Sunday, November 28, 2021

Plastic Surgery Intern Year: Month Five Update

Still enjoying Florida life!

Can you believe December is only three days away?!?! This year has flown by so incredibly fast! As I sit here typing this just a few days after Thanksgiving, I continue to feel so much gratitude for all this year has given me. Where I am now is so vastly different from this point last year, and I continue to be thankful for all of life's twists and turns.

Love that I get to  wear my Medelita scrubs this month

Anyway, in terms of residency updates, I am currently finishing my Surgical Dermatology and Mohs month. Mohs surgery is a procedure in which skin cancer is cut out, viewed under a microscope, and cut out again until there is none left. We perform around 10-20 cases per day which allows for the steady work flow that I love. It has also been an awesome month hanging out with my dermatology colleagues, and I finally got to a point where my attending is comfortable with me performing routine excisions and closures on my own, so that has made me super happy. I'm learning a lot, and I love the overlap between dermatology and plastic surgery in the form of tumor resections and flap closures.

Thankful for the opportunity to share my story!

Outside of residency and studying, I've had the opportunity to pursue my passion of inspiring and engaging future healthcare leaders over the past month through many speaking engagements. It has been an absolute pleasure speaking to students from literally around the world and sharing the story of my path to medicine. I remember when I first started this blog how hard it was to find someone with similar circumstances who had made it to where I wanted to be in life, and now I am proud to be that shining example for anyone else who might be on a similar path. I went from being the low stat single mother who everyone said had no chance of passing boards, surviving medical school, or getting into residency to doing ALL of the above! I take great pleasure in sharing my story and life circumstances because the world needs more physicians with life experience, empathy, and the tenacity to overcome the odds. This representation matters not just to the younger generations who follow in our footsteps, but to our patients who ultimately this is all about. If I can inspire just one person to pursue their dreams, then I am happy, so I will continue to put my story out there as much as I can.  

Blessed to be able to spend time with my daughter

Lastly, my daughter finally came to visit me last week! Because of work, it was hard for me to travel to her for Thanksgiving, and between her school, band, and color guard schedule, it's been difficult coordinating a trip to see me due to her schedule somehow being more hectic than mine. Luckily, we are both more into quality of time than the quantity, so I'm happy we finally made it work. We had an awesome museum experience, enjoyed the beautiful November weather on South Beach, took an airboat ride through the Everglades to see alligators, enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together, put up the Christmas tree, and I may have been slightly conned into allowing her to get a 2nd ear piercing, lol. I feel so blessed to build memories and spend moments like these with her that I hope she'll keep with her forever. 

Enjoying doing touristy things on my days off

That's pretty much all I have for updates. I'll try to write more than one post in December, since I'll probably go under a rock for my ICU month in January and my schedule will be super busy for the first half of the year with trauma surgery and such. Honestly my life is pretty boring since all I do is work, and I can't share too much information out of respect for my patients, so I'll try to think of some inspirational/motivational posts to come up with it. If there's anything you want me to write about, feel free to leave a message in the comment section or email me. With that being said, I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I wish you a fantastic week ahead!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Embracing Life's Full Circle Moments

#OMED21 Smiles

I have had quite a few full circle moments over the past few years, but the one I experienced today compelled me to write this post. If you've been following my blog since it's inception in 2013, then you already know how much of an inspiration Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee is to me. I was ecstatic when I had the opportunity to meet her in person for the first time as a 2nd year medical student (see post HERE), and even before then, she was the first person I ever highlighted in my Minority Women in Osteopathic Medicine section (that post can be found HERE) . Since that time, I have had many opportunities to interact with her. She was a huge supporter during my time as National Osteopathic Schools Co-Chair of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) helping to fund a committee scholarship, and during my time as National President-Elect of the SNMA she attended the national conference and we had an excellent discourse during the Osteopathic Schools reception. She's such a phenomenal person!

But anyway, back to the purpose of this post. I was absolutely delighted to be a part of this weekend's virtual annual osteopathic medical education conference (#OMED21) as a panelist during the Plenary Session for the conference's first ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion track. And guess who led the session? That's right, one of my very own inspirations Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee! It was a great session where we discussed continuing the legacy of Dr. Meta Christy (the first African-American Osteopathic Physician) in addition to systemic biases and other challenges faced by DOs. I truly enjoyed participating, and the recording is available for everyone registered for the conference so feel free to join the conference, tune in, and let me know your thoughts!

Six years ago TODAY! Feeling absolutely blessed :)

So why is this a full circle moment? Because Facebook reminded me that it was on this EXACT day six years ago when I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ross-Lee for the first time and I introduced her to my school. Today, we had a panel together and she gave my introduction. How crazy is that?!?! It's moments like today where I am reminded of where I came from and that I am on the right track in life. It wasn't too long ago where I dreamed of becoming an osteopathic physician like Dr. Ross-Lee and inspiring people to pursue their dreams as she inspired me to do so with my own. I am literally living my dreams y'all!

Can't break barriers without acknowledging those who paved the way

That's pretty much the post, all I have to say, but I wanted to write a post for my own personal reflection. It's the full circle moments that remind me I'm on the write track and give me encouragement to keep pushing for success. Hopefully one day I can give back and serve as an inspiration to someone just like many individuals such as Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee who provided inspiration and encouragement for me :)

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Update: Plastic Surgery Intern Year Month Four

I'm never this cute when I'm at work lol

I'm officially in month four of plastic surgery residency and just realized it's been a while since I've caught everyone up to speed. During my last post, I was in the middle of my second month of general surgery. Since that time, I've completed an orthopedic surgery rotation, and now I am on a urology rotation. I'll do my best to reflect on the highlights of the past few months.

Proud of my daughter!

