|Current Location||Baltimore, Md.|
1. How did you get to where you are today?
I have a pretty straightforward track. I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician from a very young age. I liked being around kids, and from high school I knew I liked science, but didn’t like research. I went to University of Maryland, College Park, and double majored in biology and psychology. I went straight from undergrad to the (School of Medicine at the University of Virginia) and then a Johns Hopkins residency program.
The Greater Baltimore Medical Center Pediatric Emergency Department only opened in the last 10 years and they’ve been recruiting from Hopkins since it began. Six of our emergency room doctors were trained at Hopkins. When I was in my third year of medical school, my roommate was working (at GBMC Pediatric Emergency Department) and I saw first hand how she liked it. Then she left to do a fellowship and I sort of took her spot.
2. What does your daily routine look like?
Every week is totally different. I have 12-hour and six-hour shifts, plus four hours of administrative time. Our 40-hour workweek is averaged over the year so some weeks I’ll work 60 hours.
The ER is pretty slow in the morning. I see patients and catch up on what happened overnight. We’ll see whoever walks in the door – mostly run-of-the-mill stuff – but we will get sicker kids, and occasionally we’ll get more severe cases. We don’t have scheduled breaks or lunchtime off, so when you’re there you’re there, and you’re expected to work the whole time.
3. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? What is your career goal now?
I always knew I wanted a career, not just a job. I figured my career would involve some sort of advanced degree – my family has lots of lawyers, doctors and professors. One of the good things about what I do is the psychology part. You become part of a family’s life. They trust you and you get to see a little bit of someone else’s experiences and help them a little bit. It’s science plus helping.
During residency you don’t have time to be a real person. I’m taking some time off to settle into life. I’m happy where I am in my career now, but I don’t know if I’ll be here forever. Eventually I’d like to work in public health or advocacy for kids. Maybe there’s another professional degree in my future, but for now I’m taking it month by month.
4. What are your political leanings when it comes to work-related issues, such as social security, overseas manufacturing, and unions?
As a pediatrician, I’m more concerned with being a voice for kids. Environment plays a huge role in your health. Kids develop differently because of their environment and that can mean a lot of things – socioeconomic status, school environment, whether their parents read to them.
I’m also a huge advocate of universal health care. It would streamline the process for patients and doctors. Now, I get patients referred to me from a pediatrician and I won’t have any information. I have to repeat tests and labs and they’re wasteful. Then, I discharge the patient and don’t know what will happen to them.
5. How have the past few years of economic instability affected your career?
I wasn’t personally affected. I was kind of protected as a resident. You have your hours and your salary, and you signed a contract. They need you more than you need them.
You see it in the community. If someone loses their job, the family loses their health insurance. Babies will be behind on their shots, but the family can’t come in because they don’t have insurance. Or I’ll prescribe medicine and it’s not being filled because they don’t have insurance. In the ER, people get hospital bills they will never pay. It’s affected my practice but not me personally. There has been a lot of searching for generic medications and ways to make it affordable for patients.
6. What worries you the most about your job? What worries you most about your life outside of work?
Being in an ER is stressful. It’s 12 hours straight with no break. You’re lucky if you get to go to the bathroom. Burnout is always a big thing for doctors and there is an emotional toll. It’s really draining to see abuse and death. I worry that with all the sad things I see, will I still want to be doing this in 10 to 15 years? There is good and bad – there are high highs and low lows.
7. Are you in a union? Does your industry have unions? Do you think your industry should unionize?
I’m not. There are some jobs at the hospital that are union, but pediatricians are not.
Unions have done a lot of good and give people a voice, but physicians are a smaller group and it’s very individualized. In most places (physicians) negotiate their hours and what percentage of their work is clinical, research or practice. I don’t know if a union makes sense for pediatricians at our hospital.
8. What is your proudest career accomplishment?
I don’t have one particular moment. My mentor at Johns Hopkins wrote me a letter or recommendation for my job at (GBMC Pediatric Emergency Department). My mentor said I was ready and that they would bring their kids to see me. You want to know you’re ready. That confidence is important. There is so much training and all of the sudden I’m out on my own; it’s all on me.
9. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
For me, personally, I would love to not work weekends and holidays. I’m almost always going to work Christmas or New Year’s. It would be nice to have a schedule that’s a little more on par with everyone else. I love what I do, and my job is special. I wish there were more resources for kids and families.
10. In one sentence, what’s one thing you’d like America to know about you and people like you?
I get to see little slices of a lot of people’s lives. The world has become polarized, but we’re all people just trying to do the best for our families and ourselves. Pediatricians are not just trying to help the patient; we’re trying to help the entire community around them to bring out the best in that patient.
–By Carrie Mihalcik / current.com / @CDMihalcik