The Med Sisters Series is a series of interviews of women in various stages of their careers in medicine: pre-med, medical school, residency, fellowship and attending physicians. As women, I believe we face unique challenges within any field, medicine included. As I’ve moved along on this journey, I truly believe one of the biggest support systems we have is each other. Society works so hard to pit women against each other in every situation you can think of but, as feminists, I think it’s so important to combat that urge to try to ‘beat each other out.’ There’s room for all of us on the other side of the glass ceiling. The goal of this series is to shed light on the challenges women face in the field of medicine and how they achieve a work-life balance that works for them. This blog has always been a place for me to share the realities of this journey, both the highs and lows. I thought of this series as a way to share the perspectives of the other extraordinary women on this journey too.
Shannon is a third year osteopathic medical student in Washington with her husband and adorable puppy. You can follow her journey at her Instagram.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?
A: I am the first person, let alone the first female, in my rather large southern-based family to pursue a career in medicine (other than a dermatologist uncle who married into the family, that is). My passion for the sciences started at a very young age, and it was not uncommon for my parents to find me downstairs in the guest bathroom “operating” on baby dolls and delivering stuffed puppies. Actually, much to my mother’s dismay, my imagination ran wild and I would use ketchup for blood, toilet paper rolls as leg casts, and even “hire” my younger sisters to join me as a medical assistant and receptionist. Needless to say, the passion never died. Although my original intent was to pursue a large animal veterinary degree and specialize in equine medicine, my allergies to all things with fur caused me to reconsider that dream. After shadowing multiple veterinarians in the local area, and struggling to stay hive/sneeze free, I finally gave shadowing people in medicine a go. Ever since then, the desire to be a healer has not dwindled, even when the journey as brought tears of frustration.
Q: How do you stay motivated on the difficult days?
A: There are many days when I have to remind myself of the advice I’m about to share. This learning process is too challenging to just breeze through without some sort of self-care routine. So for me, this comes in several forms: 1. I am an avid equestrian and have owned my baby girl, “Annie” (she’s a Morgan mare) for 13 years. My evenings or early mornings spent in the quiet of the horse stable, cleaning out her stall or lunging her in the arena, are some of the most rejuvenating moments. 2. Photography has been an interest of mine for several years, and just recently has also helped produce a small spending income for me as I enjoy capturing moments for other people. Using my free time to take pictures and edit images for clients is incredibly life-giving. 3. Quiet time with my hubby is key. This often looks different for us: watching a fast TV show before bed (we love Modern Family and Parks & Rec), having him sit on my [[tired]] feet while chatting on the couch, or making a meal together. He’s my confidant, encourager, and non-medical source of relief.
Q: If you could go back and be a premed again, what would you do differently?
A: Do better in organic chemistry! Ha. Just kidding. Well, maybe not… in all seriousness though, I wouldn’t change a thing. I attended a wonderful private school in the heart of Seattle called Seattle Pacific University. I obtained a major in human physiology and two minor degrees in chemistry and psychology. It was actually really nice having my psychology courses to balance out the hard sciences. I would highly encourage other pre-med students to consider thinking outside the box, in terms of a major or minor, and pursue something that fascinates them (as pysch did for me) and allows them to possibly stand out more during the medical school application process.
Q: How do you balance marriage and being a medical student?
A: I’m the first to shout from a mountain top that, I LOVE MARRIAGE! It’s truly no secret of mine. My husband and I met during the last semester of our undergraduate years, and dated for 2.5 years before sealing the deal December 2013. To be very honest, I remember thinking to myself that I would ultimately marry someone from medical school or residency and end up as a doctor-duo. But gosh, I am so glad that this was not part of my story and that my husband found me when he did. It has been the biggest blessing to do life with him on this rough and beautiful journey. His abundant support and non-medical perspective has been a breath of fresh air since the beginning. We take our marriage commitment very seriously and as such, we make sure that to set aside time for just us, at least once per week no matter the craziness of the calendar. These “date days” are the highlight of our week, even if they consist of just staying home.
Q: Does your faith play a part in why you chose to pursue medicine as a career and how you interact with your patients?
A: Absolutely. Faith is the cornerstone of who I am and what I stand for. My love for medicine stems from a place of awe as I see the intricate details of creation in every aspect of the human body. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my Heavenly Father for allowing me the opportunity to pursue medicine and use my training to provide healing in a holistic way, both physically and spiritually.
Q: Who is a woman in medicine you look up to and why?
A: Hands down she is the one and only: Florence Nightingale. I wrote an 8th grade English paper on this incredible woman and still have it tucked away to show my kids one day. Known for her stamina, grace, and compassion during the Crimean War, this gal earned the well-deserved title as “The Lady with the Lamp” because she would round on wounded soldiers at all hours of the night. No matter how exhausted I feel during a long on-call shift, or day on my feet, I always remind myself to emulate the attributes of Florence Nightingale. And most times, this reminder gives me the little extra pep in my step needed to finish the day strong.
Thank you so much for stopping by our corner of the internet Shannon! We wish you the best on your journey.
- Racquel, MS3
- Josselyn, premed
- Fran, OMS3
- Amenah, MBBS4
- Vania, D.O.
- Ele, OMS2
- Joyce, MD
- Kat, premed
- Anjum, OMS3
- Elyse, MD
- Shamsa, MBBS3