Graduation: Now What's Next?
Join us as we sit down with Chris D’Esposito and Aaliyah Keels, two graduating seniors at the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville to discuss graduating in the midst of a pandemic and their plans for after medical school!
Abby Britt (00:14):
Hello and welcome to Episode 3 of Just What the Doctor Ordered, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville's podcast, where we discuss relevant news you can use from the upstate. Hello. My name is Abby Britt. It is so nice to sit down with all of you today. In this episode, we'll be sitting down with two seniors from the School of Medicine Greenville to discuss debt, graduating in the midst of a pandemic, and their plans for after medical school.
Abby Britt (00:41):
But first, for those who are wondering where [Dillon 00:00:45] matched from our previous episode, we have an update. Dillon will be staying in the gorgeous Greenville community, working at Prisma Health Upstate in their Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Division. Dillon, we are so proud of you and thank you again for being a part of our previous episode on Match Day.
Abby Britt (01:05):
And now, let's get rolling on Episode 3. To kick things off, I'd like to introduce you to our two guests, Aaliyah Keels and Chris D'Esposito. Can you each tell me a little bit about yourselves?
Aaliyah Keels (01:18):
Of course. Hi, Abby. Thanks for having us on the podcast today. My name is Aaliyah Keels. I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Then I went to undergrad at Wofford College, a small liberal arts college in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Then after graduating there, I came here to USC School of Medicine Greenville, where I'm now fourth year. I'll be graduating in May and starting a residency in OB GYN.
Abby Britt (01:47):
Awesome. And Chris, what about you?
Chris D’Esposito (01:50):
Abby, thank you for having us. My name is Chris D'Esposito. I am originally from a small town in Connecticut called Wolcott. I ended up making my way down to South Carolina for undergrad. I attended the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. I did four years there. Then after I graduated, I found my way down to Greenville, South Carolina, USC School of Medicine Greenville. I'm currently an M4. I'll be graduating in May. And I will also be going into OB GYN. I did medical school through the scholarship called the Health Profession Scholarship Program, HPSP. So I will be doing my residency with the military after medical school. The same thing applies with ranking programs. They rank you and then you cross your fingers and hope you get your top picks.
Abby Britt (02:41):
Perfect. And Aaliyah, where did you match?
Aaliyah Keels (02:46):
I matched at LSU, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so very excited. Never lived in Louisiana. I've been to New Orleans one time. But it'll definitely be a new experience and a change of pace from living in South Carolina for most of my life.
Abby Britt (03:02):
For sure. And how are you feeling after Match Day? I'm sure you were nervous, excited, all the feels. How do you feel now?
Aaliyah Keels (03:10):
Once you match, you're just overwhelmed with excitement. But then at the same time, you're nervous, like, "Wow, I'm really going to be a doctor now. People are going to be looking to me for answers." So that's kind of scary. But then I know a lot of fourth years probably experienced the same thing I did. Within a week or two of matching, you started getting all of these emails and requirements and paperwork that you have to fill out for a new job. For a lot of us, this is our first real job. We've been in school since elementary school. So I was just filling out all this paperwork, trying to buy houses or apartments. It's very stressful to adult [inaudible 00:03:52] I had to do in a long time. So getting used to that as well. But overall, excited and grateful.
Abby Britt (04:00):
Good. Okay. Perfect. And Chris, did you say where you exactly matched?
Chris D’Esposito (04:07):
I was just actually going to say, I want to shout out my program. I will be going to the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. I'm actually an Air Force HPSP student. But the naval base for OB GYN, the program is Navy and Air Force combined. I'll be near the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area for the next four years. So very excited.
Abby Britt (04:29):
Awesome. How are you feeling after Match Day? I'm sure, relieved.
Chris D’Esposito (04:33):
I would pretty much mimic exactly what Aaliyah said. I would say that dating back to January when I found out, really, really excited. I rode that excitement for a few months. Then once all my classmates matched a few weeks ago, then the reality of residency set in. And like Aaliyah was saying with the whole people are going to start looking at you for answers and it's job. You're not a student anymore. So just a mix of emotions. But I would say that I'm really excited to get that degree. We're about a month away now with all my classmates. I think it's just a really cool feeling to be with all these 104 classmates four years ago as naive medical students who didn't really know anything. And now, here we are, everybody's matched and we all get to celebrate together in a few short weeks. Definitely a mix of emotions when you match, but I would say the excitement definitely outweighs the stress and nervousness that comes along with it.
