I interview approximately 60 prospective physicians for medical school over the course of the year and 40 physicians who are applying for the residency program. The pre-med students (almost all of whom are the age of my children) tend to have pretty good interview skills and are trying very hard to get into medical school (“I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember”) so the interviews tend to be somewhat predictable.
Every so often I’ll get one who considers ObamaCare to be the devil’s work but for the most part they are good but non-controversial interviews.
The resident interviews are more fun for me. These are physicians-to-be who want to be in family medicine, want to see what our program has to offer, and have at least a passing understanding of the advantages our program might have over our competition. These are interviews with much more substance. The three on Friday were especially enjoyable.
One of the candidates was from Louisiana and grew up in a part of the state that my family is from as well. After a discussion regarding Cajun territory, the conversation veered towards family medicine and why he wanted to become a family physician. The candidate had done most of his clinical work in Lafayette, a regional clinical site where family medicine is taught. Like all good clinicians-to-be, on every clinical rotation the instructors not only focused on his clinical learning but also on his career choice. “Why family medicine” they would ask. He worried about the prestige factor as he was choosing a specialty. His decision was cemented, though, by a decision LSU made to place him with a rural family physician for an extended period. He saw this physician as a mentor and it was this relationship that cemented his decision to go into family medicine. He said “At the (teaching) hospital in Lafayette, the family medicine team is down here and the specialists are up here. Out in the community it is completely reversed.”
The second candidate was a student who had come for an interview the previous year. I remember the interview from last year very well. I was very surprised when I heard that this student selected pediatrics instead of family medicine. She came back to re-interview because she said she had discovered her mistake and wanted to be a “family doc.” She said she was admitting a very young patient to the inpatient service for failure-to-thrive. It is uncommon for infants to fail to thrive and it is almost always a parenting problem and not an infant problem. In this case the mother seemed to the resident to be suffering from post-partum depression. Unfortunately, she was told that it was not her place to treat the depression, only the poorly fed infant. She said to me “I want to be able to treat the whole family.”
The third was a non-traditional candidate who was originally from Mobile. He left Mobile almost 18 years ago and after a roundabout life course ended up in medical school. He told me “I want to take care of people who are underserved in a holistic way and I want to do it here at home.” The fact that he was of African-American descent was meaningful. Traditionally we have had trouble attracting African-American candidates from Mobile into primary care, in part because there is a tradition in the community to encourage minority medical students to pursue limited specialty choices. I suspect this is a reminder of our racist past in this region, where African-American physicians were excluded from specialty training. Having family medicine seen as a “specialty” by this student is clearly a victory.
So three candidates and three conversations that give me hope for our specialty and the future of medicine.
Allen Perkins is Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, University of South Alabama. He blogs at Training Family Doctors.
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