As you might recall from our last post, we sat down with Dr. Ethan Ko of DaVita Kidney Specialists of Fredericksburg, which is part of Nephrology Medical Associates of Georgia, to pick his brain on his transition from fellowship to becoming a practicing nephrologist. Last time we asked Dr. Ko more big picture questions about his initial job search and the start to his career. This time, Dr. Ko will answer more reflective questions on what it was he learned during his first year in practice and what advice he can offer to those in their fellowship today!
Q: What was the biggest thing you learned from your first year of practice?
Dr. Ko: During fellowship we learn all about the clinical aspects of nephrology. But in practice there is so much more that you need to be on top of. During my job search and interview process I had to develop my interpersonal and communication skills to show my future employer that I was a human in addition to a doctor. And once I got my offer letter, I had to develop negotiation skills. These have become life skills that I am very grateful I was able to learn.
Once I started practicing I quickly learned the importance of networking and learning more about the business and policy side of nephrology. I would highly recommend attending local and national conferences like RPA to help with both of these things. Attending conferences provides a setting for you to network with other nephrologists and to share frustrations, success stories and best practices. Learning never stops! It’s a great place to stay up to date with new clinical knowledge, trends in nephrology and in business.
Q: How do you feel you grew as a nephrologist during your first year practice?
Dr. Ko: My teammate and I were the first physicians at DaVita Kidney Specialists of Fredericksburg. We didn’t have an established practice to walk into with an immediate patient base. We already had some ties to the community which helped, but there was also a lot of initial hands on work that Dr. Rahmat and I had to put into growing a successful practice. This forced us to think outside the box, become creative, really learn the dynamics of our local healthcare needs, and just get out there to market and promote our practice. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning. What prevailed was our enthusiasm, focus on superb individualized patient care, and persistence. This was certainly a learning experience that truly helped me to grow as a nephrologist and evolve into one of the local experts. It also helped me form appropriate relationships with referring physicians and patients in our community that are rooted in trust and dedication.
Q: What advice would you give to fellows who are graduating this year and entering into the workforce?
Dr. Ko: There are a lot of things I would suggest new physicians keep in mind as they begin their first position.
- In most cases you will have some sort of support team. Utilize them. Respect them. Don’t take them for granted. Collaborate and learn from the dialysis and clinic staff. Listen to what the DaVita SOURCE team has to say – they were a huge help in guiding me from start to finish during my job search.
- Once you start your career, think about pursuing leadership roles in your practice. These opportunities will help you continue to grow as a physician and a person. If you’re asked to take on a leadership role you should think of this as a huge compliment.
- Embrace and support the community that you’re in. Giving back and supporting local charities is rewarding on a personal level and also helps you establish trust and credibility with patients and other physicians.
- Never forget that your focus should be on prioritizing the delivery of superb patient care. Great patient care always trumps all, the rest will follow.
- Find your personal prescription for burnout. Don’t forget about your life anchors and the sacrifices they had to make to support your goals. Mine is my wonderful wife and my adorable daughter who melts my heart. Don’t forget why or who you ultimately do this for. Whether it be hobbies, spending time with family and friends or pursuing new personal challenges outside of medicine, just get out there! Recognize your boundaries, set limits, and realize that your mental, spiritual, and physical health are all equal parts important to prevent yourself from burning out.
If you have questions about what it will be like starting your nephrology career, send us an email. We would love to talk with you!