Abby Britt (05:39):
Good to hear. I'm so excited. You guys are almost there. You're almost doctors. I know that you guys will definitely help the communities that you're going to be entering into. So you and so many others have chosen to put yourselves on the front lines of some of the most important battlegrounds in today's world, now that we're in a pandemic. How has the School of Medicine Greenville helped prepare you for this?
Aaliyah Keels (06:08):
I think the school has done a good job of keeping us updated with the most updated guidelines from the CDC and then in connection with the hospital that we rotate out and work at, Prisma Health... Or, Greenville Memorial downtown. So when the pandemic first happened, of course, they pulled us out, because our safety was the first priority. Then as the pandemic went on and we started getting vaccines and learning about PPE and things of that nature, they started to gradually let us back in the clinical learning environment. So we got a chance to see up close how to take care of COVID patients without putting ourself at harm.
Aaliyah Keels (06:49):
But recently, in the last week or so, we've had a couple lectures in our M4 intensification period where they get you ready for residency, updating us on what are the newest guidelines, how are COVID patients presenting, vaccine data, all of these things. And then little tips to help us educate our own patients in the future on the importance of vaccination and just working with the community to build that trust.
Abby Britt (07:22):
Good to hear. What about you, Chris?
Chris D’Esposito (07:22):
I would definitely echo most of that. I think that our medical school has done a really good job of giving us the tools that we need in our toolbox to go to residency and figure it out from there. Throughout the whole COVID process, guidelines have changed. Even just the basic science behind the pathology, it's been evolving as we, as a community, learn about COVID. We had a lecture yesterday or two days ago with the most up-to-date pathology, the pathophysiology of COVID, the new guidelines. We even had a lecture on the PPE and the different types of PPE, how to put it on, even though most of us know how to put on PPE. But just the school is constantly trying to set us up for success. I think, as a medical school, that's about as much as they can do until we get to residency.
Chris D’Esposito (08:17):
Now, there's a difference between being a med student and a resident. I think once we get to residency and we're thrown in the fire, we'll figure out a lot about ourselves. Hopefully, we'll be able to take the things that school provided us and taught us and actually apply them to real-life patients. So I think the school did a phenomenal job of getting us ready and prepared.
Abby Britt (08:42):
That is so good to hear. I'm glad to hear that as a civilian. But Aaliyah, really quick, could you define PPE for us?
Aaliyah Keels (08:51):
PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. It's basically any equipment you need to per se, protect yourself and then in our case, the patient. It can be things like masks, gloves. They have this... What do you call it? It looks like an apron.
Abby Britt (09:11):
Maybe a gown.
Aaliyah Keels (09:12):
Yeah, a gown, a gown, but it looks like an apron. You put it on like an apron. But it just protects you from any bodily fluids or things that can spread infection, so blood, other bodily fluids I won't name. It just makes sure to provide a barrier to any form of infection or if you have any cuts or anything, that's covered up as well. But that's basically what PPE is.
Abby Britt (09:44):
Let's switch gears a little bit. Since you guys are entering the adult world and entering your residency programs, let's talk a little bit about debt.
Aaliyah Keels (09:55):
I think the school does a good job. For those of us who do have student loan debt, we have a financial advisor at the school, who we work closely with. He helps us, every year, make a budget and reminding us to limit our spending. Then at the end of your fourth year, they have financial advisors come in from agencies. They can walk you through student loan repayment, walk you through budgeting, buying a home, things of that nature. So we've had a lot of resources.
Chris D’Esposito (10:25):
I think that the military scholarship's a great thing to at least look at and see if it's the right decision for you. But again, the military isn't for everybody. I think for my situation, doing my undergrad at a military college, it just made the most sense for me.
Abby Britt (10:43):
What made you two pick OB GYN for your residency?
Aaliyah Keels (10:49):
There's so many reasons. I can go on and on. Before medical school, while I was an undergrad, I thought I was most interested in orthopedics, actually, because I'm a big sports girl. Played basketball since I was a kid. I thought I wanted to be around sports and help athletes. But then I did some shadowing in undergrad and I worked with an OB GYN who basically just changed my whole perspective. He was awesome. I got to see a baby being born for the first time, which was amazing. And then just throughout medical school, every module that we had that was related to reproductive health, that was the most interesting to me.
