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Dec. Resident On Call: Anna Lee

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Anna Lee, MD, MPH is a graduate of Mercer University School of
Medicine and Emory Rollins School of Public Health. She is a PGY-1 as a preliminary medicine intern at the Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon, GA and will continue on to her residency in radiation oncology at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY.  She has a particular research interest in psychosocial factors affecting quality of life in cancer patients receiving radiation and barriers to success for female physicians in academic medicine.

Q: Radiation Oncology doesn’t get much attention in medical education. What drew you to this specialty?

A: I was going through my third year clerkships with an open mind. However, I found myself being very indecisive about potential specialty choices and was changing my mind weekly. Over one of the holidays, I was talking with a family friend who is a medical oncologist and he recommended I look into radiation oncology. Once I did, I realized it had all the aspects of medicine I loved, namely, the ability to have close relationships with patients in an outpatient setting, intellectual rigor and upholding one of the highest standards in practicing evidence-based medicine. It also helps if you enjoyed physics in undergrad.

Q: What is the typical work/life balance within radiation oncology?

A: During one of my interviews, I was told by an attending that radiation oncology was a great field for a woman if she wanted to have a family, even during residency. There is no shift work and limited call that requires one to come in after hours or on the weekends. For the trainee, the typical workday can go from 6am to 6pm, however there is a steep learning curve that would require one to continue the treatment planning and reading at home. Overall, it seems most radiation oncologists are very satisfied with a good work/life balance.

Q: When did you decide to pursue radiation oncology? How would you recommend students go about deciding what specialty to pursue with such limited time in medical school?

A: I officially decided on pursuing radiation oncology in the early part of the second half of third year. Regardless of what specialty I chose, I wanted to decide early enough to set up good away electives and research if necessary. During my third year, I heard a lot of advice from residents and peers that we still had a lot of time. I somewhat disagreed with that sort of attitude. I wholeheartedly believe that the earlier you make an informed decision about your specialty choice, the better you can plan to end up where you want to go. On days where I got off early from a clerkship rotation and over the holidays, I shadowed and read up on many specialties outside of the 6 core electives, and this is how I was able to decide early enough in the process.

Q: Can you describe a bit more about the implications and purpose of the preliminary internship year?

A: Some specialties require a preliminary year in medicine for more generalized training before starting the advanced program. The purpose is to learn about the common clinical problems (i.e. COPD, CHF, etc) as many of the future patients I encounter may have these in addition to cancer. During the match process, you apply for the 1-year preliminary positions separately.

Q: Seems you have been traveling cross-country with your various steps within the medical education system. How have you been able to cope with moving so frequently and what would you advise medical students to keep in mind when thinking about the definite moves required for residency?

A: Moving can be stressful and daunting. I moved quite frequently during my fourth year for my three away rotations and did a lot of searching online and asking friends. I think the best resources are the residents at the program you are going to next. Some of them were in your shoes just a year ago and their experience with the entire process can be invaluable.

Mica Esquenazi

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