“There’s no “I” in team!”
That is what an Ophthalmologist Resident shared in an encouraging post on LinkedIn in September of 2020 after working 28 days straight during an internal medicine rotation at the VA in Iowa.
After the most challenging month of his training thus far – in the midst of a global pandemic – his passion for medicine truly shines. In his post, he continues to say, “Although rigorous, it was absolutely rewarding seeing my patients being admitted in poor health, and being discharged either at or above their usual baseline.”
Dr. Aaron Dotson took the time to reflect on and share a positive event that happened during this grueling part of his intern year as a result of listening to his teammate. He encourages his fellow medical professionals to remember this:
“In medicine, everyone is a part of the same team, whether you’re the medical student, nurse, pharmacist, PT, OT, EVERYONE!”
During his 28 day stretch at the VA, Dr. Dotson also worked every 6th night. One of those nights his nurse paged him at 3:00 AM saying something was off with a patient who was writhing in pain. He could have just ordered pain medicine to soothe his patient, but instead, he went to the patient's bedside. Dr. Dotson had a gut feeling there was a neurological emergency with this patient and made a tough decision to order an MRI, rush them to surgery. These critical decisions ultimately saved this patient’s legs.
Dr. Dotson’s effort to inspire and motivate others made us want to learn more about him, so we sat down to find out what drives his passion in medicine, how he chose his medical specialty, and how to survive the struggles of residency.
Although I knew that I wasn’t called to be a neurosurgeon, I knew that I STILL loved surgery, and wanted to find a specialty that would allow for me to use my hands. During my 3rd year clinical rotations, I also discovered how much I enjoyed outpatient more than inpatient medicine. It wasn’t until the end of my 3rd year of medical school where I discovered ophthalmology by completing a random 2-week career exploration elective. From day 1, I knew it was the PERFECT specialty for me! It provides the perfect combination of both surgery and outpatient medicine. The surgeries are much shorter than many other specialties, yet they’re extremely effective, often being able to fix most ophthalmic problems. I also enjoyed how technically involved each patient examination is, requiring one to be a master of the slit lamp, ophthalmic lenses, lasers, etc. I finally enjoyed seeing how happy ophthalmologists were, as they’re often noted as being the happiest surgeons overall, and most likely to choose their specialty all over again. It was a win-win for me, and I haven’t looked back since!
A big piece of advice that I tell to many pre-med and medical students is to keep an open mind when choosing a specialty. While you might come into medical school thinking about one specialty, you might find interests in many other things!
A. Medical school and residency are completely different from each other, and that’s something I didn’t realize until day 1 of residency. While in medical school, it’s easy to just brush off the phrase “Oh, I’m just the medical student,” when faced with conflict, questions that one can’t answer, etc, but...
In residency, YOU are the doctor, YOU are the one making the calls, YOU are the one feeling the pressure, and you can’t hide behind the same statement from medical school.
While the transition was initially challenging and scary, I was able to make daily adjustments to improve upon efficiency, learning, and overall skill. I will say that I do have a bit more free time in residency than I did while in medical school. With that additional time, I’m able to enjoy my life by exercising, traveling, catching up with family/friends, etc. All in all, it’s a steep learning curve, but one that can be managed with the right attitude and work ethic!
A. Being a doctor requires one to make tough decisions, but at the end of the day, patient care should always be the highest priority. This patient in particular was endorsing 10/10 lower back pain from a complicated infection of the spinal column. While they were stable during the daytime, they became to decompensate in the middle of the night. While analyzing the patient at the bedside, I knew that something needed to be done quickly, because their pain wasn’t being relieved with their ordered pain medications. Once my patient began to endorse urinary retention & a lack of sensation of their legs, I knew it was a true neurological emergency. From there, I ordered the MRI, notified neurosurgery, and they were able to operate on the patient quickly. My patient’s legs were saved from making the right call.
From this experience, I learned to always trust your gut and knowledge, even if it requires waking others up in the middle of the night.
I also learned how important it is to listen to your teammates, including nursing/PT/OT/Pharm/etc, as they, too, play a significant role in patient care.
A. While I’m an ophthalmology resident, my first year of residency, commonly coined the “intern year,” must be completed in combination with internal medicine. My most difficult rotation to date thus far was my VA internal medicine rotation for a few reasons. I had never truly used the electronic health record system at the VA until beginning that rotation. I was also required to physically come into work 28 days straight, all while working every 6th night. While that month in particular was challenging, I survived by taking good care of myself physically, emotionally, and mentally. I make sleep, food, and exercise top priorities. All three allow me to be on top of my game while at the hospital in effort to help best take care of my patients.
A. The most satisfying part of being a physician is being able to see my patients happy and healthy. In Ophthalmology, we’re able to make fairly quick fixes to most ophthalmic problems. It never gets old seeing a patient prior to cataract surgery with poor visual acuity, and then seeing their after surgery with significantly better acuity!
A. I come from a very musical family. Both of my parents and my brother are singers. I, too, sang growing up, until musical instrumentation caught my interest. 19 years ago on Christmas day, my older brother received a keyboard for Christmas/birthday. He kept playing “When The Saints Go Marching In” incorrectly, and I was able to correct the wrong notes in my head. I played the song perfectly the first time, and my father took notice. From there, I knew I could play piano by ear. My father then enrolled me in piano lessons to learn how to read sheet music, and the rest is history! Musical instrumentation requires discipline, practice, and passion, all of which correlate well with my professional life as a healthcare professional.
I know that my musical background has contributed to much of my academic and career success. I absolutely plan to continue practicing and performing piano for life!
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