At the age of eight, I decided that I was going to become a pediatrician when I grew up. Determined, I fashioned my education in a way that would lead to that goal, which remained steadfast throughout basic sciences. When I began clinicals, I still thought I would become a pediatrician. I found specialties that I enjoyed but knew were not for me – OB/GYN, Family Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry. Then I did my Internal Medicine and ICU rotations, and I was in heaven. The mystery consumed me and the depth of knowledge intrigued me. I realized that I liked interacting with adults – by the time I did Pediatrics, I found that pediatrics was not for me. I briefly considered other specialties, and friends told me “better” specialties they would choose with board scores like mine but Internal Medicine and Critical Care became a calling for me.

I recently matched into an Internal Medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out for me. It’s funny, though, despite the fact that I matched at such a prestigious institution, someone still asked, “Didn’t u score a 99 on your Step 1? Why were you able to only match into internal med? I figured w/ this score, you could’ve gotten into better residency programs?” 

These questions puzzle me. I acknowledge that there are certain specialties (Radiology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesiology, Dermatology, Pathology, Surgery) that seem to require specific board scores and academic achievement, but does that mean that once a student accomplishes those goals, they should automatically pursue those specialties? It is true that for the most part (except surgery), they impart excellent lifestyles and equally amazing paychecks compared to primary care specialties like Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics, but does that mean that the lifestyle specialties are better? Absolutely not! My strong opinion is that NO medical specialty is better than another! Each plays its role in a person’s healthcare and are essential to smooth running of any hospital.

I strongly affirm that I CHOSE Internal Medicine, despite having the scores to try for any competitive specialty I wanted. I chose it because it was right for me; though I could excel, if I did anything else, I would not be happy. Outstanding junior medical students contemplating a career in primary care: do not be sidetracked by naysayers who wish to live their lives vicariously through you! Do not allow yourselves to be bullied into lifestyle specialties if you don’t like them, just to please others. Remember “the secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well” (John D Rockefeller Jr.), and if you choose to match into primary care, be the best!

by Jasmine Riviere Marcelin, Class of 2011