About a dozen MSSC members celebrated National Doctors’ Day this year by visiting area high schools and sharing their experiences, challenges and triumphs in becoming a doctor.
Drs. Patty Bledsoe, MD, Gretchen Irwin, MD, Matthew Macaluso, DO, Justin Moore, MD, Renae Schuler, MD, Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, MD, Jonathan Scrafford, MD, Timothy Shaver, MD, Elisha Yaghmai, MD, and Sylvester Youlo, MD, spoke to students at a half dozen high schools.
Many students are curious about how to become a doctor and perhaps a bit daunted by the amount of school and training physicians must undertake. That shouldn’t stop a person who has a heart for healing, said Scrafford, who spoke at The Independent School.
People assume that doctors-to-be must be science-oriented, have perfect grades and be wealthy in order to fund their education and training. “Those things just aren’t necessarily true anymore,” Scrafford said. Traits such as organization, critical thinking, and passion are also important, as is knowing how to talk and interact with people.
“Doctors really need to have the ability to listen and communicate,” he said. “You don’t have to be a biology major either. More and more medical schools are looking for people with diverse backgrounds and good communications skills.”
Schuler spoke to students in the Health Sciences Academy at West High. “I love to share about medicine,” she said, though she confided she is more comfortable saving lives than doing public speaking.
She shared her appreciation for the training she received in family medicine, which has allowed her to do a wide variety of work and change jobs based on her family needs and life events. She also appreciates the long-term relationships she has formed with patients. “I’ve seen the babies of the babies I’ve delivered,” she said.
Schuler is the only person in her family who is a physician. Her father was an immigrant from Syria and her mother grew up in the projects of Detroit. She also shared how she had a reading disability that made medical school challenging, yet she sought help from school support staff and persevered.
“You have to have dedication,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged if you hit a bump in the road.”
Schuler said that being a physician also requires paying attention to what happens in Topeka or Washington, D.C. “You have to be politically savvy and involved,” she said, noting how MSSC sends out emails to update physicians on legislation that could impact the practice of medicine or patient care.
Irwin said she also got into family medicine for the breadth and diversity of practice. She spoke to a science class at Heights High School, where students asked why she chose her career path. “I know a little about a lot of stuff, and that helps my patients get the best care they need,” she said. “I really love family medicine because I like the variety.”
Moore spoke to students at North High School. He described the process of becoming a doctor, from the classes students need to take in college to what the MCAT questions are like. He noted how medical schools often appreciate students with different backgrounds and majors. Students asked questions such as whether Moore had to work during college (yes) and whether he and his wife, Dr. Tracy Williams, MD, had to go to different cities for their residencies (no).
Youlo shared with Heights High School students his journey arriving in America as a refugee from West Africa at age 24, going to college and eventually becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
Students wanted to know why he chose orthopedics, what were his hardest and longest surgeries, if he ever gets queasy cutting someone open, and whether the medical shows on TV are real. “Grey’s Anatomy’ is so fake,” he said.
Youlo emphasized the importance of working hard in school, being disciplined and getting good grades. “If you do the work, you’ll do fine,” he told students.
Physicians make an impact with students ready to embark on their post-secondary education journeys. Teachers said they inspire students, leaving them with an awareness of college major choices, medical school expectations, and how to guide their medical careers when they have many interests. Most physicians said to succeed at become a doctor mostly requires commitment and passion.
“Keep your eye on the fact that you can do it if you know that’s what you really want,” Irwin said. “Keep your eye on what you’re working toward and you’ll get there.”