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Clinical Corner logoAre you thinking about a career in medicine? A common theme emerged at the NICHD Annual Postbac Seminar Series session “Meet the Physician Panel” on February 17, 2021—know your why. For this month’s Clinical Corner column, we share hard-earned words of wisdom from the three physician panelists whose life experiences shaped each of their choices.

Dr. Rhonique Shields

Rhonique Shields, MD, NHA, FAAP

“I wanted to make an impact on children before they became adults. Not only am I influencing the child, I’m influencing the parents. My decision to become a pediatrician was looking at my influence. How many people can I influence from that one visit? It’s the impact that I have not only with that child, but their community…the thought of that long-term relationship I can have with that child and the family….

“I was already an attending physician, but I had a patient I had been seeing for eight or nine years, and he was living in southeast DC and not going anywhere with his life. He always said the right things to me: ‘I want to do xyz.’ Two weeks after my last visit with him, he was shot and killed. His vitals were great, but he died a premature death because of the illness of the community in which he lived. Sometimes you don’t learn your why until you’re knee deep into it. I knew I wanted to have an impact on the children and their families…

“Never forget the why. If you move away from the why, you’re moving in the wrong direction, and then you need to reassess.”

—Dr. Rhonique Shields, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Practice Operations, Holy Cross Health Network

Dr. Allison Agwu

Allison Agwu, MD, ScM

“It’s really important to think about that [in response to a question about how to balance work with raising children]. The reality is that we are often not thinking about that early on. You need to develop the balance that keeps you healthy whether or not you have kids. It’s not just about kids, it’s about you. I schedule me first, because if I’m not okay and balanced with me, then I am nobody to anybody. Let’s just be frank: women are most likely the ones to leave the medical profession because they cannot balance it. How do I establish those things that make me me? What is it that you love to do that keeps you you? You need to make sure you take the time to figure out the things that replenish you. Whether or not you ever have kids or a partner, you figure out what makes ‘[insert your name]’ whole, and you commit to that on your calendar, and you don’t compromise that!”

—Dr. Allison Agwu, Associate Professor of Adult and Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Sandra Moore

Sandra E. Moore, MD

“I was a first-year medical student in an MD/PhD program when I made the decision to leave the program. That felt like the first, most adult decision I had made in my life. One of the reasons I did an MD/PhD was financial—they were offering full scholarships. Once you decided not to do the PhD, you would incur additional debt, but that’s when I knew that wasn’t my passion. I often look back at that time and ask myself if I made the right decision, and the answer is absolutely. You really have to know how you want to spend your time, even if you can’t imagine how your life might end up. The question is if you want to spend another seven years in professional school. Do I want to spend time in a lab? You really have to think about if your passion is laboratory work and if your passion is looking to find a cure at the bench side…

“You have to go with your gut. Where do I enjoy being, literally, from day to day? If you do not enjoy the path you choose, you may find yourself exiting medicine altogether. Choose wisely and make sure you’re happy…

“Focus on the now and being your best in the now, and that will get you to the next step.”

—Dr. Sandra E. Moore, Designated Institutional Official, Navicent Health in Macon, Georgia