Participating in the world of academic medicine has exposed me to some truly unique patients. I have also been fortunate to work with attendings who value research and innovation and encourage their students to participate. Through this very combination of a unique patient case and a preceptor who believed that I was prepared to engage with the greater medical community, I found myself boarding a red-eye flight to present a clinical vignette at the Society of General Internal Medicine’s national conference in Washington, D.C.
The conference took place at a large hotel in downtown Washington with the theme “Resilience and Grit.” The days were filled with presentations on research and innovation, clinical vignettes, and small group discussions on a variety of hot topics in general internal medicine and health care. Each hour offered dozens of small sessions for special interest groups covering everything from diabetes to the social determinants of health. There was a tremendous emphasis on provider wellness to combat burnout, the non-opioid treatment of chronic pain, and the use of mobile technology to improve patient access and follow up. Significant time was dedicated to better engaging medical students and residents to improve the medical education process. There was an undeniable feminist undercurrent supporting women in STEM. There were many, many lattes.
The hour-long block of time in which I presented my clinical vignette is what brought me to D.C., but it was surprisingly not the most meaningful part of my trip. Interacting with other attendees in a small group where we were tasked with diagnosing patients with atypical presentations of mystery illnesses underscored the depth of the knowledge I have received in my training thus far. I expected to feel like a timid P.A. student in an sea of qualified and accomplished practitioners and teachers of medicine. Instead I found myself comfortable, almost confident as I collaborated with my future colleagues.
At the conclusion of the week’s festivities I had a half-day to explore Washington D.C. Despite the pouring rain, I laced up my running shoes in an attempt to see as many sites as I could along the National Mall. In a matter of hours I saw beautiful tributes to Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Korean War veterans and several others. It was Earth Day and a large March for Science was taking place at the Washington Monument, complete with guest speaker / childhood idol Bill Nye, the science guy.
Participating in a national meeting of such talented researchers and educators in the field of general internal medicine was an incredible honor. I felt proud of my training and the institution that I represented while in D.C. I departed the nation’s capital feeling a greater responsibility to participate in medicine beyond my role as a practitioner as well as be an advocate for research and a protector of access to health care for all people. I am thankful for the support of my attending Dr. Jonathan Robbins, as well as P.A. program faculty for allowing me this incredible opportunity that I will not soon forget.