Season 02: Episode 10: Samantha Wilder Transcript
Queer Diagnosis Podcast
Season 02: Episode 10: Samantha Wilder
[Theme music plays]
Zarya: This is Queer Diagnosis. I’m Zarya. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Srihita: I’m Srihita. My pronouns are also she/her/hers. Our guest today is Samantha Wilder, a fourth-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic Alex School of Medicine. She's currently applying to urology residencies. Hi, Sami, could you please introduce yourself with your pronouns?
Sami: Hi, I'm Sami and my pronouns are she/her/hers.
Zarya: Could you tell us a little bit about your involvement with the LGBT community on your medical campus?
Sami: Of course. So I actually came out as queer or pansexual during my first year of medical school, and in looking for a community to associate myself with and to find people who were like-minded and going through similar struggles as I was, I did notice that there was a lack of a student organization on campus as well as student-led initiatives for addressing LGBT health care disparities and community issues. So that was a struggle for me initially. I looked to our sister campus in Rochester, which had already had an established community since I was part of the second official four-year class at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. So we were still kind of a baby community, in general, as a medical school. So, I looked forward towards them to see what they had established. They had what they called the LGBT In Medicine student organization, which was both an organization to provide a community for LGBT identifying students and allies, as well as to supplement the curriculum in some ways regarding LGBT health issues by bringing in speakers and people who were notable in that field to teach about these topics. I thought that would be a very important thing to have addressed on the Arizona campus as well so I started the process of creating that group.
Zarya: Can you tell us a little bit more about the name of your group and what specific events you hold on campus?
Sami: So, it’s called the LGBTI in Medicine interest group. It's a student organization; it’s faculty and student-led. We have social events for the queer community and queer-identifying students as an opportunity to connect and grow as a community. We have more educational events where we bring in speakers to discuss pertinent topics in LGBT health care. We’ve had faculty-student mixers to connect queer-identifying students to connect with queer faculty to assist in the process of applying to residency and what to expect being out in medicine and provide mentorship as needed.
Srihita: So you mentioned the role that faculty has played in the organization. We have had the opportunity to talk to quite a few medical students and how it seems like students tend to take the lead on certain initiatives. Can you talk about the ways in which faculty have helped and how they've of responded?
Sami: Involvement of faculty and of the administration has actually been something that has really surprised me in terms of how open and how encouraging and motivated that they are to address these issues that have existed on campus and also in the broader community. One example of that is the administration reached out to myself and the members of the interest group in Rochester and requested that we create a working group with them under the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to address the issues on a systemic level at the school and that we would be working directly with our faculty advisors and different branches of the medical school administration who address these challenges. From the perspective of a student who was struggling to find a community and to figure out ways to address these issues that I was experiencing, it was really encouraging and motivating that the administration was taking such an active role in addressing these problems. Having that opportunity to work directly with admissions and curriculum development, Faculty Affairs, and Student Affairs has been really great and really promising and encouraging.
Zarya: I think one of the things that I enjoyed most about attending the Mayo Clinic information session was that as soon as I asked a question about LGBTQ plus resources on campus, multiple medical students responded in the chat, and they're like, “We have a barbecue and many other events.” And it was interesting because I always try to ask questions about the resources available to students who are applying because I think that personally, as somebody who wants to be comfortable in their surroundings and be able to talk about their community, I definitely would want to go to a school that fosters that environment. It's really nice to see the response of medical students. They connected me with you, which is great. So I just really appreciate the fact that you started a whole organization modeled after the one in Rochester. One of the things that stood out to me in our preliminary conversation was, you said that LGBTQ+ students did not necessarily have access to LGBTQ+ inclusive providers. Could you speak a little bit more about that?
Sami: Yeah, so that's actually one of the issues that we're working to address through this working group under the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The main issue has just been that the structure in which the school has provided healthcare to students differs between the two campuses. In Rochester, the students receive health care through the Occupational Health Office. In Arizona, we get assigned to primary care providers through family practice. So, it is less of an issue on the Arizona campus specifically but still, a broad issue where students in Rochester, through occupational health, may not be connecting with providers who understand or who have really experienced LGBT-specific health care issues. There have been circumstances in which students have received the opposite of queer affirming care. We are working directly with the school to address that problem and to see if we can create a system in which students receive care through the residents’ clinic or through a different avenue in which the providers that they see are more knowledgeable and more comfortable treating issues that pertain to LGBT students.