I normally end with updates on mommy life, but shortly after my last post, my daughter decided to inform me of her very important first color guard performance literally two days before it happened. I was still in the middle of my general surgery rotation, and told her there was no way I could be there, but of course the mommy guilt set in. So, the next morning I asked my chief if it would be okay if I left early the next day to see my daughter's performance, and I was super surprised when he said yes! I was beyond happy and booked my plane ticket a few minutes later, but didn't tell my daughter since I wanted to surprise her. The next morning, I woke up at 5am, rounded at 6am, attended 7am didactics, helped with floorwork (luckily there were no cases that day), and I was out the door and to the airport around lunchtime. I had to catch two separate flights, literally ran to make my connecting flight,  and was forced to check my carry on which was then placed on the wrong plane, but I managed to make it to my daughter's performance right on time :) It was worth all the hassle and she did an excellent job! #ProudMommy

#BlackGirlMagic in the Operating Room!

September was all about Orthopedic Surgery. As a medical student, I never rotated in the field since I chose Plastic Surgery as my surgery selective, so it was definitely a new experience. I got to wear the hood for the first time and I have to say it was awesome. It came with a nice fan and it was great not having to worry about things accidentally splashing or hitting my face. With that being said, all the drilling, sawing, and hammering was not my cup of tea lol. I'm more into soft tissues and being a bit more delicate, but it was a super fun experience. Hand and extremity reconstruction is a huge part of training as a plastic surgeon, so it was nice getting my feet wet on the orthopedic side. My favorite part of the entire month was getting to operate alongside my friend and fellow black female surgery intern. With black females in plastic and orthopedic surgery being in the super minority (seriously, look it up...there are less than 100 black female plastic surgeons in the United States), I was delighted when one of the medical students took the above photo of us. Two black female surgeons, one in plastic surgery and the other in orthopedic surgery, breaking barriers, and living proof it's possible to achieve your dreams :)

Rocking the lead gear on a few urology cases!

As for this month, I just finished my first week of Urology, and I'm continuing to learn a lot. It's been a healthy mix of clinic and operating, and I'm enjoying seeing the diversity within the field of Urology. The last week has consisted of removing cancerous prostates, knocking out kidney stones, and resecting bladder tumors. I even scrubbed into my first hydrocelectomy case the other day. I am always fascinated by how Plastic Surgery incorporates into other specialties, and plastic surgeons work very closely with urology when it comes to things like Gender-Affirming surgery. It's nice getting down the foundations and anatomy that will become important as I progress through my training.  

3 months reading and finally finished!

In other news that likely no one cares about, I reached a huge accomplishment the other day: I finished reading my textbook! My goal at the start of residency was to read one chapter a day. Doesn't seem major, but when you take into account handling the floorwork, operating, and being super tired when getting off work, reading can be hard. I've also been incorporating learning modules and questions into my study routine, so I try to make sure I balance everything equally. During my previous intern year, I was often so overwhelmed with learning how to be an intern, on top of studying for my final board exam, that reading was the last thing I wanted to do. This time around, I feel like an OG, and work-like balance comes super easy for me. I actually enjoy studying and learning, but I guess it helps that I'm finally in my dream specialty.

Making time for food and play!

As for work-life balance, I still believe in the "work hard, play hard" lifestyle. I take my rotations and studying seriously, but I make sure to take time to enjoy Miami life whenever I can. I've learned that people here really love being on the water, so of course, I had to take part in the yacht experience. Additionally, I've tried a few great restaurants, inadvertently got into a Trey Songz and City Girls concert for free last month, and last weekend I went to see Martin Lawrence and other comedians perform and laughed for hours! I am continually thankful to reside in a city that offers the best of both worlds in terms of training and fun.

Life in a nutshell :)

That pretty much sums up the last couple of months. In addition to my urology rotation, I will be participating in a few events this month geared toward my passion of mentoring and diversifying medicine, so I look forward to sharing those experiences. As always, I'll aim to update everyone again next month, and I hope everyone reading this has a very productive and positive week. Back to the grind!


Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Little Sunday Inspiration :)

Overcoming the odds to become your favorite Plastic Surgeon

I originally posted this on my social media accounts, and realized afterwards that it would've made a great blog post. Re-posting it here since I realize I have a few readers that aren't on social media. Hopefully this will help inspire anyone fighting through feelings of imposter syndrome or constantly being doubted.  I'll make sure to type up a regular update post soon and I wish everyone reading this a fantastic week :)

For anyone out there working towards a dream and facing constant discouragement, here's a little inspiration👇🏾: ⁣
When I had my daughter during my sophomore year of college, they said I would probably drop out or not graduate in 4 years...Graduated with my class and on time⁣
When my undergraduate GPA took a hit in the midst of leaving an abusive marriage, taking on a full course load and working multiple jobs, they told me I didn't have a chance of getting into medical school...Took a few years, but got the short white coat and started medical school in 2014⁣
After I got into medical school, they told me I would never pass my board exams and go on to graduate after previously taking the MCAT four times and never achieving a high score...Passed all my boards on the first try, graduated without issues, and now I'm a fully licensed physician⁣
When I said I wanted to publish a book, they told me the niche was too small and only a few people would buy it...Currently admiring the hundreds of copies sold and great reviews⁣
After more than one unsuccessful residency match cycle, they told me I should give up my dreams of becoming a surgeon because it would never happen, and that my chances of matching into plastic surgery as a medical school graduate and DO were basically zero...Matched into a categorical integrated plastic surgery residency and currently on the way to becoming a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon⁣
Now when I say I'm going to accomplish something...they stay quiet 😎
But anyway, the whole point of this post is to say don't let anyone discourage you from going after your goals. A lot of times a person will tell you that you can't do something based on their own personal limitations, biases, and inadequacies. When someone tells me something is impossible, that just translates as having to work harder, taking a little longer, and muting out all the naysayers to achieve it. Be your own champion, let the haters talk, and make sure you let them watch you work and overcome the odds.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Smile Brilliant Collaboration + Favorite Electric Toothbrush Free Giveaway!

