Get ready to read about Erika, a fourth year med student who is passionate about international volunteer medicine. She also just got married! Erika blogs at Stethoscopes, Style, & Grace where she covers topics such as med school, newlywed life, and her passion for fashion. Thank you Erika for sharing your story with us!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself — Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where are you in med school? And what year are you?
Erika: I grew up in a small town in northern Michigan, the oldest of eight children. My dad is a family physician, and growing up I used to look at the pictures in his medical books, fascinated by different diseases. I knew that I would enter a medical field, but I wasn’t sure if it would be nursing or medicine. After high school, I did a year of volunteer work and then went to Franciscan University of Steubenville where I majored in nursing and Spanish. Along the way (and influenced by the medical mission work I became involved in) I decided to go to medical school! I’m currently a fourth year student in the M.D. program at Michigan State.
Accepted: What attracted you most to your current program? Has the program lived up to your expectations so far?
Erika: I had a tough decision deciding where to go to medical school, but I ultimately chose Michigan State because of the friendly atmosphere and emphasis on medicine for the underserved. Another draw for me was the rural medicine track that allowed me to return to the town where I grew up for most of my third and fourth year clinical rotations. The rural medicine track has been a wonderful experience: I’ve worked one-on-one with an attending physician for almost all of my rotations, which is a huge advantage, and I also had the opportunity to complete two months of family medicine in a very small town, which was an eye-opening experience for me and one that I know will influence my future practice as a physician.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about med school, what would it be?
Erika: Prior to medical school, I did quite a bit of international medical volunteer work in Ecuador and Haiti. I hoped to continue this in medical school, but the curriculum as a medical student is quite rigid and it’s very difficult to get time approved for international medical work. So that’s something that I’ve really missed. I also wish that we had more flexibility early on to take elective rotations in specialties of interest. Required rotations have to be completed first, which can make it hard to make a decision on residency if you haven’t had the opportunity to complete rotations in all of the specialties you are considering.
Accepted: Can you talk about some of the challenges of being in med school as a newlywed? (And congrats!)
Erika: Thank you! My husband, Stephen, and I got married the month after I took my USMLE Step I boards, so just as I was starting third year. Admittedly, the summer before our wedding was the most stressful of my life (it’s not easy to plan a wedding and study for boards at the same time) but our wedding still turned out beautifully (thanks to my mom, mother-in-law and sisters!). Stephen has been a huge support to me throughout medical school and it’s hard for me to imagine doing this without him. Medical school can definitely be hard on the significant other though, and I recognize and try to acknowledge often the sacrifices that he’s made for me and all of the support that he’s given me. In her maid-of-honor speech at our wedding, my sister mentioned how much Stephen and I cherish the time that we spend together. Because I have spent so many hours in medical school commitments and studying (and we also lived an hour and a half away from each other during my first two years of medical school), Stephen and I truly do value each and every moment that we get to spend together.
Accepted: In your blog you mention that faith is important to you. How has your religion guided you to this point in your life?
Erika: I’m a devout Catholic, and my initial decision to go to medical school stemmed from medical missions to Ecuador that I did as an undergraduate at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Through medical volunteer work that I’ve done since then (much of it faith-based, including working with a family doctor in Haiti who is also a religious sister) I’ve discovered the great need for medical providers both internationally and in our own country. My faith has also been what kept me going during the most difficult times of medical school. I prayed the rosary on the way to every exam during my first two years of medical school and I continue on the path of becoming a physician with the trust that it is truly God’s plan for me.
Accepted: What did you do between college and med school?
Erika: I worked as a registered nurse in a Detroit emergency department after graduating from my undergrad. I was still missing a few pre-requisites before I could apply to medical school (organic chem, biochem, and physics) so I took these classes and my MCAT while I was working. After I got into medical school, I spent several months total volunteering in Haiti.
Accepted: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Erika: In 10 years, I’ll be a few years into my career as a physician which is still a little hard to picture since I’m not decided on my specialty yet! I’m planning right now to apply for both ER and OB-GYN residencies and make a decision a little later on. If I go the OB/GYN route, I’m really interested in pursuing extra training in pelvic reconstructive surgeries so that I can volunteer to repair obstetric fistulas for women in Africa. No matter what specialty I chose, I plan to be doing some international volunteer work. I also hope that Stephen and I are settled in our first home, and that we have a couple children!
Accepted: Why did you decide to start blogging about your med school experience? What have you gained from blogging?
Erika: I started my blog because I’ve always like to write and I realized that after medical school started, I stopped doing many of the things that used to inspire me. I also love fashion (my sisters will attest to this!) and the blog has been a fun creative outlet for me in that sense. So it’s kind of turned into a hodgepodge of outfits and style ideas with stories and thoughts from medical school woven in, along with a little bit about married life and my faith. The greatest thing that I’ve gained from blogging is the community that I’ve found! I keep in touch with a few other medical students and Catholic medical student bloggers, as well as other married young women balancing careers. It’s been a wonderful source of encouragement for me.
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