Pursuing Pediatrics: Tips from MU-COM Alumni - Part 4

by User Not Found | Oct 05, 2021

Katie Loke '23, OMS-III | October 5, 2021


As an aspiring pediatrician, I reached out to numerous MU-COM alumni to learn more about becoming a pediatrician and what it is like to be a pediatrician. After receiving insight from five alumni in different stages of their careers, I wanted to share their thoughts with other students who may be interested in pediatrics, as well. 

What should students know before going into pediatrics—good or bad?

No matter what specialty you go into, there are good and bad days. In this section, the MU-COM alumni have shared their appreciation for the good days and insight into how to deal with the bad days. They also shared a few insider tips on things to think about when applying to pediatrics.

Katelyn Dato-on headshot

Katelyn Dato-on ‘21, DO: "Pediatrics is an immensely gratifying specialty! You will work with some of the most lighthearted, passionate people in the medical field. From premature babies in the ICU to adolescents in an office setting, you will have a ton of variety to choose from. It is incredibly diverse in terms of setting, subspecialties, and acuity."

"Every specialty has its downsides. However, compared to others, I find pediatrics much more rewarding because the majority of my patients’ problems are not caused by poor lifestyle changes--something I found challenging in adult medicine. If families are being difficult, your duty is to advocate and do what is best for the child. For me, the rewarding nature of pediatrics outweighs any cons to the specialty."

Katelyn Campbell headshot

Katelyn Campbell ’20, DO: "It’s the best. One of the perks of being one of the statistically least paid specialties means that the people that pursue peds are people that want to be there. Being around people that are passionate about and invested in what they do makes life so much better. Each specialty has its own worst thing, but most of my peers agree that seeing kids become very sick or pass away is one of the worst parts of pediatrics. Thankfully, we all know that and make a support system for each other when these things happen."

Tyler King headshot

Tyler King '18, DO: "It is important to recognize that we do work with sick children. They are resilient and often get better but there are times when unfortunately that is not the case, which can be very disheartening. We are also working with not just the patients but their caregivers. This offers a unique opportunity to educate and advocate for our patients. There are times that this can be challenging but very doable. I think working with this population is so rewarding that even the tough cases are manageable."

Sarah Olvey headshot
Sarah Olvey '18, DO: "Pediatrics is a very rewarding specialty. Parents are always so appreciative of what you do to help their families. Kids bouncing back from even the worst situations bring so much joy. Plus, in general, the field itself is just really fun! Of course, with all of these positives, there are hard things about pediatrics as well. Facing different morbidities and mortalities in patients is never easy, but I feel as though it is especially challenging to see a child go through really tough times. It is challenging to deal with relentless chronic illnesses, terminal diagnoses, and child abuse. However, I truly feel as though the good outcomes outnumber the bad in pediatrics and make it worth it even still."
Rachel Gahagen headshot
Rachel Gahagen '17, DO: "Know that good days are SO good but bad days can be exceptionally emotionally challenging. Know that you are caring for the greatest gift in a parent’s life, they are trusting you. But, also know it is SO fun; high fives, hugs (all pre-COVID), and paw patrol stickers are never in short supply."

Is there anything students should keep in mind when thinking about choosing pediatrics?

Katelyn Dato-on headshot

Katelyn Dato-on ‘21, DO: "Some people may have reservations about pediatrics because of the difficult parents. However, most parents display frustrations out of worry or fear. Often, they simply want what is best for their child. If you communicate effectively and educate your patients and families, most will be pleasant to work with. In the end, you, your patients, and their families are all on the same team! Difficult families are not unique to pediatrics. In most other medical specialties, you will also have challenging encounters with worried family members."

Katelyn Campbell headshot

Katelyn Campbell ’20, DO: "When making a decision about specialty, talk with your mentors, and be honest with yourself. We all have different reasons and motives for picking our individual specialties. Find what you enjoy doing. No matter what you specialize in, there will be hard days – find the specialty that you can handle the hard days as well as find joy in the good days."