Loving my new cariPRO ultrasonic toothbrush!

Happy Sunday! This is a deviation from my usual posts, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to host a free giveaway and give you all insight on another great product :) You may recall in the past I partnered with Smile Brilliant to review their custom-fitted teeth whitening system (click here to read the original post and see ALL the pics), and I was VERY pleased with the results. It was my first time ever trying teeth whitening, and you can see the dramatic FIRST time difference below. Super impressive! I've continued using the product every so often since that time and my teeth are dramatically whiter. 

My actual first time teeth whitening results!

This time, I've partnered with Smile Brilliant to introduce the CariPRO Ultrasonic Toothbrush. Unlike other electric toothbrushes, this one relies on extreme vibration (40k vibrations/minute) that will have you feeling like you just left the dentist's office. This was actually my first time ever using an electric toothbrush, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. When it comes to oral health, my goals are simple: to keep my smile looking great and my mouth healthy. This affordable ultrasonic toothbrush goes above and beyond accomplishing these goals. My mouth feels cleaner, my teeth are staying white, and I enjoy the 5 different cleaning mode settings ranging from teeth whitening to gum massaging. I also like that this toothbrush is approved by the ADA (American Dental Association) to properly time & pulse to change sectors so there is no guesswork involved with figuring out if you're spending enough time brushing an area. And even though I've only had the product a few weeks, the battery life is still going strong without having to charge it. It might be my first, but it is by far my favorite electric toothbrush!

Just one of Smile Brilliant's many awesome products

Smile Brilliant's lab-direct process makes achieving professional results at an affordable price easy. In the last few years, they've taken this model and expanded their line of oral health products to include something for everyone -  from the newest in the cariPRO line - a cordless water flosser that allows for easy and effective cleaning, to a custom night guard system to protect the teeth from nighttime grinding. But don't just take my word on the product. Try it out for yourself! Click the links below to enter the free giveaway or shop for your own cariPRO toothbrush or other Smile Brilliant product, using my code for 20% off. 

20% off coupon code: aspiringminoritydoctor20

Giveaway Time!
Now's your chance to win a FREE cariPRO Ultrasonic Brush! Click the link below and fill out the super short and simple form for your chance to win!

* Giveaway open for 9/12/2021 - 10/3/2021 11:59pm PST
* Eligible countries: US, UK, Australia, & Canada

best electric toothbrush

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Thriving and Smiling: An August 2021 Update

Always happy to operate!

Wow, what can I say? I'm in the second month of my plastic surgery residency, and truly loving every single moment of it! Not a day goes by that I don't wake up with a smile on my face and excited for the opportunity to pursue my passion. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that all this is happening, but it just makes me push to work harder. Anyway, I got off work early today and finished my studying, so time for an update!

My first month was a great transition back to residency life. I was on the General Surgery service at my main hospital, and our patient census was manageable to the point where we had all the notes, rounds, and floorwork done before the first case of the day. This meant I was in the operating room almost daily, which was great! Additionally, we took home call which was a lot different than my previous program. On call days, we were provided an Iphone which was used to receive consults and text back and forth to other services. A million times better than holding a pager! I had to cover both campuses of my hospital, but luckily I live pretty equidistant to both and I didn't receive too many calls in the middle of the night. I honestly enjoyed being able to come home during my call, take a shower, and semi-relax. During my previous time as an intern, call days consisted of 28ish hour shifts where we stayed in the hospital. It was so nice being able to sleep in my own bed last month! The only downside with home call is there are no post-call days, but even with being woken up and having to come in every now and then, I usually got a decent amount of sleep. No post-call days off also meant I didn't have to miss out on all the good cases the next day, so I was happy. 

Work hard, play harder #MiamiStyle

To wrap up July thoughts, I honestly couldn't have asked for a better first month. I scrubbed a decent amount of cases, had time to study daily, AND even managed to have a social life! Living in Miami is such a cool experience, and I managed to find a circle of fellow black female resident physicians who I hang out with whenever our schedules align. I never really cared about where I would end up for residency since securing a categorical spot was my top priority, but now that I am in my training, I truly see the value of location. I mean seriously, who needs to fly away for a vacation, when you literally live in paradise?!?! Plus, the warm weather and sunshine on my days off will probably be a huge help when it hits the winter months and residency fatigue starts to set in. 

New hospital, New Badge

As for August, this month I am rotating at an outside hospital and on a service which covers General Surgery, Vascular Surgery, and Surgical Oncology. The volume is a lot heavier than last month, but I feel a bit more in my element since I tend to thrive in busy environments. Additionally, the hospital I'm rotating at has an established General Surgery residency program, so it's fun working with, learning from, and interacting with the other residents. I thought it was just my program, but the surgical culture that I've experienced throughout my time here across different hospitals has been such a pleasant experience. Teaching and teamwork are valued, all the residents I've interacted with are helpful and nice (even the chiefs), and off time outside of the hospital is respected. I'm enjoying soaking in as much knowledge as I can while improving my skills, and being in environments that value residents makes the experience even better.

Not even the mask can conceal my happiness!

