Medical Residency Blog

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Medical Residency Blog
A smiling mid adult female doctor listens as a female patient discusses her health.

Today, it becomes easy to say, “I own this.” I achieved this. It is mine. Residency, the hospital, the world. I conquered it. But in reality it is residency itself, that metaphorical beast I struggled with for so long, that is releasing me from her firm grasp. Letting me go out into the world, setting me free.

Residency Blogs

On May 25th of 2021, I walked across the stage in front of family, friends, and a class of over 260 peers, ecstatic to celebrate the commencement of my career as a physician. On that day, letters were added to my name declaring that I was now qualified to go out and practice medicine! But what did that really mean? Was I really a doctor? Part awe and disbelief, part legitimate and utter uncertainty. I didn’t have any close role models as the first doctor in my family—especially ones that looked like me and could illustrate the coming processes for me. How would I reconcile these conflicting emotions?

Resident Roundup: Kristin Williams, MD

The start of intern year was not only the first day of me practicing as a new doctor, but it was also the first day of me regularly driving as a new driver! As a typical New York City person, I did not learn to drive as a teenager and would have probably never bothered getting a car if I did not leave NYC. So, when I learned that I would be moving to North Carolina to join the Duke Family Medicine Residency program, I knew that my non-driving days were over!

Resident Roundup: Alex Rice, MD

Music has always been a constant companion throughout my life. For my first resident blog, I thought I’d share some of the songs that have meant a great deal to me as I start my medical career.

two women hugging

Resident Roundup: Deema Elchoufi, M.D.

As I transition into second year from my first year of residency, I’m also visited by the one-year anniversary of the loss of my sweet grandmother, Selwa Azzam.

Resident Roundup: Andrea Flores Burroughs, M.D., Ph.D.

Never in a lifetime could I have imagined beginning residency in the midst of a global pandemic. The year 2020 displayed the delicate balance between life and death, the fragility of the U.S. and global health care systems, the deeply rooted infrastructure of racism in our country, and the contentious political landscape in which we live.

Resident Roundup: Umaru Barrie, M.D.

One year ago, two significant events occurred in my life that were quite the opposite of each other. Last year, I discovered during The Match, like many current graduating medical students around the country have, where I would be for the next three years. But also, the world around us changed forever due to a global pandemic.

Resident Roundup: Joi C. Spaulding, M.D., M.S.

As a medical student, I went to the gym almost daily. Even if it meant reviewing lectures on the treadmill or rescheduling a study session so that I could make a quick spin class, exercise was always a priority for me. The gym provided me a space to improve my physical health but also served as a stress reliever and social outlet.

Resident Roundup: Katherine Lee, M.D., MSPH

I did not match at the No. 1 program on my Match list. Match day is a pivotal moment in every medical student’s path. In their last year of medical school, students apply to and interview at residency programs in their specialty. Each student makes a list of programs in order of preference with their No. 1 program as their top choice.

Resident Roundup: Roosevelt Campbell, M.D., Ph.D.

For decades we have known that social circumstances such as poverty, structural racism, unstable housing, poor access to healthy food, unsafe environments, and lack of education are major drivers of health. During a pandemic these drivers are amplified.

Resident Roundup: Matthew Geisz, M.D.

As a resident, there is limited time away from rotations to spend with family and fulfill my roles as a husband and father. It has been especially difficult to find safe and responsible activities with my family due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Medical Resident’s Journey

After a long pause in my blog posts over the last few months, the day has arrived. The day that I have anticipated for so many days. The day that I knew would eventually come but somehow imagined might never come. The day that I have longed for, and feared, for decades. The day that this blog has led up to all along: residency graduation. At moments like this, my words begin to sound cliché despite my best efforts: a spectrum of emotions is cast as clouds across my sky, and I find it difficult to sift through and focus on the most poignant of them. And so today I will borrow Margaret Atwood’s eloquent words from “The Moment.”

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Today, it becomes easy to say, “I own this.” I achieved this. It is mine. Residency, the hospital, the world. I conquered it. But in reality it is residency itself, that metaphorical beast I struggled with for so long, that is releasing me from her firm grasp. Letting me go out into the world, setting me free.

I do not own this. It is, rather, a shared experience. Thousands of doctors have come before me, have traveled their paths to becoming a healer. Thousands of doctors will come after me. The constant observers are time and nature; they watch us, over hundreds of years, coming and going and proclaiming along the way. Our stories all weave together into a tapestry of memories. And so it goes.

And if there is anyone who owns this, it is not I. It is the thousands of patients I have cared for over the years. They have taught me how to be a doctor, a listener, a healer, and a confidant. They have put their trust in me without really knowing who I am. They have demonstrated endless patience with me, as I struggled through the obstacles of being a resident. They tolerated me when I was at my worst – overworked, exhausted, and still learning. Some of them spoke so eloquently about their illnesses that they provided me with a new perspective on disease, on hospitals, on medicine, and on my profession. These thousands of patients, over the last eight years of my training, helped me to become the doctor – and the person – I am today. At last, I have reached a place where I will be able to give back to my patients in my way.

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There is an overwhelming sense of peace that sweeps over me today. As the wind fingers through the trees, as the summer sun beats down, I am free. Today, for the first day, I am free. After four 4-year commitments to science, study, and sweat – high school, college, medical school, and residency – I have completed the beginning of my journey. My life has been divided into segments of four for the past 16 years – over half of my life. It is almost bizarre to think that it will no longer be divided into segments of four. That I will no longer be the unaware freshman, or intern, just starting out and learning everything anew; that I will no longer be the sophomore, or second year, too wise for her own good; that I will no longer be the junior or senior, rising to the heights of my greatest potential. No, from here on out, life will be divided as I wish, or not at all. My growth will not be measured in quarters – it will come sporadically, in starts and stops, as it does naturally.

As I reflect on these years, it is almost surreal to have finally accomplished my goal. It was a goal I set such a long time ago as a young child, a goal that required years of dedication, sleepless nights, and hard work. A goal that I did not even understand until I found myself partway through the journey. And today my mind is teetering, uncertain. Where do I go from here? My life was wrapped around this goal for most of my years. It has become a fixture in my life – a constant challenge, day in, day out. It has been with me, it seems, forever. Without it, I feel lost. But I also feel thrilled to be lost. For this is what life is all about. Our stories are not carved from rigid pathways or concrete bounds, but rather they wander from time to time, curve up hills, stretch across valleys, turn sharply and unexpectedly, and find nooks and crannies. I am ready for this change, excited for this change. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

And so I find myself here, at the end of the beginning. Finally letting go of a goal that has captured so much of my attention and focus for many years. Grateful to be here, indebted to all the loved ones, professors, nurses, doctors, and patients who made this journey possible. Although I may not own this place, I love this place. I am in awe of its organic beauty. The trees unloose their arms from around me, the birds take back their language, the cliffs fissure and collapse, and the air moves back from me like a wave, but for the very first time I feel that I can breathe. No longer is there a seemingly insurmountable goal looming over me, pressing weight into my shoulders, taunting me, burdening me. I am here, today. For once, without expectations or concerns. Ready to stretch my mind, ready to reconsider, ready to ask a million questions, ready to dance, ready to break free from the bounds of a pre-determined road and to embark on a new path, something entirely my own.

Maddie Otto

By Maddie Otto

Maddie is a second-year medical student at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney and one of Level Medicine’s workshop project managers. Prior to studying medicine, she worked and studied as a musician in Melbourne. She has a background in community arts, which combined her love for both the arts and disability support. She is an advocate for intersectional gender equity, and is passionate about accessibility and inclusive practice within the healthcare system.