Life Lessons from a Newly-Minted Emergency Doc

Congratulations to all of the attendings recently out of residency, and the residents that are finishing up and can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Six months ago, I was crying and hugging my classmates at my very last graduation in life. Crossing from an Emergency Medicine resident to an attending has been nerve-wracking, but highly educational and rewarding. Over the last few months, I’ve been able to reflect on some of the things that I’ve learned. Here are a few:

1. Treat yourself

Three and a half years of undergrad, two years of graduate school, 3 ½ years of medical school and three years of residency equals 12 years of being broke and short on time. My friends that are not in medicine are well into their careers and are able to afford things and experiences that I wanted. So post-residency, I’ve gifted myself some high-end items I’ve been wanting. I’m spending more time having long and gossipy brunches with my friends. I treated myself to a bucket list getaway to Maine during lobster season. Take the time to indulge yourself, at least a little bit. After spending years giving to others, you deserve some reciprocity.

2. Pursue your own goals

I think the best thing about being an attending is having the freedom to do what I would like to do. No more 7 a.m. lectures! So, I have spent some time exploring business opportunities, service projects, writing and media—passions that began to blossom in residency, but that I felt I had no time to do. What have you been interested in but too strapped for time to explore? Now is your time to delve deep and try something new.

3. Make smart financial decisions

As an doctor in Emergency Medicine, I’m an independent contractor. To me, it was a whole new world of understanding: PLLC, LLC, tax structure, deductions, write-offs … the list goes on and on. Before I finished residency, I consulted with a reputable accountant that worked with several emergency physicians in my area. After I got out and started making a little money, I realized that I needed more guidance. I hired a financial planner to help me better frame and achieve my financial goals. Although we know a lot about saving lives, most physicians don’t know as much about planning our financial futures. Take some time to hire a financial planner, and get educated on finances via resources geared toward high-income earners (e.g., White Coat Investor, Physician on FIRE, Financial Residency, etc.).

4. Invest in your health

Moving to Memphis for residency was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s a rapidly developing city with great food, great music, and rich in culture. Unfortunately, I indulged way too much in the amazing food and didn’t exercise nearly enough! I’ve made my health and fitness a priority again by getting an accountability partner. Make time in your schedule to enjoy foods that you love, but also check up on yourself and your health. Take some time to see your primary care physician and tackle your health goals.

These are just a few of the non-clinical things that I have learned in six short months. I’m looking forward to seeing how many more life lessons I glean as I move forward as an attending.


Image by jossdim / gettyimages


Kimberly Brown, MD, MPH is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is currently an emergency physician in Memphis, Tennessee. She has a passion for public health, media, diversity in medicine, and education. She can be found online, on Twitter @drkimberlyb_, and on Instagram @drkimberlyb.

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