I just finished my second week of the August General Surgery rotation, and I have to say it was probably my favorite so far. Monday was a busy day with an early start. I arrived at work at 5am and quickly helped my team update our patient list in time for 6am rounds. I also have Plastic Surgery didactics every Monday at 7am, and it was my turn to present that day so around 645am, I left the team and found a quiet spot to present my lecture on Wound Healing and Scars. I think it went pretty well and I was happy that I was able to make it both informative and succinct since we usually have to make it to our cases afterwards. Following didactics, I found my team and my chief was like "Good news, you're going on a field trip!". I thought he meant to go find something in the hospital, so I was surprised when the other resident offered to drive. Turns out one of our attendings had a case at an outpatient facility, so we were off to do surgery. There are no words to begin to describe how amazing it was! The attending let me scrub in and complete the cases from start to finish with him working as my assistant. Even more awesome was the fact that he cheered me on, gave compliments, and when I asked how I should proceed, he let me figure it out on my own. It was my first time since starting this year where I felt alive and in my element. The attending was even nice enough to let me update the families, and since they were all Spanish-speaking, he allowed me to have the conversation but stood by my side and helped when I was unsure of how to say something (my basic conversational Spanish is decent, but I'm working on my medical Spanish). The facility even bought lunch for all of us, so you know I was super happy! On Wednesday, the same attending had cases at our hospital, so I had the opportunity to scrub with him on an open inguinal hernia repair. Not going to lie, I was beyond happy that the chief resident scrubbed into the case too, because there was no way I was going to be able to figure out what to do on that case lol. We pretty much did the entire case together with the attending guiding us and acting as an assist when needed. It was incredible! Moments like the ones I experienced last week are a reminder that I am on the right path and it makes all the long hours and hard work feel truly worth it.  

She's growing too fast!

Oh, and in non-residency related news, my daughter started the 9th grade last week. Can you believe I'm the mother of a high school Freshman?!?! So incredibly proud that she continues to grow and thrive while being supportive of me reaching my dreams. I'm so incredibly blessed!

A reminder that I look good outside of these scrubs lol

Welp, that's pretty much it for updates. I have been working this weekend, but it hasn't been bad. Turns out it's not a true "call" weekend, but just a weekend where I come in like a normal day, do rounds, complete the floorwork, scrub cases if any, and then go home when the work is done. There were no cases today, so I was able to come home early enough to get slightly ahead in my readings, do a few sets of questions to reinforce my knowledge, and now have time to relax, type this post, and go find some ratchet TV to watch before going to bed tonight. My next post most likely won't be until next month when I'm on Orthopedic Surgery, but I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

From Urgent Care Physician to PGY1 Plastic Surgeon!!!!


Ahhhh I can't believe it's been almost 3 months since my last post! So much has happened, and the past few months have been a whirlwind of change and excitement. I honestly haven't had time to sit down and type up a full post, but I will do my best to catch everyone up on this one. This post might be a bit lengthy and random, but guess I'll start from the beginning :)

Closing my chapter as an urgent care physician!

After Match Day, the most important things on my list were finding a place to live, obtaining my training license, completing onboarding work for my program, and making as much money as possible before going back to residency pay. I worked a ton of shifts, taking only Mother's Day weekend off, and on May 16th, I finished my last shift as a full-time urgent care physician. My last day was so busy that everyone joked the patients must have known I was leaving, LOL. I didn't finish until a couple hours after my shift ended and this was AFTER having to close the doors early due to the large number of patients. The bright side is, I was surprised with cakes, a card, and gifts from everyone I've worked with, and it made me feel so loved. Unfortunately, we were so busy that day that none of us actually had a chance to celebrate at work, but I was happy to celebrate and go bowling with a few of my faves a week later. I've been blessed to worked with some great people over the past couple years, and I will surely miss them. 

Officially a Floridian!

As for finding a place to live, I am now a Florida resident and finally settled in! I got very lucky with finding a safe, affordable place that is super close to the hospitals I will be rotating at. I secured my place in early April with the help of an awesome realtor who not only went above and beyond, but sent me full videos of my place which included the drive around the area, and picked up my keys for me when it was time to move in so I could stay in Georgia and finish working. Once I finally made it here, it took a few weeks to get settled since I decided to buy all new furniture (so many trips to  IKEA!), but now it finally feels like home :)

Blessed to have some of my SNMA fam in Miami!

The day before orientation I got the chance to hang out with some of my SNMA fam and residents from another residency program in Miami. We spent the day having fun on a boat, and it was such a great way to kick off my training. I am beyond blessed live in a place where I already have a built in support system. It's no secret that residency is hard, but having people around that you can trust and vent to makes it so much better.   

My Plastic Surgery team!

Orientation week started June 14th and was a two-week affair. Nothing too exciting to note, but it was nice meeting all the new interns in the hospital and everyone in my program. I even got a chance to hang out with my co-interns outside of orientation, and I am so lucky to be training with such an awesome group of individuals. 

My 1st First Author Publication!

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that I finally have a first author publication! It was during orientation week that my case report was published in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports. Even though I have multiple publications, and even published an entire book, I feel so much achievement at finally being listed first on a peer-reviewed academic publication. To break it down in layman's terms: this was basically a report on removing a gallbladder in a 32 week pregnant female, and it was a case I helped perform during my original intern year in general surgery. Having this published during my plastic surgery residency orientation was a great closure to the general surgery chapter of my life. If you're interested in reading (it even has cool pictures!), you can find it HERE (Click "Download PDF" at the top if you want to view the full neat version)

Much needed bonding time with my daughter!

After orientation ended, I had a few days until my official start date of July 1st, so I took advantage of mommy-daughter time. My daughter will be starting high school this fall, is actively involved with band, recently made the color guard team, and said she would like to stay with my family and near her friends out of state instead of moving to Florida. I grew up military and went to 4 different schools during high school alone, so I agreed to let her stay and have the stability I never had. This means we will not get to spend as much time together, but I've always stressed quality of time over quantity, and she's always been so supportive of my surgery goals. With that being said, during my final days before starting, I joined my daughter and her friend for a mini vacation in Orlando. I got us VIP tickets to the park which allowed us to skip to the front of every line and jump right on the rides. We enjoyed 14 rides including the newest rollercoaster that was super intense, got a tour through private areas of the park, and had the greatest time together. It's always worth it seeing a smile on her face, and I love creating memories that will last a lifetime.

First day of residency selfie!

