Anyone in the medical field knows the significance of July 1. Don’t get sick in July, they say, because the hospital is full of brand-new residents and fellows. For me, cardiology fellowship begins right where internal medicine residency left off—at Emory. At least I know where to park and how to find the bathrooms.
This year we have a tight-knit group of six clinical fellows. At orientation, we practiced performing echocardiograms on each other, taking turns squinting at gray speckles on a dark screen. That night, we raised our drinks to say a toast—and to wash away our nerves. And soon enough, I’m strolling into the hospital sporting my new white coat, which drapes over my shoulders like an oversized tent. The coat fits awkwardly, in both a physical and figurative sense.
I’m told you don’t even feel like a real cardiologist until you’ve learned to perform heart catheterizations and read echocardiograms. Ask me again in six months. For now, I start with general consults, where I’m the cardiology consultant for other physicians in the hospital. The hardest part about inexperience is the decision-making fatigue—even trivial decisions require excessive mental effort. To overcome this, the goal is to see as many bread-and-butter cases as possible, to build a sort of muscle memory.
It’s been a wonderful year on this blog, reminiscing the end of residency, chronicling the start of fellowship, and pondering the milestones yet to come. What gives me comfort at this moment is the supportive culture of my program, where I can always lean on co-fellows and attendings. I’ll keep this mind as I tackle the next major hurdle—my first overnight call. Just thinking about it gives me palpitations.
John Chen, MD is an internal medicine resident at the Emory University School of Medicine and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. After completing residency, he plans to pursue fellowship training in cardiology. @JohnChenMD