Name & Age: Vivian Yang, 26
Hometown/State: You pick! I’ve lived in: (age 0-5) Cary, North Carolina, (age5-17) Glen Ellyn, Illinois, (age17-26+) LA/OC/(and, now)Riverside County, California
Medical School: University of California, Irvine SOM
Specialty and Residency Location: Family Medicine, Riverside University Health Systems, Moreno Valley
What made you decide to apply UC Irvine? Did you consider other program types (such as DO or Caribbean MD schools)?
I knew I wanted to stay in Southern California because there was no way I was going back to 6 months of no sun in Chicago. That being said, only after interviews did I realize that UC Irvine was the best school for me. The more laid-back atmosphere, emphasis on learning over grades, and proximity to the ocean were some of my priorities. Of course, good premed students are very flexible, so they can adjust to any medical school environment and location.
Silly me didn’t really do my research prior to applications, so I only applied to MD programs. Now that I think about it, the DO mindset is more aligned with the type of medicine I want to practice in the future, so I should have really considered a DO program. Additionally, I have older cousins (an anesthesiologist and an emergency doc) who convinced me that a DO or foreign MD are not as “valuable” as a US-obtained MD. These are false statements. Though the journey is different, a medical degree is a medical degree no matter where you get it from.
Like a faraway dream… No, but really, first and second year of medical school are relatively easy compared to third and fourth, in terms of medical knowledge, time commitment, and enthusiasm for life. While learning the “normal human physiology and anatomy” of MS1, we had exams nearly every Monday, forcing us to keep up with our classes; and yet, I still went to the beach once a week, worked out consistently, and called my mom. During MS2, our exam schedule was a little less frequent and the material was more interesting.
Any tips for adjusting to the workload in medical school?
* Get into a regular morning and night routine, and learn to wake up early. No matter what your preference, you will need to wake up at ungodly hours during your rotations (think 4:30am to be at the hospital at 6am). You might as well start practicing now.
* Form a study group and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I always thought I could be that person who studied in the quiet corner of the library by themself. The fault in this method is that there is no way a single person can know the holes in their learning without reflecting off of someone else. A study group keeps you up to speed and makes learning more fun (that is, lots of ridiculous microbiology mnemonics while drawing on white boards).
Advice for those who are studying for take Step 1?
Pace yourself, get REALLY comfortable at your local coffee shop or library, and know that every licensed physician has been in the dark hole of Step 1 before. Also, it’s really important to feel ready for the exam before you take it. I know many classmates who postponed the exam a few times, and there is no shame in that.
How and when did you decide on your specialty?
During my third year (which started with a 2 month surgery rotation), I was very open minded and loved a piece of every rotation. I kept asking myself, Can I live without this kind of medicine? And, do I want to grow up to be like this attending? It turns out the answer to the first question was no, so I had to choose family medicine – I love the counseling of psychiatry, the hands-on of surgery, the long term relationship of medicine, and the joys/triumphs/struggles of pediatrics and ob/gyn. I think when choosing your specialty, you have to ask yourself what you can eliminate first, and go from there.
What is your favorite part of family medicine? Least favorite part?
My least favorite part of family medicine has nothing to do with medicine and all to do with politicking and bureaucracy. I hate not being able to give my patients what they need. Many of the FQHC’s (Federally Qualified Health Center) I’ve worked at have all the best intentions, but not enough financial resource or infrastructure to make things happen.
My favorite part of family medicine, of course, is being able to treat the whole family (any age, any gender, any disease process). I also love political advocacy, community outreach, and health education which are cornerstones to any good family medicine physician!
How many programs did you apply to, and how many interviews did you end up attending?
I applied to 35 (eep, too many, didn’t know my priorities at the time of application). I interviewed at 10 programs and ranked all 10.
Did you do any away/audition rotations?
Nope, didn’t want to deal with the paperwork 🙂
Now that you’ve successfully matched, what are some tips you have for third years who are preparing for the interview season?
* Get your letters of recommendation super early. Even if you don’t know exactly what specialty you will end up choosing, a good LoR will get you far.
* Make connections with you program director, other program directors, residents at your home program and outside ones. I’m pretty sure I got 2 of my interviews based on personal connection alone.
* Be organized. If you’re not already on the online calendar bandwagon, jump on it.
I would love to practice part time in an underserved community and travel part time speaking, educating, and advocating. I think my personality (being equal parts introvert and extrovert with a sprinkle of social justice) requires me to see the bigger picture and to share the struggles of my community. In terms of clinical practice, I really do love full spectrum care, especially urgent care, pediatrics, and delivering babies. I guess this is why I’m a family doc.
If you had the chance to do med school again, would you have done it the same way?
There were many clinical and research opportunities during the summer after MS1, and while I wouldn’t have traded my health coach experience for a local company or my immersive shadowing experience at Betty Ford Center, I do wish I had done some international medicine. I guess that’s what I have to look forward to during my three years of residency!
***Bonus! More resources for medical students who are interested in family medicine.
* American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has a National Conference in July every year. It’s a 2-3 day adventure in Kansas City, MO with students, residents, and program directors from all over the country. It really gets you fired up about family medicine, education, and community!
* California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) has an annual All Member Advocacy Meeting (AMAM) in March during which students and residents can learn about policies that affect them/their patients, and talk directly to senators and assemblymen regarding their experience.
* Summer Institute for Medical Students (SIMS) at Betty Ford Center, CA (now also Hazeldon, MN) really opened my eyes to substance abuse disorder and addiction medicine. As I had never before had a personal or family experience with drug use, I went into the program naive. I think I cried every single day of the program because I connected with a patient or colleague. It’s intense, but so necessary to understand, especially in family medicine.
I’m always happy to talk about (pre)med, family med, life, dogs, travel, vegan food, yoga, books…