Vital Signs » Winter 2018
After graduating from the Boonshoft School of Medicine in 2015, Ayfer Ekiz, M.D., returned to her hometown of New York City for an internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Her first year went well, and she was gearing up for year two when she learned that the hospital where she was working was going to be sold.
“We weren’t given any options. They wouldn’t tell us what was going to happen or when it was going to happen. We didn’t have any job security,” Ekiz said. “They just told us that they would place us within the health system, which is a huge health system within the New York City area, and we really didn’t know what was going to happen to us.”
So rather than stick around and wait to see where she would end up, Ekiz reached out to Glen Solomon, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and professor and interim chair of the Department of Neurology at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. She asked for his advice, and the two discussed her next steps.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever met Dr. Solomon, but he has a calming effect on almost everyone. He said, ‘Everything’s fine. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be a doctor. Calm down,’” Ekiz recounted. “And then he said, ‘Let’s see what we can do for you.’”
She soon heard from Roberto Colon, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and program director of the Internal Medicine Residency. He offered her a position as a second-year resident.
“Definitely had the Boonshoft pride in my heart, and had classmates who were in my class who were in the residency program as well, so it worked out beautifully,” Ekiz said. “I always say if you need a bailout and there’s a fellow Boonshofter around, they’ll be there to help you. It was definitely a situation where I needed to be bailed out and, lo and behold, Boonshoft was there for me.”
Moving back to Dayton felt like a whirlwind for Ekiz, who had moved back in with her Turkish immigrant parents in New York City. She had to find a place to live and would have to get used to driving everywhere again. It was time to readjust to the pace and people of the Midwest, who will say hello and hold the door for you, or strike up a conversation in line at the coffee shop. “People are just nicer in Dayton,” she said.
Coming back to the Miami Valley allowed her to continue pursuing her passions in internal medicine. The analytical qualities of the specialty have always appealed to her, and she likes its applicability to other practice areas of medicine. After one gets the base internal medicine training, specializing is possible in a lot of areas, including cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, pulmonary/critical care, and others.
Now working to complete her third year of residency, Ekiz is considering her next step after graduation. Though she respects the position of chief resident, filled by fourth-year residents, it’s not the right fit for her or the life she wants in New York City.
“I’m applying for hospitalist opportunities currently in the New York area and I really, really enjoy pulmonary critical care, more the critical care aspect of it,” Ekiz said. “I think if I were to specialize, I might do something along those lines. But I have not committed to that yet.”
She may also get into academic medicine later on in her career, as teaching is something she’s always enjoyed. Especially now, nearing the end of her time as a resident, it takes her back to see new medical students or interns. It wasn’t that long ago that she was a scared newcomer just getting her feet wet.
Now she can look back at those times when she was just beginning to build her confidence and knowledge as a physician. It’s a dramatic shift from first year to third year.
“The more you see, the more you know. And as a third year you’re more comfortable handling any situation that can come your way. You have this growing confidence, growing base of knowledge, and you’re kind of ready to do it on your own,” Ekiz said. “As a first year, everything is very intimidating. Even though you may have seen it as a medical student, now you’re actually responsible for the patient. Your name is on their chart as their doctor.”
She’s learned many lessons. One is to have an open mind with each patient. You have to leave your preconceptions at the exam room door. Another is that it’s difficult at times to help patients when things like insurance or other resources aren’t available. The biggest lesson she’s learned is to be humble.
Ekiz likes to reflect on her experiences while going for walks at Dayton’s many metroparks. The hiking here is a lot better than at parks in the New York City area. She is looking forward to more time with her family, fiancé, and three nephews after she graduates.
“I still play volleyball very amateurishly, as well as soccer, with family. It’s the one thing that we definitely do when we go on picnics,” Ekiz said. “We always have a volleyball and a soccer ball.”
— Daniel Kelly