After my trip, it was time to get to work! Like most residents across the country, I started on July 1st and it was actually a great day. I arrived at the hospital around 6am and after rounding on my patients, I spent a good part of the day learning the system and getting access to the major things I needed. I didn't feel like a fish out of water, and felt like I was moving at a decent pace. I also wasn't on call, so I was able to leave at a decent time and come home to study. I am on the General  Surgery service for my first two months, so it feels good being back in familiar territory. Plus, I really like the culture of this program so far. I can tell it's going to be a great year, and I'm ready for all the learning and growth that comes with it!

Happiness after operating for the first time in 2 years!

On my second day of work I got a chance to operate for the first time in over 2 years! I can't tell you how good it felt to be back in the operating room. From scrubbing, to gowning, to performing the most basic parts of a procedure, and even getting grilled on my knowledge by the attending surgeon, I've missed it all. The operating room is truly my happy place and I feel so incredibly blessed to be in this position. So many emotions!

Your PGY1 Plastic Surgeon!

I think I've pretty much summed up the last few months as succinctly as possible. Even though I haven't been actively blogging, I have been making an effort to quickly jot down highlights from each day in a journal. I'll try to update the blog at least once a month, but at least now I'll have a reference to catch everyone up in case I get too busy to sit down and type. Outside of being an active team member and learning as much as I can during my rotations, my biggest focus is on reading and studying so that I'll perform well on my in-service exam in the spring. This means blog posts may be infrequent, but you can still catch me on social media. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts, and I look forward to sharing all the exciting times ahead. As for today, I've completed my presentation for didactics tomorrow and finished my readings, so I feel like I've earned relaxation time for the rest of the day. Until next time!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Didn’t Match into Residency...What are Some of my Options?

Over the past couple of years, I have received numerous messages asking me about options for those who didn’t match into a residency position. I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, but as someone who went through the process of not matching, to securing an internship, not matching again, and then starting work as an urgent care physician before my recent match into plastic surgery, I will share as much advice and insight as I can. Not matching can feel like the end of the world, especially when you’ve invested a massive amount of money, time, energy, and years to become a physician, but there is a hope (and I’m living proof of that).

What if I fail to match into any position?

Every year, thousands of medical school graduates go unmatched. Despite what many people would like to believe, there isn’t a physician shortage, but a shortage of residency positions due to various reasons that I won’t get into with this post. If you’re a 4th year medical student who is unmatched at this point, my advice is the following:

Focus on securing a one year preliminary or transitional year position! Even if you had your heart set on a particular specialty, at this point, making sure you graduate with a JOB should be of utmost importance. Having at least a year of training under your belt will open so many doors, and I’ll get more into that below. You should be stalking sites daily that list open positions. A few that I found useful were Resident Swap, SDN, UnmatchedMD, and for those interested in surgery, APDS. I’m sure there are more specialty-specific sites, but these are a good start.

If you have had no luck finding a preliminary or transitional year position, a possible option would be to extend your graduation date by a year. Not all schools will allow this, but by extending your graduation date, the major advantage is you will still be eligible for student loans to help with living expenses. Also, when you do re-apply for a residency position, you will be considered a graduating medical student senior which is useful for those residency programs that automatically screen out graduates. After extending your graduation date, the year can be utilized as a research year that can help you enhance your application and build further connections. 

In the event you are unsuccessful at extending your graduation date or securing an internship position, options for practicing medicine tend to become severely limited. There are a few states like Missouri, that will allow you to practice as an “Assistant Physician” with a collaborating physician to supervise your work. This would require relocating and I am not aware of how much it pays. There is also the option of electronic health record (EHR) training and support work where you would travel to various hospitals/clinics around the country and train individuals on how to use EMR systems. 

Outside of this, I am not aware of any other options for graduating physicians without having completed any type of internship/residency training, but if you’re reading this and know of a few options, please let me know in the comments below.

What are my options if I completed an intern year and/or never finished residency?

Most people think that completion of a residency program and having board certification is an absolute requirement to practice medicine. While having these things can make life a bit easier and provide you with more practice options, they are not an absolute necessity. In most states, the only major requirement for full licensure and the ability to practice independently is completion of twelve months of postgraduate medical training and passing all three required medical board exams. These requirements tend to vary for International Medical Graduates (IMGs), and there are a few states such as California that require more than 1 year of training, but you can find a full list of requirements HERE.  

After failing to match a second time, I knew this would be my initial route. I made sure to take my final medical board licensing exam in December of my intern year so my results would be available in enough time to receive my license. I also checked my state’s requirements and had everything ready for submission. By the final day of my intern year, the only thing I needed was a certificate from my program director stating I finished the 12 months of required training. I mailed everything in immediately after and had my license 3 weeks later.

I heavily explored my options and decided urgent care would be the best fit for me. Having not completed a residency program, my options were limited in hospital settings and other facilities run by insurance companies that require board certification, but I was lucky enough to find a physician owned and operated facility to work at. Urgent care work definitely isn’t for everyone though. You have to be comfortable managing everything from lacerations, fractures, genital issues, etc in all age ranges and completely on your own. The umbrella of protection that residency provides is no longer available, and you have to be able to make quick decisions on your feet and balance a large number of patients in a given shift. Luckily, my surgical intern year prepared me well for this, but I would suspect it would be a steep learning curve for anyone coming from less intense specialties.

Another option would be to start your own practice. Now this is something I don’t highly recommend, but only because I still value the learning experience. In the urgent care setting, even though I work alone, I know I can always call on my colleagues for advice. Plus, I am constantly learning new things and staying up to date on clinical guidelines. It would probably be harder to find the support if on your own, but after you obtain your license, you could theoretically start your own practice as a General Practitioner (GP). Thirty or so years ago, this was not abnormal, but it has since heavily fallen out of favor. 

As a GP, it is possible to bypass the headache of dealing with insurance companies by running a cash-only practice or having a Direct Primary Care practice where patients pay via a subscription-type service for visits. It would also be possible to go into concierge medicine and focus on VIP patients. Working as an urgent care physician in Atlanta, it’s not unusual to have celebrity patients every once in a while, but the thought hadn’t crossed my mind until I was asked if I provided the service by one of my patient’s assistants. I definitely considered it, but realized I don’t want to be available to anyone 24/7 and I don’t give into patient demands which can sometimes come with people used to getting what they want. 