Srihita: How would you say the timeline has been for implementing change? I know it's a newer program. Has it been super flexible or has it been more of a slow burn?
Sami: I feel like it's been a little bit of both. A lot of things happened all at once, very quickly. I started this interest group and I started working with my colleagues in Rochester and then the school reached out to me and to my colleagues and wanted to start this working group. People were reaching out with ideas and there was a lot of momentum early on. As the actual process of change and the work needed to create that change continued, things slowed down a little, as they do naturally. Change doesn't occur overnight. When you're talking about institution-wide change, there's a lot of moving parts and a lot of stakeholders within that. Navigating that has been really interesting, from my perspective, just because it's not something I'd ever really done before: working with an institution to create system-level change. When we came out initially, when we had this opportunity to meet with the administration early on, we didn't know if this was going to be a long term thing or if this is going to be our one chance to tell them what our thoughts were and what we thought needed to change on campus. We came out with guns blazing. We had the whole document of all of the changes, probably a little aggressive in retrospect. It definitely was not well taken by everyone, but most people were pretty supportive. Some people thought it might be a little too aggressive on our part. As it morphed into this long-term thing that will continue even as I graduate and as my colleagues graduate, it has definitely taken on a more of a slow-burn feeling.
Zarya: I think, since ninth grade, whenever there's something that needs to be addressed within the student body, even if there's a student government, I'm the one who writes a petition, in a kind manner that’s not disrespectful. I think it’s funny you’re using the word aggressive, but I would never admit it. I think everything I do is a little bit aggressive, but not in an intentional way. Srihita can tell you that I don’t give up when something needs to be done. Even recently, they gave us it was a very minor thing, they gave us an assignment due during our fall break. Technically, according to SUNY policy, you cannot give a student an assignment during fall break. Most professors don't give you assignments, but it was a 40-page lab report due during fall break and I ended up becoming the point person for that. It’s nice to know that, you mentioned earlier, the faculty has been very responsive to your initiatives. What do you see happening in the future? Do you have a leadership team to continue the program or the initiatives you started after graduation?
Sami: The two separate groups are the working group under the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion the student organization. They overlap significantly in terms of who's involved. In terms of continuation after I graduate, the working group has several student members from both campuses as well as several faculty members who have committed to continuing to be involved in this role. I also recruited additional Arizona membership to continue the Arizona representation after I graduate. Similarly, with the interest group, I've recruited leadership to facilitate that transition as I graduate as well. They have been becoming increasingly more involved and taking initiative and leadership on things as I phase out with residency.
Srihita: At the beginning of the interview, you were saying that you were coming out and looking for community. Did you ever expect to get so involved in this way where you're now working with the administration? Was that thought always in the back of your head or was this just the way that it unfolded?
Sami: Not at all. I was uncomfortable, as a baby gay, being the face of queer students on campus. I didn't feel like I really deserved that, whatever that means, maybe because of my limited experience and my own insecurities. So it kind of took a while for me to realize that I was probably the person who was going to have to do it, at least at that time. I would have started earlier on if I hadn't had those reservations. I did not expect it to be this situation where I am working with the administration and working with colleagues and faculty in Rochester. I didn't expect that at all. And I'm very grateful for the opportunity. It's been great.
Zarya: As an admissions committee member, we know that you also have a large say. How have you sought to increase the visibility of incoming classes in terms of the LGBTQ+ community?
