Column Editor – Katherine Locke
Jason Jackson is a West Virginia native, born and raised in Bridgeport, West Virginia. After a short stint in various parts of the country he returned home to Lewisburg, West Virginia to attend medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, where he quickly developed his passion for pediatrics, serving first as the president of his school’s ACOP Student Chapter, then as the ACOP Student Representative to the Board of Trustees, and now as the Board’s Resident Representative. He is now a second year resident at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital / Miami Children’s Health Services in Miami, Florida, and is planning on pursuing a fellowship in neonatology following the completion of residency training.
Jason Jackson, DO
What first interested you about osteopathic medicine?
Honestly, prior to the application process, I had not had much exposure to the world of osteopathic medicine. Growing up in West Virginia, I had heard about the “other medical school” in the southern part of the state and had known a few people who had been accepted to attend the West VirginiaSchool of Osteopathic Medicine, but my knowledge did not expand much further than that. As I began to do my research, I was consistently drawn to the ideas of treating the patient, not the disease, as well as the notion that mind, body and spirit are all integral and interwoven components to the overall health of an individual. Once I stepped onto the campus of WVSOM during my interview process, I immediately knew I had found where I wanted to spend my next years of education. Looking back on the time spent in Lewisburg, West Virginia and how it helped to prepare me for where I am today, I can say I am extremely happy with that decision.
What has been the greatest challenge in your residency?
I would have to separate this into both personal and professional challenges. Professionally, aside from the obvious challenge of learning how to manage my time wisely, I would say the biggest challenge was realizing that the security blanket of being a student is no longer there. This first hit me on an overnight call, and I realized that with each phone call from a nurse or question from a concerned parent, it did not matter that I was only months into actually having the title of “Doctor”; to them, at that moment I was the only doctor available and they were looking to me for a decision, or an answer, or simply a piece of comforting reassurance. Personally, the biggest challenge is that I believe residency is the first time that I realized the level of dedication that goes into this great profession. It is true that we have not chosen a job, or even a career; we have chosen a way of life by going into medicine. This is in a way both a challenge and a blessing, because despite every day of long hours, every battle with lack of sleep and every holiday spent working, I could not imagine life any other way.
What has been your greatest success?
You mean aside from being chosen for this interview? I think, as a resident, we spend every day thriving on our mini-successes, whether it be nailing that lumbar puncture, doing a stellar suturing job, picking up on a nearly missed diagnosis or just making it through rounds without freezing up when pumped by the day’s attending.
However, I feel my biggest success had nothing to do with my technical skills or medical knowledge. As a pediatrician, we are in a unique environment where we are treating a child patient, though we are caring for not just that child but also the worried parents who often times are dealing with the fact that their child needs something that they cannot provide, and for many this may be the first time they have experienced this feeling.
One of my greatest successes came when, upon discharging a young patient who had had a particularly difficult hospital course, I was stopped by the patient’s parents and hugged and thanked. I was not thanked for catching a subtle exam finding or placing her chest tubes or any of the other acts that truly led to her recovery. The parents thanked me because I knew when I walked in the room and saw their daughter crying that what she needed was not another exam, what she needed was someone to sit on the bed with her, hold her hand, let her cry and tell her that we would be here no matter what to get her back out to her friends as soon as possible. It reminded me early into my intern year that no matter how busy I may be or overwhelmed I may feel; when I step into a patient’s room, my time and my focus is solely with that patient, and that treating a person goes far beyond diagnoses and medications, which may not necessarily be what he or she needs at that moment.
What advice do you have to students preparing for their rotations and residencies?
To students just starting out, I would say to get involved and to take advantage of every opportunity given to you. Remember that building your clinical skills is just as important as building you textbook knowledge. And mostly, really enjoy this time in your life as you embark on an amazing journey. The friends you make in medical school will be your friends for life.
To students starting out on rotations; do not be afraid to speak up and ask questions. You are out there to learn what it means to be a physician and you cannot do that by standing in the background. Keep an open mind with every rotation you are on, and commit yourself to that discipline while you are there. Even when you may be doing one of your “required to graduate” rotations in a field far from your area of interest, respect the physician who is taking the time to teach his or her trade, respect the field of medicine for what it offers and most of all, respect each and every patient who allows you to be a part of their care with the hopes the you may be able to learn something by being in the room.
Finally, to students getting ready to start residency; congratulations you have made it to the next level. You are getting ready to embark on one of the most exciting, terrifying, rewarding, and challenging times of your life. Remember that you are now out of the classroom, but the learning never stops. Try to learn something from every patient you encounter. Learn to celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes (and to know which is which). Keep your support system close and find ways that you can be that support for someone else. Your co-residents will become your family, in all aspects of the idea of family. Most importantly, you will face times when you feel like you cannot do it anymore or that you start questioning yourself; and when this comes, remind yourself of that moment when the passion to help people first ignited in you and hold on to that. Throughout it all, never let your passion and compassion take a backseat to your checklist of tasks. Those tasks will get done, trust me.
With all the changes in the ACOP and osteopathic medical field, what’s the most exciting thing on the horizon?
I personally think this is a tremendously exciting time for the ACOP and for osteopathic medicine as a whole. Future osteopathic physicians are going to have the opportunity to pursue dreams unlike any of their predecessors. Osteopathic physicians continue to remain at the forefront of modern medicine, while at the same time maintaining its roots set forth by A.T. Still of promoting health versus fighting illness and of caring for the patient not the diagnosis. Any time of change comes with a significant amount of uncertainty, however I am confident that once the dust settles, osteopathic medicine and the ACOP will be standing tall and will continue moving forward in promoting the health of our nation’s children.