Written by: Ana Norell
Dr. Sheryl E. Allen, MD, MS is the Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs and an Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at Indiana University. During the Centennial Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with this incredible woman and learn a little more about her. She graduated from Indiana University in 1992. In her class of 200 students, there were approximately 50 women, but what was most profound to Dr. Allen was that there were only 5 minority students. Dr. Allen shared many incredible stories from her medical school career, citing her most memorable moment as a day in her first rotation of third year on the gyn-onc service. She was working 5 am to 10 pm with two other students who became close friends throughout the remainder of her undergraduate medical education. One day, they had a patient who was recovering from surgery that removed her cancer, and her wound had dehisced. Dr. Allen was tasked with the opportunity to clean the wound. Dr. Allen remembers thinking that it was such a surreal experience: not many people have the experience of lifting a pannus to scrub iodine into a 4 inch wound. During that experience she learned that one won’t always get the help you seek, but one has to at least seek it out and ask questions. It is the only way to learn what exactly you are supposed to be doing.
If she had to do it all again, she would choose medicine, but she would go about it differently. She would use medical school to live in the moment while on the wards and to think each day, “what am I going to get out of this experience?” She would take time to breathe, and not just go through the motions. Her advice to current students is to not stress about the third year rotation schedule. “Immerse yourself in each rotation so you can look back at what fits with your personality and make a specialty decision based on what fits best.” She would also recommend learning everything right the first time. Everything continues to build on itself, so by taking the time to do it the first time, it will help you down the road. Dr. Allen also encourages students to keep a file of people you “click with” so you can utilize them later to ask questions. Use them as consultants for you life. She has multiple mentors, including “short mentors” to help complete a specific task, mentors to help her with her career, and mentors that she wants to emulate in an administrative role. I truly enjoyed my time with Dr. Allen, and will keep her wisdom close at heart as I continue my journey through medicine, hoping to get the most out of each day and building on previous knowledge.