I was recommended by a professor in the Biology department, Dr. Ludwar, to pursue a shadowing opportunity to get my foot in the door early. I began shadowing at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital during my sophomore and junior years and was given the opportunity to experience many different fields such as cardiothoracic, cardiac, pulmonary, infectious disease, and gynecology. During my hours of shadowing, I was able to converse with doctors and current medical students and ask them questions about medical school and specific questions about surgeries and diagnoses.
My first day was a 7 hour double bypass surgery. I realized after a few days with cardiologists in surgery that this is not something I was interested in. The patient was already asleep before the doctor came in and the doctor left before the patient was even stitched up. During rounding, the same patient was seen for about five minutes. There was basically no relationship with the patient, just 7 silent hours of surgery. For the patient, the surgery was life altering and the doctor has that sense of pride for all of the good that he has done, so I am not trying to undermine this field. I just realized that surgery is not for me and I began looking into other fields where I could be more personable. This was a critical step in discovering my future career and I am very grateful to have been exposed to this so early.
My next rotation was with a pulmonary, or lung, doctor. In the hospital, most people in the ICU for respiratory problems have infections, so it was a lot of repetition. The doctor that I shadowed was board certified in both pulmonary and internal medicine. He was extremely personable and had a lot of the same values as I did. Going on rounds and having the opportunity to speak with people all day was exactly what I was looking for. However, this job came with watching people get worse and pass away, calling family members, or delivering discouraging news to patients. This was also a great learning experience for me because I learned about the good and the bad of medicine, as well as what I could and could not handle.
My final rotation was with an OBGYN. My time was cut short due to COVID-19, but I knew I had found something I was very interested in. I was fascinated in child birth and female education. There is way more good news than bad news delivered in this job, as well as much less tragedy experienced on a daily basis. I was able to talk to patients daily and watch the doctor help and educate women of all ages. This was also a very important step in my career development because I learned not only about gynecology, but also the potential to enter into pediatric medicine.
My shadowing experiences solidified my reasonings for wanting to be a doctor. However, I am already learning so much about the type of physician I want to be and what I am naturally good at or interested in. This is something I will learn much more about during my third year of medical school, but I am very grateful for those who allowed me to shadow them and begin learning early on.