One lesson stands out from my interactions with different patients throughout medical school: the physician-patient relationship is indispensable. A doctor can not only treat and manage a patient’s disease, disorder, or syndrome, but also can understand and appreciate them as a human being. I want to be a doctor that sees and treats patients holistically.
During the pre-clerkship years of study in medical school, it started becoming clear to me that I was interested in many different areas of medicine. I began to realize that I wanted a career that combined the many things I enjoyed in different specialties. I want the opportunity to see patients of all ages, with various medical issues. I like taking my time when speaking with and examining patients. I want the ability to perform procedures. In short, I want a career that blends the science of medicine – the ability to diagnose, manage and treat patients successfully – with the art of medicine – the ability to combine clinical knowledge and skills with the intuition gained from seeing many different patients in many different situations. A family physician has the flexibility to practice all of these facets of medicine. As clerkship drew nearer, I knew I wanted to gain more clinical experience in family medicine to see if it would be a good fit for me.
My clinical experiences in family medicine were fantastic. Alongside my six-week family medicine rotation during clerkship, I completed a pre-clerkship elective in palliative care where I worked with several family physicians, electives with family physicians who practiced care of the elderly and low-risk obstetrics, as well as an elective in a general family medicine practice. I worked extensively with family doctors during my psychiatry rotation in Ponoka, Alberta; during this rotation, I also met and briefly worked with a family physician with special training in anesthesiology. I even worked with a family doctor during my urology rotation! Additionally, I have been fortunate to work with family medicine residents during several rotations, such as general surgery, pediatrics and emergency medicine. These varied clinical experiences confirmed my belief that family medicine is a diverse and exciting specialty; family physicians can tailor their practices to the needs of their communities and to their own interests and areas of expertise.
During these clinical experiences, I found myself greatly enjoying my encounters with patients. I believe one of my greatest strengths is my affinity for interacting with patients and their families. Once, an elderly woman came in for her check up with her son and granddaughter. Each of them had different concerns and preconceptions regarding her health and they disagreed on the way they should be managing some of her pre-existing conditions. I was able to resolve their tension by addressing each concern with empathy and in a manner that each of them could understand. By the end of this interaction, they all felt much more informed and relieved, and left with a clear and consistent idea of how to take care of the elderly woman. I am sure my ability to interact with all patients and family members will help me throughout my career as a family physician. I am also naturally a fastidious person. During my family medicine, and other clinical, experiences, I found that being a thorough history-taker and a meticulous recorder of details helped me in formulating a complete story about the patient; in turn, with all of these details in place, I was better able to consider many diagnostic and management possibilities. My joy in interacting with patients and my attention to detail allow me to appreciate patients as people, not just as disorders or diseases. I believe this ability, to look at patients holistically, is a key skill for family practitioners. Conversely, as a learner, there are many clinical skills I can work on. During my family medicine experiences, I actively sought and tried to incorporate feedback from my preceptors. The family physicians I worked with were excellent teachers who provided very helpful feedback on ways I can improve my knowledge and skills.
The versatility and diversity of family practice initially drew my interest but the wonderful encounters I had with family physicians solidified my desire to pursue a career in this specialty. Throughout medical school, I have interacted and worked with many physicians, residents, medical students and other health-care professionals. The experiences I have had specifically with family physicians have been overwhelmingly positive. I have been taught by family physicians in lectures and small-group sessions and worked with them during clinical electives; these family physicians have not only been skilled and knowledgeable clinicians but also, variously, dedicated teachers, researchers and administrators. They practiced patient-centered care and were knowledgeable about community resources that may help their patients. They worked cooperatively with other health-care professionals to improve patient care. Importantly, these physicians have also been friendly and approachable towards both learners and patients. The family physicians I have worked with also strive toward a healthy work-life balance; all of them seemed to have many interests and hobbies outside of their professions. I already strive to incorporate all of the above traits in my attitudes and behaviors during clinical rotations and will bring these qualities to the residency program I am a part of. I am sure that by pursuing a career in family medicine, I will continue to build on these qualities and become the competent, confident and compassionate physician I aspire to be.
Being sure of the specialty I want to pursue is the first step in my career. There are many learning opportunities ahead. [removed identifier]’s family medicine residency program is attractive in so many ways: the protected academic days, the opportunity to participate in research and, most importantly, the clinical curriculum, all appeal to me. I believe the solid foundation of family medicine experience, as well as the exposure to other specialties, alongside the opportunities to build the skills necessary for life-long learning through the academic experiences and research make this an ideal program for me. I expect that this residency program will be responsive and adaptable to residents’ needs. My career goals after finishing my residency include having a community-based, urban family practice and being actively involved in teaching residents and medical students. I am also opened to being involved in research and administration. At the moment, I am considering specialized training in care of the elderly. With the growing number of people in [removed identifier] over the age of 65, I am positive that completing a third year of residency training focused on the unique medical and psychosocial needs of this population would be beneficial in managing the care of the elderly patients I will no doubt encounter throughout my practicing years. I appreciate that this residency program includes a rotation in geriatrics and allows plenty of elective time for residents to pursue particular areas of interest. The focus on self-directed learning emphasized by the program will allow me to organize my own academic curriculum.
Currently, I am simply excited to begin the next stage of medical training and begin my residency in family medicine!