Trust Me. I'm a Med Student

Learning the science. Developing the art. At LMU-DCOM

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Things are Coming Together

Things are beginning to come together.

Before I started medical school, I had a pretty strong interest in a specialty called physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). However, as any physician can tell you, everything can change when you’re in your third and fourth year working in the hospitals and experiencing all of the great medical specialties. One of them may just jump out and grab you, and who knows what specialty you’ll end up going into? At this stage of the game, however, I am really excited about PM&R and it seems like maybe the universe wants me to be a PM&R doctor too because, as I said, things are coming together.

One month ago I was just plodding along as a first year medical student, nothing of note to report. Now, I am sitting here as the new president of the PM&R club at LMU-DCOM, the co-chair for the national student council executive committee for the national osteopathic PM&R organization (AOCPMR), and fresh off a week-long shadow experience with a PM&R doctor at Vanderbilt’s new PM&R department. Some things are just meant to be!

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Osteopathic Medicine

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I want to start by saying that I am thrilled to be training for a career as an osteopathic physician. I think there are characteristics of a DO’s training that are so valuable that I wouldn’t trade this experience for another. I think those characteristics are primarily due to the inherent humility, selflessness, passion for the art of medicine, and care for the community that has been a part of osteopathic medicine since its inception, likely as a result of it being viewed as an alternative or non-mainstream field of medicine. Essentially, no one did it for the prestige and that attitude is still alive and well in osteopathic education. But these characteristics are a part of the intangible aspects of osteopathic medical education, the feel of the school and the people in the profession. This is not due to the curriculum, the training hospitals, or even necessarily the professors; it’s the culture that grew from the principles of osteopathic medicine. Essentially, osteopathic medicine is typical medicine. Simply calling the medicine DO’s learn in medical school “osteopathic medicine” suggests that it is more different from “mainstream” medicine than it truly is.  However, I appreciate the subtle differences and the humble culture that resulted.

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What is a Physiatrist? Not a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist, or a Physiologist. A Physiatrist (Fizz-Eye-Uh-Trist) is a physician (MD or DO) who is trained to care for individuals as they recover or rehabilitate from diseases or injuries. It is the type of physician you become after training in a ‘physical medicine and rehabilitation’ (PM&R) residency program for 4 years after medical school. The breadth of the specialty is vast but unified by the underlying focus on treating the musculoskeletal system. In fact over 80% of disability in the world is musculoskeletal in nature. Physiatrist are trained to treat all that can go wrong either in traumatic injuries like car accidents or in chronic diseases like muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis (MS) or even diabetes. PM&R doctors treat the whole patient, not just the injury/disease. This means that they place a heavy emphasis on improving quality of life and restoring function and ability through non-surgical means.

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