Year in Training: 4th Year Medical Student
Medical School: University of Arizona College of Medicine
Specialty Interest: Obstetrics & Gynecology
Undergraduate Majors: Physiology & Religious Studies
Undergraduate Minors: Spanish & Arabic
Follow Racquel: @mindfulofmed on Instagram
What's your story?
You know the cliché, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor?” Well, that’s me. When I was little, I used to whack my grandpa with my pink toy reflex hammer, give out smarties as “medicine,” and obsess over my National Geographic magazine with a fetus in the womb on the cover. I’ve never wanted to be anything else and through a lot of hard work and even more blessings I’ve come this far. So for me, choosing medicine was natural but everything after that has been a journey.
Through my own life experiences, particularly my struggles with chronic disease, I decided I didn’t want to be just a physician – I wanted to be a great physician. To me, that means being empathetic, humanistic, and inspired. Medicine sometimes feels like the ultimate test in delayed gratification…
The years are long and the work is tough.
Yet, I wouldn’t want to do anything else because I feel that my life will be best spent helping others and touching lives in the very unique way that only a doctor can.
What are your #doctorgoals?
It’s funny, just the other day I told my husband, “I want to write a book someday.” The farther along I go down this path, the more I’ve realized that being a doctor isn’t strictly linear.
You really can make your career what you want.
That’s why I want to be a doctor that listens and treats patients with kindness, but is also mindful of the importance of self care and realizing all the dreams I have beyond medicine.
The primary goal I would like to accomplish as a doctor is to inspire my patients to lead happier, healthier lives. I plan to integrate nutrition and fitness into my care plans and someday even write that book!
My interest in nutrition and lifestyle is also one of the reasons I decided to pursue ObGyn. I’ve always had an interest in fetal and maternal health, and I think that lifestyle modifications can have an enormous impact in that patient population.
Also, who doesn’t love babies?
I remember my mom buying me an old National Geographic issue with a fetus on the cover; I was obsessed with it! I think that really sparked my interest early on. But really, ObGyn is an incredible field that offers a strong mix of clinic, surgery and research.
During my clerkship, I made some great connections with my patients and truly enjoyed the science. I see myself pursing a fellowship, particularly REI (reproductive endocrinology and infertility) because I enjoy basic science research but also the powerful human and emotional side of trying to conceive.
I cannot wait to help others achieve their dream of raising a family, especially after experiencing the beauty of becoming a parent myself.
How do you balance medical school with being a wife and new mom?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been blessed with a husband who is the best partner and teammate anyone could ask for. We met during college so medical school was always in our plans and often takes priority. My husband is so wonderful and always supports me; we have the same goals and I think that’s one of our biggest strengths.
For me, being married in medical school honestly made the experience easier – he cheered me on, pushed me, and we’ve celebrated the successes along the way.
I think as long as you make time for each other,
marriage and medical school can be a really nice pairing.
Being a new mom has been an incredible experience, the best really. We’ve always wanted kids so finding the right time to do it was important. However there really isn’t a right time to do it when you’re in medicine (is there ever a right time in general!?). So we decided to aim for a due date that would coincide with the first few months of fourth year, before interview season. And luckily it all worked out.
I’ve been able to take a few months of research and other work from home to be with our son and travel for interviews and it has worked out quite nicely.
What tips do you have for new moms who are in medical school?
Since my son was born after the brunt of third year clerkships and a couple tough sub-internships, I haven’t had the chance to really juggle a schedule where I work from home, though I will in a few months.
Nevertheless, I was pregnant most of third year and that was challenging both physically and mentally.
Now that I’ve had a pregnancy and a baby during medical school, my advice to new med school moms is to plan, and when plans fail…
Being medical students, we’ve likely been planners our whole lives but pregnancy and babies throw all kinds of variables into the mix. So flexibility and a positive attitude can go a long way.
What has been your biggest hurdle in this journey to becoming a doctor thus far and how did you overcome it?
Being diagnosed with a serious case of coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever) at age 19 and having to deal with being sick and the treatment until last year at age 24 was a whirlwind. Even though I did a good job at keeping on track with my studying, work, marriage and family, a chronic disease was really challenging sometimes. There was a lot of uncertainty associated with all of it:
When would I get off medications?
Could we even safely conceive?
What will my titers be this month?
It taught me to take care of myself and live in the present, though that was sometimes easier said than done. I think the experience will make me a better doctor, and for that I’m grateful.
If you had to start medical school all over again, what would you do differently?
I think about this often. I would stop caring about how other people were studying and comparing myself to them. The first few months of medical school I did this a lot, and I didn’t realize that this wasn’t productive until I didn’t score so well on my first test. Eventually I became an expert learner in my own right, by listening to what I needed and being honest about my strengths and weaknesses. This also goes for the clinical years, however, since third year grades often depend on how well you do compared to others.
If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t stress so much and I would focus on balancing stress with self care.