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The Summer Our Lives Stood Still

By Cassidy Lane, OMS-II

This piece was originally published in the September/October issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.

I was 13 years old the last time that I experienced a summer break, because it was that summer that I decided that I wanted to be a physician. I spent every summer after that through high school at the Volunteer Department of the nearest Level I Trauma Center in East Texas. If I wasn’t volunteering I was shadowing, and if I wasn’t shadowing I was scribing or taking classes that would prepare me for medical school. It became a constant cycle, month in and month out for 11 years. Every one of my spring breaks, winter breaks, and summer breaks was jam-packed with exciting new medical adventures, classes, or some other activity that was someday going to get me into medical school and ultimately help me become a physician. As crazy as it sounds, my story is not unique. This is the path for many students, former, current, and future, who pursue a career as physicians. This is a way of life that we gladly accept, because for many of us the idea of doing anything else is much more depressing than spending every break of our youth working towards our future career. 

I was all geared up to spend the summer after my first year of medical school the same way. I had two in-hospital research projects lined up, was interviewing for a pediatric research program to review case studies and publish reports on the cases, and I was already looking for a summer job to bring in a little extra income during what I considered my “slow” month between the two academic years. Then, in an instant, a global pandemic hit, all my plans fell apart, and I was left with a very empty calendar during a period that was supposed to be a time for me to check all of the boxes that residency programs would want to see completed by the time I apply just three short years from now. When the initial shock wore off that a virus was capable of shutting down medical programs created and run by very people who live to combat these same types of diseases every day, it was like I had stepped  into the sunshine for the first time in 11 years. As I began to read about the attempts of countries all over the world to contain and combat the virus, I was struck by an unexpected common theme in the rest of the world that I felt within myself: rejuvenation. 

There were stories about nature being able to cleanse itself once people were no longer allowed to pour waste into it every day. Families were spending more time with one another at home, and smiles were being shared through technology all across the world because people were no longer able to go, go, go. Self-care began to emerge at the forefront of peoples’ minds, and I began to understand what it meant to take a step back and soak in the moments.  I started cooking dinner every night, I read books on history and got outside every day. At a time when uncertainty was the norm and we were all scared, I spoke with colleagues and friends who were learning and growing personally outside the realm of medicine into better spouses, friends, and students. With this fresh new start that we received, we have been able to go back to school refreshed and ready to learn about medicine and people instead of being burned out and emotionally exhausted. During the time that our medical lives stood still, our mental and emotional health was able to re-blossom into excitement about life, medicine, and being the physicians that we are destined to become. 

Social Surgeons: The Importance of Social Media in the 2021 Match Cycle

by Kristina Fraser, OMS-IV

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, medical professionals, including surgeons, had already been utilizing social media for networking purposes. An example is the monthly Association of Women Surgeons Tweet Chat
(@womensurgeons). Students can participate, and I personally have been able to meet resident and attending physicians at various residency programs through these chats. This interaction provides me and other applicants the opportunity to network before interview season begins. Without audition rotations, these interactions will become highly valuable. Having the ability to connect with program directors, residents, and attendings through these chats may be the difference in being offered an interview or not.

Fourth-year students are also concerned the virtual interview process will not provide us an accurate representation of residency programs. One emergency medicine (EM) resident physician echoed this concern and tweeted asking EM programs to share information about their program, including name, a unique aspect of that program, and information about the program’s city. Numerous residents have replied to his tweet, allowing rising fourth-year medical students to gain insight about EM programs from all around the country. Seeing the success of this tweet, I decided to ask for general surgery residents to share more about their programs. The responses have allowed me and other aspiring surgeons to learn about more than 25 different general surgery programs across the country.

Twitter is not only a means for residencies to share information about their program; it is also a way for them to learn about applicants. The biography section is an opportunity for us to provide more personal information, including our medical school, hobbies, and interests. I have been expressing myself through Twitter by re-tweeting surgery research, posting about cooking and baking, and sharing funny videos to show my sense of humor. Programs want to know more about applicants than our board scores, and thoughtful biographies and tweet content can show a residency program more about a student and what we can bring to a program. 

For this year’s rising fourth-year medical students, it is more important than ever to be active on social media. This engagement is enabling us to network, learn about residency programs, and show programs who we are. With the help of Twitter and other technologies, residencies and medical students alike will be able to interact and form relations in spite of physical distance.