In pediatric medicine, Ankit Chopra will tell you, the medical staff take care of more than the patients. They also care for patients’ families. A fourth-year student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program, he quickly learned this during pediatric rotations, including in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, CA. There, patient rounds are family-centered to involve parents.
“That was something I wasn’t used to. We talk with the doctors using medical terminology, but it’s helped me grow, having to really know what I’m talking about to be able to explain it to parents and to also listen to them,” Ankit says. “It’s challenging, but I like it.”
The NICU also is different from other settings in that its patient population can’t talk, and birth mothers may be hospitalized.
“Everyone says the NICU has a different language,” he adds. “The equipment we use is different, too. We have five different ventilators, all with different purposes and settings. The nurses are great, because they know how the flow goes. On my first day of rotation, we were told to talk with the nurses even before examining a patient, because they’re with the babies all day and know the babies’ schedules.”
Ankit has known he wanted to pursue pediatrics since a childhood family trip to India. There, he saw homeless children, some of whom were too ill to be active. Later, as an undergraduate, he became interested in sports medicine and exercise as ways to promote wellness among children and teach them healthy habits early in life.
At DMU, he switched his focus to family medicine, unsure he could pursue both pediatrics and sports medicine. Then, during a rotation last year, he met Eric Reynolds, M.D., a pediatrician at MercyOne Des Moines Pediatrics Urgent Care Clinic. Dr. Reynolds had completed both a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in primary care sports medicine.
“He showed me that as a pediatrician, I can still do all the sports medicine things I want,” Ankit says. “The night after I talked with Dr. Reynolds, applications were due for residency, so I changed my application from family medicine to pediatrics. That was stressful! I’d recommend to other students to try to decide their interests a little earlier.”
To help define and narrow his interests, Ankit makes a list of pros and cons after each rotation. He also took the advice of a preceptor: Ask a loved one how you’re acting during each rotation.
“He told me you know how you felt during rotation, but you don’t know what you’re acting like outside the rotation, so you should ask a loved one what you’re like,” Ankit says. “During a surgery rotation, I was more tired; during pediatrics, I’m more happy and excited to go in. Sometimes we can’t recognize that about ourselves, but loved ones can.”
Ankit says he’d also encourage other medical students to enjoy their rotations. “No matter where you go or what you do, just try and have as much fun as possible,” he says. “It’s all going to be stressful, but I found that taking a weekend trip to go explore a new place or making new friends was a way to escape that. I actually ended up surfing for the first time and going to my first NFL game while in Los Angeles. By enjoying myself outside of rotations, it helped me be more focused and energetic while on rotations.”
He chose rotations that would take him to new places. Next semester, for example, he’ll do rotations in Portland, OR; Alaska; and St. Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island nation.
“It takes more work doing it this way and is a little more expensive, but by seeing different settings and states, you can grow and learn things you can incorporate in your practice,” he says. “You gain different perspectives. It’s definitely worth it and has been a lot of fun.”