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About Shira G. Ziegler

Shira G. Ziegler graduated from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine MD-PhD program in 2018. Her graduate research elucidated the mechanisms underlying rare disorders of ectopic calcification and identified potential treatment strategies. She is currently pursuing dual residency training in pediatrics and medical genetics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and plans to combine her bench-to-bedside research on rare genetic conditions with clinical care. Prior to medical school, Shira graduated from Oberlin College with highest honors in neuroscience and worked in the National Institutes of Health’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program and Human Genome Research Institute.


You walked across the stage, donned not one—but two!—academic hoods, and finally graduated with your MD and PhD degrees. You did it! While you can revel in being called double doctor from mid-May to mid-June, you soon will be thrown into intern year along with several other newly minted physicians. Your choice of residency (Chapter 22), significant as it was, was just the prelude to this stage. Intern year is the first year of residency and your first year as a practicing doctor. It is challenging, filled with steep learning curves and tireless call schedules. Also, while you have just spent the last 7–10 years training to become a physician-scientist, for most internships, your year will be solely focused on clinical training. You will have to hang up your lab coat and sport your white coat (or embroidered fleece) and spend most of your time in the emergency departments, wards, intensive care units, and operating rooms.

You’re Not Alone

While intern year is highly variable depending on the selected specialty, there are shared experiences. Intern year is fundamentally about learning the difference between sick and not sick. You will be entrusted to be the first call for your patients. You will be the first to their bedside and the first person to answer questions, talk to family members, and dictate care plans. While novel and exciting, it can also be intimidating and harrowing. You will be confronted with life-altering, critical decisions, and sometimes death. Lean on your co-interns and learn from your senior residents and attending physicians. Remember that you can ask for help. No longer are you a medical student trying to impress your teams and be self-sufficient. You are a doctor, and your sole purpose is to learn how to safely, efficiently, thoughtfully, and empathetically diagnose and treat patients.


  • As an intern, your purpose is no longer to impress your peers.

  • Learn how to safely, efficiently, and empathetically treat patients.

  • Create a support network of friends, family, colleagues, and hospital resources.

  • Take advantage of dedicated rest time granted by an inflexible schedule.

  • Consider the research tracks and physician-scientist training programs at your institution of choice.

Intern year can also provoke feelings of ...

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