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Resident Options: Critical Care

This week our Resident Options series focuses on Critical Care with  Ednan K. Bajwa,M.D.,M.P.H. Ednan Khalid Bajwa MDDr. Bajwa born and raised in New York where he attended medical school at New York University.  He later moved to Boston for residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  After residency, he remained at Mass General for his Pulmonary/Critical Care fellowship, and was hired onto the faculty after graduating. Currently Dr. Bajwa is the director of the Medical ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as an NIH-funded researcher. He primarily does clinical and translational research involving the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. He also attends in the MICU and runs the educational program in Critical Care for  Internal Medicine residents. In addition to all of that, Dr. Bajwa is also the clerkship Director for the Intensive Care Medicine clerkship at Harvard Medical School. Obviously, Ednan Bajwa is a very busy man; we are thrilled that he took the time out of his schedule to answer the following questions:

When did you finish your Residency?

I finished my residency in 2003 and my fellowship in 2007.

Did you have a mentor during Residency?

I had many mentors! One of the greatest things about my residency experience was having a number of smart and thoughtful attendings to work with and learn from. More than anything, they helped shape my career.

What played a role in you choosing not to work in private practice?

I don’t have anything against private practice, but it wouldn't have worked out well for me with my interests in having a career that involves research and teaching.

What is your specialty or area of practice?

I’m boarded in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, and Critical Care Medicine.

What particular skill set is necessary to work in your specialty?

I spend most of my time doing Critical Care. It’s basically like being an internist or hospitalist for extremely sick patients. As such, it requires having a thorough knowledge of Internal Medicine, with an intense focus on understanding the physiology of the patient’s illness. In addition, it requires being comfortable with a variety of procedures including endoscopy and placing central or arterial lines.

Currently, what are the biggest challenges you face professionally?

As with any profession, changes in health care economics are requiring us to adjust, particularly at academic medical centers. There is also a large shortage of Critical Care physicians looming as the population ages. It will be challenging to try and meet this need and probably will require training more physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to practice in ICUs, along with increased use of telemedicine.

What decisions would you change on your path to Residency?

I had a great experience and wouldn’t change much. However, if I had recognized how important physiology was to Internal Medicine and Critical Care, I would have taken more physiology courses, including as an undergrad.

What advice would you give a Med Student about to graduate and go into their Residency?

I would advise them to do their best to enjoy it. It’s an extremely challenging time, but it’s also a unique experience and will be the most important formative experience of their career. I would also say that when they’re making career decisions during residency, they should also think about what aspects of medicine they find most engaging and exciting. While lifestyle and economic considerations are important, truly enjoying what you do is invaluable.

What advice would you give a student considering Med School?

Medicine is demanding but can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying career for the right person. I would say that they should weigh the logical aspects of the decision carefully with regard to the education and training involved, the tuition costs, and the effects that being a physician will have on all aspects of your life. More importantly than that however, they should decide whether they’re really going to enjoy being a doctor. In order to do so, they should spend as much time as possible working in health care and learning as much as they can about what the job is like.   If you are a physician who is interested in sharing advice on their area of practice, please contact us via email.