Sami: My initial reason for even joining the admissions committee was to be an LGBT member of the committee and to increase that perspective during conversations about applying students. There's only so much that I can do as an individual, but as best as I can, I try to provide that representation along with another member of our LGBT working group from the Rochester campus who joined the committee. In terms of my role, I am an interviewer. As an interviewer, I have joined the admissions committee meetings to discuss applicants and then vote on applicants and rank them accordingly. I've been attempting to provide that perspective and increase the visibility of these students by, one, challenging any questions that come up about queer students in how their identity relates to their desire to practice medicine, and, two, definitely highlighting their strength and the strength of that within their application. I think there hasn't been a lot of opportunities to explicitly highlight queer applicants as queer applicants, but bringing attention to how humans’ identities play a role in their desire to pursue health care, and how that affects their abilities to engage in certain activities that might be considered standard for pre-med applications, and the types of discrimination that students might be facing and the minority stress that comes along with being underrepresented in medicine is something I’ve tried to include in the conversation as much as I possibly can.
Zarya: Can you tell us a little bit about your residency program and what specialty you're applying for?
Sami: So I'm currently applying to urology. I've applied pretty broadly in terms of the programs as one does when they apply the urology, it’s a competitive specialty. I'm very excited to be in that process. Applications have already been submitted. Interviews just came out for urology programs, and so we're into that interview space now.
Srihita: I remember when I was applying to undergrad and, more recently, grad school, talking about my mental health was something I needed to think about. I've struggled with my mental health as a lot of people have and I was like, “Do I write about this?” It's such a part of who I am and how I arrived at this decision that I wanted to go to grad school and all that. It's this very fine balance where you're sharing yourself. I remember showing someone my essay and they were like, “You don't want them to think that something is going to happen to you.” That’s the big concern if you struggle with your mental health so it is a really interesting balance. I do think that medicine in specific but also just academia, in general, is coming around to this idea that our identity brings so much to the table. For instance, you being a part of the admissions committee and working with DEI is due to having this perspective that can implement systemic change. Even for me, I’m in economics. Economics for a very long time has been a bunch of old white men primarily working in microeconomics. We have this other perspective and these other interests that can also help and cause change.
Zarya: More recently, when I've gone to information sessions for medical schools, I've been trying to ask about different LGBTQ+ resources. I noticed that sometimes people will direct me to race and that as diversity which is understandable. I was trying to understand why when I asked about LGBTQ+ resources, people talked about race more than LGBTQ+-focused initiatives. I asked a medical student this recently and they had said, “Well, people like to speak to the things that they know.” Sami, I think you even mention that not everyone is comfortable talking about this community because not everyone knows what to say and what is appropriate. You don't want to speak on something you’re not knowledgeable about. One of my questions for you is have you shared your identity with residency programs?
Sami: I made the decision to come out in my personal statement in my residency application after discussing it with my mentors and with different people who've been involved in the residency application process. I decided that it was something that was important to me and my identity and that I felt was very relevant to what I wanted to share with prospective programs. It informed a lot of the work that I've done in medical school and I wanted to be able to highlight that as a strength in my application. And I also wanted to use it as a general screening tool. There are programs that would be upset by that or would be bothered by that in whatever way and I don't want to go to those programs. It kind of works as a very early screening tool. They take a look at my application. They see in my personal statement that I've come out and they can pass my application aside if they're bothered by it in any way. And so that was the decision that I made. In terms of interviews, I have only gone on a couple, I have been very open about that aspect of my identity, and the experiences that I've had and have really been trying to showcase it as a strength and an asset to whatever program.
Zarya: What advice might you have for someone who's deciding whether or not they want to be out to an admissions committee, either for medical school or for residency?
Sami: I'm not in residency so maybe I'm not equipped to give advice to that, but certainly for pre-med students, my advice is to be as open as you are comfortable with and as comfortable as you are discussing it. If you put it in your application, it is fair game to discuss at an interview. I don't think, at least from the perspective of the work that I have done on the admissions committee, that is ever viewed as a negative. It can only be viewed as a positive and especially in how you frame it: if you can kind of use it to inform why you're interested in pursuing medicine and why you're interested in working with the communities that you want to work with and how that strengthens you as an applicant. As frustrating as it can be sometimes, to kind of use these aspects of our identity as selling points to admissions committees, being able to do that is certainly going to boost your application in a way that can only help. I can't speak for every medical program. I'm sure that there are some that are a little more traditional in their ways. But, I think that anything that sets you apart and makes you stronger and makes you better equipped to work with different communities, whether it's your own community or other communities, is an asset and you should, if you are comfortable, use that in your application.
