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How I Got Into Medicine

Ben_3_2Ben Bryner -- I’m still interviewing for residency, just trying to take it one trip at a time. Traveling and finding my way around new cities and unfamiliar hospital buildings is always a little stressful, and I won’t miss that come February. But the interviews themselves are usually a lot of fun; none of mine have been remotely stressful, and they've been great chances to talk to some very interesting people who also happen to be leaders in academic surgery.

Some of the more inane questions I’ve been asked are:

* what my SAT score was (which seems irrelevant since I took that test over a decade ago)

* why I took a year off from medical school to write this blog (I didn’t, my interviewer misunderstood my application) and

* which state contains the most ski resorts (I guessed Utah, my interviewer said it was Michigan, and when I researched it afterward I found the correct answer is New York).

But those are the exceptions, and almost always I’ve been asked some very good questions. At first I thought that shorter interviews would be better, but now that I’ve been through several, I really like the chance to discuss issues that a longer interview allows. It usually allows for a longer discussion of the program and of why I want to go into surgery, but I also think it allows for more time to discuss the city and other important factors that a short interview is a little to tight to accommodate.

The questions themselves aren’t usually a surprise; you can find lists of sample questions, and the ones you get that aren’t on that list usually make sense and are fairly easy to answer after a moment’s thought.

One of the questions I’ve only been asked recently is how I got interested in medicine in the first place. I actually haven't thought about it much for a long time, since most of my questions are about how I got interested in surgery, what kind of surgery I want to practice, what my ideal surgical job would involve (Surgeon/Pirate during the week, Rock Star on the weekends), that sort of thing.

But the experience that pushed me toward medicine was a trip with my dad (who takes his students to northern Mexico to participate in a service project at the end of a course in international development) when I was fifteen. There I met a doctor who runs a small clinic high in the mountains. He provides free health care to the impoverished Tarahumara indigenous people, some of whom walk for several hours from their isolated villages to see him.

We stocked the medical supplies we had brought in the closets and got a tour of the spare but clean facility. We had also brought some toys for kids to play with while at the clinic, and as I sat on the patio blowing soap bubbles and tossing Nerf balls with some of them, I realized I wanted to have some kind of involvement in improving global health. My plans and goals have evolved somewhat since then (this was a long time ago, before I took the SAT in fact), and I’ve gotten excited about surgery’s role in global health issues, but I guess that’s where it started.

It’s hard to fit that whole story into any interview (I left out the part about the bubbles), but I was glad for the chance to talk about it again.

January 11, 2009 in Ben Bryner | Permalink


hi. i have been an ardent reader of this blog. your story seems interesting since a similar experience was what made me chose medical career to channelize my interest towards improving global health

Posted by: deepti | Jan 14, 2009 9:44:10 PM

Aw - I feel really inane, my mum wanted me to be a doctor, I wanted to do history at uni, went with me mum to look at the History department at Bristol (which was boring), she dragged me to the medicine talk which was enthralling and I left the talk and said to her, "I want to be a doctor now". Applied for medicine 2 months later (since I'd done medical work experience in order to keep the option open - history doesn't need specific work experience).
And now - I'm a firstie at UCL doing medicine.

Posted by: Imogen | Jan 19, 2009 8:57:40 AM

That's a wonderful story and I think it is a great tip for interviewing. Like you said, there are going to be expected questions you can plan for and one should always try to have polished interviewing skills if they are going to be going out on them, but for other questions you just have to be yourself. Your personal story is impressive and pleasing to hear. People who try to answer questions based on what they think the interviewer wants to hear often fail because they aren't being sincere and it shows right through. Preparation first and then put yourself at ease. You've done all you can do, now just be yourself. No one can predict a "ski resort" question, so there's no need to stress over it.

Posted by: Lynn M | Apr 17, 2009 7:44:20 AM

wow. very inspiring. You're story is different from the cliche "I wanted to be a doctor ever since i was little" statement. ;)

Posted by: erik | Jul 27, 2009 2:13:43 PM

Well hard work is the only solution to passing the mediacl examination and get to see the older questions to know the pattern of the questions to answer them.

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