I met with another alum recently to talk about how she approached making career decisions and thought you may want to hear more about our conversation, especially if you’re considering a career in medicine.
Camille Pane graduated from Wellesley with a major in psychology and is currently an urgent care doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She had wanted to be a physician from an early age, as it “was the family business”. However, upon entering Wellesley, she realized that there were a lot of careers other than medicine that she could do, and started doubting herself. Therefore, she didn’t apply for medical school until after she graduated and had taken a year off to do research in psycholinguistics. For her, the hardest year at Wellesley was sophomore year, as that was when she had the most doubt about what she wanted to do. She did tried to experience as much of medicine as possible through shadowing, doing research, and interning and this exploration of medicine paid off in the end, as she realized that “nothing else gave [her] the broad opportunities that being a physician gave [her].”
You may not know this, as medical school is very “rigid in the beginning”, but you can specialize afterwards and work in a hospital, office, clinic, do research, or even be an administrator. But of course, the initial training is still very time-consuming, requires lots of work, and could limit your social life. And that’s not even including any life challenges that may happen out of the blue, such as family emergencies. But at the end of the day, the rewards Camille reaped from being a doctor was worth it for her.
That is not to say that she didn’t struggle with the demands of the job. She admits that she was burnt out from her original time as a paediatrician and therefore listened to her inner voice, realized that she was emotionally drained, and took time off. During this time, she did a variety of volunteer work, such as teaching mothers how to breastfeed in the NICU (neonate intensive care unit), and also got a masters in public health. Camille eventually decided to return to practicing medicine, but this time as an urgent care provider instead of a primary care provider. What she appreciates most about her job now is the novelty of everything— there is always something new and so many learning opportunities. It’s also more predictable time-wise, as the patients she sees are not long-term and she can therefore clock out at the end of her shift without worrying about bringing any work home.
But you’re probably not at the point of deciding what type of doctor you want to be. You’re probably still struggling to decide if you should take the first step at all. Camille agrees that it’s “really hard to figure out” what you want to do, especially if you’re looking to go into medicine, because it’s “hard to see, as a volunteer at a hospital, what you would be doing.” So while the standard volunteering at hospitals may be a good starting point, she suggests that you should really try to experience as much as you can so that you can make a better decision. “You’re going to do it for a long time and put in lots of hours”, she continues, “so it’s important to like what you do.”
I’d like to think that the last piece of advice applies everyone, even those who aren’t looking specifically into medicine. Going for the feeling may be very abstract for us, so she put it in another way: “If you feel like there’s anything else you can do, you should do it.”
Until next time!
PS- If you want to hear more about the difference between working in primary care and urgent care, let me know! I have some notes about the details but didn’t want to bore you if you weren’t interested.
PPS- If you have any specific questions that you’d like to ask Camille, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org