Zarya: I think one thing that I found as I was searching up whether or not to be out for a personal statement is the question of do you talk about your personal experiences versus how to relate it to a patient experience? Have you found a balance between that or chosen stick to one or the other?
Sami: I guess I’ll talk about this in two ways. First, as an applicant to residency, my goal was to showcase it through the work that I've done in the school and then also patient experiences that I've had because I felt that nobody would be able to challenge that. It was a strength if it was solely portrayed as something that has only helped me in my medical career. I chose to stay a little bit further away from personal experience. I was open to discussing it if it comes up in interviews, but not something that I included in my personal statement. Also, you are very limited in terms of how much space you have to discuss things that are important to you in your personal statement. That was only one part of me that I wanted to share. There are several parts of me that I wanted to also include in my personal statement and so it was a choice about what to take out. As someone who reviews applications and interviews applicants, it is certainly a stronger personal statement whenever you're able to tie it back to patient care and to patient meaningful clinical experiences that you've had. It doesn't necessarily always have to be direct where you had one queer patient that did X, Y, and Z and taught you all these things. It doesn't necessarily have to be that direct. It can just be a lesson that you've learned that you will tie back to how you will treat patients in the future or things that are important to you in treating patients. It's just a stronger point whenever you're able to tie it back to medicine and why you want to practice medicine.
Srihita: So speaking of why you want to practice medicine, can you talk about how you got interested in urology?
Sami: I was always very interested in surgery, coming into medical school, most of my medical shadowing experiences have been in surgery. I really liked being in the OR, but I wasn't as much of a big fan of the culture of surgery. I found that that was something that was pushing me very far away from that. I wanted more meaningful and long-term relationships with my patients, not that surgical relationships aren’t meaningful, but I wanted long-term ones. I didn't really know about urology. It's kind of this hidden gem in medicine, although less now as more and more people are applying to urology. I accidentally did a week in my second year on the urology service and I felt like I had found all of the things that I was missing when I had been thinking about general surgery or other surgical specialties. I found that the ability to have those long-term relationships with your patients is definitely there. Urology is clinical and procedural in nature. So you end up establishing those long-term connections. I found that the culture was very laid back. There was a lot of humor and fun and, and general happiness that urologists seem to have, which is something that I definitely wanted and definitely clicked more with my personality. And so I've ever since that week, I have just been all gung ho about urology all the time. I think it's a fantastic specialty. I think there's a lot of really great opportunities for innovation, for improving health disparities, and even for queer and gender-affirming care. I'm just really excited to be a part of all of that.
Zarya: I know that as a part of gender-affirming surgery, urologists are involved. So even if you're not involved in the surgical aspect, would you still be able to get involved otherwise in gender-affirming surgeries, or gender-affirming care?
Sami: In my experience, the way that I've seen gender-affirming care play out has been very multidisciplinary. You've got your endocrinologist, your primary care providers, your psychiatrists, your urologist, and plastic surgeons. I'm sure there are more. There are opportunities within that multidisciplinary, team-based model to really work with patients and achieve whatever their goals are because everybody's goals are different when it comes to gender-affirming care. I think that perhaps in a setting in which you don't necessarily have that multidisciplinary approach, so maybe in a community-based practice, I think there's a lot of opportunities for urologists to provide hormonal treatments, to manage that with their patients, and to manage long term care, post-surgical procedures and things that come up within that. You don't necessarily have to be involved in specific surgeries that you may or may not be comfortable with depending on your level of experience with those surgeries. It is very specific and not every training program is going to have that as part of the repertoire of surgeries that they offer. There are long-term management issues that every urologist I believe should be knowledgeable about and be able to manage in their patient population.
Zarya: Taking it back to your discussion of the admissions process, what improvements would you like to see to be more accommodating of LGBTQ+ applicants?
