Erica Davenport just completed her first year of internship, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. Reflecting on her experiences as an M1 of the The Charles Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, she shared her advice for first-year medical students.
Balancing work and play
"It's important to find a balance between medicine and school, volunteering and work," Dr. Davenport says. "As a type-A personality, we're used to having tunnel vision with one goal in mind. We focus on school, because it's all our hard work and persistence that helped us achieve that goal. However, it's important to enjoy life outside of school, and find the balance that works for you during those early years. I'm still learning in residency that I have to balance work, studying and a social life — and it's a struggle! The goal should be to have at least one social event in a week to reward yourself for all that hard work."
Cultivating relationships with fellow students is also something Davenport considers essential for first-year medical students. "One of the best things about this experience are the people at your side," she says. "You invest so many hours, and there are times [when] it is difficult. But in the end, if you have really positive people in your life, the challenges are surmountable." Many of Dr. Davenport's closest friends came out of her medical school career, and they continue to support one another despite being in different residencies across the country.
Dr. Davenport now knows that standardized tests, the MCAT, boards, exams and the like are small pieces of the puzzle; they don't dictate your future or define you as a physician, but they are steps in the process to become an excellent one.
Ask for career advice early on
Dr. Davenport always knew she wanted to enter into the field of OB/GYN, but when it came to applying for residency, she sought unbiased advice to guide her in the next steps of her career.
"My advice for first-year medical students is [to seek out] mentorship and [shadow] professionals in many fields early on if you're unsure about specialty. For me," she recalls, "I wish I had cultivated a stronger relationship with my mentors to specifically help me with advice about choosing residency programs. Someone [with whom] I could openly share how I feel ... ask the tough questions regarding what I should look for in a program and the importance of location. UCLA helps students find mentors through interest groups and preceptorships; however, my focus was on extracurricular activities."
Strive to be your best self
Dr. Davenport's final takeaway is to always be the best version of yourself. "Never settle for mediocrity," she says, encouraging the next M1 class to embrace self-reflection and solicit feedback when they can. "At the same time, however, "[don't allow] negative people to make you question your ability to succeed. I was lucky to surround myself with positive people who helped me be the best person I could be. They supported me and challenged me to be better by reminding me who I am and how far I have come."
Ultimately, Dr. Davenport envisions herself "a physician who takes the time to be kind to everyone and who maintains meaningful relationships with family and friends. Part of being your best self is understanding that your success isn't defined by just way others perceive you, but also by personal challenges that you overcome."
Dr. Davenport is training to become an OB/GYN who focuses on preventative care for adolescent girls, while subspecializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
By Kyleigh Roessner