My experience at UVA thus far has, without question, exceeded my expectations. Intern year is challenging but there has not been a single day where I have not felt supported.
My fourth year of medical school probably looked a lot like everyone else’s: trying to navigate the realm of ERAS, acting internships, and interview season in the midst of what I had a created to be a less than challenging course load. What was likely different, however, was that for the majority of my year, I was wearing snow boots. Yes, my trusty LL Bean snow boots got me through the past eight years in upstate New York. It was here where snow-covered streets made their appearance as early as October, and where one could easily find a pile of coats at the entrance to the locker room, as students stripped off their fifteen layers (maybe that was just me) after defrosting inside the hospital’s haven. I set out on the interview trail, traveling down the east coast in search of somewhere where I could feel less like a human icicle. I found my place in Charlottesville, my version of the “south.”
Now, I had applied to the University of Virginia without really knowing much about it to be honest. However, when I received an email offering me an interview, I knew I had to jump on it. Several of my peers told me they knew I would love it here; this New Yorker apparently had a “Virginia personality,” whatever that meant. What I remember so vividly about my interview day was my conversations with the interviewers themselves. In fact, it felt less like an interview and more like a conversation between friends. I was given the chance to speak about everything that I was passionate about; I simply felt welcomed. As I returned back to Albany, I immediately put UVA at the top of my rank list. Each of my colleagues asked me what I liked so much about UVA’s program. I found myself not being able to give a specific answer. Yes, UVA had the one-hospital system, the 3+1 scheduling, the unique 1 resident:1 intern combination that I was seeking; it had the academic rigor and the added opportunities for global health that I had so desired. But more than that, I had the ever-so-cliché “gut-feeling” that UVA would become my home.
For the science nerd in me, I was a little hesitant to make a life-changing decision based on my gut, so much so that I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to UVA for a second look. During this weekend, I didn’t learn any statistics about the Internal Medicine program itself, nor did I hear speeches about how UVA was the best program around. Instead, the organizers let the spirit of the institution, the esprit de corps, speak for itself. I engaged in thought-provoking discussions on diversity, race, gender, and religion. I went bowling with new friends, during which we all hoped we would be better doctors than we were bowlers. I walked the streets of Charlottesville, watching students, residents, and attendings alike enjoying their time outside (in the middle of winter, might I add). It was during these moments that I knew that a gut feeling was more than enough. I was ready to live outside of New York for the first time in my life.
My experience at UVA thus far has, without question, exceeded my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, intern year is challenging and the autonomy can be a bit frightening at times. There have certainly been days that have worn me down. But in the midst of all of this, there has not been a single day where I have not felt supported. I have constantly turned to my fellow interns for advice. I have had my upper levels insist that I call them on their days off if I have any questions at all (and they really do pick up their phones, I know from personal experience). I have been able to stop other residents in the hallways for help. I have walked into the resident library on several occasions to find several colleagues jumping at the chance to teach me. Residents have called me outside of the hospital, just to check in. Furthermore, the chiefs often come to different units to check on us throughout the day and they dropped everything for me when I had a family emergency. As you can tell, I have been blessed with a beautiful family of colleagues. And it does not stop there. UVA Internal Medicine has a host of leaders and mentors whose doors are always open. I will always remember seeing my interviewers in the hallway for the first time since my interview day, this time as an intern. They not only remembered exactly who I was but also our conversations.
Overall, I couldn’t have imagined being part of a better community. I genuinely look forward to coming to work every day, and I leave just as happy. Outside of the hospital, I know I can always find at least five people on a given day who want to go restaurant hopping, hiking, or just sit by the pool. I am looking forward to the years to come and am certain that my experience will just keep getting better. By the way, I ditched the snow boots.