March 9, 2023, David Mitchell — In the past three years, medical students have had their experience disrupted and altered by a pandemic. With the Match Day approaching on March 17, AAFP News sat down with three candidates hoping to match in family medicine. In this first of two articles, we asked about their experiences and why they are excited to become family physicians.
AAFP News: Your medical school class has had a unique experience because of the pandemic. What makes you proud to be part of the 2023 cohort of students and candidates who are about to match?
Julie Ngo, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, student member of the AAFP Commission on Education: I am proud to be a part of a group of people who are going to be the future physicians of the world and making big moves in medicine. I’ve known a lot of people who were able to make big changes in medical school and other places. From my peers advocating for better primary care in Washington, D.C., to my peers locally helping people experiencing homelessness in Flint, Mich., I am so proud of everyone.
Dominique Munroe, M.D., Mercer University master’s student in public health, graduate of the American University of Barbados School of Medicine, former member of the AAFP Foundation Board of Trustees: We’ve had to be resilient. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments on the fly, from virtual interviews to having rotations canceled in the face of a global pandemic. Now we’re going into residency with new requirements from the ACGME. There are a lot of things that have happened, and I’m proud to be a part of a class that made those adjustments and did it quite well.
Katie Yu, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, former family medicine interest group regional coordinator: I can’t believe we’re finally here! I’ve just started my school’s transition to residency course, and it’s the first time I’ve been back with all of my classmates since early 2020. So much has changed in the world since then, but I’ve been so inspired by what my classmates and peers at other institutions have done for others while managing a rigorous academic schedule. This hasn’t been a typical medical school experience, and I think we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Julie Ngo, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Dominique Munroe, M.D., Mercer University
AAFP News: Looking back at your own journeys, what are you most proud of during this time?
Ngo: I would say I’m just really proud of my growth as a person, friend, student and a leader. Medical school challenges you in so many ways. It really forces you to reflect on yourself, your journey and what’s important to you. I have a better sense of who I am as a person and what I want to do with my life. I still prioritize my loved ones and things that make me happy.
Munroe: I agree. The thing that I’m the most proud of is my own personal growth. I’m an introvert, and I like to stay to myself. Over the last two or three years, I have started to put myself out there a lot more in the community. I’m engaging with people through the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation. I’ve put myself out in the open in ways that I never would’ve imagined a few years ago.
Yu: Honestly, sometimes I’m just proud to have made it through. But also remembering the type of physician I want to be and holding to that even though I’m not in an environment with many mentors with those same professional goals.
AAFP News: There’s been a lot of talk about burnout and the need for resilience during COVID. What did you do to keep yourself physically and mentally well while going through medical school during a pandemic?
Ngo: I definitely felt the burnout, especially during third year. Being with my loved ones and making sure I do things that make me happy — having a good meal, taking care of myself, having good sleep — those things make me a better person because I can 100% be there for my patients, my school and everything.
Munroe: For me, finding a sense of community was important. Like Julie, I’m a first-generation med student, so it’s really weird trying to explain medicine to people who aren’t in medicine. Finding that community of like-minded medical students and being able to talk with students who were going through the same things helped keep me mentally stable. Physically, I compete in powerlifting. I had to find something outside of medicine that gave me motivation and something else to focus on. That made me a better student, and hopefully will make me a better physician in the future.
Yu: Having non-medical passions is important. Also realizing that lifelong learning doesn’t mean you have to exclusively devote yourself to learning medicine. Whether it’s picking up new hobbies (I now cross-stitch, play pickleball poorly and love Formula One racing), working on language skills or revisiting old hobbies (roller skating and hiking for me), growing as a human being is equally important to providing good patient care. I also cannot endorse pets enough. My two cats always make things better.
Katie Yu, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
AAFP News: How is family medicine a specialty that allows you to be you?
Ngo: There’s so much diversity in this specialty you could do whatever you want in this career, and I really love that. I have so many interests that I can’t just focus on one, like advocacy, women’s health, education. I can see myself in an academic setting, potentially, teaching medical students or residents. You can do it all — outpatient, inpatient, anything — in family medicine. I really love that.
Munroe: I like to think of family medicine as the connection between the ivory towers of medicine and the community. Like I mentioned, over the last few years I have found myself really engaging with the community in different ways — medical students, underrepresented communities, the homeless population. Family medicine really allows me to move in and out really seamlessly between all of those things, and make connections between people and medicine.
Yu: I chose medicine over a career in Earth science to interact with people. Family medicine is the human lifespan with all of its ups and downs. I’m so happy to be in such a patient-centered specialty that emphasizes the qualities that both define me as a person and the professional career I hope to have.
AAFP News: What has been your most on-brand moment as a future family doctor?
Ngo: On my family medicine elective, I had an outpatient clinic rotation. I met one patient and talked about his medications for diabetes and also sutured his stab wound during the same visit. I thought that was really cool to have procedures and counseling on chronic conditions, too, being able to do a little bit of everything for him.
Munroe: I had a similar patient during one of my outpatient rotations. We were trying to find a way to manage his diabetes. He said he was taking his medications, but we couldn’t figure out why — if he was taking Metformin and insulin like he was supposed to — was his A1c so high? He went out to his car and came back with 20 different herbal medications, like cinnamon and chromium, that he was trying to take instead of Metformin. I was looking up every single one, like what was the side effect for each particular thing, and trying to find a compromise between the herbal medications he wanted to take and the medication that we wanted him to take. We were able to find a compromise, and over time his A1c came down.
Yu: There are a lot of moments that I’m probably forgetting right now. But as a fourth year, walking into my post-ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) required rotations and still pushing myself to extract the most I can from each learning experience. I love how everything can be relevant to family medicine.
AAFP News: What are your plans for celebrating Match Day?
Ngo: I don’t have anything specific. I’m going to go on campus and celebrate with friends, take a lot of pictures. I’m figuring out what to wear and making sure that it’s as glam as possible. I would like to go to a rooftop restaurant and celebrate, but we’ll see.
Munroe: I’m jealous of Julie’s plans because, honestly, I just want to sleep. With the stress of Match and going through the whole process, I don’t think I’ve been able to sleep properly for the last year. I just want to sit still and live in that moment for a bit. I don’t want to really be around people, just kind of exist.
Yu: I plan on spending the morning power walking around the National Mall and then meeting up with my friends so we can all celebrate the next step in our journeys!