I have finished my internship last week! (Now school’s started, yikes!) And this internship has been such a fulfilling experience, where I’ve learned so much – not just about obstetrics and gynecology, but about the prevalence of the intersection between mental health and physical health, what a day looks like for a doctor (or at least a gynecologist!), and what sort of sacrifices had to be made for the fellows and doctors to get that far.
Well, we finished the RedCap database! There are about 300-400 samples in that database, so hopefully we can find some interesting correlations between some factors and high degree of vaginal lacerations and/or breakdowns from childbirth. It was interesting to be a part of a retrospective study, going hunting for different details and becoming familiar with different medical terminologies and abbreviations – and with every patient note, it’s almost like I became a little bit invested in the patient’s journey. It’s unfortunate that with so many of these retrospective studies, there’s missing information from the past notes, or the notes just cut off at a certain time period because the patient either swapped health services or moved away to a different country, or didn’t come back for some reason. It was interesting, though!
In addition to shadowing in the clinic and operating room, Dr. Hudson also gave us the opportunity to observe a couple of interdisciplinary meetings. One of the meetings was between various specialties such as our department of OB / GYN, then radiology and GI (gastroenterology), where the physicians discussed patients with complicated cases and worked together to come up with course of actions. Another meeting was between our OB / GYN department with physical therapists and clinical psychologists. Since so many of our gynecology patients suffered from previous physical trauma, it was extremely difficult for them to undergo the gynecology examinations and obtain non-surgical treatments for conditions such as vaginal inserts to treat prolapses. I can’t imagine how difficult and distressing it must have been for those patients to bury away previous trauma in their minds, only to have it come up many years or even decades later when dealing with stressful and stigmatized conditions such as prolapses… So I’m happy that the OB / GYN department was seeking to establish an interdisciplinary collaboration with clinical psychologists, where they can help address PTSD and other trauma symptoms in those patients, and ensure that they can get the help they need – whether physical or emotional. It was so interesting to hear the different psychological treatments to help patients process and deal with trauma, such as CBT and CPT (since I’m also a psychology major). During the meeting, I also learned that there were collaborations between the psychiatry, clinical psychology and GI departments – since so many of their GI patients had previous problems with eating disorders. Your mental health truly does intersect so closely with your physical health…I am heavily interested in psychiatry, and participating in these meetings makes me feel so excited about the interdisciplinary possibilities in the psychiatric and neurological professions! The intersection between brain and body is something I feel should be emphasized more in our general health education and awareness.
Aside from those meetings, something that’s important to know is that being a doctor also requires a lot of time spent on paperwork – updating patient’s notes, summarizing their appointments, and figuring out insurance vs. medications. And even once you’re accepted to medical school, you have to worry about your STEP exams and oral exams to get into residencies, and then get board certified in your profession of choice. This profession is a constant journey that requires constant hard work, learning, literature reading, and maintaining your clinical skills – have you ever heard of that analogy where med school is a firehose of information? And in the end, even when you are earning a physician’s salary, you are still paying off a large amount of loans that the income isn’t as rewarding as it seems, and the loans are also an additional source of pressure on your back. So yeah – being a physician definitely isn’t for everyone, especially considering that there are other ways to work in the healthcare field while having direct patient contact (and avoiding them loans)! But if the learning, and keeping up with your field, leadership, diagnostic abilities, administering medication, cooperation with other physicians and experts who are so knowledgeable in their own fields, if those things excite you and if you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else – then it seems like such a valuable, rewarding, and academically stimulating path to pursue. At least, from what I’ve seen!! But…if you are considering whether medical school is worth it for you, I do think it’s important to shadow or seek advice from others who are further in their path than where you are right now. Truly consider whether you feel you’d be able to shoulder the financial burden, and if the end goal would be worth all the fighting – especially since it’s a constant stream of hard work. Because in the end, even though being a physician is an admirable profession, your health, well-being and happiness are the most important thing. Whether being a doctor is a part of that or not, is something that you should ask yourself before continuing down this path.
But, those things aside! Everyone at my internship has been so considerate and kind. Dr. Hudson has patiently taught us so many things, while also helping us set up for shadowing and offering advice on any questions we had. The attending doctors and fellows have all patiently allowed us to observe them while answering questions too, even though they were busy! And in the operating room, the nurses and technicians have been so considerate of us during surgeries, offering us places to sit and setting up monitors so we could observe procedures properly. I am so thankful that I got to be a part of this internship, and I definitely learned a lot along the way. I hope that reading this has helped you, too, and I wish you the best in whatever you’re working towards!