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The Only Advice You Need As You Start Intern Year

Becoming a physician is no small feat. Regardless of where you come from, it has been a long, arduous journey that has challenged your perseverance, your stamina, and your spirit. Take a moment to reflect. You have completed literally decades of school to get here. Some of you completed graduate degrees prior to medical school. Some of you earned dual graduate degrees during medical school. Some of you have worked full time jobs prior to and, perhaps, during school. Earning your professional medical degree, whether it is a DO, an MD, an MBBS (or some combination with JD, MPH, MS, MSPH, PhD, etc.…!), took extreme grit, sacrifice, and willpower. All of this without mentioning the challenges and sacrifices you may have faced outside of academia. You earned your place among those who call themselves physicians.

The purpose of this piece is to give you, the newly minted physicians, advice on preparing for intern year of residency, but my biggest pieces of advice are not tangible or goal oriented as you might expect. My advice above all is to reflect on your accomplishments and sacrifices, and revel in pride of how far you’ve come. It is no mistake that you are here, about to enter an even more challenging period of your training. You made that happen. Before you start your intern year, and even as you dive head-first into your first job as a physician, take some time to pat yourself on the back. You already are an amazing physician.

The subsequent pieces of advice I have are all about gratitude. You absolutely earned every bit of pride in your accomplishments, but you didn’t do it alone. Not by a long shot. Take some time to reach out to your loved ones, those that shared in your sacrifices, and express your gratitude to them for their support and commitment to you and to your dreams. You couldn’t have done it without those people who believed in you from the very beginning and stuck by you through the worst and the best of it. It is because of them that you are the fully developed person you are today. After you have expressed that gratitude, ask those people to stick with you a bit longer. It will continue to be a formidable journey through residency and beyond. It will require even more sacrifices and strength, but you were made for this journey and your family is ready to see you to the end.

Throughout your training, return often to that mental center of gratitude. Gratitude will keep you grounded and humble. The worst times will be manageable if you remind yourself of all that you have for which to be grateful. There will be miserable times ahead, undoubtedly, but continuing to express gratitude will be a useful and powerful tool to endure those challenges. Sharpen that tool and hone your skills in wielding that power every day. It will outshine and overpower the darkest days in residency and through life after residency.

The last piece of advice I will give as you start residency is to hold tight to the essence of who you are. Your individuality and spirit have endured despite the sacrifices you’ve made over the years. It is that spirit that will guide you through the times to come. Residency will try to bend and break you; it will try to fit you into a box that may not have been designed for you. Don’t let this next chapter change who you are proud to be and don’t let it take away those aspects of yourself that you have come to cherish. Hold tight to those things that make you uniquely you and never forget why you chose this life in the first place.

Although I will not offer tangible advice in preparation for your postgraduate medical training, the most important preparation is already a part of your life and who you are. Your pride in who you are and what you can accomplish, your support system that will continue to lift you up, your foundation of gratitude, and your individual spirit are the most integral to your continued success in this career. You have everything within you to thrive as a physician; it is up to you to utilize and embrace those qualities to create the life and career you’ve always dreamed of.

Good luck.

Michael Petrus-Jones, DO, MPH (Dr. PJ) is a second year resident physician in Houston, TX. You can connect with him on twitter @Dr_Michael_PJ, on instagram @Dr.Michael.PJ, or through his personal blog at

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