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Just what the doctor ordered
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Watching George Clooney in ER may have planted the idea of being a doctor in her mind, but Amy Domeyer-Klenske, a soon-to-graduate M4 and student body president at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, harbored serious doubts about medicine as a career choice right through college.
“Even after I had my acceptance to the Carver College of Medicine, there was still a part of me that questioned whether this was the right decision,” she says.
Domeyer-Klenske, who grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and majored in English at the UI, knew that the human interactions that define medicine were deeply appealing to her. But she also recognized that she was not particularly drawn to the technical aspects of medicine.
“To tell the truth, I’ve never been crazy about science,” she jokes. “I was an English major because I decided that if I ended up not doing medicine, I didn’t want to end up in a lab.”
She also worried about the potentially desensitizing effect of medical school, a concern that was heightened by a comment from a physician speaking at a Medicine and Writing conference Domeyer-Klenske attended in her senior year.
“The doctor said, ‘When you go to medical school you lose your soul,’” Domeyer-Klenske recalls. “My reaction was, ‘What am I getting myself into?’"
Fortunately a good friend recommended that she use the doctor’s warning as a way to stay true to her values and be clear in her own mind of her reasons for pursuing medicine.
As it turned out, that ability to be mindful of her core values and to question her choices and herself were an integral part of Domeyer-Klenske’s journey through medical school. Working through her doubts and focusing on the human interactions that attracted her to medicine in the first place equipped her to enter her medical career with those values (and her soul!) intact.
“Knowing for sure that this was the right decision for me happened when I started in my clinical rotations and made the human connection. That was when I finally felt this is what I was supposed to do all along,” she says.
Seeing research differently
While her long-held interests of writing, the humanities, and global medicine have not changed during her time in medical school, one thing that has is her attitude toward research.
A question had arisen from a case-based learning experience and Domeyer-Klenske was unable to find an answer. Following the advice of her mentor Marcy Rosenbaum, she embarked on a research project to find her own answers.
“It opened my mind to the fact that research can be different things and encompasses much more than sitting at a bench. I was fascinated by it and I really enjoyed the work of getting a paper published.”
The experience so changed her view of research that she ended up pursuing the Research Distinction track—one of five extended learning opportunities offered to Carver College of Medicine students.
In a more obvious fit, Domeyer-Klenske also took the Humanities Distinction track, and is one of the first two students to complete this new track. She will share her final project at the UI medical writing conference in April.
“Something I really love about Iowa is they have creative writing classes for medical students, which I took in M1 and M2 years. Then I took another writing class in my last year. These opportunities have allowed me to maintain my writing all through my medical training,” she says.
She also credits the distinction tracks with helping her develop new skills that will be invaluable as she practices medicine. The research track gave her the tools to find answers when faced with an unfamiliar clinical scenario, and the humanities track allowed her to explore nonmedical issues such as religion and family dynamics that affect patient care.
“Thanks to the humanities track I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture and examine my attitudes. It’s been very valuable to approach these issues in a holistic way,” she notes.
Putting it all together
On March 16, Domeyer-Klenske along with every other gradating medical student in the country learned where she had matched for her residency training. To her great delight she was accepted into the obstetrics and gynecology residency program at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine—her first choice.
“Obstetrics and gynecology gives me the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with my patients as I provide care through all stages of their lives—from puberty to menopause and beyond—and I like that. But I also have the specialization, including surgery, and the ‘rush’ of the labor and delivery floor,” she says.
“Since I’ve discovered that I like research, I hope there will be a way to incorporate that into my professional career. And finally, I will look for ways to incorporate my interest in global medicine into my practice. That might mean taking a couple of trips a year to serve patients in other countries, or working with students on their global medicine projects, or possibly working with underserved Latina populations in the United States.”
Although she’s thrilled with her upcoming move to Portland, Domeyer-Klenske is already starting to feel nostalgic for Iowa.
“I have a lot of Iowa pride and I’ll take that wherever I go,” she says. “My roots will always be here—I’m a Hawkeye forever.”