The Balance of it All

Being a PGY4 orthopedic resident is so much better than the previous years. As a PGY4 you are considered a “senior resident”, which is an odd feeling because you really don’t feel like one for a good while. I was so used to the mindset of, “My chief will take care of this complicated case” or “My chief will know exactly what to do with this surgically complex patient”. Somehow overnight, I am supposed to have all of the answers and know what to do with the most complicated orthopedic patients. Oddly enough, many times I do, and its a fun feeling finally realizing that you learned something over the last 3 years.

I started my PGY4 year on research which was awesome because 1) I didn’t have to deal with all of the interns just starting having no idea what to do (like I felt way back when) 2) Allowed me to be home more with my wife starting her new residency 3)Allowed me to get all of my fellowship application items completed before it was due on 9/4/14. It was great also being home during the summer months with my kids. We went to the zoo and the park multiple times, and just plain had fun. As a surgical resident, your time is very precious, and when you can, its better to spend your time with what lasts…your family.

On the research front I’ve been quite busy. I have submitted around 5 papers for publication, completed 4 book chapters, and have 2 podium presentations lined up. I don’t say this to brag as I know for sure that there are serious ortho rockstars out there who published more papers than that just in medical school alone. But for me, having 2 small kids and a wife who is a resident, with all of the associated lack of studying that comes with a life like that, I’m pretty happy with that progress. I’ve truly realized how much I enjoy writing papers. I can’t totally deny that some of my interest in research is just based on the cool feeling you get when you search or your name in PubMed and an entry pops up. But there is much more to it than that; doing research constantly forces you to question if what you are doing can be done better or it forces to you really study why you practice the way you practice. I think it keeps you at the bleeding edge of your field. It also has its dangers as I’ve seen here at Hopkins. You can often be dragged into the rat race of publishing simply to get promoted, meaning that you are churning out projects that may not really matter to the field of orthopedic surgery. Also one has to ask when is enough enough? As a resident, do you really need to publish 10 papers, or even 5? I know of some residents who published over 40 papers during their training and that is great, however it really starts to count when you are an attending. Those papers really matter when it comes to academic promotion. So with all of that said, I have slowly learned to say no to attendings who have asked me to do projects; partly because I’m drawing to a close in my residency and don’t want to leave projects unfinished and also partly because I don’t need 20 papers to match into a good peds fellowship. Learning to say no has probably been the most important lesson I have learned so far in residency.

On the fellowship front I received my first interview invitation!!! I’m so excited to finally start this process. It has so far been much cheaper to apply to fellowship than residency. Applying to 10 programs costs only $60. After dealing with plane tickets the totally process may cost around $2,000 at its worst. The fellowship world is very small, and while your research and performance in residency is important, it is much more helpful to have a strong attending advocate who is willing to call his/her buddy at Harvard or Minnesota regarding your application. While its great that I have many well known peds attendings at my program, I am doing my best to remember that God is still directing my path; nothing is truly a done deal, and it matters more where He wants me to go.

4 Responses to The Balance of it All

  1. Yande says:

    Congratulations man! I’ve been a longtime follower of your blog, and a first time poster. Your blog is just awesome; I’m also a Christians hoping to one day work in medical missions as a surgeon (thinking ortho right now). Reading about your walk with God, how he has blessed you, how you praise Him,your description of the medical life, etc. has reminded me many times why I want to go into the field. Good luck with everything!

  2. Thankful says:

    Your blog is such an inspiration! Currently, I am in the library studying for my M1 final exam. I have been preforming really poorly on my exams despite my long hours of studying. I stumbled across your blog, you give me such hope. At this point I’m keeping my faith in the one who got me here. Please keep me in your prayers.

    • DoctaJay says:

      Sorry that I am just seeing this post Whitney. I hope that all went well. Trust me I had my share of not so good MS1 tests. What matters most is how well you bounce back and that the overall trajectory is upward not downward.

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