Monday, May 20, 2024

Med School Diary: Emily Senderey

As part of its ongoing “How Does It Feel?” series, Boca Raton asked Emily Senderey, a second-year med student at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at FAU, to share with readers what it’s like to pursue her White Coat dream. Here, Senderey discusses the challenges of dispensing advice to friends and family.

When I’m in a social setting and someone has the desire—or the minimal trust in me—to bring up a health concern, it’s like fireworks go off. Same thing when my old high school or college friends text me about medical issues they’re experiencing. This is my whole motivation for becoming a doctor—to help people.

The challenge is that I’m not a doctor yet. I’m a student. Still, it’s difficult to hold back.

After my first year at FAU’s College of Medicine, a family member came to me about a problem related to a module that we had just finished, so the material was fresh in my mind. The issue involved rectal bleeding; we had been trained to think “colon cancer” until proven otherwise when a male over 50 presents with this condition. I felt like I could provide some insight.

It turned out that my “insight” completely missed the mark, thankfully. There is a transition from what you read in textbooks and how you view a condition based on clinical experience. This is why it’s difficult to give advice as a medical student; the diseases and conditions don’t read the textbook—and, in the beginning, we’re very textbook oriented.

More recently, while we were doing our cardio rotation, I practiced taking my father’s blood pressure. It always ran a little high, so I asked him to see a physician; that wasn’t me trying to play doctor, that was just me being helpful as a daughter. His nurse practitioner immediately prescribed medication, which didn’t follow what we were being taught during our cardio module. You first make dietary and exercise changes, and then monitor the blood pressure. If it stays elevated, then you consider medication.

Now what? I couldn’t say to my dad, “That nurse doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” My biggest worry was that my criticism would result in my dad not trusting his health-care team. Instead, I asked my dad to go back to the office before starting the medication; he saw a physician in the same practice and shared my concerns, and the decision was made to just monitor his blood pressure.

So what’s my role? Does my lack of clinical experience prevent me from doing or saying anything? I was struggling with all this, so I spoke with the physicians at school and asked what to do when I disagree with the medical care my friends and family are being given.

The feedback I received was that it’s a fine line. In the case of the blood pressure medication, what I did was OK. But it’s important to understand that medical students must be honest with themselves.

We don’t know it all.

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