Q&A with future cardiologist alumni

SAMANTHA STELTZER, Production Manager

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In a chat with upcoming cardiologist Kristen Langan, she told us all the questions we wanted to know about the strenuous life of a medical field major.

Q: Why did you chose this profession?

A: I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 5. I used to play doctor with my grandparents, and I’d use lead pencils to give them shots. I fell in love with science when I was in elementary school, and I knew I wanted to do something that meant a lifetime of learning, and being a doctor seemed like a rewarding and exciting career.

In college I finally had a chance to volunteer in a hospital in DC where I engaged with patients in an underserved population. I fell in love with this work, and knew I wanted to be a doctor working in an underserved area, giving a voice to patients who are often left to fend for themselves in our healthcare system.

Q: Best experience? Worst experience?

A: My best experience of medical school so far has been learning how to interview and elicit a history from patients. Before medical school, I never understood what a true privilege it is to be welcomed into a hospital room, into a place where a patient is at their most vulnerable, and get to hear their life story. I have asked patients deeply personal questions, and been blessed to hear deeply personal, sometimes beautiful, sometimes tragic, responses.

My hardest experience in medical school has been the personal struggle of dealing with the monotony of my day to day. Honestly, life as a medical student, especially in the preclinical years, can be isolating. There have been days where I’ve been at the library since 7 AM, and at 4 PM I realize that I haven’t spoken to a soul the entire day. Those days are hard.

Q: Greatest accomplishment so far or hope to attain?

A: My biggest dream has always been to be a doctor, so in 2 years when I graduate medical school, I will be the happiest and proudest human in the world.

However so far, I am extremely proud of making in through my second year of medical school. I recently was an author on a paper published in a biomedical engineering journal, and am in the process of submitting another article for a psychiatric medical journal. I’ve never loved research, so completing a whole research project from start to finish has been challenging but rewarding (now that it’s over)!

Q:  Brief outline of your day?

A: I just finished my second year of medical school, which means my “pre-clinical years” are finally completed. A normal day for me was as follows:

7:20 AM – Wake up

8-10 AM – Small group. This is mandatory class in groups of 20, with a doctor leading us. We’ll go over patient cases, answer questions, discuss images, and occasionally read scientific articles.

10-12 Noon – Lecture. Every day we have 2 lectures, and each lecturer is a different doctor who specializes in the topic being discussed. The lectures include between 30-150 slides (it really varies).

After noon, my day really varies. On Mondays I would shadow in the hospital from 1-5 PM in Addiction Psychiatry. On Tuesday I had Introduction to Clinical Medicine 2 in the hospital. This class was with a doctor preceptor who taught us how to do history and physical exam on real patients. Thursdays I had an extra-curricular from 1-4. The extra-curricular was called CAPP (Combined Accelerated Program in Psychiatry). We split our time during that class by interviewing patients, learning specifics about psychiatric diseases, or listening to psych patients share their stories.

If I didn’t have an extra class or shadowing to do, I would study the lectures and make notes from – 1PM to 5PM.

5-6 PM – Dinner and TV/Hang with my roommates

                6-8 PM – Continue studying lectures from that day and make notes.

Q: One thing people might not know about your job?

A: Something people might not know about medical school is that on your very first day of school (at least at my school – University of Maryland School of Medicine), you go into the anatomy lab and start dissecting a cadaver. It’s so crazy because you have no clue what you’re doing, or what medical school is, but they throw you right in. It’s pretty indicative of everything about medical school.

Q: Advice you’d give to students? Advice you wished you received?

A: If you want to go to medical school, my advice is to just do what you love. Everyone has an idea of what you need to do to get in, but as long as you work hard and love WHATEVER you are passionate about, whether it is community service, or working as an EMT, or public health, or research, you will be successful. Physicians are a diverse group of people, and all you really need to succeed is a good work ethic and love for others.  

Advice I wish I would have gotten: I wish someone would have told me that it will be okay, especially in college. I put so much stress on myself, because everything seems like a big deal when it’s happening, but there are so many things more important than school, and I’ve really seen that come into play in medical school. It’s important to stop every once in a while (more like once a day actually), and appreciate beauty. Beauty of the people around you, of trees in bloom in spring, the smell of your favorite candle, or a new song you just discovered. There are so few times where people tell you to slow down and just be grateful for the things around you, so it’s important to make that a priority.

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Q&A with future cardiologist alumni