Having a built-in best friend during the journey through dermatology residency has made it a bit easier for Alex Zeitany to make the necessary scarifies her career path has required. Dr. Zeitany is halfway through her dermatology residency and her sister, Alana Zeitany, is halfway through medical school. The two sisters are four years apart with many similarities. Both Zeitany sisters graduated as valedictorians from their high schools, were involved in cheerleading and Greek life while earning their undergraduate degrees, and are now students at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Though the Zeitany sisters attended different North Carolina high schools and Universities for their undergraduate careers, they have been lucky to attend the Chapel Hill School of Medicine at the same time. While attending Wake Forest University during her undergrad, Alex met her now husband. He traveled with the dermatologist for her internship year in New York. The two Zeitany sisters and Alex's husband are quite the trio. They were able to spend less on rent over the last year, by living together in Chapel Hill; along with their adorable doodles Deacon and Dean.
In January of 2018, Dr. Zeitany created an Instagram account called Botox.and.Bubbly. When announcing her social media account, she said the purpose was "to chronicle my life as a #dermresident and educate my followers about the science behind skincare." In one of her Instagram posts, Alex discusses the importance of understanding your provider's credentials. She said, "People often make the mistake of assuming the more they see a provider on social media or the more followers they have, the more qualified they are. Or when a celebrity or influencer posts something, people inherently trust the information without fact checking."
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The through dermatology residency can be a long one. She explains, "to become a board certified dermatologist you have to complete 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship, 3 years of dermatology residency, and pass the board certification exams. Some even do additional fellowship training and exams after all this."
I got a chance to chat with this busy dermatology resident to learn more about the sacrifices she has made to become a doctor. Find out why she chose this demanding, yet rewarding profession.
What’s your strangest talent?
It isn’t strange, but it is completely unexpected. At the age of 28, I had never tried to surf before. My husband and I recently went on a trip to Hawaii and signed up for surfing classes. I stood up on my first wave and rode it all the way in! In fact, I rode my first 5 waves in! So shockingly, I am a secretly good surfer!
What sacrifices have you made to become a doctor?
Becoming a doctor requires a lot of sacrifices and it’s important to try to understand those sacrifices before deciding upon medicine as a career path. There are obvious financial sacrifices. However, the time sacrifices are harder to wrap your head around. Your 20s are a special, formative time. As a doctor, you will be spending these years in school and residency. Your schedule won’t be flexible and money will be tight, so that means missing a lot of your friends’ and family’s life events. Or taking a red eye to be somewhere less than 24 hours before you have to turn around and fly back for a 32 hour shift. It is grueling. If you are “here for the right reasons” (sorry for The Bachelor reference) it really is all worth it. I love my job. I love going to work and I feel like my job has a purpose. I help people every day and now that I’m in my chosen specialty, I haven’t doubted my decision.
Can you talk about why you picked Dermatology as your specialty?
There are a ton of “crossroads” when deciding on your specialty. Medicine or surgery. Inpatient or outpatient. Adults or children. For me, I had a really hard time making these decisions because I liked everything in medical school! That’s when I stumbled on dermatology. It is a mix of medicine and surgery. You can care for adults and children. You can have a mix of inpatient and outpatient medicine. And it allows for work life balance. Plus, the art of the physical exam is being lost in medicine. We rely on scans and labs more than the patient to make diagnoses. But dermatology is an exception to this. The physical exam and keen observation skills are crucial parts of our specialty. I’m 99% sure if Sherlock Holmes were alive today, he would be a dermatologist. I love having to use my eyes and hands to make diagnoses! It’s such an amazing feeling when you walk into a complicated patient’s room and within 5 minutes know what’s going on just based on their skin!
Tell me about your transition year and why Dermatology requires two separate matches…
The skin is the largest organ in the body and is often a window into internal disease states. So a strong foundation in internal medicine is crucial to being a successful dermatologist. That’s why we require an intern year in either internal medicine, pediatrics, or surgery. A transitional year is a special type of intern year where you rotate through various specialties. I chose this for my intern year so I could have exposure to both medicine and surgery which are crucial aspects of dermatology.
What advice would you give to those in medical school (like your sister) who are preparing for residency?
A surgeon once gave my medical school class this advice about residency, “Eat when you can, sleep when you can, and don’t mess with the pancreas.” I’m not sure about the pancreas part (that isn’t my domain), but the rest is so true! In residency, you are so busy caring for your patients, it’s easy to neglect your own selfcare. It’s important to prioritize your own physical and mental health. Don’t stop doing the things that make you, you.
What are one or two things you have learned about your finances during your journey through dermatology residency?
When I finished medical school, I didn’t even own a credit card! But when my loans started to go into repayment, I knew I had to start educating myself about my finances. The first thing I did was learn the ins and outs of my loans. What’s the difference between a fixed and variable APR, income versus standard repayment? By truly understanding the terms of my loans, I felt more comfortable structuring my repayment schedule.
The second thing I did was research credit scores. In order to have a good credit score, you have to actually have credit, duh! I learned what factors go into a credit score and started applying to credit cards with good benefits. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel so much more comfortable with my finances since starting residency!
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White Coat Wellness podcast producer and Marketing Director of Spaugh Dameron Tenny. Molly is passionate about connecting with people, digital marketing, and serving her community. Reach out to her if you have blog topic or podcast ideas.
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