Carly Roark, M.D., graduated from the UAMS College of Medicine in 2017. In addition to her studies and clinical rounds, Carly started a blog to document her medical school experience and provide a resource for other students. She graduated from the residency program in the Department of Pediatrics. She now practices in Arkansas. This interview was conducted while she was a resident.
Tell us about your blog, Doctors of Tomorrow. Why did you start it?
I started my blog back in undergrad. I have always known that I wanted to become a physician, specifically a pediatrician, and was trying to learn about upcoming med school applications and the MCAT. At that time I couldn’t find very many resources from medical students and residents online. I felt overwhelmed trying to sort through everything and wanted to read some advice from others who had gone through it already. Since I couldn’t really find what I was looking for, I decided to start my own blog sharing my journey and advice with others who were wanting to pursue a career in medicine.
Why did you choose UAMS?
While I am not originally from Arkansas, I did go to undergrad here and my family all lives here now. I had grown to love this state and didn’t want to leave my family so UAMS was the perfect match. I also loved that it is such a large tertiary center for the whole state. I do not think I would have been exposed to so many different patient populations or have learned so much at a different school.
What were your expectations going into medical school?
To be honest, I completely expected the worst. Everyone had warned me that those first few months were going to be rough and they weren’t kidding. However, what I didn’t expect was the overwhelming support we had. From the professors who would go out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed to succeed, to my fellow classmates who started as a group of strangers and quickly became a family, they all made those four years the best they could be.
How would you describe a typical day for a student?
A typical day varies a lot based on what year you are. For first and second years, a normal day would consist of lectures in the morning and afternoons of either practicing clinical skills, group learning, or time off to study. Most of your time was either spent in the lecture hall or in your favorite study spot cracking the books. As a third year, you start your clinical rotations in which your time is spent mostly either rounding, in the OR, or in a clinic. Unfortunately, you aren’t completely finished with studying so you try to find enough time to fit that in as well.
How is resident life different?
Much busier. I didn’t think it was possible to spend so much time in the hospital. Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision. It is so rewarding when patients and their families start to recognize you and ask if you will still be there tomorrow to talk with them.
How would you describe your role as a resident?
There is much more responsibility as a resident. As a medical student, your role is to learn, not so much to take care of the patients. If you don’t notice a finding on the physical exam, at least two other people are examining the patient as well and can point out what you might have missed to help you learn. As a resident though, you are much more responsible for your patient’s care. The attending is there to help of course, but you are essentially that patient’s primary physician. It is a lot of responsibility. I have found myself many nights thinking about patients and wondering whether we were making the right decisions for them. It is a lot of pressure but also what all this hard work has been heading towards.
What was your favorite part of med school? What’s your favorite part (so far) of residency?
My answer is the same for both, it’s most definitely the people. Med school and residency is busy and stressful to say the least. But when you find yourself staying late to talk about life or just make jokes with your fellow classmates and residents, you know you are in the right place with the right people.
How do you stay inspired?
My brother was my inspiration to go to medical school and continues to be my inspiration every day. He was born breech and had a Grade IV brain bleed. He now has cerebral palsy and a shunt, for which he has gone through 17 shunt revisions. Throughout it all, he is still the most loving and positive person I know. I was able to see how much the doctors he had impacted not only his life but the lives of our whole family, and I wanted to be that person for someone else.
Looking back at your time as a medical student, what did you find to be the most valuable part of your education, and how has it carried on to your residency now?
The most important thing I learned was not a medical fact or disease process but the value of hard work. It is not necessary to always be the smartest person in the room, what is important is that you recognize when you are not and work harder toward that goal. As a med student, it often felt like what we were doing didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that we woke up patients early in the morning to ask how they were doing or write a thorough SOAP note because the residents and attending were going behind us doing the exact same thing. However, even though it might not have mattered in regards to the medical record, it was helping me to learn the importance of working hard for the benefit of the patients.
What advice would you have for potential medical students?
The best advice I could give is to have the insight to realize when you might be struggling and not be afraid to reach out for help. You are not in this alone. So many people are rooting for you, from your professors, to your fellow classmates, to your family. Everyone is cheering for you to succeed. Med school is hard, I’m not going to lie, but so many people are there for you to lean on, in case you ever need it. Just knowing this will help give you the peace of mind to push forward and become the best doctor you could ever be.
Carly Roark, M.D., graduated from residency in the Department of Pediatrics and now practices in Arkansas.