Sami: I think one of the biggest issues with the application process for LGBT applicants is that, as far as I know, the AAMC still doesn't consider LGBT students as an underrepresented minority in medicine. That leads to a lack of data that exists in terms of how many students are applying as LGBT applicants as well as the actual representation of LGBT providers in medicine, which I think is really important. I think it really doesn't address the fact that queer people have long been discouraged from applying to fields in medicine in both overt and covert ways. It's not that long ago that homosexuality was a DSM diagnosis. There's a lot of work on that side that needs to be done to improve how we view applicants as a whole and with all the various parts of their identities as they apply to medicine. I think this is true for every provider in medicine, and especially in educations. There’s a need for more robust training on the use of pronouns and even just language that students might use and what language that you should use in return. Being comfortable discussing these topics, I think, is something that was lacking quite a bit in the medical field. I don't think that a lot of providers are comfortable talking about these topics. I think that then that translates over into the admissions process because typically doctors are the ones who are involved in the admissions process. I think that will come as there is more representation in medicine and as students and providers are more comfortable sharing that part of their identity throughout their training and throughout their practice. I think that comfort with these discussions will happen. But it’s probably one of the more challenging aspects currently.
Srihita: Do you think the reluctance to have those discussions comes from a place of fear where they don't want to mess up or say something wrong or is it just from a reticence to change?
Sami: Being part of the working group under the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, on the faculty affairs side of things, it has really been the first thing that you said: the fear of messing up, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of offending someone or pushing someone further away. That really is driving people away from maybe even just introducing themselves with their pronouns. They're not comfortable with it, and so they are afraid they might mess up. They're afraid that they might offend someone. I really don't see it as much as this sort of resistance to change. I think most people are really well-meaning and want to do right by their colleagues, their trainees, or patients. It's just this lack of comfort that's really driving them away from it.
Zarya: You mentioned earlier that the AAMC does not recognize the LGBTQ+ community as underrepresented. There’s one program that I'm applying to for the summer since I'll have a gap year, and it says that they only want minority or underrepresented students to apply. I thought that LGBTQ+ would fall in that group. I'm actually a little bit surprised the AAMC doesn't consider to be underrepresented. In one interview that we did earlier, somebody mentioned that there were four medical students in their student body who were queer-identifying and there are four hours of LGBT+ healthcare in the curriculum. So it's four hours for those four students. That was the joke. I definitely wonder why that's something that they haven't kind of addressed that.
Sami: Each program views it differently. When I was applying for away-rotations earlier this year, I definitely saw there were programs and scholarships that were dedicated to the underrepresented and minority groups in medicine. Sometimes they had LGBT in their list and sometimes that didn’t. I think it is program-dependent. I hope I’m not wrong on that. The last time I checked, the AAMC didn't view that as one of the underrepresented minorities in medicine. And I think that's unfortunate. And I don't know why. I wonder if it's a numbers thing. It might be what we talked about before, lumping racial and gender and sexual minorities all together and viewing it as everyone needing the same resources. Maybe that's part of it. I'm not entirely sure why I don't know the history of that. But it's certainly a problem. We are a minority group in medicine. There has been that discrimination that has existed for a long time in medicine, and that has discouraged people who are queer from coming out and discussing that and disclosing that in their work environments, and then also discouraging people from even trying to get into the field in the first place. I think that if it's not something that they are changing, it definitely should be on their list.
Zarya: I think we should both send emails. Turning back the time a little, to your pre-med self, what would you tell them in terms of advice?
Sami: I think the biggest fear that I had on the application trail was I wanted to be liked by everyone. I wanted to be what everybody wanted. I was afraid that if I showed too much conviction about a certain topic or not enough conviction or if I only highlighted the various very pretty parts of my application and not necessarily the more messy parts of my experience that I wouldn’t - I just didn’t want to exclude anyone from considering me as an applicant. I think that that it all worked out in the end but I do think it weakened my application quite a bit. I think the interesting parts of a person and what makes them unique and what makes them strong are often the things that are not as pretty to people. It is all in how you talk about it but the biggest strengths are the things that we've struggled with. I probably would tell myself to embrace those things and to use them as tools rather than as things I was afraid of talking about. I think that we had talked a little bit about mental health being sort of the struggle and whether or not to disclose that. Certainly, that's something that I've struggled with and definitely tried to hide from my application in any real way. I would just tell myself to embrace those things and to be able to talk about them and not necessarily try to fit the mold of whatever I thought everyone wanted me to be, and then, therefore, come out as a weaker looking applicant because I wasn't really anything. I think I would probably try to tell my story in a more genuine way.
