Pathway to Pediatrics

Nicole Letendre ’23

Features Editor

It’s no secret that many Holy Cross students harbor a passion for medicine, prompting them to enroll in heavy-duty science courses and tirelessly scribble notes about biological processes and an assortment of equations into the late hours of the night. The far more rewarding portion of medicine; however, can be summed up by some of the medical professionals who know it best. On Sept. 17, Brown University Alpert Medical School hosted a virtual “Pathways to Pediatrics” General Pediatric/ Adolescent Medicine Panel with speakers Dr. Jaime McKinney, Dr. Shawn Binns, Dr. Nicola Chin, Dr. Alison Riese, and Dr. Tosin Ojugbele. They each have their own unique experiences in the medical field, in particular, finding a career in pediatrics in the first place. As Dr. Chin puts it, “Some of us know in our hearts, I just want to be a doctor.” Maybe you’ve had that calling Dr. Chin describes since you were a child, or maybe you haven’t. For Dr. Riese, her path took an alternate route. Dr. Riese worked as a teacher prior to going to medical school, giving insight into her career choice as, “Pediatricians were very fun, and can be silly, but also really cared about advocacy.” 

Graphic by Kim Fetherston ‘22 and Hui Li ’21.

For many pediatricians, it seems advocacy is among the highest priorities. Dr. McKinney cares for infants through young adult age groups, and identifying and addressing students’ academic difficulties has become a particular talent of Dr. McKinney’s. As an open supporter of career counseling and trade schools, she works for the welfare of her patients with a well-rounded perspective. When asked to “describe the types of patients you see and the most common diagnoses they have,” Dr. Riese, who works in the Urgent Care of a clinic, defined coughs and colds, strep throat, ear infections, as well as mental health and school concerns as common occurrences. As everyday heroes, these pediatricians not only keep youth healthy and safe, but they also have a lasting and direct impact on their patients’ individual paths. 

Especially during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers have been even more spotlighted for their brave work. Dr. McKinney, whose spent time working in the newborn nursery, mentioned mothers coming in with COVID; and she personally attested that “Burn-out is real,” and there is a special need to “Focus on your wellness,” in response to these difficulties. Dr. Binns added, “There’s no playbook…we were figuring out everything in real time.” In the age of this complete unpredictability, we feel the need to turn to others for support and guidance. As Dr. Binns states, “As human beings, we are social creatures,” and “It gets hard because you don’t have your normal coping mechanisms.” Each of us likely has our own quarantine stories, getting creative with how we interact and function in this, at least temporarily, unpredictable environment. This state can feel, at times, extremely lonely, but looking from a broader view, it’s actually the exact opposite. Doctors, undergraduate students, families, individuals both alike and different, have felt this uncertainty. While there is no easy answer to this feeling, hopefully the reassurance that you’re not really alone, and there are an abundance of healthy strategies available to you, is sufficient enough.

As for students wholeheartedly interested in studying medicine, the experts gave a little closing advice. For those of you discouraged, I leave you with Dr. Riese’s words, “You can do this, we need you in medicine.” For those of you doubting, Dr. Ojugbele’s statement, “No one knows everything” and “Ask for what you need without shame.” And lastly, for those of you in the deepest midst of learning, Dr. Chin’s assertion, “Be the best you, but build out the best you in that way.”

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