So, you’ve decided to pursue a career in medicine. Congratulations! Now what?
One of the very first things you will be told is to start shadowing in your field of interest. Without hesitation, I began reaching out to as many doctors as I could and began shadowing as soon as they would let me. The time leading up to my first shadowing, however, I remember wondering,
Little did I know, shadowing would be the best thing I could do for myself as an undergraduate student.
During the summer of 2018, I shadowed the following: 2 maxillofacial surgeons, 1 orthopedic surgeon, and 1 NICU physician. After just my first day, I understood immediately why it was important to shadow. I know this might sound like a stretch, but after sitting in on the first orthopedic procedure, I knew that I did not have any of passion for orthopedics, and for no particular reason! It simply didn’t resonate with me like I knew it did with so many other people. However, the second I walked into the NICU, I knew that I loved it. I was shocked to see such a start contrast between what I loved and hated, and how strongly I felt about different specialties.
After the summer was over, I was left with an entirely new outlook on what I wanted to do. I was very interested in and excited about surgery and fetal medicine. Is that what I’m interested in now?
The truth is, a summer of shadowing may not fully dictate what you end up pursuing as your own career. You spend the rest of the year as a student, learning the intricacies about what you saw in the hospital, and it was 12am in Butler Library in the middle of January that I realized I didn’t want to do surgery or fetal medicine. Did I love the procedures? Yes. Could I watch the doctors work forever and see myself doing the medicine? Yes. I would have loved to jump straight to where they were, and would have if given the choice. It isn’t that easy, though, and it was in the classroom that I discovered that I was in love with the relationship between the brain and behavior. I was fascinated by the connection between psychology and neuroscience, and opened my eyes up to a whole new world of medicine I hadn’t considered before. Now, I am hoping to pursue a career in clinical neuropsychology.
When I look back at that one short year and the dozens of interests I had throughout it, I realize how important it is to shadow everything you can, even if you think you might not like it. Seeing everything up close and personal is the best way to learn, and moving forward to applications, you will have refined interests and experience to back yourself up.
Alright, so let’s assume I’ve convinced you to start shadowing. How do you get started?
I didn’t really have any connections, so I reached out to every doctor I knew, whether it was my past doctor, my family friend’s doctor, a doctor that belongs to my dad’s golf club, and even doctors I just saw in local newspapers. I wrote emails, made phone calls, and mailed letters, and with each doctor that accepted me to shadow them, more opportunities came! The more connections you make, the more people you meet, and your network can grow quickly and naturally.
With last year’s shadowing experience behind me, I feel more prepared to complete my internship this summer in neuropsychology. I wouldn’t trade any shadowing experience, positive or negative, for anything, and encourage everyone who may be considering it to do the same.
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