So I tend to avoid checking my message requests on IG too often. They are typically filled with creepy “sugar daddies” or sketchy collaboration requests. BUT, I was thrilled when Emily reached out earlier this week. Emily is a pre-med student and aspiring allergist/immunologist!! So per her request…here is my journey to this awesome career!
I have a hard time remembering back to a time when medicine wasn’t a calling. I briefly considered paleontology, I mean who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I am a helper and over-achiever by nature. I loved check ups with Dr. Wortman, our pediatrician, and the medical students he worked with. Most of all, I loved listening in on their “bedside teaching”. I don’t think there was ever another option to be honest.
When the time came to apply for college, I chose to enroll at Rockford College, now University, a small liberal arts school about 30 minutes from my parents’ driveway. I loved the small class sizes and most importantly, it felt like home every time I stepped on campus to visit. It didn’t hurt that I earned a Presidential Scholarship which I knew would lessen the financial burden of my education for years to come.
Looking back to undergrad, my favorite course was a special Immunology course taught by, Dr. Deb Breiter and her husband, Kevin Albers. Why was this course so cool? I honestly think this was the first time I truly “nerded out”. The textbook had a CD-ROM with cartoons of diapedesis-how white blood cells move out of the blood stream to fight infection. I loved #allofit. We reviewed clinical cases and learned how to perform ELISA, Western Blots and flow cytometry at Thermo Fischer Scientific. I even spent the following summer as an intern immersing myself in even more immunology. I loved all of it.
Before I knew it, a new semester arrived: time for the MCAT, medical school applications and interviews. Life continued at pretty break neck speed. I was excited to revisit immunology ever so briefly our first year of medical school but in the blink of an eye that course was over too.
It wasn’t until my third year of Internal Medicine & Pediatrics residency that I clinically revisited allergy and immunology on an elective at Nationwide Children’s hospital working with Dr. Dave Stukus (aka @allergykidsdoc) and the team. Within a few days, I realized something was different. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of a busy day. I was energized to read more, learn more. THIS WAS IT!
By that point, it was crunch time in the fellowship application cycle. I quickly jumped into a research project and did my best to work with each of the attending physicians at NCH and OSU. See, I was in a bit of a pickle. In my mind, I had one choice in fellowship programs and it was my home program. Why this program? It was a 50/50 split in caring for adults and children. The faculty were top notch. Most importantly, it felt like HOME. I needed to do #allthethings to optimize my chances of matching into 1 of the 2 spots.
So how did I maximize my chances? The first hurdle is doing your best on the standardized exams even if you think you are going into a “less competitive” speciality. It continues to be a fact that standardized tests scores play a role in admissions to medical school, residency and even fellowship. Why? It tells the program that you have what it takes to pass the Allergy Immunology board exam. Additionally, demonstrating interest in the field and some sort of academic scholarship is very important. Lastly, letters of recommendation are incredibly important. You need to make a great impression on your future colleagues so they feel comfortable putting their reputation on the line for you.