The Tutor The People Interview Series is an ongoing discussion with people from all walks of life within the medical field. During this series, we speak with premeds, med students, doctors, residents, and more to learn thought-provoking and valuable insight into the world of medicine. Today, we’re chatting with Ben, a PGY-3 in Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ben offers a unique insight into his experience growing up as a Navy brat and his path toward becoming an MD.
TTP: Hi Ben! Thank you for sharing your insight in our TTP Interview Series! Tell us all about yourself. What did you study in undergrad? Did you always know you wanted to go into medicine?
Ben: Hi all! I grew up as a Navy brat, bouncing from city to city and country to country. I say I’m from Virginia as I attended high school in Norfolk, Virginia. I then matriculated to the University of Virginia for undergraduate. At U.Va I majored in economics and minored in history. It wasn’t until midway through my second year of college I realized I wanted to be a physician. Thus I crammed all of my premed classes into my third year of college.
TTP: Yikes. All premed classes into one year!? You’re brave. Where did you attend medical school?
Ben: I attended the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) at Virginia Commonwealth University for medical school.
TTP: How did you choose MCV medical school? What made it stand out as the right fit?
Ben: When picking medical schools I was pretty focused on remaining in Virginia to obtain in-state tuition. Thus my choices were limited to MCV, U.Va, EVMS, and Carillion. In evaluating the schools, my focus was on attending the school where I felt the clinical experience would be the strongest. I was lucky enough to be a scribe in the U.Va emergency department during my fourth year of college. This role exposed me to numerous residents at U.Va ranging from emergency medicine to surgical residents who rotated through the ED. In interacting with these residents it stood out to me that the residents who attended MCV were especially strong clinically compared to their peers. This had a marked effect on me and MCV became my number one choice for medical school.
TTP: That’s great you were able to engage with the medical community and get hands-on experience prior to applying. What was the most difficult part of applying to medical school for you? The MCAT or the application process?
Ben: The most difficult part for me was waiting until I was midway through college to apply to medical school. Not only did that mean cramming all of my premed classes into my third year of college, but I also needed to find ways to gain valuable clinical experience to bolster my resume. In addition to various volunteer jobs at the U.Va medical center, I was also very lucky to have a friend recommend working as a scribe in the ED. This work proved to be invaluable for my medical school application. It also provided me an with a head start in medical school in regards to general medical knowledge.
TTP: Yes, working as a scribe, you learn so much that really helps set the stage for MS-1. Tell us more about finishing medical school. How many days of sleep do you think it would take you to catch up?
Ben: Haha, I tended to pull all-nighters before all of my tests 1st and 2nd year, so a fair number of days. Once I reached the clinical phase of medical school though, I worked pretty hard on every rotation to ensure I obtained an adequate amount of sleep.
TTP: That is so important. And I bet your sleep improved your performance during the clinical phase. How was the Match process for you? Did your medical school provide ample support, or did you have to rely on online research?
Ben: The match overall was a fun process. I had a ton of support from my school, our Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Wolebon, is phenomenal at providing preparation and support for the Match process. Beginning my first year of medical school, he began providing advice on what steps I needed to take to match into the specialty of my choice. In regards to the overall Match process, I felt assembling the application and the sheer expense of the process were the worst parts. The interview process was a lot of fun. It is a good excuse to travel to a bunch of cities you may have never been to. It also allows you to meet a ton of talented and eager people who you will end up interacting with throughout your career.
TTP: The necessary evil of application expenses. We all hope it will one day pay off. So what year resident are you now? How’s the residency routine? Are you able to connect with attendings often?
Ben: I’m in year 3 of 5 now. Typically in an orthopaedic surgery residency, your “hardest” year is your second year rather than your intern year, so it is nice to be in my 3rd year. In regards to any sort of routine, that word may be a misnomer for anyone in a surgical field. My schedule is constantly changing, sometimes as frequently as on a weekly basis, typically driven by the rotation I am on. As I write this I am on a week of pediatric orthopaedic surgery nights and I will flip back to daytime work on Saturday. Thus, you simply get used to a little bit of chaos at all times. You plan vacations months to a year in advance and you try to take advantage of any free time you have. As far as connecting with attendings, our attendings are almost universally approachable and easy to connect with, especially if you have a shared interest. Within our program we as residents work out, tailgate, attend yoga, play basketball, grab drinks and dinner, etc with our attendings.
TTP: Yes, I love how you say “simply get used to a little bit of chaos at all times.” That is an invaluable skill. I’m sure the ability to manage chaos is crucial to succeeding as a resident. And it is so wonderful to hear about the supportive activities between the attendings and residents. A little bit of fun, a little bit of games. These are smart team-building exercises outside of the hospital, that must help your interactions inside of it. What are some of our favorite (free) online resources for all things medical related?
Ben: Since I am in orthopaedic surgery, my favorite free online medical resources are Orthobullets.com and the AO surgery reference cell phone/iPad application. Orthobullets provides a nice, brief overview of pretty much any topic in orthopaedic surgery. And the AO surgery reference is a helpful free review of various techniques for orthopaedic trauma cases. It is also really nice to download books such as “Operative Techniques in Orthopaedic Surgery” onto your phone/iPad, but that book and similar detailed technique books are expensive.
TTP: Great tips! It would probably be equally smart for any prospective Ortho residents to check out these resources. Let’s end on an inspiring note. Have any tips that you would offer for premeds?
Ben: Make sure you’re having fun throughout your training. From the pre-med process through medical school and into residency it is a long haul overall to complete your training. Thus, make sure you are surrounded by people you love and make sure you dedicate all of your free time to those people and activities you enjoy. There will always be more tests, more successes, more failures, and new goals to achieve so you need to enjoy the experience at every level!