The Road from Student to Physician

            Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of second and third year students at KSUCPM. We discussed everything from difficult classes and preparing for residency, to fellowships, the places that they dreamed of living and working, and even the idea of taking the leap to open a practice of their own. For some students, these areas were only a matter of how, when and where (or in some cases, wherever the path would take them), but to others, with less room for a free spirit mentality, considering something like a post-residency fellowship, or deciding where to practice was much less “wait and see” and seemingly a lot more complicated.

Throughout the conversation, the area of consideration that remained the least black and white was Fellowships. This conversation, combined with teaching practice management classes, and taking time outside the classroom to learn more about the personalities behind the future DPMs, only solidified a handful of commonalities amongst all of the students. Primarily, the stress involved in researching and applying to a “top” residency program, along with finding ways of setting themselves apart (from every other fish in an already overcrowded pond), while maintaining a high level of academic performance just to be considered, was enough to think about. That being said, the idea of an additional year of training post residency was something that most students viewed as something out of the “Wizard of Oz” Over the Rainbow and Far, Far Away. Those that had considered a Fellowship needed more information in order to weigh the benefits (as applied to their individual circumstances). In this article we will discuss the best time for students and resident physicians to begin planning their roadmap for success. We will also take a close look at financial, domestic and geographic considerations that can have a dramatic impact on the future.

            As a student, it is never too early to begin scoping out residency programs, especially with the large shortage of positions available. It is also important that students begin planning as soon as possible, as many programs require externships or other clinical experience. While travel to and from potential program locations may be expensive and time consuming, it is essential to get a true feel for where you may be living for a period of 3-4 years and how this will affect you and your family (if you already have a spouse and/or children or are planning to begin a family soon). One student shared a story with our group about visiting one of his potential “top pick” programs, only to be turned off by the fast pace and constant whine of police sirens. With a wife and two young daughters, this was not the right program for him. Another student stated that she was looking for a well-rounded program on the East Coast where she could live and immerse herself in all that city life had to offer. Two different domestic circumstances and geographic desires, which needed to be realized and considered prior to applying or making final decisions.

            Then our attention shifted to finding that right residency program and look towards the future once again. As they say, time flies and in the more hectic years of life, time seems to be on fast-forward. It is for this reason that second year residents need to begin networking by attending state and local meetings in the area that they wish to live and work, submitting CVs, watching ads, setting up interviews and visiting the offices of doctors in need of associates or partners in the near or distant future. This is also the time to make sure that you have a well-managed financial plan. Many would suggest beginning to plan as a student and making sure that your credit stays at a level that will afford you opportunities for practice buy in, or to open your own practice down the road. 

Cindy Pezza, PMAC