During winter break, Reed Meakim completed an externship at Pennsylvania Dermatology Group with Dr. Thomas Regan ’99. She decided to participate in this externship because it seemed liked a great opportunity to observe a dermatologist, as well as surgical procedures.
In order to make her application stand out, Reed mentioned her double major and sites where she has volunteered. The junior categorized her top three choices by proximity to home and her interest in the medical field. Before she went to Pennsylvania Dermatology Group, Reed researched Mohs surgery since it was her sponsor’s specialty.
On her first day, Reed was very nervous, but everyone was so nice and welcoming that her nervousness went away. During her experience, Reed met with patients, observed surgeries, and went to the lab to look at samples under a microscope. She was able to observe Mohs surgery, general dermatology consultations, and sample staining. Her favorite aspect was getting the chance to build relationships with the doctors, medical assistants, administrative workers, nurses, and patients.
The most effective questions that Reed asked her sponsor were about medical school, advice on the MCATs, how he chose his specialty, and how he got into Mohs surgery. Reed recommends to other extern students that you contact your sponsor a week before you go to make sure everything is still arranged according to plan. She also recommends being enthusiastic about learning and expressing your gratitude for the opportunity. Reed is still in touch with her sponsor and, after her experience, she sent him a thank you email. She also plans on sending him follow-up emails a few times a year to keep in touch. Reed is also looking into an opportunity at Pennsylvania Dermatology Group to be their medical assistant during her gap year.
The connections that the junior made were really valuable. “Some of the medical assistants there, who were only a few years older than me, were planning to attend medical school or nursing school after working a few years. I plan on doing something similar with my career so it was really awesome to get advice from them,” adds Reed.
After externing at Pennsylvania Dermatology Group, Reed now knows that she wants to be a medical assistant during her gap year before attending medical school. She also learned a lot about minor dermatological surgery, dermatology, and bedside manner.
The Coolest Part of the Experience
“The coolest part of the experience was making connections with great people; of course with my sponsor, but also with medical assistants that were looking into medical/nursing school, welcoming administrative workers, and patients,” explains Reed. The greatest reward that came from the Extern program was when she was able to have a conversation in Spanish with a patient who had done mission work in Peru.
Reed advises to shadow other doctors at the practice early on, and observe each doctor’s individual style to treating patients. Reed would absolutely recommend this externship to anyone with a similar area of interest. She was able to gauge her interest in dermatology and surgery, as well as a private practice versus a hospital. “It can be just as valuable to learn what you don’t want to do as opposed to what you do want to do,” says Reed.