Tyler King headshot

Tyler King '18, DO: "There is so much overlap between residency specialties that you may find you like multiple areas of medicine which is okay. I think that identifying a patient population you have an interest in working with during your medical education is the most important step in your medical career. There are so many areas in pediatrics that if you like working with children, there is an area that will serve you well in pediatrics. Working with pediatric patients is so rewarding and something that for me is so intangible. This was the main reason I chose pediatrics as a specialty."

Sarah Olvey headshot
Sarah Olvey '18, DO: "It’s very different from other fields of medicine! Pathology in children is often different—there are a handful of diagnoses that weren’t always focused on in medical school, and therefore the learning curve can seem daunting. Additionally, knowing that you will not only be working with your patient but several members of their family likely as well is something to keep in mind. However, these are things that you will quickly get used to when you submerge yourself into the field."
Rachel Gahagen headshot
Rachel Gahagen '17, DO: "I really think the most important thing you should remember is you are caring for someone’s child—so when you’re tired or frustrated you have to remember the seriousness of the gift you have been bestowed."

Is there anything you wish you knew going into residency that you could share with students interested in pediatrics?

Katelyn Dato-on headshot

Katelyn Dato-on ‘21, DO: "[Prior to residency] at this point, I am just about to start as a pediatric intern! While I don’t have a specific answer for this currently, I am sure many will come up in the next few weeks to months! However, being fresh out of interview season, I will say to not be afraid to advocate for yourself! If you are super interested in a program or certain location, let them know and show them. No one else will advocate for you but yourself. Send emails to the program coordinator, reach out to the residents if you have questions, and attend any virtual open houses/information sessions programs may offer."

"[After her first few months of residency] something I wish I knew was to truly take advantage of the time you have off before you start residency. While I'm only a month into residency, I quickly realized how limited and how precious my free time is. It will be very, very rare to have freedom like that in the future. Go travel, spend time with your friends and family, and let your mind have some time away from the books. Get a wellness routine down and commit to it because it is very easy to neglect your own health when you're exhausted!"

Katelyn Campbell headshot

Katelyn Campbell ’20, DO: "Residency can be so much fun, especially in peds. Yes, I work a lot of hours most of the time, but my patients help me see the world from a different perspective which brings me so much joy and makes residency a wonderful place."

Sarah Olvey headshot
Sarah Olvey '18, DO: "You always hear that residency is hard with a very steep learning curve in the first few months. This is really true, but it also is something you can’t quite understand until you are in the midst of it. However, doing something you love and being in the field you are committing yourself to for the rest of your life makes it worth it. There really is no better way to prepare for residency in any field than to make the most of every clinical rotation you are on, read on cases you have seen throughout the day, and do your best throughout the remainder of medical school. You really are building your medical foundation in those 4 years and so much of what you are learning you will use more than you think."
Rachel Gahagen headshot
Rachel Gahagen '17, DO: "Most of the additional considerations I have are more personal, revolving around the size of the program, what small vs large programs both truly have to offer. I was at a smaller program for residency and now a large academic center for fellowship—I feel I have a better understanding and in some ways, appreciation for both."

An emphasis was made on the idea that while pediatrics is fun and uplifting most days, students must remember that unfortunately there will be hard days, too.  Remember to take care of yourself, find a good support system, and find a specialty that you love, as this will help you handle the hard days and enjoy the good days that much more. 

Thank you to the alumni for their time!
To the MU-COM alumni, thank you for paving the way for current and future students and for taking the time out of your busy schedules to share your insight about pediatrics. Each one of their responses shows their dedication and compassion for the patients and families they care for. We are so lucky to have you all to look up to.

About the author

Katie Lepak headshot

Katie Loke is a third-year medical student at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM). Prior to attending MU-COM, Katie attended and graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science. Katie was the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) President at MU-COM as a second-year medical student. As the SOMA President, Katie coauthored two resolutions that were passed as National SOMA policy—one on disability education for medical students and one on sex trafficking education for physicians and medical students. Katie also enjoys volunteering for Children’s TherAplay, a pediatric hippotherapy facility, where she helps patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities during their therapy sessions. Additionally, she did research at Riley Hospital for Children through the Pediatric Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. When Katie is not studying or working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, dog, and cat, trying new food, and exploring Indianapolis with friends.

Continue to Pursuing Pediatrics: Part 1.

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