Residency was one of the most memorable times of my life—for reasons both good and bad. I was exhausted, stressed, and I nearly worked myself to death, but I also learned an incredible amount about medicine, made lasting friendships, and received valuable life lessons from my patients.
My residency experience changed me forever, especially regarding what I knew about life and death. I treated very sick patients and dealt with death and dying on a daily basis, but I knew there was something to be learned from this. That’s why the most memorable experience I would take away from residency was learning about the importance of living life fully. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all going to die eventually. But I have learned to pursue what brings me joy and leave behind what makes me sad.
We asked medical residents about their "most memorable experience of residency." Here's what they had to say.
Jake Jacob, MD: "A memorable experience during my internal medicine residency during the pandemic was the sudden shift to virtual care. As the pandemic escalated, we were forced to rapidly adapt to new technologies and ways of delivering care to our patients. Initially, the shift was challenging, but it taught me the importance of flexibility and resilience. It also highlighted the health disparities that exist within our society, as many of our patients did not have access to the technology required to participate in virtual visits."
"This experience reinforced the need for healthcare providers to advocate for their patients and to work towards equitable access to care."
— Jake Jacob, MD, Baylor College of Medicine
Thomas P., DO: "My most memorable experience was a difficult patient I took care of multiple times during residency. He had a life-limiting disease and medical noncompliance. It took me multiple hospital admission with him for me to really understand what he wanted out of life and why he failed outpatient treatment."
"Caring for him, along with many others, helped me decide to pursue palliative care medicine to help other patients optimize their own happiness in regards to their health and functionality."
— Thomas P., DO, Abrazo Health Network
Trusting your patient’s symptoms
Vasudha Kota, MD: "I saw a patient that was refusing to walk and limping for 4 months. The patient went to multiple primary care physicians, but his symptoms were always attributed to growing pains. His parents finally brought him to our ER, where he got an extensive workup. He was found to have neuroblastoma on an ultrasound."
"This helped show how important it is to have broad differentials in mind, and to make sure to get a thorough history from your patient."
— Vasudha Kota, MD
The importance of family at the bedside
Christina Pedro, MD: "There's an unsaid feeling of excitement and a bit of fear associated with working as an intern on your first ICU rotation. To my surprise, my first ICU rotation was exhilarating and eye-opening; the medical procedures and life saving interventions showed me the breadth of medicine that could transform the sickest patients and stabilize their conditions. Through the uncertainty of patient recovery, I realized that the ICU is an opportunity for families to come together and think about life and their relationships.
"Because of the socioeconomic makeup of my patient population in a medically underserved community hospital, I saw many families reunited after years without contact due to homelessness, addictions and prison."
"These families were brought back together with the opportunity and hope that once their loved one is stabilized and discharged, they could continue to keep in touch and grow together."
— Christina Pedro, MD, Mission Community Hospital
Other memorable residency experiences
Mihir Upadhyaya, MD: "Giving grand rounds presentations in front of the entire department. Like most people, I find public speaking to be a challenge, and even a little anxiety-provoking. This was a great way to overcome that fear."
Adnan Manzoor, MD: "Managing the new intern class and medical students. I learned that medicine is about coming together as a team to promote better patient management."
Ismaeel Bakhsh, MD: "The adrenaline rushes when a premature baby weighing two pounds is delivered, and having to resuscitate, intubate, and give epinephrine—when you see signs of life slowly showing in that baby, it is definitely very rewarding."
Kelechi Acholonu, DO: "Being an intern during the height of the pandemic was a memorable experience. It was June 2020 when we first began orientation, so much of the information was presented virtually. I will always remember how grueling yet exciting my intern year was, and I’ll never forget the impact of practicing medicine during unprecedented times."
Gregory Benn, MD: "Being selected to become a chief resident. I have learned that managing others is no easy task, and that a good leader needs to lead by example."
Many of us look back at residency and remember the challenges, and maybe even consider it an unhealthy part of our career, but residency is without a doubt full of memorable experiences. Maybe there was one patient who left a life-long lasting impression on you? Or maybe you met your spouse or best friend during residency? Maybe you learned that if you managed to live through residency, you can survive anything? It is important to hold on to these experiences and allow the lessons to move us further in life.
Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!