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Who will be there?

Andrea Knittel
AMSA Member
6th Year MSTP
University of Michigan

Welcome to the second installment in a series on returning to the wards after several years as a MSTP doctoral student in public health.  You can find my first (and introductory) post here.  (You can find all of these posts by looking for the tag "Back To The Wards".)  This particular post was motivated by a series of events that have prompted me to think about who I’ll be working with next year.

As it sinks in that I'll really be going back, I've thought a lot about the class I’ll be joining.  It will be made up of a few individuals I've worked with or made friends with, former students and folks who know me from lectures I've given, people I've never met, and some returning MSTP classmates.  Apart from the medical students I'll be rotating with, however, I'll be working with 4th year medical students, interns, residents, and attendings, as well as medical assistants, nurses, techs, physicians assistants and a variety of other healthcare personnel .  Of these, I'm likely to have met a few of them in my previous 6 years at UMMS or in the university at large.  I anticipate running into my former boss at the Women’s Health Resource Center at various points, perhaps encountering nurses and administrators who have been involved with the UMMS Pride Network, and seeing physicians who have worked with other student organizations I've been involved with.  I also expect to see instructors I've taught for and worked with in other capacities.  These interactions promise to be somewhat straightforward, however, with normal rules of etiquette covering all that I need.  Though there will likely be a few "how should I address this person" moments, I'm looking forward to showing these colleagues that I've made it and am finally back on the wards.

The interactions I've described above are not the ones I've been thinking most about, however.  Instead I've been considering the friends and medical school classmates who will be 4th years, interns, residents, and even potentially attending when I start my rotations.  Do you call your friend Dr. So-and-so when you've been calling her by her first name for the past 6 years?  Are the expectations higher or lower or can they possibly be the same if your supervisor or evaluator knows you in a context outside of medicine?  These questions are not unique to returning MD/PhD students, but apply to many medical students who worked in the same healthcare setting where they are now in school.  I suppose I'll have to pin down a few folks over the next few months and grill them about their experiences and the etiquette they used to get through them…

Finally, I've been thinking a lot about friends and colleagues who won't be there when I go back.  Last week the world lost an incredible individual when Sujal Parikh died after a motorcycle accident.  He was an inspiration with his dedication to global health, HIV/AIDS research, responsible global exchange, and the huge range of student organizations he joined and led (including AMSA).  He would have come back to finish his 4th year next year, and I would have had a chance to work with him as a sub-I or on exciting extracurricular things.  Though Suj is the most recent and striking example, there are others who won't be there on the wards next year because of illness or untimely passing, or to care for a loved one.  It's hard not to feel powerless in the face of these losses, and wonder whether every day will bring some reminder, but I'll be keeping those colleagues in my thoughts and if I can, working just a little bit harder in their memory. 

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