Match Day was last Friday and the graduating class of 2013 at Stanford School of Medicine had an amazing match list. The class matching this year was the class I originally started with back in Fall of 2009, so I was especially overcome with emotions. I felt joyful, excited, nostalgic, and also…anxious?
Yes, I will admit, a little part of me felt anxious. Seeing all my classmates with their future career paths spreading in front of them illuminated like the Yellow Brick Road made me wonder…how do I find my place in the vast world of medicine that will lead me to the happiness my classmates are experiencing? I am a bit of a commitment-phobe and the thought of limiting myself to one medical specialty makes me feel claustrophobic at times. I loved many of my rotations – the joy of interacting with adorable pediatric patients, the brain work-out I got in internal medicine, and the technical skills I learned on surgery. I haven’t even delivered a baby yet! I have always lived my life thinking that I can do and explore anything as long as I set my mind to it, but in this case, choosing one medical specialty is the only feasible outcome. But that doesn’t change the fact that it makes me nervous.
Why does it make me nervous? Quite simply, I’m afraid of making a mistake in choosing what field I pursue, and that I would spend the rest of my life regretting it. As a medical student, our experience in a field is pretty different from an attending’s, and we have to make our decision based off of what we think the specialty will be after training. Switching residencies is not unheard of, but it sure isn’t an easy process. Many of my classmates seemed to have experienced “A-Ha!” moments when a light went off and they just knew that this was what they couldn’t do without. (Yes, apparently some people can’t live without cutting into brains routinely. Who knew?!) But does everyone get to that point?
In speaking with many mentors and students about this topic, I have come across the following points to consider when choosing the right medical specialty for you. I hope this can be helpful to some medical students out there in the same boat as me. (And all this time you thought I was just going to go on about my own worries. Lucky for you, that is not the case. This time.)
I think it helps me to think that at the end of the day, I will still be a physician, improving others’ quality of life no matter which field I end up choosing. And that in of itself is comforting. As for what type of doc I’m going to be, that’s something you and I are going to find out over the next few months together.