Another option for a licensed physician without board certification includes Medicare wellness assessments where you would perform quick history & physical (H&P) exams and have patients answer health questions. This typically involves having to travel to patient’s homes, and there is some dissatisfaction from PCPs with these as insurance companies tend to use it as a way to not pay them full price. The benefit to working for these companies though is that they tend to pay per person for these assessments and provide free rental cars, hotel rooms, and gas reimbursement. The drawback is having to travel all around a city and you may have to enter homes that may be unsanitary or in unsafe areas.

The final options I can think of for those who can obtain a medical license are doing consulting work (companies value the physician credentials, but I have no information on how to get involved with this), performing disability exams on veterans, and traveling to various hospitals and clinics to provide Electronic Health Record (EHR) training. 

This post isn’t exhaustive of all the options available, but it pretty much sums up all the ones I can think of at the moment. If you know of any other good options for unmatched physicians and those who didn’t complete residency, please drop your knowledge in the comments below!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

2020 - 2021 Residency Season (Diary Posts)

So happy to be done with the process!

Happy Saturday! As promised, I am releasing the posts I previously wrote during this past residency application season. I originally planned to write weekly, but life remained busy as usual, so I only wrote two posts, one from 10/22/2020 and another from 10/23/2020. There's not much, so I'll just include both posts here. Not sure if it will help anyone, and I made sure to retract program names, so just posting on the blog for my memories. 


I’m a little late with my first ERAS post, but things have been super busy this week. Right now, I am at work and just got a break. I am 11 hours into my shift and between physical and telemedicine visits, I have seen a total of 46 patients today AND finished all my notes! Hopefully, this last hour will be a smooth one.

Anyway, back to ERAS. I officially submitted my surgery applications on Sunday night, and it was an interesting experience. My application has been done for a while, but I figured submitting on October 18th would give me enough time to find any flaws (due to the pandemic this year, programs weren’t able to review applications until 9am on 10/21/2020). I didn’t get off work until 11:15pm, so by the time I got home and took a shower it was technically Monday when I was able to sit down and submit. I grabbed my laptop, had my boyfriend sit next to me for moral support, typed in my info, and after a little hesitation, forcefully hit the submit button. I was about to breathe a sigh of relief but quickly saw the words “card declined”. Now I have more than enough money in my bank account, so I initially thought I entered my address wrong. I carefully re-entered all my information and clicked submit again only to get declined. I was super confused! It was then that I realized my bank was probably blocking the charge because I had literally never spent so much money at one time in my entire life. It took me a few hours, but I figured out how to temporarily increase my daily spend limit, and I was finally able to successfully submit around 1:30am. The total charge for my application to 289 general surgery programs and 80 Plastic Surgery programs came out to be $9032. (Yep, you’re reading that correctly) To put that amount into context, the very first car I bought was around $7000 and took me a few years to pay off. Even the lavish birthday trip to Paris that I treated my daughter to last year cost me less than a third of the cost I spent on ERAS applications this year. Let that sink in.

To be honest, as tough as it was seeing the money leave my account, applying to so many programs is probably the biggest change from my previous applications. When I first applied in the 2018 cycle, the total I spent was $1910 ($1686 in the actual match and the rest during SOAP...reviewing my payment history now). For the 2019 cycle, I spent a total of $372, and the total spent on the 2020 cycle was $353 (and I forgot to register for SOAP, so did not participate this year). You’re probably thinking “What the hell! Why didn’t she apply to more programs the first time around?!?!” Well, the answer is simple...I couldn’t afford it. 

What most people don’t realize is the whole process of becoming a physician is super expensive. I couldn’t just use credit cards to pay for my applications, because I was already maxed out from previous years (having a ton of student loan debt and trying to stay afloat as a single parent will do that to you). I also knew I couldn’t afford to travel to interviews all over the country. Yep, that’s another thing they don’t tell you: you not only pay just to APPLY to residency programs, but then you’re responsible for the cost of flight, hotel, car rental, and any incidental expenses. It all adds up. By the time most medical students get ready to apply for residency, they have already spent thousands of dollars just taking board exams alone, not to mention the other costs associated with being a medical student. And on top of all this, you’re still expected to have extra money for the few months between graduation and the start of residency when you’re likely moving to a new state and having to put down security deposits on new places to live. I guess the one good thing about being in a pandemic this year is I will save a lot of money by not having to travel everywhere. Yay for virtual interviews! 

So yes, the main reason why I didn’t apply to all the programs I would have liked to in previous years was because I couldn’t afford it. I also couldn’t afford to apply as an intern with a resident’s salary (even though they are physicians, when you average out the hours worked with the pay, the majority of resident physicians make less than minimum wage **and don’t even get me started on how expensive it was living in Philadelphia**), and I couldn’t afford to apply last cycle because I had just moved back to Georgia and was jobless for my first month back. None of that applies this year, because not only have I been blessed with the opportunity to save up for residency applications, but I’ll also be able to relocate and start residency without being on a struggle bus. Turns out going unmatched and having to start working as a physician has been a huge blessing! Shout out to God for always having my back even when I can’t see it!

To wrap this up and get back on track, submitting my residency applications this year feels like a huge relief and I’m actually hopeful of what’s to come. I’m a little scared that being 2 years out of medical school will hurt my chances at a lot of programs and I won’t get a lot of interviews despite having applied to so many, but I am just going to keep my faith and keep pressing. God didn’t bring me this far to leave me and I know the best is yet to come! Hopefully my next post will be an interview invite update, but right now I have two minutes left on the clock and I am ready to go home! Good night!