Aaliyah Keels (11:30):
Then on rotations, I really got to see up close and personal how it is to take care of women and women's health and just empowering women to make their own decisions for their bodies, helping people get pregnant, helping prevent pregnancy. There's just so many things you can do with an OB GYN. And then on top of that, you also are a surgeon. I love the OR. It's one of my favorite places. So OB GYN was just perfect for me. I think, with my personality and what I can bring to the table, it's best fit for OB GYN.
Chris D’Esposito (12:04):
I would echo a lot of those things. I can say that OB GYN was probably the last specialty I ever saw myself going into at the start of med school. I took a test. Our school gave us a little survey that we took as M1s, right before we started. And you answer some questions and it tells you what specialty would be the best fit for you. I remember OB GYN was the specialty that the test spit out. I remember thinking, "Okay, this can't be an accurate test." But then as a third year, my first rotation was actually OB GYN. And to echo a lot of things that Aaliyah was saying, I think that the continuity that comes with following a woman throughout their life, especially at a reproductive age, and then continuing with them, especially if you're in private practice, I think the healthy patient population and obstetrics was something I really enjoyed.
Chris D’Esposito (13:01):
I think bringing life into the world is just an incredible feeling. I never got that feeling of reward in any other specialty than when you hand a baby over to a new mom and dad. I think the adrenaline that comes with obstetric emergencies, rushing back to the OR for a C-section or an emergency procedure that you're doing during a vaginal delivery, I think there's just so much that an OB GYN brings. And I do love surgery. I think that I'm not somebody who only wanted to do surgery. I think OB GYN offers a lot more than just surgery.
Chris D’Esposito (13:44):
But at the same time, when you're not in the OR, there are so many procedures that you get to do with OB GYN, which is another thing I really, really like. I think that just all of those things and there's... I mean, I could talk about this for 30 minutes on why. But I just think it was the right... It had a little bit of everything I was looking for. I think that it was just the right fit for me.
Abby Britt (14:07):
You two, and all of the other medical students everywhere, do this out of passion and out of love for your patients and helping others. That's really inspiring to me, as a civilian. If anyone wants to follow the next leg of your medical journey, how can they keep up with you on social media?
Chris D’Esposito (14:31):
If anyone wants to keep up on what life's like as a military doc, I can't promise that I'll post all the time, but over the next eight years, I'll definitely be posting stuff. If you want to follow me on Instagram... Wow, this is cool. I've never gotten to do this before. You can follow me at, my Instagram name is despooo16, D-E-S-P and then three Os and then the number 16. You can follow me there and see what life's like as a military doc. I'll try to be good about posting stuff and keeping everybody [crosstalk 00:15:11].
Abby Britt (15:12):
Aaliyah, what about you?
Aaliyah Keels (15:14):
I am really into social media. I used to post more often, but med school really slowed that down a lot. But you can also follow me on Instagram if you'd like. My Instagram handle is akeels21. So that's A-K-E-E-L-S two one. You can follow me there. I also can't promise I'll post. If anything, it'll be a meme. So I don't know if it'll be-
Abby Britt (15:42):
I feel that would make them want to follow you more.
Aaliyah Keels (15:45):
It may not be related to the medical journey at all, but I will try my best.
Abby Britt (15:50):
Is there anything else or any other topics that you guys think are important to cover?
Chris D’Esposito (15:56):
In regards to this topic that we've been talking about just, I guess we did hit on a little bit about how overwhelming it can be, especially if you're moving to a new place. I think for people who are in medical school, who are so excited about Match Day, it's such a fun day. But to just remind yourself, after the match, when things get overwhelming and just remember why you're doing all this. Try not to forget how amazing of an accomplishment it is to have been matched and be pursuing a field that you're passionate about. Just try to keep yourself with a positive outlook and not let the stresses that come along with matching ruin the moment for you.
Chris D’Esposito (16:47):
You can ask all of our classmates, right, Aaliyah? Everybody would say from day one, you're just like, "I can't wait to match. I can't wait to figure out where I'm going and what I'm doing." And then it comes and you're like, "Oh no! I'm so stressed." So just to remind yourself of why you're here. And try to enjoy the moment, because it really is a special accomplishment.
Abby Britt (17:10):
Thank you guys so much for wanting to be a part of this project and speaking into this. I wish you the best of luck in your residency programs. I am so excited for you guys.
Chris D’Esposito (17:21):
Thank you so much. [crosstalk 00:17:24] Appreciate it. We'll see you on the next episode of Just What the Doctor Ordered.
Abby Britt (17:27):
Okay. Thanks, guys!