We’d like to introduce you to Emily Fleming, an emergency medicine resident at Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium. Learn all about Emily’s fascinating med school adventure by reading our interview below, as well as Emily’s blog, The Doctors Fleming. Thank you for sharing your story with us Emily!
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite flavor ice cream?
Emily: My family moved around a lot growing up, so I don’t really have a hometown, per se, but the state we spent the most time in was Florida. I went to Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL for undergrad, and took a painfully predictable path to medical school by studying Biology and Chemistry.
Fortunately, I got to be a part of an Honors program and was able to use a Great Books curriculum to study liberal arts. This allowed me to stretch the right side of my brain in a way that the sciences didn’t really permit, which made up for me not majoring in something more creatively stimulating like Philosophy or Communications.
Somehow through it all, I managed to get into medical school, despite my university being a half mile from the beach.
And I’d have to say my favorite ice cream flavor is either rainbow sherbet or cookie dough, depending on how rich I want my dessert to be.
Accepted: Where did you go to med school? What was your favorite thing about that program? Least favorite thing?
Emily: I went to Midwestern University’s Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. I loved that the program was affiliated with so many different hospitals in the Chicago metropolitan area. It allowed me to experience so many different patient populations and practice environments.
My least favorite thing about the program was the weekly exams, though in hindsight, it was nice to constantly be tested on the topics presented, and it gave you a really good idea of how well you were performing as the semester progressed.
Accepted: Where are you doing your residency?
Emily: I’m currently in my third and final year of Emergency Medicine Residency at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium in San Antonio, Texas.
Accepted: Do you plan on staying in San Antonio when you’re done with this phase of your practice?
Emily: Hopefully the Air Force will let me continue on as a Staff Physician here at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. My husband is a resident in a 4-year Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program here in San Antonio, and has one more year of training. With a baby on the way, we’re really hoping to be able to stay together in the same town.
Accepted: Can you talk about your career path – choosing to go into emergency medicine and serving in the armed forces?
Emily: Emergency Medicine has always been the reason I went to medical school. I tried hard to follow all the advice I got heading into medical school and keep an open mind about choosing a specialty, but in the end, it was always Emergency Medicine that captivated my interest.
I’m well-suited for the field, as an adrenaline junkie with a short attention span and a modicum of interest in every field of medicine. Choosing to go into the military was a bit more uncharacteristic for me. I was initially motivated to pursue the Health Professions Scholarship Program more as a means to pay for medical school than out of a vested interest in serving my country. But the sacrifice of military service seemed like a price I was willing to pay for the financial freedom the scholarship provided.
I still feel that way to a large degree, but there are aspects of military service that I wish I had more carefully considered prior to joining up. I am honored to wear the uniform and feel privileged to be able to provide excellent medical care to our country’s heroes. That said, it is undeniably challenging to be faced with the certainty that I will deploy to a war zone, leaving behind a baby and a husband that need me.
Accepted: Congratulations on your future baby! With that and working in the ER, you must be exhausted! How do you manage?
Emily: Thank you! We’re very excited about our babe on the way. I have been incredibly fortunate with this pregnancy so far, and only felt exhausted for a few weeks in the first trimester. Now, with the exception of my ever-expanding waistline, I feel pretty much like myself. Though I do have to be more conscientious about stopping to eat and drink while on shift; if I don’t, I pay for it miserably. My body isn’t quite as resilient these days, given the extra baby body it is having to support.
All in all, I anticipate that residency will have prepared me well for the sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn. Check back with me in a few months. (;
Accepted: Looking back on the med school application process (if you can remember that long ago!), what would you say was your greatest challenge? What did you do to overcome that challenge?
Emily: My biggest challenge in applying for medical school was failing to get in. I had known since I was 16 years old that I wanted to be a doctor, and I believed wholeheartedly that it was my calling. I took the MCAT late in the year (it was only offered in April and August at that point – no idea how they do it now), and sent off my applications without knowing my score.
Much to my embarrassment, I had grossly overestimated my ability to do well on that exam, and had sent my applications in to schools that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting into. So I watched painfully as the seventeen rejection letters rolled in, doubting myself and whether I was truly cut out for this. But anyone who knows me knows I am not easily deterred.
I took a prep course and took the MCAT again the following April, then sent out my applications again – this time knowing my score, and choosing schools that were more realistic. It was painful to experience rejection and failure, but the involuntary year “off” I took ended up being one of the best years I’ve had yet. I got a job as a Tech in an Emergency Department, learned a ton and gained great exposure to medicine and trauma. I built incredible friendships and mentor relationships at work that I still maintain, and got to live with some of my best friends in the meantime.
The second time around, I sent out thirteen applications and got two interview requests…and a single acceptance. But one is all it takes. Now I’m a licensed – and almost Board Eligible – Emergency Physician, who was selected as Chief Resident in my program. There was a time I wondered if I’d ever get here, but traveling this journey has made me thankful for the struggles and challenges I’ve overcome.
Accepted: Can you share some residency application tips with our readers?
Emily: Applying for residency is a lot more like a job interview than applying for medical school. Programs look for personalities that are going to be a good fit with their existing residents and attendings; it’s important to like the people that you’re slaving away next to at 2:00 in the morning. The sentiment goes both ways. Pay attention to the residents at the programs you’re applying to: would you want to hang out with them? Can you see yourself working well with them? It’s of the utmost importance to be yourself. If you’re a good fit, everyone in the room will know.
By this stage of the game, senior residents and Attending Physicians have very finely tuned abilities to detect bullshit; if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, they’ll be able to tell.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? When and why did you start blogging?
Emily: Oh the blog. I started blogging during a string of not-particularly-time-intensive rotations during my third year of med school as a way for me to keep in touch with my friends back home, who all had blogs as well. Call it an extension of Facebook, social media, etc, if you will. Now blogging has become more of a form of catharsis. It’s been helpful to go through the process of filtering my thoughts and emotions about my life – experiences, travels, patient encounters, having a baby, losing my dad – in a way that is palatable to the internet at large. The writing has become a creative outlet for me.
Arguably, I could gain the same benefit from the writing by confining it to a journal, but the relationships I’ve built through blogging – both on the internet and in real life – have made the sharing worthwhile. Blogging is not for everyone, to be sure. There is an element of narcissism that one must come to terms with when willfully displaying their lives on the internet. But when strangers email me about how something I’ve written has helped them or encouraged them in some way, it makes the world feel a little more small and cozy. And I like that.
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