Zarya: Do you think that you're staying true to yourself even in these residency applications? Are taking that advisor right now?
Sami: I’m doing the best I can. I think that it's a really difficult balance - to balance things that you want to highlight to a program as reasons why they should take you as well as the things that are honestly just true about you and are things that you've struggled with. Balancing those in a way that ends up making you an appealing applicant can be really difficult, especially if there are things that you're still struggling with, that you haven't necessarily resolved. Then you can't just say, “And now I'm so much stronger because of it” because you're still working through it. So I am doing the best that I can to highlight those parts of me in a way that hopefully will not be detrimental to my future career. That's kind of the stance that I'm taking and definitely bringing it through work I've done, patient encounters I've had, and how it's made me a better doctor. That’s the lens I’m trying to use.
Srihita: Now, especially, when I look back on applying to college, it is a very strange phenomenon to ask a 17-year-old, “Who are you and what do you want to do with your life?” and to present yourself in this very neatly packaged thing. No one knows what they're doing when they're 17. I barely know what I'm doing now and it’s been a couple of years. You touched on this before but the idea of taking parts of your identity and taking things that you've dealt with and your experiences and you essentially have to advertise yourself. As much stuff as we work through, there's always going to be some inherent dissonance and in trying to advertise yourself. It's just a strange thing.
Sami: I remember when I was applying to medical school, that dissonance that you just described being really frustrating to me. I felt like all of these things that I cared about were cheapened by this process of me trying to just advertise myself constantly and always use them as a way to get into medical school and not just as a thing that was genuine and true on its own. That was something I struggled with during the application process quite a bit. I think I'm a little more used to it now. It doesn't bother me as much but maybe it should, I don't know. What you said about having to package yourself even at 17 when you're applying to colleges is even harder now because every field is so oversaturated with applications. In college and medical school, everyone’s overqualified. In residency, it’s the same thing. There are too many applicants and not enough spots. You have to find a way to make yourself stand out and a lot of those things that make you stand out are those things that you might be afraid to talk about or you might be worried that it might make them not like you and not want to talk to you. You have to balance that desire to be liked by everyone and to be what you might call a good applicant with the things that will make you stand out and make programs, maybe fewer programs, more interested in you. Hopefully, it will prove fruitful in the end.
Zarya: The concept of Match Day really stresses me out even though I'm so far from that process. I still follow along with it on Twitter. I really hope that turns out great for you and I'd love to see where you're at. Hopefully, it goes well.
Sami: One of the great things about urology is it's an early match. We find out in February, and so you get a whole month on everyone else, which is really nice. It's not this prolonged interview process. Pretty much all of our interviews are condensed in the same month. Urology released all of their interview decisions on the same day as opposed to other specialties in which it can be this really prolonged process for several months. Then we get an early decision as well. It's a pretty shortened cycle compared to other specialties, which is stressful at the moment but I'm sure I will be grateful for it in the long term. I'm very excited about Match Day. It's been a long time. It's a very stressful time for a lot of students particularly when we talk about students who didn’t match or who match at a program that was pretty far down on their list. Especially now with COVID, that is really impacting how programs make decisions. I think it is a difficult time for sure.
Zarya: Did you only apply to programs that you would actually attend?
Sami: Being a urologist is very important to me. It’s something I really want to do so I'm willing to go to a program that maybe isn't in my top 10 or has red flags, depending on the red flag. I didn't apply to programs where I did not see myself ultimately going to, but I think I applied pretty broadly because the goal of being a urologist to me was more important than maybe going to only the best residency program that I could possibly get into. As I was deciding which programs to apply to I just asked myself very genuinely if I would rather be a urologist and go to this program, or would I rather do something else and not go to this program? That's kind of how I weeded out certain programs. Because urology is such a small field, pretty much any program is going to be a pretty good program. There are very few where I absolutely would rather not be a urologist than go to this program. So that's, that was my decision-making process.
