February 08, 2018

Emily Hogikyan: Finding what works

Medical school transforms students one challenge at a time

Emily celebrating after White Coat Ceremony with her father Norman Hogikyan, MD, a professor of otolaryngology at Michigan Medicine

M3 Emily is one of the approximately 70% of non-traditional students at the University of Michigan Medical School who have taken at least one gap year before starting medical school. After majoring in history and biology in college, she worried about how this background might be perceived by prospective medical schools. It turned out not to be an issue at all because she could talk about things that mattered to her and why they made her a strong candidate, even if they did not relate to medicine on the surface.

Here, Emily answers seven questions about what drew her to pursue medicine in the first place, lessons learned so far, and which Branch made the most sense for her.

What called you to explore a career in medicine?

Both of my parents work in health care, so it was something I think I had always considered. While I saw that their jobs were a lot of work, I also saw how rewarding it was for both of them. They also helped me to see what a privilege and responsibility it is to take care of patients.

What have been your biggest challenges/greatest rewards so far?

Initially, I was very surprised by how different studying for medical school was from my undergraduate coursework. The volume and pace was a huge adjustment! Through lots of trial and error, I was able to find new study methods and other strategies to adjust to my new environment.

In the clinical setting, I had some challenges with finding my role and my voice on the patient care team. I struggled with being the most junior member of the team and worrying that I did not have anything to contribute to patient care. The structure of inpatient rounds was intimidating to me as a more naturally shy person.

Over the course of the clerkships, I grew to see where medical students could contribute, and I was very fortunate to have residents and faculty members who invested in making me understand my role as a valuable member of the team.  As medical students, we often follow fewer patients than other more senior team members, and as a result we can spend more time with each of our patients. This can lead to unique insights and allows medical students to contribute to care plans in meaningful ways.

What other factors did you have to consider when deciding to go into medicine?

For as long as I can remember, I had been trying to decide between pursuing a career as a teacher or as a physician. I struggled with this decision through the early part of college as well, and I ultimately decided that I could teach and care for people’s health as a primary care physician. I came to this realization after shadowing several excellent primary care providers who spent much of their time answering questions and educating patients about their illnesses and what was to come, in addition to prescribing medications and performing exams.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before applying to medical school?

It can be easy to lose sight of your goals of caring for patients in the pre-clinical years, but I think things like ICE and shadowing and volunteering are incredibly important in keeping perspective and motivation.

I struggled at first with finding meaning in medical school, especially having come from working at a very rewarding Americorps position after college. I was very happy with how differently I felt during the clinical rotations! On many rotations, students are allowed to be the first one to see the patients and really help drive the plan for the patient’s care. I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know people and to put the knowledge I had gained into practice. I also felt more motivated to learn more as I realized how it could help the patients I cared for.

How would you rate your clinical education?

I think my clinical education has been excellent thus far. I have wonderful faculty for the Doctoring course who have taught us valuable physical examination skills as well as the “softer” skills of being a physician. Then, in the clinical rotations, I was pushed by my faculty and residents to learn more and take greater ownership of my patients’ care. This encouragement helped me grow as a student immensely.

What Branch did you choose?

I'm in the Patients and Populations Branch. I chose this branch because it aligned with my goals of entering primary care, and I am especially excited for the Longitudinal Clinic opportunity. Through this program, I will develop my own panel of patients at a pediatrics primary care clinic that I attend once per week for the next year. I have a faculty preceptor who is really excited about teaching, and I am looking forward to developing continuity with patients.

How have you balanced spending time on your other interests with med school?

Finding balance in medical school is certainly tricky, but I've enjoyed taking time for other interests while in school. I have really valued being able to spend time with people outside of medical school in order to better keep my stresses in perspective. 

I've also enjoyed being a part of the Medical Humanities Path of Excellence. I majored in history and biology in college, and through this program I have been able to continue doing medical history research. This has been a really fun opportunity to exercise a different part of my brain while in medical school.

Medical education is another interest of mine. I serve as an elected student curriculum representative, and through this role I help provide student insight into curriculum development and reform.

Why did you decide to stay in Ann Arbor for med school?

I grew up nearby in Saline, and I loved attending the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. I was feeling a bit self-conscious about having stayed close for college, so I chose to work in Chicago for a year after college. Once I had proved to myself that I could live farther away, I was very excited to move back closer to home for school. I have really enjoyed being able to be a student again in such a livable city. I love seeing trees and the Huron River on my way to school and the hospital in the morning. I think people are often surprised by how interesting and exciting Ann Arbor is for its size.