Alexandra Arenson '13

I knew I wanted to go into medicine before enrolling at Hamilton, but my time on the Hill made a huge contribution to my path towards becoming a physician. 

I am currently a second-year family medicine resident in the California Bay Area and I plan to pursue further training in addiction medicine. My interest in addiction developed during my first year at Hamilton, where I took the intro neuroscience class, “Brain and Behavior,” which led me to become a neuroscience major and lover of all things “brain.” I remember learning about how heartbreak and drug addiction activate the same centers of the brain and finding this fascinating.

During my senior year at Hamilton, I started applying to jobs in hopes of trying out non-physician medical careers just to be “sure.” Many warned me against going into medicine—times were and ARE rapidly changing in medicine. Looking back at this advice, I agree—you should not become a doctor unless you cannot imagine doing anything else. I had to prove that to myself. I applied to—and got—a job working at Epic Systems Corporation, an electronic medical records (EMR) company. My year working at Epic was a fruitful learning experience filled with fun, Silicon Valley vibes, and knowledge of the tech-aspects of medicine I am grateful to have learned to this day (as many physicians engage in an endless battle with the EMR). Ultimately, it was the push I needed to prove to myself that healing was my calling. In fact, I could not imagine myself doing anything BUT going into medicine.

In the summer of 2014, I got into medical school. I applied to both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and ultimately ended up at Midwestern University, an osteopathic medical school in Chicago. I am so thankful for going to an osteopathic medical school because, in addition to traditional medical school training, I learned osteopathic manipulation and how to approach my patients with a mind-body-spirit approach (because we are not just a broken leg or diabetes, we are whole people). I also fell in love with primary care after thinking I wanted to go into pretty much every specialty (I thought I wanted to be a surgeon, psychiatrist, internist, dermatologist, etc.). I will never forget my first family medicine clinic rotation. It was at a private clinic in Chicago, where the physician practiced family medicine and addiction medicine. This physician had known many of his patients for years and was a true “cradle to grave” family physician. I had found my calling. 

The time for my residency match came around and I matched at an incredible full-spectrum family medicine program in the Bay Area, where I couldn’t wait to explore a new coast.

My biggest advice to our future healthcare providers is this: the path to becoming a physician is hard and long. You will know if you are cut for this path, but you often have to try a few things out before committing. Your broad experiences and unique path to medicine will ultimately make you a better physician. Wait long enough but not too long. Also, you should probably like reading…you’ll be doing a lot of it for the rest of your life.

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