Q&A with Jonny Kim, MD, NASA Astronaut Candidate

When the 12 members of NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class report to Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX for their two years of training, two of them—Dr. Jonny Kim and Dr. Frank Rubio—will leave behind medical careers for the chance to explore the final frontier. SDN recently spoke with Dr. Kim about his nontraditional path to medical school and his transition from emergency medicine resident to astronaut candidate.
Dr. Jonny Kim started his career in the US Navy, where he trained as a Navy SEAL and completed more than 100 combat missions, earning a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with Combat “V”. He earned a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and his MD at Harvard Medical School. He is currently finishing the intern year of his residency in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. At the end of the two years of astronaut training, Dr. Kim and the other astronaut candidates could be assigned to any of a variety of posts furthering NASA’s mission.

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Dear Me, M3 | Love Me, MD

Dear Me, M3:
As graduation approaches and the days of fourth year freedom quickly fade away, the terrifying reality of being a stupefied intern becomes more and more paralyzing. Self-doubt started as a whisper but is slowly escalating to a deafening scream. I have read and re-read the letter you wrote in attempt to silence the negativity— to remember how I felt as a naive third year student trying to navigate the world of clinical medicine— to remind myself of a time when graduation was an unforeseeable future and matching into residency seemed like an absurd possibility. Undoubtedly, your foresight advice will sharpen my self-awareness and hold me accountable to be kind and compassionate, to stay humble. Yet, in order to reassure myself that I will make it, to bury the self-doubt, it is time for some self-to-self hindsight advice— time to remind myself of lessons learned along the way. So here it goes:

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Advice for Interns on Night Float

Earlier this year SDN member bob123451 was the lucky intern starting residency on night float covering multiple surgery services—vascular, general, bariatrics, colorectal, and a number of subspecialties—at a community hospital. Understandably nervous about jumping in with both feet, he reached out to the SDN community for advice. The following tips may be helpful, should you find yourself in the same boat.

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10 Signs You're an Intern

1. 2 Days off in a row = Vacation!
In high school, I looked forward to winter break, spring break, and summer break. In undergraduate, it was the two weeks off over winter break and the week off between quarters. Anything short of a week off felt like barely time to catch your breath – definitely not a vacation. As a medical student, there was still winter break and most bank holidays. Now, as an intern, any time there are two days off in a row, what most of the rest of my non-medicine peers would simply call “the weekend” constitutes the most luxurious vacation.

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Q&A With Physician-Author Matt McCarthy, MD

Matt McCarthy
1.  What specifically prompted you to write The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly?
I was having dinner with my editor three years ago, and he asked if I’d ever thought of writing a book about medicine. I had kept a journal during my intern year, but I was hesitant to write about my experiences. Some were great, but a lot weren’t and I wasn’t sure I could convey the difficult moments fairly. My editor and I spent a long time working on the tone of the book, trying to capture just how terrifying and inspiring that first year is.
2.  What would you say is the most controversial part of the book?
The trickiest thing is writing about your own patients. Some medical writers believe we should only write about patients if we have their written consent. Most journalists tend to disagree with this and you occasionally see arguments about it break out on social media. In a few cases, I wasn’t able to get written consent for my book, so I had to change identifying details to protect anonymity. It’s not just about complying with HIPAA. It’s about changing personal details so thoroughly that you’re really protecting identities. Patients are vulnerable, and we have to be careful when we write about them.

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5 Reasons Intern Year is Better Than Medical School

students with disabilities

I had a certain level of (I thought well-justified) terror anticipating the start of intern year. No longer able to hide behind the protective “I’m just the medical student” blockade, I was worried about not being able to live up to the burden and the privilege of being someone’s doctor. Third year was rough and I could only imagine the horrors that awaited me as an intern. Yes, it has been a difficult year, filled with long hours and intense days. However, what I found was that contrary to my fears, intern year has been so much better than medical school. If you recently walked across the stage and accept your diploma, congratulations! Here’s what you have to look forward to:

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Tips from the Trenches: 5 Tips for Surviving Intern Year

Dear Incoming Interns,
Congratulations on matching and reaching the end of medical school! I am sure you are very excited to be graduating, and we interns are equally excited for you as it means we are about ready to say “so long” to our intern year. (Right now, I have 62 clinical days left – but who’s counting?) Intern year is one steep learning curve after another. Just about the time you figure out a particular service, you switch to the next. Over time, however, themes emerge, the transitions become easier, and the mass of random lab values, medications, signs and symptoms, slowly gel into cohesive patient narratives. Below is some of my own hard-earned advice from this year, some practical, some personal.