10/23/2020 2:31pm

Well it’s officially day 3 of ERAS applications being open, and already this year is different from previous ones. Last night shortly after leaving work, I was fortunate enough to receive a supplemental application link from the [retracted] Surgery residency program and a few hours later I received a link to complete [retracted]’s assessment. There’s a high chance that these were probably sent out to everyone who applied to these programs, but there were two things that stuck out to me: 

  • The email I received from [retracted] started off as “Dear Dr. Ward”. I don’t have the “Dr” salutation listed in my application, so either they actually took the time to review my application and see that I am already a physician, or they call everyone doctor. I’m going to tell myself the former, and that alone makes me smile just a little. 

  • The first line of the [retracted] email read as “Congratulations! The General Surgery Residency Program at [retracted] has reviewed your application and determined you are a high potential candidate for our program.” This email came at 11:31pm last night, and even if they sent this message to everyone who applied, what a way to make a girl feel good!

Both institutions had assessments that were very different. [Retracted] had a super fun survey that really focused on my interests and individuality outside of medicine. [Retracted]’s assessment took me exactly 40 minutes to complete and it was basically a list of scenarios with me rating what I thought was most effective and personality questions. It also included an optional “passion index” survey which rated my overall passion for surgery as high with the breakdown as a high harmonious passion and moderate consuming passion. I’ll take it :)

As for interview invites, none yet. I did receive my first rejection today, and ironically it was from [retracted]’s general surgery program which is in my state. Their loss. I also discovered that plastic surgery programs have a unified date that they offer interviews (December 4th) which is designed to give programs time to review applications. This means there will probably be radio silence on the PRS end until then, but if I do receive interviews, I will be notified of everything that day. The only negative I can see coming from this is since interviews will start December 7th and my work schedule will already be set for the month, I may end up giving up a lot of shifts. Luckily I’ll have received a few more paychecks by that time, so it won’t hurt if I need to take off work or work less shifts for a month or two in order to interview.

That’s it for this post. I don’t expect any interview invites to happen for at least a week or two from the programs that actually review applications and don’t just screen by numbers, which means you’ll likely have to wait for that kind of good news. We’ll see what happens!

4/17/2021 4:06pm

The best is most certainly yet to come and I'm excited for what's in store as I enter plastic and reconstructive surgery residency! Reading these two posts makes me kinda sad I didn't write more because the whole process is now a blur in my mind. Even if I don't post regularly when I start my training, I think I'm going to either record my daily thoughts or just keep a journal and jot down daily musings, because I truly enjoy looking back over my journey. Shoutout to everyone who has stuck around and followed my journey through the blog over the years. Life is about to get real!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Featured in Forbes!!!!

Click picture to read the full article

Disclaimer: This is a bit of a late post, but I wanted to have a record of this moment on the blog, so copying and pasting the first part of this from my previous Instagram post :)

 I am beyond humbled, honored, and excited to be included in a Forbes article highlighting women of color medical students and graduates who matched this year! Even better is the fact that I personally know a few of the phenomenal women featured alongside me and can vouch for their awesomeness 💕⁣⁣

My journey up to this point has been full of ups and downs, but I am thankful for every single moment. Over the years, I was told by many people that I should give up on my dreams. First, I was told that as a single mother with a low GPA and MCAT that I would never make it into medical school. Well, it took five years, three application cycles, a graduate degree, and a career in research before I was accepted into medical school, but I made it through and thrived.⁣
After finishing medical school and failing to match more than once, I was told there would be no way I could ever achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon. Well, that also took a while (I even became an urgent care physician along the way), but now I am finally on the road to achieving my dream of becoming a Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon. ⁣
I write all of this to say don't ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are impossible or your goals are unachievable. Sure you might have to fight a little harder, take a few detours, make sacrifices, and work your butt off all while trying to ignore the naysayers, but what is meant to be will be. Just as long as you don't give up.⁣

Just want to take the time to say THANK YOU to everyone reading this post who has been following along on my blog over the years. It's definitely been quite the journey and while a lot of people dismissed my dreams and gave up on me, I continued to receive a lot of encouragement and supportive emails from my followers. Y'all helped give me the push I needed to keep  going, and while the journey is far from over, I know I'll be able to count on the support of my readers during this next chapter. I am appreciative beyond words and hope to make everyone proud. Excited for what's to come! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

I Finally Matched and I'm Going to be a Plastic Surgeon!!!!

It is with great happiness and exhilaration that I announce I finally matched! Even better, I matched into an INTEGRATED PLASTIC AND RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY RESIDENCY PROGRAM in MIAMI!!!! 

There are literally no words to describe the flood of emotions that have occurred since March 15, 2021 when I found out I officially matched and seven days ago when I found out where I would be headed. I feel beyond humbled, blessed, and ready to put in the work to become the surgeon I have always dreamed of becoming.  

I am still processing, and honestly didn't believe all of this was real until I received my contract the other day, which is why I haven't posted until now. I'm finally ready to share a bit of my testimony, so read on if you'd like to know how God worked everything out in my favor :)  

If you've been following my blog, then you already know I was reapplying this year, but didn't want to share any details until after Match Day. I still plan to share my "diary" posts from this season, but to be completely honest, I only ended up writing two posts. Both posts took place after the initial application submission in October, and then life got busy and I didn't write anything else. This post will be my attempt to remember everything since then, so I hope you're comfy, because it's going to be a long one.

October - December

I submitted residency applications to every single plastic surgery program and ALMOST every general surgery program (I give them exact number in my "diary" post that I will share separately). During this time, I received a few secondary applications and continued to search the web for various open surgery residency spots (people leave programs all the time and I wanted to make sure I stayed ready). I received zero interview invites up until December, which was pretty disheartening, but I still held out hope as the official plastic surgery interview release date wouldn't be until later.

