Richard Newman, OMS-III
How are you sure Emergency Medicine (EM) is the field for you? This was a daunting question for me as a first-year medical student with little exposure to any other specialty than family medicine. How do you go from what you think you enjoy to finding your calling?
EM has become a very competitive specialty in recent years, and this competition has raised the bar for future applicants. This competitiveness itself has caused many of my peers who had some interest in the field to pursue less competitive specialties to avoid the additional hurdles EM requires including a standard letter of evaluation (SLOE), a video interview, and the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) depending on where you apply. In the face of these new challenges, it can be daunting for students to look beyond books and boards and say they want to commit to going above and beyond. What follows is some advice I have received and tested for myself over the last three years that has helped me to know I wanted to be a part of the EM family.
Go to a conference. This small piece of advice seems so simple, but many of us as students don’t take full advantage of the conferences and symposiums offered by most medical colleges and organizations, such as the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians (ACOEP). At first, I didn’t understand what the conferences offered me as a medical student. Finances were an issue as well; I just had a hard time justifying spending time and money I didn’t have. As a first year, I had the opportunity to go to a small symposium for medical students in Paterson, NJ. A friend invited a group of us interested in EM, and we decided to carpool the 10 hours up and see what this thing was all about. That weekend was the first exposure I had to the ACOEP. Since then, I have been to seven conferences and symposia across the country. From that first event, I was impressed by the dedication the college showed to medical students. Every lab and lecture focused on helping us become better applicants and future members of the college. I met students from other schools and created friendships that have carried on well past the few hours or days we spent together. I met residents who know just how we feel as medical students and have been so helpful with their advice on earning a residency spot.
I honestly can say I would never have been so sure of my specialty choice if I had not attended conferences. It is often amazing just how refreshed and excited I am each time I return home from one of these events. During school I often find myself stuck in the constant rut of just focusing on the next test or assignment, and these events gave me chance to recharge and spend some time with people who are as excited about EM as I am. I learned and honed skills that I had barely even practiced at school and learned about topics that have helped me immensely out in clinic.
Conferences help you grow both professionally and personally. I am an introvert by nature and I avoid social events like the plague. And to be honest, while at my first conference I hid in the back of the room and did my best to just smile and nod as people around me talked. But after a while, I found myself talking with the President of the ACOEP as well as several program directors. They all seemed really interested in getting to know me and sharing their love for the field. As I continued to attend events, I began to loosen up and make friends who I continue to see and hang out with at each event. Throughout these events I also picked up a new goal from the podcast EM Over Easy: to introduce myself to three new people at each activity. I have tried very hard to do this, and after some practice, I can say it has been the basis for many new friendships and awesome conversations about EM.
In closing, I want to impress on you just how amazing an opportunity we have as medical students to attend conferences and meet members of this profession. Through my experiences I have found that there is no better place to answer the question “is this the specialty for me?” than at a conference. Hopefully you can test this advice for yourself. See you at the Scientific Assembly October 21-25, 2018
in Chicago, IL!