Zarya: Just to be sure, you’re not from Long Island right? The last few times we’ve interviewed folks, they’ve been from Long Island as we never got to as you where you’re from.
Sami: No, I'm from Phoenix. I grew up in Phoenix and then I went to New York City for college and grad school. I attended Yeshiva University, and then NYU for grad school. And then I came back to Arizona for medical school.
Zarya: I saw a meme yesterday that said people in America go to New York for college, California for grad school, and then they go to the Midwest for whatever else, and Texas for their job. I thought it was really funny because how do people move so often? When I was younger, I used to think about the med school interviewing process. You just take a bunch of fights for a full week because I knew people there were flying out for their interviews. When I hear people talk about residency, it very much sounds like then going all over the place within a very short timespan. It's interesting to think about uprooting your whole life to go pursue like your career, but ultimately, I think it comes down to what you said before. There are pros and cons. If it is something that you really want to do then you will do it by any means necessary.
Sami: With COVID, everything has been virtual. Interviews have been all virtual. So there's less traveling back and forth here which is great from a financial standpoint. It's a little discouraging from the standpoint of being able to actually see what these programs are like. It's a lot easier to alter certain aspects of your program when all you're doing is just presenting it in the zoom session as opposed to if I was physically walking through the halls of the hospital, I'd be able to see several things about the hospital. So that's kind of that frustrating. It’s also stressful dealing with the knowledge that I could end up literally anywhere next year. I could be moving down the street, I could be moving across the country, I don't know. It's not like I'll have options at that point. With the match, you get one spot so it's decided for me which is very, very stressful. It's exciting, but it's stressful.
Srihita: I have a couple of friends who are going into medicine and are at the beginning of the process. And it's such a long, arduous process. Did you ever see yourself in any other career or was this it?
Sami: I actually considered philosophy for a while. I got my master's in bioethics. And I really loved that, but I think it just sort of reaffirmed for me that I did want to practice medicine. I did sort of want to be on the front lines of these ethical issues as opposed to pontificating about them behind the desk. I had a brief detour but came back to it just because there's nothing like it. There's nothing like being able to take care of patients and in more ways than just providing their basic medical care. I think that it's a real privilege and it's for the people who really want to do it. It's worth all of the stress and all of the long haul of medical school, residency, fellowship, and finally getting to that attending job. I think it's worth all that.
Zarya: Thank you so much for joining us. We really do appreciate you, being busy with your residency applications, but making time for us.
Sami: Thank you so much. It was really an honor to be here. And I really enjoyed talking with you guys.
Srihita: Hello, everyone, thank you so much for taking the time to listen to our conversation with Sami. This is the part of the episode where we like to reflect on our conversation with our guests and we're joined by our interns Aaliya and Sofia.
Sofia: I'm 21 years old and I am a senior in undergrad. I still don't think that I fully committing to med school. Some people when they're in their second year or third year of college already preparing for the MCAT, the interviews, and all that because it's very nerve-racking. I've always thought that if you want to be a doctor, you would know it instantly since at least high school. You'd already be set into going to med school and that you feel that there's nothing else for you. It was interesting for me because Sami mentioned that when she was in college she decided to go pursue a master's in bioethics. Until then, she was taking the coursework but she didn't actually commit to med school until she was in her master's degree. I thought that was very interesting because I'm also in the same boat. I want to pursue it. I want to be a doctor, but that's 10 years of your life. I already did the first four but that's another six years. I'm really not sure if I'm ready. I’m going to come out of med school and I’m going to be 30 or 31. I might be unmarried and have no kids. It’s true though. Med school takes a lot out of your life. It’s very much like a marriage. Sometimes it lasts longer than marriage.