December 2020

The official plastic surgery release date was December 4, 2020 and to my delight, I received an interview! I have been actively applying to open positions over the past few years, so I was happy the invite was from a program I had interviewed at in-person right before the pandemic for a second year residency (PGY2) position. I already knew that I liked the residents, staff, program director, and area, so I felt good about the invite. Plus, my previous experience applying to medical school taught me it only takes one interview to make it in (shout out to PCOM Georgia for being my sole medical school acceptance all those years ago!). Beyond humbled and excited for the opportunity, I scheduled my interview for early January so I would have enough time to prepare.

January 2021

I had my first plastic surgery interview and I thought it went really well. Interviewing via Zoom is an interesting experience, and personally, I prefer checking out a new area, touring the facilities, and meeting everyone in person. I will admit it was nice being able to roll out of bed, throw on some clothes/makeup, and walk downstairs for a quick interview.

January 2021 - March 2021

Now here's where things get interesting, and you see exactly how God was working on my side.

After my interview in January, I thought the main residency interview season had officially ended for me. I took my birthday trip to St. Lucia, and while I was there (probably enjoying a drink by the pool), I received a screenshot from one of my good friends who knew plastic surgery was my overall goal. The screenshot was a Facebook post from a program announcing their newly accredited integrated plastic surgery program and that they were currently accepting applications. I sent my friend a huge thank you message and put it in my mental note to apply when I got back home since I didn't bring my laptop with me on my trip. A couple days later, while still in St. Lucia, I submitted my rank list (didn't have to put in much thought since I only interviewed at one program), and went back to enjoying myself.

When I returned home, I sent a Facebook message requesting information on the program and was given the contact information for the program coordinator. I didn't have much information on what and how to submit for an application, but luckily I stay prepared. I emailed my personal application packet which is literally 43 pages long and includes everything from my CV to score reports, letters of recommendation, credentials/certifications, and case logs from my previous program in addition to my downloaded official Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application. That may have been overkill, but when the coordinator notified me of what needed to be submitted, I was happy that it was already all included in my original packet.

After submitting my application materials, a couple of weeks went by before I received an interview invite, but when I finally did, I was ecstatic! This excitement was followed by a bit of worry when I saw the interview date and time. My interview was scheduled for March 3, 2021 at 430pm, and for those of you who aren't aware, 9pm March 3rd was the deadline to submit rank lists, and after this there could be no communication between programs and match applicants. I wasn't sure if the program was interviewing to offer spots right then and there, if they would be making their decision later, or if they were participating in the match, which made me a bit nervous. Sure, if they were offering a contract right then and there I would have gladly accepted, but I also wanted to be a part of the match given how much money I had put in it this year. I called my mentor, and she told me to put it all in God's hands since there was nothing I could do or would know until I had my interview.

Interview Ready!

When my interview day came, I woke up, said a prayer, and was ready to go. My interview was with the program director (PD) and lasted about 45 minutes. I found the PD to be both extremely nice and very honest about the program and challenges that might be faced being newly accredited. I felt extremely comfortable during the interview and the PD took time to answer all my many questions. The coordinator was also present and confirmed that they would be participating in the match, which made me super relieved at not having to make the decision to drop out. Immediately after the interview, I went to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) website, ranked the program and recertified my list. I even took screenshots and checked it multiple times prior to the 9pm deadline just to make sure everything was in. ***As an aside, prior to the interview I was slightly concerned how my hair would be perceived since it was still in twists from my vacation, but turns out they didn't seem to care, and it actually came out really nice with my suit. I took the above picture immediately after my interview with only a ring light and my cellphone camera, but I like it so much I think I'll use it for a while as my headshot :)***


A few days prior to Match Day Monday, I was extremely anxious and sick to my stomach. I purposely worked shifts every day and the weekend before the official announcement so I could stay busy, but thoughts of previous unsuccessful match cycles still played in my head. A month prior, I requested the entire week off with the thought that I would receive the dreadful "you did not match" email again and have to spend the whole week in the SOAP/scramble process of trying to get into an unfilled spot. It's a pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone, and it still makes me sad to think about it even though I've experienced it more than once. 

When Monday morning came around, I literally didn't even want to open the email. If it weren't for the fact that the SOAP process for unmatched applicants starts an hour after the email announcement, I probably would've waited until Friday. But alas, it was time to get it over with so I could spend the week trying one last time.   

When I rolled over, grabbed my phone, and opened it to an email that said "Congratulations, you have matched!," I was in shock!!!! I immediately called my family, but no one answered, so I posted a picture of the email in my family group chat. Only one of my sisters knew I had applied again this cycle (I didn't even tell my parents beforehand), so when I finally got ahold of everyone, they were all confused, but happy, LOL. 

Honestly, the rest of last week is a huge blur leading up until Friday when I found out where I would be headed for the next 6 years (yup, the training is that long), but that day was extremely special. My daughter was on spring break, so, as seen above, I allowed her to have the honor of opening the email and reading the results in front of my friends and family both in person and virtually. Well, as you can see from the video above, that didn't quite go as planned as she didn't know where to look, but when I finally took the laptop from her and discovered I am headed to Miami, I was on cloud nine! Even crazier was the fact my brother-in-law found out at the same time that he matched into a general surgery residency program close by in Miami as well. Y'all! I not only matched, but one of my sisters and my nephew will be close by. How insane is that?!?!

I believe that pretty much sums of the last five months of a very emotionally grueling process. I was literally about to give up after so many years of trying, but God stepped in and showed that He will continue to always come through and at the right time. Even more miraculous is the fact that I matched directly into my dream specialty when I thought a general surgery residency followed by a plastic surgery fellowship would be the only way I would ever be able to accomplish my goal. There are literally no words to describe how thankful I am to Him and all those who have cheered me on over the years. I am living proof that delay does not equal denial, and I look forward to putting in all the hard work and showing my program that they made the right choice in ranking me. There's so much more I can say on God's grace and the power in staying faithful, but it's making me super emotional so I'll save the rest for another post. For now, I'll leave everyone with this reaction video of me breaking the news to everyone :)

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