A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Take My Advice


Tips and tricks from those who’ve been there can help interns survive the first year of residency training.

“Don’t get sick in July.” That old saw is typically met with derision in academic medicine circles. Sure, while the start of a new academic year means hospital wards get an influx of novice doctors fresh from their medical school graduation, that intern year is also a rite of passage, a necessary step toward becoming a fullfledged physician. Those trainees deserve our respect and support. Still, it’s notoriously anxiety-provoking for the person wearing a long white coat for the first time, caught in limbo, not a student but not yet a “real” doctor. We asked members of the Brown community what words of advice they have for interns starting out this summer.

As many as 95 percent of trainees cite lack of a mentor as a prime career hindrance. Be wary of formal assigned, mentor-mentee relationships. The chemistry must be right, not because the mentor works in your primary chosen space. Ask residents in your department — although great mentors may be in other fields. Find out who has worked well with residents and is not over busy. Check recent publications. Do you want to coach, a teacher, supporter, informal guide, career-builder, advocate, motivator, role model? You may have multiple mentors serving diverse roles in your career. Some may simply provide funding or lab space. Know when the relationship is not right – and leave.

Edward Feller, MD, clinical professor of medical science

Ask a good nurse what you should do. Period. Hard stop.
– Micheal Stout MD’80

Remember the lessons from the cadaver donors. They live in you.
– Beth Murphy Ward, Newport, RI

Enjoy fourth year – don’t stress about preparing clinically for intern year.
– Katya Levine, MD’23 ScM’23

  1. Be kind to your patience, always. No one chooses to be sick.
  2. Do not say “no” to seeing a patient, ever. Assess first, then decide if your services are not needed.
  3. If another physician asks for your help, always offer it, even when the question being asked, seems straightforward to you.

I’d like to share this poem with interns: Compassion,” by Miller Williams
Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.

Ghada Bourjeily, MD, professor of medicine, health services, policy, and practice

Use the “Airplane!” principle: The entire crew had the fish (and got sick); you alone can land the plane. Formulate plans as if you’re the only doc, even if you often get overruled. You’ll learn why it was wrong; you’ll keep getting better and preserve your sanity and dignity.
– Francois Luks, MD, J. Murray Beardlsey Professor of Surgery

Remember to enjoy your patients and appreciate their strengths!
– Audrey Tyrka, MD, PhD, Mary E. Zucker Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Human Behavior

Listen to your patient.
– Sharon Rounds, MD, associate dean for translational research

  1. Introduce yourself, learn people’s names. And get to know them – the unit clerk, the nurses, the respiratory therapist, food service staff – you have something to learn from everyone (Side story, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where I trained, the unit clerk on one of the floors I worked on, Mrs. Jeanette Giles, cared for all of the residents like she was our auntie and she made sure we ate while we were on call and helped us so much with the mechanics of admissions, discharges, etc. We exchanged Christmas cards for years until she passed away in 2021. Two different nurses from another floor knitted sweaters for my babies when they were born. Become part of the hospital community!)
  2. The learning curve is steep – don’t be too hard on yourself.
  3. Be honest – if you don’t know something, just say you don’t know.
  4. You belong there – internship can feel like starting all over again, but you are ready for this step.
  5. Prioritize sleep – you need to learn and process your emotions effectively.
  6. Schedule something fun for your days off – even if it is seeing a movie or taking a hike. If you never go anywhere or do anything other than medicine, you will lose your identity.

– Katherine Sharkey, MD, PhD, associate dean for gender equity, associate professor of medicine and of psychiatry and human behavior

From my senior resident on my first night of call as an intern: “Eat when you can, sleep when you can, don’t walk by a restroom. If you need to use it, if you get the chance, call your wife/husband/S.O.
– Jason Carr ‘91 MD’95

Enjoy this first day with your well earned title of doctor! Realize it will not be like it was depicted on television or in the movies, but you will have a great memory to look back on 20 years from now when you are the one writing these words of wisdom to the newest generation of physicians. Realize you are a member of the team, and it is better to ask a question and admit that you do not know an answer than not.
– Colette Whitby MD’96

  • You can never know everything — that is why medicine is a team sport use your team, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
  • Remember to keep the things that make you YOU in your life, even though that may look or feel different than it used to!
  • You have got this! You have accomplished so much and you are ready!

Star Hampton, MD, senior associate dean for medical education


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