I am often asked to speak about my career journey. I will start off by saying if you are interested in a career in Medicine and more specifically a career in Dermatology, it is absolutely possible. Here is a very tiny snippet about my journey to medical school and dermatology:
I attended Duke University for college, where I was an Economics Major and completed a minor in Chemistry. When I started college, I was not sure about going to medical school but was encouraged to complete pre-med requisites "just in case". By the time I was a junior, I decided that I would, indeed, apply to medical school and was fortunate to have complete many courses by this time. I finalized by decision after completing a summer research program at the University of Virginia my sophomore year with Dr. Isa Hussaini, a brain cancer researcher. The summer of my junior year, I did study abroad in Italy focusing on art history. The honest truth is I had zero interest in art history, but I had never travelled alone, and Italy seemed "cool". I had no idea how privileged I was to have the opportunity to embrace a new culture and language at such a young age! This ultimately was one of the best experiences I had in college but I remember at the time being so worried about not completing another research experience to "improve" my application. So many pre-med students miss out on all the learning to be had in college by focusing only on pre-med classes. Take all of the non-medical classes you can in college, you have the rest of your life to study medicine!
I went to the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) for medical school. Studying medicine is truly a passion of mine and that became evident from the start. I loved taking care of kids, adults, and everyone in between, as well as performing surgeries and diagnosing patients with complex conditions. In fact, at the start of medical school, I thought dermatology was the one thing I WOULDN'T do. When I learned that dermatology was the perfect mix of everything in medicine, I could not pass it up. I decided on Dermatology in my 4th year of medical school, which is considered "late" by many. I worked hard in medical school, finishing at the top of my class and had competitive board scores which allowed for this last minute flexibility. I'll stop here to say that there's no debate that doing well in medical school can allow you to be competitive but these are only two components of the application. You can have stellar community engagement or stellar publications or stellar recommendations but try to be stellar in something (most students are stars in one area, even if they do not realize it yet because of imposter syndrome).
FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM AS I REFLECT ON MY JOURNEY
Before medical school, focus less on academic goals and more on memory making- this does not mean you do not do well in your classes, just know it is not the only thing. You are only young and in college once, be sure to try out as many new experiences as you can before settling into your career
Accept that some things are out of your control- there will be disappointments along the way but sometimes doors are meant to be closed. This applies to you whether you are in the midst of rejections from medical school or residency-every life event has a purpose
Keep an open mind- perhaps you've "known" that you have wanted to be a dermatologist your entire life but if you are in medical school, it is important that you are competent in every field. In fact, I believe the goal to doing well in medical school is to approach each rotation as if it is what you will be doing for the rest of your life. Even if you do stick with medicine/dermatology you will gain value from exposure to other fields.
Stay tuned for a future blog post about my day to day in Dermatology...