Med Student Mentor: The Doctor You Want to BecomeJun 6, 2014
Former Miss Utah and medical student Kara Arnold interviews fourth-year medical student Bob Chestnut about the steps to becoming the doctor you’ve always wanted to be. She asks which qualities are most important in a residency candidate and how med students can develop those qualities. They talk about what doctors and med school professors think is even more important than clinical knowledge and how to make the most of your time in medical school.
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Interviewer: Today we're going to find out how to become that doctor you really want to become, and we're talking to Bob Chestnut. He's a fourth year medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Great medical student after four years. What would they be?
Bob Chestnut: Yeah. So, when you're in medical school, there are several things that you want to be doing. One is that you want to pursue some voluntary experience. You want to go out in the community, find things that you're passionate about and pursue those. Most medical students can be very successful at even starting their own programs or taking over existing programs, building on those, and making them something that's very meaningful to them.
Another thing that students do is get involved with research. They'll find a place or something that they're interested in, oftentimes the field that they're interested in, and they'll dig into research there. Then they can also do work experience on the side. That can be pretty difficult with medical school.
Bob Chestnut: It's not necessarily something that is expected, but if you do, you could be a research assistant, or you could do some other type of work that could set you apart from other people applying to residency.
Then the last one would be publications. So that falls hand-in-hand with research, but you could also put something out there about a volunteer experience you've had. There's actually quite a few different ways that you can present publications.
Interviewer: So it sounds like you could navigate these the way you want to a little bit. Do they all have to relate to medicine?
Bob Chestnut: They can, but they don't necessarily need to. There's quite a few opportunities to get involved with things like early childhood development and literacy. There's a lot of opportunities for outreach for high school students, for underserved populations. There's quite a few different things you can do.
Interviewer: If you didn't know your passions coming into medical school, how do you find that? How do you go about finding these opportunities to make yourself as the best residency candidate that you can be?
Bob Chestnut: I'm a big fan of creating kind of a road map for your education, and so I would actually sit down and write down what your experiences have been so far and see if you have any deficits and if there are any areas where you need to really buckle down and do a little bit more.
Interviewer: Let's expound upon the personal qualities and professional qualities that you think that great residency candidate could have.
Bob Chestnut: We recently did a focus group with several medical students as well as some of the staff from the school, and we posed that question to them, "What makes the ideal medical student?" And it was very interesting to see what they came up with. They actually generated a whole bunch of ideas, and then they categorized and prioritized the ideas.
The top four that they came up with was professional conduct being the most important, then professional qualities. Then it was communication and then teamwork. I think it's interesting that all of these come, actually, above the main knowledge or the clinical knowledge that we also want them to acquire in school.
I do want to stress that the main knowledge, clinical knowledge, is absolutely required for medical students, and it's a part of our social contract. We owe it to our patients to be the best that we can be. I mean, none of us are perfect, but we can be constantly striving to give them the best. So that is an absolute must.
And then I think a close second would be that you're willing to work with others. If there are any problems, you're willing to discuss those. You're willing to accept that you do have weaknesses as well as others have weaknesses and that by actually working together, you can get over those weaknesses and you can expand that toolkit to include the tools that others have refined.
Interviewer: I like that. So, do you feel like you were given the right opportunities to gain these critical qualities of a person throughout these four years, or did you feel like you had to come in medical school already having these qualities?
Bob Chestnut: You know, that's a pretty significant question in the literature, whether or not you can actually teach medical students these qualities. In my opinion, you can. You know, clinical knowledge is definitely what is the most tested in medical school. I would say it's the easiest to assess. Not that it's easy, but it is easier than these other soft qualities that you want students to develop.
So, really, in medical school, there is the medical curriculum, but there's also this huge socialization process that has to take place where medical students have to learn how to step into that role of the physician. And any medical student could tell you, "It's not always pretty, it is difficult, and it is anxiety-provoking, but with time and consistent feedback, you are able to gain those qualities."
Interviewer: Those qualities could come. Any advice that you wish you had starting out medical school but somebody may not have known?
Bob Chestnut: You know, for me, again, I'm going to go back to the road map. I think that it would've been helpful if I had done that even earlier on just because I kept an up-to-date CV, just recording the different activities I had participated in. And looking back, there are a few that if I had looked at them on paper, I would have said, "I need to spend a little more time here." Or I would've said, "You know, I probably don't need to spend time there. I should spend it on something else."
Interviewer: All right. So road maps to you are a big thing. It's a great help, a great tool to use to make yourself that best residency candidate that you can be and in the end just a quality medical student that goes onto be a quality doctor. That's what I'm gathering. Right?
Bob Chestnut: Yeah. And I think it's just part of self-assessment and making corrections along the way to make sure that you're getting the desired outcome that you want.
Man: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.