Time passes in cycles. And the time has come for the passing of the gauntlet. Two weeks ago, anxious and eager fourth year medical students found out what their fates would be in terms of internship or residency (in the case of pathology, where we don’t do an intern year) for the coming year. Those of us who are newly appointed chief residents either have already transitioned or are starting our terms soon. And as chief resident, I’ve made that last connection to loop in the new and been in contact with our incoming first years and new CP only senior.
Two weeks ago in Boston at our ASCP Resident Council meeting, I listened to a presentation by the CEO of USCAP and a resident working with him and ASCP on the development of our resident engagement strategy. It was a thoughtful presentation and I wondered to myself as the resident presented his experiences with engagement entitled “From the View of a Chief Resident” whether there would have been any difference in how he felt whether he had been chief resident or not. And I can’t say that I know the answer yet to that question.
I’ve always been pretty proactive and I can be mad vocal sometimes, especially when it comes to ethical, policy, and health equity issues that I feel affect marginalized populations that often don’t have a voice. I’ve spent decades organizing and advocating for health equity for the minority and immigrant communities so I’m quite passionate about improving health for these populations. Part of my MPH study was dedicated to this. And I went to medical school after spending significant time in biomedical research so I am much older than the average resident. So I’m not always sure if I see things differently because of those things about me or that I would’ve anyway despite them.
But the gauntlet has been passed. My two co-chiefs this past year were great. They were organized and dealt with much more than was perceptible to the eye. Since our program is small, they so did much more than make our schedules and sign off on our leave of absence forms – they were masters of conflict resolution. They had many additional meetings in addition to their rotation duties. They were responsible for teaching and guiding the first years in grossing and through their first year of residency and for solving the frequent quality improvement issues that would come up between technical staff and house staff and between our residents and our distant off-site hospital that we also rotate at.
So, I guess as a chief resident, I might see things differently, or have no choice but to. I’ve never been the best about being early but I know that I need to be a role model now. So even though it’ll be tough for me, I’m going to have to do things that I normally wouldn’t do. My schedule will need to be more conducive to this new role – like I will have surgpath in July so that I can train the PGY1 in grossing. And since I signed contracts for two consecutive fellowships last year, I won’t need to dedicate any of my PGY4 to interviewing and should have more time to mentor the PGY1. Chiefs set the tone for resident culture which can be especially important for incoming PGY1.
I’m not sure if my thinking will magically change. And because I have no co-chief, I can see that my life will change drastically in terms of what I take into consideration when I make decisions since I will have more responsibilities that will demand my time.
Regardless, it does seem like we’ve passed a moment. The PGY4 are now focused on studying for their boards since they’ve passed on their chief duties. The PGY2 are starting to think about fellowship interviews and setting up audition rotations. And the PGY1 are now starting to feel less like the newbies and more comfortable in their residency duties and rotations. One thing is certain, time does keep on moving.
-Betty Chung, DO, MPH, MA is a third year resident physician at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ.