Thoughts on Residency

As many of you know, I’m a student finishing my final year of medical school. After I graduate, I plan to spend the next four or five years in a residency program training to become a psychiatrist. It’s not a decision that I came to easily.

Deciding on psychiatry wasn’t too tough–it was the decision to complete a residency that I found challenging. I’ve always felt a pull to do more than just practice medicine. Part of this drive has come from my medical school, which has encouraged me to learn the skills needed for a career that includes medical research. But I also completed a minor in business as an undergraduate, and the thought of actually implementing medical research has always excited me. Over the last two years, I’ve thought long and hard about whether residency was the right choice to help me achieve my long-term goals.

Here are a few reasons why I think that residency will be valuable:

  1. Residency will help me become an excellent clinician. I love building personal connections with patients, and clinical medicine embodies the spirit of service that initially drew me to medicine. No matter how my career changes in the future, I always want to spend at least some time seeing patients.
  2. Residency (and especially a psychiatry residency), will help me become a better team player. I’m going to see countless examples of great leadership. I’ll learn how to rely on the strengths of a team of diverse professionals, and have opportunities to do my best and fail in a supervised environment. Rotating between teams at regular intervals will also be an incredible opportunity to learn from hundreds of colleagues in only a few years.
  3. Residency will help me understand the actual problems facing people with mental illness. Textbooks can only go so far, and I find that my experience with people is much more nuanced than anything written in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is through these interactions that I hope to develop and refine hypotheses about how we can improve mental health care. Developing patient-centered interventions far away from the front lines seems like a foolhardy prospect.
  4. Residency will make me scale my efforts. I am good at putting my head down and getting work done. Now I need to learn to shed the superman complex and rely on others. I know that I won’t be able to design, code, and market apps on my own anymore–and that’s a good thing. Being further constrained for time will force me to leverage my efforts and further build my ability to lead.
  5. Residency will help me build a network of mentors, colleagues, and friends that I’ll be able to work with and serve for a long, long time. It’s no secret that mental health workers are some of the most compassionate and dynamic people around. I look forward to being a card-carrying member of the mental health community.

To sum it up: I’m expecting residency to be extremely challenging and immensely rewarding. What more could I ask for in the next stage of my career?

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