Aaliya: I had an internship at a medical college for a while and one thing that my supervisor was telling another med student, in front of me, was, “Calm down, you're gonna end up getting married. You're gonna have three kids, you just need to ride the wave out.” It’s hard because I plan my life a lot. We talked about this in a previous reflection. You do think, “Oh, I'm gonna graduate med school when I'm 30 or 29 and then my life's over.” But you’re 30. The average age for a person to die is 82. You have 52 more years to just vibe. You know what I mean? It is hard to go into medicine though because it's a big commitment. I also like scared I'm like, Can I do it? Can I not do it? I think if that's what you really want to do, you’ll be happy with that choice. You can find love in med school. It's happened to people. It can all happen at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Sofia, you mentioned how hard med school is, and you didn’t know if you were willing to spend 10 more years of your life doing it. Some it could also be impostor syndrome. At the beginning of the interview, we asked Sami if she thought she was going to be this big of an influence on the LGBT community at her school. She didn’t really think that and she never went in with this idea that she was going to be a big influence. She said that she didn’t think she deserved to be the face of the LGBTQ program at her school. It’s relatable because it's imposter syndrome, right? She’s clearly put in hard work. She’s done everything yet her mind is still like, “Oh, you don't deserve to be where you are.” That's very relatable to me. I’m pre-med. I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 12 years old. I’m 21. I am about to apply soon, hopefully. My mind is still like, “Oh, you can't do it.” You have to battle your thoughts. There’s scientific evidence you can do it because you've made it this far.
Zarya: A really quick shoutout or editor Jameson because even though I’m sick, I’m sure this audio will come out dope. The thing that was most intimidating to me in talking with medical students from different organizations and guest speakers is that oftentimes medical students will have one story or one defining the moment in which they decide this is it for them, and I can't say it was ever one moment. There have been moments that have stood out but it was never just one thing. And that's something that really scared me because I haven't had that. I know I want to become a doctor. I can list a bunch of reasons why but it hasn't just been because of one thing. That really stressed me out for my personal statement. There are so many different things. How do you talk about them all? I think this is something that we have discussed in the last reflection but at the end of the day, it comes down to what will I contribute to medicine? I feel like that's exactly what Sami did, in the sense that she saw that there was a community there that was worth fostering and she created this organization as a means of creating a sense of community. I think that medical students to follow and even just undergraduate students like myself, we're looking to apply. It really means a lot to me to know that the folks who were ahead were in these positions are doing their best to take care of future generations like ours.
Sofia: For real though. When she spearheaded that program at her school for the LGBTQ community, I hope she realized that she made a very big change in that school. Fifteen years from now, that community is going to be so much bigger, so much more colorful, and it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for her. That community wouldn't have found itself or people from the community wouldn't have been interacting with each other if it was it wasn't her for her effort.
Srihita: I wanted to touch on the point Zarya brought up about when someone's applying to med school, having to consider what they can contribute to medicine. In the case of Sami, when she decided to spearhead the organization, it didn’t start from this place of her wanting to be an advocate necessarily. She was doing it because she was going through the experience of coming out and wanted to find a sense of community. Sometimes the ways in which you end up contributing also ended up feeding you and contributing back to you, the win-win situations, are the most inspiring ones. You take something that you're looking for, and oftentimes when you're looking for it, there's also a bunch of other people that are looking for it. The initiative that Sami ended up taking, as Sofia said, is going to end up benefiting so many people right now and in the future. So I think that's a really nice point to remember. I think on that note, Sami can definitely talk to people and we really, really enjoyed having this conversation with her and we hope you guys did too. As usual, take care of yourselves and we’ll see you in the next one.
Zarya: Bye everyone!
Zarya: Read the transcript for this episode at QueerDiagnosis.com. Queer Diagnosis is
Aaliya: Aaliya Sayed.
Jess: Jessica Pathmanathan.
KaiQi: KaiQi Liang.
Lara: Lara Castaneda.
Serena: Serena McDaniel.
Sofia: Sofia Peralta.
Jameson: Jameson Coleman.
Srihita: Srihita Mediboina.
Zarya: And me, Zarya Shaikh. Music is composed and provided by Cara Dugan and Adam Fredette. This podcast is supported by listeners like yourself. Our Patreon is patreon.com/QueerDiagnosis rate and subscribe to Queer Diagnosis wherever you like to listen.
This transcript has been edited for clarity. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.