Go Fourth: Learn & Lead Fearlessly


Medical school is like marathon training... except 4 years long instead of ~16 weeks. It's exhausting but rewarding, character-refining, and when you're in it you can't really talk about anything else. Closing in on the end of my third year, I will have spent two years in the classroom (building a base) and another year of “marathon-specific” training: 4-week clinical rotations in the basic specialties (internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, OB, psychiatry) with some fun electives thrown in (sports med, more family med). One more year of rotations stands between me and starting residency, where I’ll technically be a "real doctor" but still very much a learner. Through my leadership roles this year, I found a common theme among the colleagues and mentors that I respected most--in addition to their training as physicians, they all held the degree of Masters in Public Health.

As a future family physician, I love the idea of starting from the source to make lasting changes to improve community health. I saw the opportunity for professional development within the vision of my career in medicine and I applied to one of the best public health programs in the country. Luckily it also happens to be 45 minutes from my front door--the Triangle rocks, friends! I was accepted to the Public Health Leadership Program at UNC Chapel Hill to complete between my clinical years of medical school. While pursuing a dual-degree program (for me it'll be DO/MPH) is relatively common, I’m only the second person from my school to do this and I’m excited to help create the path for others. I was also selected as one of eight Weiss Urban Livability Fellowship recipients, and I’m stoked to serve on this interdisciplinary team by contributing my perspectives in medicine and public health--particularly in the area of substance abuse in urban communities. 

This MPH year is like an altitude training camp: stripping away old routines, digging into hard work, and preparing me to perform at a higher level than I think is possible. I’ll have more flexibility in my schedule to train and race--less 5am wakeups, more time for strength & PT, no 24-hour shifts or on-call nights, and plenty of time for midday snacking. The change in big-picture schedule will give me a better shot at qualifying for and running in the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020--during my 4th year of medical school rather than intern year of residency (pop-up miles vs Diamond League). I’ve had a ton of success as a third year med student (i.e. 8 seconds in the mile, 90 sec in the 5k, 7min in the half, 20min at the Boston Marathon) so I’m excited to go forth & see what I can do with some big changes this year!


My recent life updates (i.e. the last 4 weeks) include: finishing 3rd year of med school, racing my first track 5k (MCDC 17:51), turning 25, running a mile PR two weeks in a row (5:14 then 5:12 at the popups), taking my second set of board exams, and going on a week-long family vacation with 2 flight cancellations/delays--and things aren’t slowing down. After a 24-hour trip to Chicago for a 7-hour exam on Monday, I’ll start my MPH classes on Tuesday. My month of 5k’s kicks off on Wednesday in Kernersville for July 4th and will take me to Charleston (July 14) and Winston-Salem (July 21) before diving into training for my fall marathon at Indy Monumental. 

Shoutout to my coach Phil Latter for being able to manage my training schedule and providing consistency in all this chaos, my teammates for picking up the social media slack when I’m studying/traveling, our sponsors for keeping me fed/clothed/caffeinated/hydrated/healthy, and my pup for getting me out the door every day! 

Erin ClarkComment