By completing eight weeks of surgery followed by four weeks of family medicine, I was able to immerse myself into two very different fields of medicine back-to-back and see what I gravitate towards more. On the surface, surgery and family medicine are complete polar opposites of the medical spectrum. Yet, the two specialties do share the same common goal: to do no harm to the patient and for that, I found both valuable. By completing both surgery and family medicine, I have picked my poison essentially. I gravitate towards medicine because I like to critically think about the differentials and do extensive work-ups for various diagnoses and problems. Moreover, I enjoy the preventative care and long-term management of chronic diseases that is prevalent in outpatient care.
For me, surgery was a smorgasbord of inpatient services, including surgical oncology, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery. I found all of these services to be challenging and yet, thrilling. It was exciting to meet patients in clinic, scrub in on their respective cases, and subsequently follow them during their post-operative hospital stay and maybe see them again at their post-operative outpatient appointment. Although I really liked the continuity of care, I wasn’t always able to follow patients for their entirety of their surgical course. Most of the time, I was in the OR, learning and witnessing the intricacies of human anatomy and the diversity of surgical techniques that varies from surgeon to surgeon.
Meanwhile, my family medicine experience was a true outpatient experience that provided me the continuity of care that I craved. I interacted with patients who were homeless, undocumented, and/or uninsured, as well as those who were the working poor with either Medicare, Medicaid, or insurance obtained via the ACA exchanges at a federally qualified community health center. One-on-one encounters with individuals enabled me to practice my motivational interviewing skills and juggle people’s presenting complaints in 15-20 minute appointment slots. I began to think of differential diagnoses systematically for common problems like chest pain and shortness of breath and come up with plausible treatment plans that even my attending agreed with! I still struggle with figuring out what is the most likely diagnosis versus the zebras, but this challenge inspires me to persevere and continue to practice my analytical skills.