is important for medical students and residents to learn more about managing finances, contract negotiations, billing/coding, and other real world issues.
The community of physicians is so unique in that we both have some of the largest debt and are some of the highest income earners. We go from having a mindset of making no money and being completely in debt to making hundreds of thousands of dollars (while still also being in debt) in a relatively short period of time. This rapid shift in our finances can be completely overwhelming and most of us have little to no knowledge in money management because we have spent the past almost 15 years of our lives devoted to learning about science and medicine.
I have heard it said that physicians are some of the worst at managing our finances and there are many tragic stories about physicians losing everything because they have not taken the time to learn how to do this well.
I believe that this is an important piece of our lives that we should be taught about, alongside learning about the circulatory system or pharmacology. I have heard about more and more medical schools making this a part of their curriculum and am hoping that more continue to do so.
Have you always known you wanted to specialize in pediatrics?
Carly: Yes, because of the experience with my brother, I knew that if I was going to pursue a career in medicine, it was going to be in pediatrics. I have loved pediatrics from the beginning! There is a special connection with children that is so unique. The impact you have as their physician helps to steer the course of their whole lives. Plus, they are also tons of fun!
Can you share a bit about the residency application process? How many programs did you apply to, and in which specialties?
Carly: I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a pediatrician so that is the only specialty I applied to. Being a part of primary care, pediatrics is not as competitive as other specialties. I applied to about 30 different programs and interviewed at about 15.
The application process is mostly just tedious. Similar to med school, you have to remember all of your volunteer activities, research projects, awards, and other accolades in order to list them all out on the application. It is often difficult to remember the things you did a few months ago, not to mention the ones you did about 3 years ago as an M1.
I would recommend trying to keep a list of anything you participate in that you might want to mention on your application as you do them. Keep a note on your phone of what the experience was and when you did it. That way, it will be a lot easier to recall what you participated in and include it on your application.
How did residency interviews differ from med school interviews?
Carly: Residency interviews are much more laid back than med school. The programs have already reviewed your application and qualifications in order to extend you an interview in the first place. So, the interview is more about showing them your personality and how you would make a good colleague rather than proving your academic worth.
I had a few ethics-type questions, but for the most part, they just asked things that could help them learn more about me as a person. My interviewers asked questions like why I chose pediatrics, what I like to do for fun, and how I survived med school.
The programs are also trying to sell themselves in order to convince you to pick them in the Match, so for the most part, the interviews were really fun.
Once residency started, what surprised you most about your program?
Carly: I chose to stay at my home program, so I already knew a good bit about it going in. I think what surprised me the most was how much everyone was willing to help. Being familiar with the program, I knew everyone was incredibly nice and really like a family, but I was still surprised.
As a new intern, I was overwhelmed and had really no clue about how to practice as a doctor. Everyone from my fellow residents to the attendings were always going out of their way to help us adjust to this new experience.
You’ve mentioned you’re a big fan of being organized. How did staying organized help you as a resident?
Carly: I love this question! Yes, I am a super nerd and love being organized. I think what I am most proud of is how I have organized all my resources on my iPad. I have used GoodNotes to create folders for all the different aspects of pediatrics: like gen peds, emergency medicine, newborn, GI, ID, etc. Then, whenever I come across an article or receive a resource from a lecture or attending, I add it electronically to the appropriate folder. It has made it so easy to find the information I need when I am looking up a particular symptom or diagnosis by just searching in the app.
You can also highlight and annotate your notes in order to emphasize what you think is most important. It hopefully will also make board studying more manageable when it comes time for that.
It’s clear from your description that residency is an intense time. If you had a 25th hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Carly: To be honest, I would probably catch up on sleep. With working almost 80 hours every week, no one can get through residency without being sleep deprived.
You started your blog, Doctors of Tomorrow, as an undergrad. How has the blog evolved during your years as a med student and a resident?
Carly: My blog has evolved, as I have, through all of the stages of becoming a physician. I started out writing posts about how to study for undergrad premed courses, to taking the MCAT, to studying in med school, to applying to residency and being an intern. If someone really wanted to, they could go back through all my posts and see the entire almost 12-year process it takes from graduating high school to becoming a licensed, practicing doctor. My blog is almost an autobiography of this journey I have been on for many, many years.
Did you continue to blog during your internship? How have you found time for blogging as an intern and resident?
Carly: Unfortunately, I have not had as much time to blog as I would like. Life of a resident = very little personal time. However, I do have plenty of ideas in the works, it is just a matter of when I’ll be able to get to them. I am hoping to start using my Instagram (@doctorsoftomorrow) more, because I think this will be a faster and more efficient way to share information with others. Maybe even some Instagram stories in the future. 🙂
Looking ahead, what do you think you’d like to do post-residency?
Carly: I would love to get a job solely in the newborn nursery. I love the little, teeny babies! Ideally, I would love to be able to go to deliveries, take care of the healthy term babies that go home with mom the next day, and also take care of a few babies who are in the NICU either working on feeds or needing a bit of oxygen. I love the variety and adventure of newly born babies and being able to share those personal, special moments with families.
Do you have questions for Carly? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Medical School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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