‘I love everything about medicine’
Dr. Alex Chop shares her passion for the specialty that allows a doctor to do it all (almost)
Alex Chop, MD, loves everything about medicine. As a medical student and a member of the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine Class of 2018, she was afraid that was her problem. She discovered it during her third-year rotations. “I loved treating adults. I loved treating children. I couldn’t see myself committing to just one age group,” she says. Although she was interested in primary care, she enjoyed being in the hospital as much as in the outpatient setting. Instead of her third year narrowing her choices, Alex was finding joy in everything — and couldn’t decide. “I was fortunate, however, to have a med-peds (medicine-pediatrics)-trained doctor as a preceptor in my third year. I didn’t even know such a specialty existed. I learned a lot about med-peds from him and decided it was a fantastic choice for me because of its flexibility and range of possibilities,” she says.
Alex says a med-peds residency is the only program that can produce a doctor who is both fully a pediatrician and fully an internist. The training takes place everywhere from the ICU to an outpatient clinic. “When I was introduced to the concept, my mentor described it to me as a way to create my own lifestyle... I could choose to be strictly outpatient, strictly inpatient, kids, adults or a blend of all of them.” A rotation in med-peds at Geisinger in her fourth year convinced her that she’d found the right path. “I honestly loved it,” she said. “I fell in love with the people and the program.”
With five residents per class, Geisinger’s med-peds residency is one of the larger programs Alex researched. Still, she says, it’s small enough to provide highly personalized attention from her attendings — something that has become important now that Alex’s enthusiastic nature has again asserted itself. “Med-peds leaves the door open for fellowships, and one of my favorite rotations was in the ICU. I loved the complexity and intensity,” she says, adding that she also feels drawn to immunology and rheumatology. Her training will allow her to pursue fellowships in any of these subspecialties for adults, children or both when she completes the four years of the med-peds program.
Feeling once more conflicted by “loving everything,” Alex sought advice from a Geisinger mentor, Associate Program Director Michaelyn T. Notz, DO. “She helped me through some personal reflection,” Alex said. “I began to realize that a combined critical care program is not short and it’s not common. And although I love the pace and the problem-solving in the ICU, I don’t think I could count on having that energy level forever. I know I am drawn to a primary care way of practicing. It’s where you have the best relationships with patients. But I also want the in-depth knowledge of a specialist. Right now I’m leaning more towards immunology or combined adult and pediatric rheumatology, where you can still have great relationships with patients."
Alex has until her third year of residency to decide on a fellowship — or if she will pursue one. In the meantime, she is happy to help raise awareness about med-peds, a specialty many medical students aren’t familiar with. “Med-peds is a small community, which is probably why many students have never heard of it. But it’s the one area of medicine where you can have both continuity of care throughout life and the opportunity to dig deeper with all ages,” she says. “You can see the good, the bad, everything from birth to end of life. That's what makes it so rewarding."