Career Profile: J - Resident physician - Pediatrics

Name: J.

Age: 26

Hometown: Gainesville, GA

Current City: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate: Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD

Medical School: Emory, Atlanta, GA

Residency: Northwestern/Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Pediatrics

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Take me back a decade, what did you want to be when you grew up? I considered being a vet, a neuroscientist, a biology teacher/soccer coach, a social worker, or a doctor.

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Tell me about your college application process. How did you decide on a school? How did you decide on a major? I applied to a few schools that advertised their neuroscience departments and their LGBTQ student groups. Johns Hopkins has an amazing neuroscience department and I think I couldn't have made a better decision in terms of the pre-med education offered there.

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What did you do to be a good medical school applicant? Well, turning in my applications in a timely manner was not a thing that I managed to do :) I did things that I enjoyed doing that coincidentally made me a "well-rounded applicant"--I walked dogs at a shelter, played soccer with kids at an after school program.

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How did you keep your GPA up in undergrad? I worked my tail off. I was surrounded by people who were also working their tails off, which is a pretty good motivator.
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What advice do you have for undergrads who are applying to medical school? There's this website you will probably hear about called studentdoctor.net. Do not visit this website. Think carefully about the advice you're looking for and whether it is worth having approximately ten panic attacks induced by all the high strung people on this website. If you decide to visit this website anyway, consider premedication.

On a more serious note, be as much like yourself as you know how to be. When I was applying to med school, I wrote a personal statement about how I wanted to be a doctor because there are queer and trans* kids out there who are literally dying of lack of LGBTQ competent care and need doctors (and parents and teachers and counselors and friends!) who understand them and will advocate for them. I was told to rewrite my personal statement about a less sensitive topic. I wasn't out during my interviews. This prevented me from having honest conversations about the things I care the most about, out of fear of ruffling feathers. Fortunately a lot has changed since then. I think I talked about the healthcare needs of homeless queer and trans* youth at every single residency interview.

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How did you decide on pediatrics? Was it a hard decision? What other specialties did you consider? It was always going to be pediatrics in some capacity--I also considered Family Med and Med-Peds. I liked that in pediatrics, early intervention pays off and outcomes are good more often than not. I also generally like talking to parents.

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What challenges did you face along the way? Lots of difficulty finding mentorship, lots of self doubt, an inability to fix all of the injustices in the world, the usual.
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What sacrifices have you made for medicine? I don't see my family as often as I would like to, and I am far more selfish with my free time than I would like to be. And surely lots of other things that I try not to dwell on--I've gotten back far, far more than I've given up by going into medicine. And whatever sacrifices I've made absolutely pale in comparison to the incredible sacrifices our patients and families make every single day. 

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What's the best part of your job? I have to pick one thing?! Seeing kids walking out the front door of the hospital on their way home.
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What do you imagine for your career in the next decade? This is a really hard answer to put into words, partly because right now I'm trying to focus on being a solid general pediatrician. That has to happen before I can be really good at anything more specific than that! I'm probably going into endocrinology though, so we can start there. I like all of endocrinology but in particular transgender health and DSD [Disorderes or sexual development]. I care a lot about healthcare access for homeless & un/underinsured kids, so I'll have to find (or start!) some sort of free clinic to work in. I also want to help make sure that we're training the next generation of providers to be more LGBTQ competent than where we are now, so I'd like to work with med students and residents.
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What are your interests outside of medicine? Volleyball, soccer, running, hiking, documentaries, nonfiction, my dog.
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Is it hard to have a dog in medical school? Sure. It's harder in residency. It's also essential to my well-being. My little dude Samson is always happy and ready to go on an adventure. He keeps me active and thus keeps me sane. We do spend a lot of money on mid-day dog walks.