Dr. Jennifer Koichopolos, MD'16, was inspired to pursue a surgical residency after completing a surgical rotation during clerkship. “The medicine was exciting and after that everything paled in comparison and I was hooked.” Now, as she achieves procedural-based accomplishments such as her first appendectomy, first colonoscopy, and first chest tube, she has realized that the most rewarding moments are really about seeing patients in clinic when they are well again. “It’s really rewarding to see people healthy and know you were a part of that.”
What is your educational background?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Life Sciences and my Doctor of Medicine degree at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in 2016.
Did you have a role model or mentor who inspired you to follow your academic path? If not, why did you decide to pursue medicine?
There is no one in my family in medicine or health care, but I had incredibly supportive parents who let me explore what I wanted to do and helped me achieve it. I think like most people in medicine, I always knew I wanted to help others and I loved science but I didn’t seriously consider medicine until during my undergraduate degree. Now that I am in residency, I realize that I had very little insight into what being a physician is like, but luckily I love it. Similarly, I was determined to be a family doctor until I rotated through general surgery in my first block of clerkship. The residents and staff were incredible, the medicine was exciting and after that everything paled in comparison and I was hooked.
What has been the most challenging experience to date in your residency?
I think almost everyone who enters medicine is a perfectionist and one of the most difficult things about being a resident is making mistakes. It takes a huge toll on you to know you’ve missed something or actually made a patient worse based on your decisions. The truth is that everyone will make them at some point and the good doctors will take responsibility for them, learn from them and share it with others so they can learn as well.
What learning from your undergraduate medical education or early residency do you return to often now as you are pursuing your residency?
During medical school, I did an observership in the Emergency Department for a month during the summer and the amazing emergency doctor I worked with would walk me through the department and point at patients and their monitors and ask me “sick or not sick?” As silly as it sounds, its one of the most important skills you can have as a physician and it changes your entire management once you answer that one question.
How do you maintain balance in your life?
Pursuing a surgical residency definitely makes it hard to find balance in life, but it also puts things into perspective. It really makes you narrow down what things in your life are important and keep you going and what you can let go of based on time. I find my relationships with my loved ones as well as continuing to volunteer teaching are really what I wanted to keep and I try my best to do both.
If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be?
Success in a career doesn’t mean anything without people to share it with.
What are three albums that give a glimpse of who you are as a person?
- Queen – Night at the Opera
- The Guess Who – American Woman
- Anything Motown
If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why?
I’ve been obsessed with American politics since the last election and I get very angry a lot of the time as a feminist and for the deteriorating state of their health care. I would love to take over for Donald Trump for one day and just try to make any small change in what is happening.