Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS
Now that I have stacked up a good number of years in medical practice, I am one of those doctors who gets asked from time to time to talk about my career with medical students and junior physicians, answering questions about how I chose my specialty, how I like life in academia, and how I balance being a doctor, a spouse, and a mother.
Part of my answer always includes my late start in the field. I was nearly 30 when I decided to give up on a life in journalism and go back to school and become a doctor. For a decade before that, I was a newswoman, a radio producer, and then a TV producer and editor, and I worked in Jerusalem, New York, and London. I covered wars, natural disasters, politics, terror attacks, international affairs, and some fluff stories as well. Yes, I must confess: skateboarding squirrels, surfing dogs, and high-heel races are some of the memorable news stories I shared with the world.
And when I share this, the most common comment I get is some variation of, “Wow, journalism to medicine sounds like 180 degrees!”
I thought so too at the time I started making the switch. But eventually I found it not to be a radical change at all. To the contrary, my decade in news prepared me well—better than any of the required organic chemistry or physics courses—for a life as a medical doctor.
It’s all about storytelling.
One of the things that many students feel most nervous (and excited) about in the first 1 to 2 years of medical school is interviewing patients. This is what we call in medicine taking a history: a process that is at least as important as doing a physical examination. Indeed, I would argue that its impact is often greater than diagnostic testing or lab results in reaching a diagnosis and creating management plans.
For me, history taking felt like being back out on a story, behind the camera, getting the facts and making them make sense. Doing this well, in either context, is an art in itself: knowing when to press, when to let go, asking open ended questions, letting silences linger, paying attention to what’s not being said. These are crucial skills that we, as medical educators, try to teach medical students from year one to the end of their training and beyond. And they were skills I acquired in journalism.
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