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Physician Perspective: Why did you choose your specialty?

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Did you know there are more than 120 specialty and sub-specialty options to choose from? As a pre-med student, thinking about what you might want to practice is a long way off. And you may even change your mind several times during medical school. That said, you may have wondered how someone chose the specialty that they did. We asked five physicians to share their story.

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As a pre-med student, your primary focus is on preparing for and applying to medical school, but you may have thought about what kind of specialty you eventually want to practice. Whether you’ve known for a long time or you’re still figuring it out, you’ll have plenty of time to decide while in medical school. Selecting your specialty will come with time as you’re exposed to more areas of medicine, and you certainly don’t need to know now. But if you’re curious, we asked several physicians to share why they chose their specialty. If there’s one theme that emerges from these responses, it’s passion.

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Kelly Cawcutt, MD
Internal Medicine (Infectious Diseases and Critical Care Medicine)

Today I am board certified in internal medicine, critical care medicine and infectious diseases. I love my two sub-specialties because they require me to maintain knowledge in all of medicine. Critical care and infectious diseases are very intertwined, and in both, any organ system can be affected at any time. I have the opportunity to think deeply, but at times also very quickly. In both areas I am generally managing acute diseases with the opportunity to see rapid improvement in my patients, which is very gratifying.

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Jason Han, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgery

I chose to pursue cardiothoracic surgery because the field runs on passion. The unforgiving race against time on bypass or total circulatory arrest, or the seemingly endless welling of blood from invisible or unreachable sources. It is a tremendously demanding specialty, both mentally and physically. But the demands of the field are rewarded by the greatest joys and inspirations. The rewarding nature of seamless suture-lines, the thrill of precise needle work, the resilience of a newly transplanted heart, and perhaps most importantly, the strength derived from being a part of a team that is, above all, selflessly devoted to caring for patients. These factors brought me back to the operating room each day, feeling renewed.

Brent Monseur
Brent Monseur, MD
Obstetrics & Gynecology (Aerospace Gynecology)
I have always been drawn to addressing stigmas that our patients face. This is particularly true in the area of sexual health. In regard to aerospace gynecology, I knew that I wanted a field that involved problem solving and critical thinking beyond the traditional hospital walls. A career with NASA promises unique challenges and constant technological innovation as we prepare to travel further into the solar system than ever before.

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Brian H. Williams, MD
General Surgery (Trauma Surgery, Emergency Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care)

I am a general surgeon specializing in trauma surgery, emergency surgery, and critical care—also known by many as acute care surgery. I think it is the most exciting field of medicine. I care for the sickest patients that may come to the hospital. It is exciting, challenging, and immensely rewarding. I cannot see myself doing anything else in medicine.

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Sarah Mongiello Bernstein, MD
Pediatrics

When I see children who suffer from birth defects or disease, I see my mother and I see myself. In them, I see the potential to become self-assured and independent, confident and full of love, but I also see a need. Many of these children cannot reach their full potential without physicians willing to give their skills and time. When it comes to health care, I finally understand how beautiful banality can be. If there is one thing I have to give this world, and children like this, it is my time and my passion—my passion for the art of medicine and my desire to change perspectives one patient at a time.

You can read more about these physicians and others in our Inspiring Stories collection.

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