As I sit curled in a blanket on my couch, writing my personal statement for my obstetrics–gynecology residency application, I find myself withholding my feelings. “You must be professional and pragmatic,” I remind myself as I hit the backspace key for the umpteenth time. “You are bordering on sounding enthusiastic, idealistic, unrealistic, but really, melodramatic.” But if I could express whatever I wanted in my personal statement, without fear of seeming over-the-top, I know exactly how it would start. My life changed the moment I decided to go into obstetrics–gynecology. In that moment, I experienced an immediate transformation wherein my perspective on medical education shifted from merely learning, studying, and participating to wholeheartedly embracing medicine as my future.
Third-year medical students are given a whirlwind tour of medical specialties, during which they attempt to gain exposure to clinic routine in a very short time. A corollary of this is that patients can inadvertently be treated as case files or procedural practice. See one, do one, teach one. But after deciding on obstetrics–gynecology I notice I approach situations with a patient-oriented mindset, focusing on ways I can supplement my textbook training to provide better care for my future patients. Every patient encounter, online forum, or blog post introduces me to issues not taught in medical school. How can we further involve fathers in the childbirth process? What are menstrual cups and cycle beads? What is a lotus birth? How can I unlearn assumptions about sexual partners and gender pronouns? What can I do to reassure expectant mothers that my only agenda is to ensure they feel empowered in making informed decisions that align with their desires and beliefs? Look, here is a patient who was dissatisfied because her gynecologist was unaware of acupuncture for fertility; let me search for a Cochrane review on this topic. So much emphasis is placed on teachable moments, but I struggle to choose one particular encounter as more important than others. In my experience, if I am not learning and growing from every patient, then I am doing it wrong.
Even in seemingly unrelated, mundane areas of my life, I have found connections to obstetrics–gynecology. On my anesthesia rotation, I requested time on labor and delivery, learning about spinal and epidural anesthesia and witnessing childbirth from a drastically different perspective. For my book report topic in my environmental health class, I read about endocrine disruptors and the impacts on reproductive health. Surgery taught me about postoperative care and “mommy thumb.” An afternoon in anatomy lab made me appreciate pelvic anatomy and sciatica in pregnancy. The list goes on. My burgeoning passion for obstetrics–gynecology has permeated every aspect of my life, and this artwork is a natural extension of my newfound energy to create and explore the subject matter. This piece is another personal statement.
In obstetrics–gynecology we have a unique privilege: Patients trust us to guide them through memorable and life-changing events. Along with this come special scrutiny and a responsibility to provide an informative and individualized experience. Even now, hardly a day goes by where I am not listening and refining so that I can be the health care provider that I would want for myself. I finally understand what it means to say medicine is a calling, and I hope I never lose this feeling.
Ms. Haunschild is a fourth-year medical student, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.