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 Eliana, a wife, mother, and aspiring OBGYN on a mission to empower women in her community.
Eliana, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Where do you attend medical school? Any favorite classes so far?
Eliana: I am in my second year of medical school at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. My favorite course so far has been Introduction to Clinical Medicine where we learned how to take a patient history and do a physical exam using standardized actor/actress patients!
Can you tell us about the 3YMD program and why it appealed to you?
Eliana: The 3YMD program at Stony Brook University allows students to complete medical school in three years and then continue on to do residency at Stony Brook University Hospital. Students are given the option to apply to the 3YMD program by applying to a residency of their choice prior to starting medical school or in the middle of their first year of medical school.
I specifically applied to the 3YMD OBGYN Residency Track because I am very interested in pursuing a career as an OBGYN physician. I am also very impressed by all the OBGYN physicians I have met at Stony Brook, as well as their OBGYN Residency Program, and would love the opportunity to train there.
Was there a particular person or event that sparked your interest in medicine?
Eliana: Definitely my grandfather. My grandfather, Dr. Richard Fine, is a pediatric kidney nephrologist. He always inspired me and encouraged me that I could do anything I put my mind to!
In terms of an event that sparked my interest, the summer after I graduated from high school, I took an EMT course. That was my first hands-on experience in the medical field and I absolutely loved it! After becoming an EMT, I knew I wanted to pursue medicine!
What have you enjoyed most about med school so far? What has been the biggest challenge?
Eliana: I have most enjoyed the OBGYN rotation I did over the summer between my first and second year of medical school as part of the 3YMD Program. I loved having the patient interaction and learning at the patient’s bedside! All of the OBGYN physicians, residents, and midwives I shadowed were amazing and such great teachers!
My biggest challenge was figuring out how to multitask and balance spending enough time studying with spending enough time with my family. Each course I have taken in medical school is a little bit different so for every course I have had to find a new groove that will work best for me in order to be successful in my coursework while balancing my various roles – medical student, wife, and mom.
Do you have any study habits that sound crazy, but really work?
Eliana: Yes! I wake up every day between 3:45-4:30am to add more hours to my day so I have enough time to study. This way, I am able to finish all of my studying for the day by 3pm so when I come home, I can just focus my attention on spending time with my husband and son. Additionally, this allows me to not have to study over the weekend, from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, so my weekends can be dedicated to my family.
When I study early in the morning, I have noticed that it really helps me focus because at that time of day there is a lot less distraction – I have no one to text, no one to call, and no emails to respond to since no one else is up! This way when I am studying, I am studying, and when I am home, I am home.
However, don’t worry, I go to sleep at around 8:30pm so I still get 6-7 hours of sleep per night!
One thing that really helps me to wake up early in the morning is to think about how I have 2 choices: I can stay in bed and continue dreaming, OR I can get out of bed and follow my dreams. I tend to choose the latter option!
What do you wish your med school did differently to accommodate students who have families?
Eliana: Honestly, I think my medical school does a good job at accommodating students with families. There is always someone to speak to if students have any problems or need to miss class for any particular reason. It is really nice that not all classes are mandatory, so if students learn best on their own, they can set up their study schedule to accommodate their needs.
You mention on your instagram page that many of the women in your Orthodox Jewish community are stay at home moms. What was it like to go against the social norm, and not only pursue a career but one that is highly demanding and competitive? Did you experience negative feedback from community members for your decision?
Eliana: That’s right! Growing up, I didn’t know any female physicians or women in my community who went to medical school. However, I did not want that to stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a physician.
I definitely experienced a lot of negativity when I shared my educational goals. Countless times, I have told people I was a medical student and they respond by: “Oh, so your husband is in medical school, that’s amazing!” Or “Why don’t you wait until you finish having all of your children before going to school?” Or “How do you think you will be able to be a good mother and raise your children while in medical school?” Or “Oh, so you are becoming a nurse?” I love seeing the shocking look on people’s faces when they ask me if I am a stay at home mom and I respond by saying “No, I am actually in medical school.”
What is JOWMA? Why did you found this organization and what are its goals?
Eliana: The Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting, providing mentorship, and advancing the careers of Jewish female physicians and trainees, as well as providing preventative health information and patient advocacy within the Jewish community.
I founded JOWMA, with the help of my Board of Directors, after recognizing that despite all that has been accomplished for women and girls worldwide, many still question whether their commitment to having a family and/or a Jewish observant lifestyle can coexist with their commitment to pursuing a career in medicine. Additionally, in many Orthodox Jewish communities there is a lack of preventative health education and women’s health education.
JOWMA’s goal is twofold:
- To empower women; to provide female physicians, trainees, premedical students, and high school students interested in medicine with resources they need to be successful in their pursuit of a medical career; to provide mentorship opportunities; and to provide networking opportunities.
- To provide avenues for physicians and trainees to utilize their successes in medicine to give back to Jewish communities; to provide the Jewish communities with preventative health education and resources; and to provide patient advocacy within the Jewish community.
What specialty do you see yourself practicing in down the line?
Eliana: I am very interested in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. I have seen first-hand that within my community there are limited resources for women and girls to learn about Women’s Health and Reproductive Health issues. Being an OBGYN and REI physician would be a remarkable opportunity to give back to my community and to others outside my community. Additionally, I love how the field of OBGYN and REI incorporates continuity of care, surgery, women’s health, and creating families!
Do you have questions for Eliana? 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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