Dr. Shannon Sovndal, an emergency medicine specialist, discusses his medical journey, career experiences and advice for pre-med and medical students.
- [0:36] Dr. Sovndal’s Background and Accomplishments
- [01:18] Recurring Patients in an ER
- [02:25] The Influence of Personality on Choosing Emergency Medicine
- [04:18] Dr. Sovndal’s Journey into Medicine
- [11:21] Economics & Emergency Medicine
- [14:34] Burnout & Work-Life Balance
- [19:23] A Week in the Life of Dr. Sovndal
In this Prospective Doctor podcast, Dr. Sovndal shares key principles by which he lives:
Choose what interests you, rather than what you think you should – Dr. Sovndal describes his interest in medicine developing when he took a summer job working in an ambulance, as well as through his conversations with his biking coach who was a doctor. Neither of these were undertaken in order to become a doctor, but simply because they interested him. Building on this principle, he encourages undergraduate students and people more generally to not limit themselves to learning about a narrow subject, but to pursue whatever interests them. He himself pursued a degree in economics which still helps him in practicing medicine today.
Work very hard on whatever you choose – Dr. Sovndal draws an analogy between his preparation to get into medical school and the training required for an elite bike race. Both involve hard work. He describes being very disciplined and having a consistent routine to study for his MCAT. Working hard also involves displaying your strong passions & skills to other people. After his first interview at Columbia, Dr. Sovndal describes writing the dean to let him know that he really wanted to meet and speak with him, even if it meant taking another flight. At this second interview, Dr. Sovndal got the offer to study there. This interview changed the course of his life and career. He further illustrates his willingness to put himself out there by sharing how he isn’t afraid to write to famous people, such as famous authors all the time.
Avoid burnout –Dr. Sovndal describes a career in medicine as standing at the cusp of a black hole or abyss. It is very easy to fall into depression, PTSD or simply working too much to spend time with your family. A physician must apply himself all the time, putting in a lot of mental effort to keep going. Part of the answer is to simply acknowledge that medicine involves losing patients and witnessing a lot of pain and learning to accept these things. Dr. Sovndal also recommends reading his book, which touches on a lot of these issues for younger physicians.
Are you a younger physician, pre-med student or medical student looking for more advice on navigating your career, emotionally, mentally and financially? Take a look at the resources below:
- Fragile: Beauty in Chaos, Grace in Tragedy and the Hope That Lives in Between by Dr. Shannon Sovndal
- Match on a Fire: Medicine and More Podcast with Dr Shannon Sovndal
- Dr Shannon Sovndal’s Website
- EMCrit Podcast
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