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A Day in the Life: A Look at the Medical School Clerkship Year – Part II

Make sure to check out Part I here!

The remaining day

Following rounds, teams will typically “run the list,”or quickly review the to-do items discussed during rounds and delegate the work as necessary. Since medical students typically cannot input orders, which include things like prescribing medications, scheduling diagnostic imaging and tests, and requesting labs, this usually involves more administrative tasks: obtaining medical records from outside institutions, following up on tests, and other ancillary tasks. Most rotations also incorporate some form of formal teaching in the curriculum. As such, students may be expected to attend lunch lectures with residents or may have their own lecture schedules. Some attending physicians enjoy giving quick teaching sessions and will set aside 30-45 minutes to talk about a particular clinical topic (e.g., management of diabetes, working up an acid-base disturbance, and other common issues) each day in addition to the more formal teaching opportunities scheduled by the clerkship.

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A Day in the Life: A Look at the Medical School Clerkship Year – Part I

A caveat, an introduction

To try and describe the clerkship year of medical school – the year-long, in-depth experience for students to actively participate in patient care in a clinical setting, usually in the third year – to those who haven’t experienced it firsthand is a difficult task. I steadfastly believe that medicine is an experiential endeavor, one that cannot be truly understood by someone until he has undergone it himself. The fact that each trainee has his own unique set of “critical-incidents,” to use a term from the medical education literature (1), that profoundly shapes the physician he will become makes the task even more arduous. Nevertheless, I will do what I can to try and give a good look at a day in the life of a third year student and what the experience entails.

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Navigating Your Future: A Roadmap to Specialty Exploration

Congratulations! You’re in medical school. What you will soon realize is that your answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is going to have to change. Simply saying “doctor” is no longer enough. You need to start to figure out what kind of doctor you want to be. And, although applying to residency may feel very far off, there are steps you can do starting in your first year to help you pick the specialty that best suits you.
Most of us have fairly limited exposure to different specialties as pre-meds; mine consisted primarily of shadowing cardiothoracic surgeons. Yet there is a huge diversity among medical specialties, some of which you may have never heard about. Physiatry, anyone? Others you know of can be quite different than what you had envisioned. A friend of mine recently shadowed an interventional radiologist and was surprised by the surgical nature of the specialty.

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20 Questions: Sandeep Jauhar, MD

Dr . Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar, MD, director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Medical Center, is author of Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation. Dr. Jauhar’s route to medicine was not entirely direct, as he earned a bachelor’s degree (‘89), master’s degree (‘91) and PhD (‘95) in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, before graduating from Washington University School of Medicine (‘98).

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Getting Into Residency: Part 1

You were able to get into medical school so you think it will be the same process all over again when you apply for residency. But every application process has nuances and the criteria for selection and how you will be evaluated during interviews is different for residency than it was for medical school.
This two part series discusses the essential ingredients for success, including rotations, written documents, letters of reference, interviews and follow up.
While this article focuses on residency admissions, portions of this piece might also be useful for medical school and fellowship applicants.
Away Rotations and Structuring Your Fourth Year of Medical School
As soon as you have chosen your specialty, you should schedule your away rotations since these slots fill up quickly, especially at top residencies. For programs in which you are especially interested, try to schedule rotations in the summer and early fall of your fourth year to make a good impression before interview season begins.

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The Successful Match: The Importance of Mentoring

In researching our book, we asked applicants what they found most difficult about the residency application process. A number of applicants commented on the same issue. “There’s so much conflicting information out there. How do you know what to believe? Who should you listen to?”
Applicants with mentors have a decided advantage. A joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine described a mentor as “someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional.”¹ In defining the term, the committee described a fundamental difference between mentoring and advising.

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