Editor’s note: This blog post is part of a Progress Notes series featuring first-year medical students interviewing fourth-year medical students.
Will Frankel is a fourth-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine who will be starting an integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency at the Cleveland Clinic this summer. He aspires to be an academic cardiac surgeon and his specific interests include complex adult cardiac surgery, adult congenital cardiac surgery and device innovation.
In the following Q&A, first-year medical student Christian Keller talks to Frankel about his training and future in medicine.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: I was born in New York City, and come from a big family of people who are mostly on the East Coast. I was not one of those people who stood up in fifth grade and said, “I want to be a heart surgeon when I grow up.” Both of my parents are artists so medicine was not on my radar. I was incredibly lucky to get accepted to Baylor. I had four of the most incredible and transformative years of my life here. If I could do the whole process over again and get accepted to every medical school in the country, I would come to Baylor another 100 times.
Q: Can you share an overview of your medical school years?
A: I had never been to Houston in my life before I interviewed at Baylor and so it was a big move socially, culturally and academically. My first month of medical school was so challenging and things were moving fast. I felt like everyone else around me was getting it and that maybe this was not the right thing for me. I was lucky to have great support, primarily from my peer resource network.
Towards the end of my second year and beginning of my third year, I thought, ‘I want to be a heart surgeon.’ And then, you know, moving on into third year of medical school I spent half the year doing the rest of my core surgery rotations. The gem of Baylor is the clinical experience exposure we get that I don’t think is matched at many places around the country.
The fourth year of medical school is incredible. When you’re on clinical rotations, you’re senior in your training and feel like you can meaningfully contribute. Beyond rotations, you get a lot of time off. I finished my last required rotation in October. This year was nice to be able to take a step back, relax, and appreciate that graduating from medical school is such an incredible accomplishment.
Q: If you were to give advice to yourself prior to starting each year, what would it be?
A: The number one thing is reassurance. As medical students, we get so caught up in comparing ourselves to other people and having these huge expectations for what we should do. Knowing what I know now, I can tell you that the expectations in terms of your knowledge and your technical ability on clinical rotations are virtually non-existent. From the other side, they’re not expecting you to show up and be an amazing technical surgeon, what they are expecting you to do is to show up every single day, on time, with a positive attitude, and to express interest in learning and growing. Just reassure yourself that you belong here.
Q: What advice would you give about mentorship?
A: The truly career-shaping mentorships happen organically. And at some point, you’re going to find that person. I doubt you’ll ever find a person and say, “I want to be just like them on a personal, clinical, and academic level.” It’s important to have different mentors that sort of fill those different roles for you.
Q: What are some tips that are important for students who are trying to find their fit within different medical specialties?
A: Have an open mind and be willing to explore and not feel any pressure to decide by some date. I have so many friends who switched specialties multiple times before deciding on their ultimate specialty towards the end of their third year of medical school. I even have a friend who went and did away rotations for one specialty in the fall of their fourth year, and then ended up applying for a completely different specialty and matched at a good program.
I think you’ll find that everyone works hard in medicine, but there are certain days that you’ll just feel so excited, energized and fulfilled. And that’s important to recognize. It’s just as much about finding the things that are interesting to you as finding something you’re going to thrive in.
Q: Do you have final thoughts to share with Baylor students?
A: Take a lot of pride in the privilege to train at Baylor College of Medicine. It’s an extraordinary place in one of the most important medical centers in the world. Don’t get too weighed down by the little stressors and speed bumps. Keep an eye on the big picture and take advantage of every opportunity.
-By Christian Keller, first-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine