Dr. Monique Abrams, 32, is a first-year pediatric resident at Baystate Children’s Hospital. Despite her lifelong interest in the medical profession and caring for children, she decided to become a chef before finally returning to her first passion.
Many Paths to a Career in Medicine
In late June, Dr. Abrams joined a group of eight other new interns to begin their pediatrics residency training at Baystate Children’s Hospital—many of whom also seemed to have explored other interests before becoming doctors.
“One of our new residents is a concert pianist, another bicycled across the county building homes for Habitat for Humanity along the way, and one was a nurse before becoming a doctor,” said Dr. Laura Koenigs, Program Director, Pediatrics Residency Program.
“They are diverse in cultural background, areas of the world they grew up in and trained at, and in their many interests,” she said. “They are enthusiastic about joining us at Baystate and will enrich our hospital with their unique perspectives.”
(Photo: Dr. Monique Abrams, intern, and Dr. Laura Koenig, Program Director, Pediatrics Residency)
Family Health Crisis Led to Interest in Caring For Children
Abrams, who grew up in Queens, explained that her nephew in Alabama became ill while she and her parents were down South caring for him. When no one was able to diagnose his problem, they brought him to New York.
“My parents brought my nephew to my former pediatrician, who immediately diagnosed him with a complicated form of ringworm. I was there, too, and remember her going into the back closet, where she took out some pharmaceutical samples. She instructed me to ‘mix the tiny vial of powder with water, then shake, and that he would be better in a couple of days.’
“It was then and there, not only seeing my pediatrician interact with my nephew, but watching her diagnose a complex disease without breaking a sweat, that I knew my calling was to care for children,” she added. “I was taken with how kids are so vulnerable and sometimes can’t tell you what is bothering them, and that someone needs to be an advocate for them,” she added.
A Few Detours Before Finding Her Way Back to Pediatrics
But, when it came time to think about college, she began to have second thoughts about becoming a doctor. So, because she loved to cook, Abrams felt more comfortable applying to culinary arts school.
“I ended up attending the University of Alabama where I earned two bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry. In the end, I finally realized the culinary arts truly weren’t for me and that my future was in medicine,” said Abrams.
She began a family practice residency, but soon realized that it wasn’t a good fit for her. “I just couldn’t let go of my passion for working with kids,” said Abrams.
“I did see some children while in my residency, and it gave me a real sense that I was doing something that resonated with me,” she continued. “My mom reminded me that I once told her that I wanted to be a pediatrician. It’s so funny the things we forget.”
So, looking for a residency at a children’s hospital that would be the right fit for her, Abrams decided to re-enter the residency match. On March 18 she learned that she was matched with one of her top choices – Baystate Children’s Hospital.
Baystate Children’s Hospital and Residents Impressed Her
Abrams was impressed with the personalized interview invitation letter sent by Dr. Koenigs.
“It was clear that she had taken the time to thoroughly read my application and my personal statement in which I wrote about my nephew,” said Abrams.
The residents she met impressed her as well. “First of all,” she laughed, “I was told by a friend to pay attention to how the residents looked. ‘Did they all look tired?’ They didn’t, and I would soon learn from them about the positive environment created at Baystate in which residents can learn.”
“When the residents came into the room to meet with me, they immediately pushed all the tables together family-style, and talked with me like we had known one another all of our lives.”
“Also, I learned about the very congenial environment in which residents and attending physicians overseeing them are on a first-name basis. Sometimes there can be a power differential in which residents are hesitant to go to their attending with a problem. But, it was clear to me that wasn’t the case at Baystate,” she added.
Abrams is one of 84 residents and 24 fellows—49 women and 59 men—from medical schools throughout the country and beyond - who began their graduate medical training at Baystate this summer.
Baystate Medical Center: Training Doctors for 100+ Years
A recognized leader in educational innovation, Baystate Medical Center has been training doctors since 1914.
As the regional campus of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Baystate Health is the site of the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health program—a new pathway toward a medical degree for students wishing to focus on rural and urban primary care, and population health.