I often get asked why I became a pediatrician. Truthfully, that wasn’t the original plan. I didn’t know exactly what specialty I wanted to do when I started medical school but I did know that I was absolutely not going to be an ob-gyn or a pediatrician. Turns out I was half right.
For a while, I thought I was going to be a surgeon of some kind. I planned my 3rd year schedule with this in mind. A common strategy in medical school was to put the specialties you are most interested in the middle of the year and what you are least interested in at the end. That way you can have some experience with clinical rotations to do your best by the time you do them, but enough time left in the year to develop relationships with instructors to get good recommendation letters.
I was very excited to start my surgery rotations, but I left them feeling lost. Surgery wasn’t what I had imagined it would be at all. It was actually a little boring. This image I had of myself as “Ron the Surgeon” evaporated. And now almost half the year was over and I was back to square one.
With growing panic, I started my penultimate rotation of the year, obstetrics and gynecology. I wasn’t keen on it at first… until I delivered my first baby. I was holding a brand new person! But then the pediatrics team whisked the baby away to assess her before giving her to her mother. My supervising resident kept telling me to focus on the mother, but it was a real struggle. There was a tiny baby right there! How could I think of anything else? I was way too excited!
I thought that rush of excitement would eventually wear off, but this scenario repeated itself for the entire six-week rotation. No one was more surprised than me. If you would have asked me before that rotation if I liked babies, I probably wouldn’t have had much of an answer. I hadn’t ever thought about it, but it turns out I really like babies!
The ob-gyn rotation ended and I began my final rotation, pediatrics. I had scheduled it last because I had thought there was no way I would be a pediatrician. With my recent self-discovery, that had all changed. Would I end up liking the older children as much as the babies?
I got the answer when a seven year old boy came in for a check up. He wouldn’t let me examine him. After all, he was a robot, and robots don’t need doctors. His mother looked at me apologetically, but I told her not to worry. I got this!
“Is it ok if we do a routine system diagnostic?” I asked. He enthusiastically agreed.
“First, I’m going to check your hydraulic pump,” I said, listening to his heart.
“Now, let’s check your gas exchange manifold.” I moved to listen to his lungs. I went over his auditory matrix (ears), fuel intake valve (mouth), and power generator (abdomen) all with him laughing along. It was the most fun I’d ever had with a physical exam!
With that, I was hooked. I had found my calling. I feel so lucky that I get to work with babies, kids, and teens. I watch them grow and develop. I am an advocate for their health and safety. And as a bonus, I get a high five if I do a good job!