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Kristine Specht, 25, of Easton, Conn., was reflecting on her college experience while filling out medical school applications when she realized that teaching had been a theme during much of her undergraduate career. At Dartmouth College she’d served as a tutor almost every term. The trend continued after Specht enrolled at Harvard Medical School. Now, as a fourth-year student, she’s chosen a specialty that offers plenty of one-on-one teaching time.
When did you start tutoring at HMS?
There’s a second-year teaching assistant group that runs review sessions for the first-year anatomy lab and physiology course, so I got involved with that.
Are you currently serving as a tutor?
I’m working now with second-year students, teaching them to do the physical exam as a fourth-year TA. I observe the students interacting with patients and offer advice as they practice taking histories. I also give them tips on how to perform physical exam maneuvers. The patient-doctor relationship is really the crux of what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives, and it’s—for most of us—why we came to medical school. So, to be able to help aspiring doctors with that has been a really fulfilling and meaningful experience.
Has tutoring shaped your perspective on medical school?
Part of what has been so amazing about teaching is realizing how much I've learned in medical school. Recently, I was working with a second-year student who was interviewing a patient with Crohn’s disease, a relatively common inflammatory bowel disorder, and I was shocked that this student hadn’t heard of it. But then I remembered being in the exact same position as this second-year. My first patient had Crohn’s disease, and I had to look it up on my phone in the hallway before going in to talk to her. You learn the basics of everything you need to know for your day-to-day work as a doctor in the second and third years of medical school. It’s incredible.
Have you chosen a specialty?
I’m applying to radiology residencies now, and part of what attracted me to that field was there’s a lot of one-on-one attending-to-resident teaching time. Even as a medical student, I’ve benefited from that aspect of the specialty. I’ve done three radiology electives in a row now, which means that I spend most mornings sitting side-by-side with residents as they read through films. I can ask a lot of questions because everyone is friendly, and when the residents go through their findings with the attending physicians, I learn even more.
Have you thought about your career beyond choosing a specialty?
Aside from teaching, I have a strong interest in quality improvement and patient safety. In other words, how do we engineer better health care systems? My inclination would be to stay in a big academic medical center, where I can do quality improvement research and make teaching a formal part of my career. I can see myself directing a residency program or being in charge of medical student education, something along those lines.
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