Coming into medical school, we all usually have some sort of appeal to a certain field of medicine. Whether it be from having a parent who is an anesthesiologist, or a paediatrician you met as a child, that made you think ‘this is what I want to be when I grow up’. I came into medical school, much like most girls, wanting to be a paediatrician. It's incredible how many girls have the ambition for the field of Paediatrics. It is one of the top three female-dominated specialties after Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Allergology. However, we don’t get enough exposure or knowledge in paediatrics until much later in medical school.
After 3 years of theoretical exams and honestly, neglecting my motives for entering medical school, clinical years began. From 1st year to 4th year, the endless hours we put into studying and passing exams really do benefit in the clinical years. Sometimes, it feels like the material we learnt in the first few years isn’t helpful in the clinical practises. However, the information stays in our subconscious mind, helping us better understand the doctors, especially in the departments we find most exciting.
Fourth-year is probably the best year to get a deep understanding of each specialty. Having different clinical subjects help us figure out which areas motivate us to learn more and which ones we certainly don’t want to specialize in. And so, I was excited to finally have paediatrics in my 4th year to see if my initial interest was still within. However, to my dismay, the block was announced ‘online’ due to the ever so famous COVID-19. It was only now, in my 5th year, that I finally got to experience one week of paediatrics.
So far we’ve been trained in taking a patient history and doing physical examinations on adult patients and it was of no use when I was in the paediatric ward. Everything is different in children, from communication methods, basic physical examinations to the set laboratory values, all that we’ve learned aren’t useful in paediatrics as they have their own set of rules; they are not little adults, to just half the dose.
This isn’t to say I’ve given up completely on my interest in the field, we tend to be harder on ourselves in the topics we want to succeed in. It just motivated me to actively go outside of what the university offers to search further into this area. It is important to acknowledge the fact we must do our own research and enhance our interests by searching outside of what is offered in school; it can be stressful and time-consuming but worth it. Keeping that in mind, I recently attended a lecture held by UIMS, by a professor from Charles University about Covid-19 in Paediatrics. Personally, it was an opportunity for me to seek more into this field and genuinely hear more about the current issue. I would recommend attending lectures on topics you find most interesting as it doesn’t take much of your time and if it’s something that interests you, it will only prove to be beneficial. The lecturer was engaging and I learned a lot from it. His interest and passion for what he does allow him to share his knowledge effortlessly. And I think this rekindled my interest in Paediatrics.
The most interesting fact I acquired from the lecture was how the components (ACE2 and a primer molecule) necessary for the initiation of COVID-19 infection are androgen-dependant. A difference in paediatric patients in comparison to adult patients. As children have lower androgen levels, especially before puberty, resulting in lower infectivity rates. Moreover, after attending this lecture, I had the opportunity to be more fascinated by this speciality, reaffirming my interest in paediatrics.
To conclude, focus on the subjects you are most keen on. The ones that you look forward to attending can be quite different from what you might have initially anticipated. Usually, knowing which specialty you don’t like helps you eliminate it and you can focus on other specialties that you haven’t ruled out yet. Most of the students, much like myself, when asked what specialty they’d like to go into in the future, still respond saying that they don’t know. I'm still hopeful of being a paediatrician, although I still need more exposure to the department to make a final decision. Therefore, my take-home message would be that it is alright to not be sure about your desired specialty. However, you should do your best to engage and be more proactive in the areas you find most interesting.
Anitta George is a 5th-year Medical Student at Masaryk University with a keen interest in Paediatrics.