Explore Careers: Working in the field of Medicine with Neena Passi, Resident Physician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
In this edition, we have a great discussion with Neena Passi, a Resident Physician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, to understand what working in the field of Medicine is like. If you’re exploring a career in Medicine, this is a great podcast to listen to!
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Here are our notes from our discussion with Neena. If you prefer Audio instead, you can listen to the podcast below:
A resident physician is a person who practices medicine under the guidance of a senior doctor until they are ready to practice it on their own. Residency is a stage in graduate medical training where a physician practices medicine in a hospital/clinic under the guidance of a doctor until they can choose their own field to specialize in.
Neena works as a resident physician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She has a M.D. from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She’s currently in her 2nd year of residency. While she was in college, she conducted research in Neuroradiology and Ophthalmology. Right now she’s looking into areas in cardiology and transplant medicine.
One hears a lot about medicine being an extremely demanding career. Is that the case? Do you get days off or are you generally working around the clock?
In general I get one day off every week. The day is generally fixed one of the two days on the weekend. I think medicine does get a bad rap for having long hours, and while that’s true to an extent the lifestyle for physicians has dramatically changed over the past decade. As medicine becomes more subspecialized and doctors are joining larger practices and hospitals, the workload is getting distributed more evenly. Physicians are increasingly working balanced hours.
Furthermore, for physicians in training there are regulations on our working hours as a means to reduce the possibility of errors and to improve the level of patient care. So on average i’ll be working 60 70 hours per week and have at least one day off per week.
Could you tell us about your journey so far?
I grew up in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. I did my undergrad at the George Washington University School of Medicine through their 7 year accelerated bachelors and medical doctorate programme. Currently I’m working as a resident physician in a hospital in New York. I’m training in internal medicine with a future focus on the subspeciality of cardiology
Could you help us through the key stages that you have to go through before you can start practicing medicine?
Traditionally, you have to go through a 4 year programme to get a bachelors degree. This can be in any field a lot of people choose to do a bachelors within a science degree, some do it in economics or arts as well. One only has to complete a few prerequisite classes in Biology, Physics, Chemistry in order to apply to medical school. Basically a few credits or hours in these areas. Post that you have to go for a 4 year medical school training to get your medical doctorate degree after which you have to go for a residency training program in a specific field of medicine. Some people go into internal medicine, others go into surgery, pediatrics, gynaecology, radiology etc. A residency is typically 3 7 years depending upon the field that you choose within internal medicine or pediatrics one doesn’t spend any time in the operating room unlike a surgeon etc.
About half of the people that complete their residency choose to further subspecialize and do a fellowship. For instance, if someone does a fellowship in general cardiology, then can further go on to do a fellowship in imaging, or interventional cardiology etc. The others choose to start practicing as a fully licensed physician.
What is internal medicine?
It’s training of taking care of adult patients and the general conditions that effect adults such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid problems. It’s a fairly broad spectrum of conditions which affect adults something like what a general physician would do.
What attracted you to the field of medicine?
I’ve known from an early age that I wanted to have a career in medicine my father is a physician so I was exposed to the field from a very young age. Growing up I enjoyed science and math and knew that I wanted to be in a field where I would directly get to help people. Also, medicine as a field provides a lifetime of intellectual stimulation as well as emotional gratification because at the heart of the practice is a caring for another human’s physical, emotional and mental well being. We think of issues at a scientific and social level as well as personal and public level. A lot of people nowadays get enticed by financial wealth and laid back lifestyle. They forget to think about the career as something which should be fulfilling and helps people. If you’re joining medicine for the money and glamour then those are the wrong reasons. But if you have a genuine desire to help people, work in a team and continually grow and improve, then this should be a good fit for you.
The process of becoming a doctor is pretty long and can become pretty taxing. It takes a lot of hardwork and determination to practice medicine. But it is also genuinely extremely satisfying. Doctors have the privilege of serving people at their most vulnerable, which is both a huge responsibility as well as a huge honor. While it is daunting to think of how much weight a doctor’s advice can have on a patient’s life, it is also extremely rewarding. All the years of work and training you have put in can go a long way in determining another individual’s and his family’s life.
Have you seen people drop out because of the enormous amount of time?
It’s very rare for people to not complete their training process. People that don’t complete their residency generally do so because of some personal reasons. After you complete medical school you’re generally kept on a path of success. As long as you’re interested and keep up with practice guidelines in your field, you generally do well.
Do doctors spend a lot of time keeping up with the latest developments in the field?
That’s true, we do have to do that. We keep reading medical literature in journals, publications within specific specialities that keep us abreast with the latest innovations in the different fields. This becomes something like leisure reading material for most of us because we have to keep abreast with the latest developments, and it’s pretty interesting too.
You’ve worked on a lot of research areas and published a lot of papers. Is that normal for doctors?
While research is not required it is becoming more and more important in the profession. Especially with evidence based medical practices gaining popularity. Also physicians who wish to practice in an academic setting, research is an integral part of their careers. So residents and fellows who are applying for further training, research is an important way of demonstrating your interest as well as a basic understanding of research study design and ability to write for a scientific publication. Some people make their own projects, some serve as junior members on larger projects with varied roles. For most physicians to remain in an academic setting, they will also continue to do research throughout their careers. They’ll generally work in labs or hospitals affiliated with medical schools. Private hospitals will generally not be affiliated with medical schools.
What would you say does a physician do?
Physicians are skilled trained health professionals who are licensed to practice medicine. They firstly look to try and prevent disease and maintain physical and mental wellbeing. Within people that do fall sick, we are responsible for caring for them. Physicians have to take care of people in terms of both their body and mind. Everyone that graduates from medical school starts out as a physician, who either chooses to remain as a general physician or shifts into a more specialized field.
What is life like as a resident?
You’re essentially a doctor in training, who is typically overseen by other full time doctors. You have the knowledge and fundamentals of applying your knowledge that you learn in medical school to clinical practice. You’re working towards being able to work independently. A resident’s daily schedule depends upon their specialization. In internal medicine or a pediatrician would spend a significant amount of time in a hospital or office based setting caring for patients that are healthy or sick. Those in surgery would additionally also spend time in operating rooms learning the skills for operating on someone. Alternatively those in radiology would spend a large amount of time in labs mastering skills of reading imaging studies like X-
Rays, CTs and MRIs.
To learn more, check out the full podcast below:
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Here’s where you can find what in the episode
Stages of building a career in Medicine (6:15)
How to not be afraid of the hard work required to work in the medical field (12:00)
How doctors handle dealing with life and death decisions (15:10)
How doctors keep up with latest developments in the medical field (17:30)
What does a physician do (21:45)
Life as a Resident (23:20)
The kind of cases a Resident works on and how that evolves (29:00)
Role of creativity in the field of medicine (33:00)
How to choose a specialization (36:50)
Interesting and challenging aspects of the job (43:30)
Attributes of someone who will be successful in this field (47:40)
What the best doctors do differently (50:00)
How to get a sense of what it’s like to work in this field before going all in (53:30)
Thank you so much for listening!!
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Happy listening and ciao for now!