From Economics to Pediatrics

Ambreen Syed - Pediatrician at The Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group in California.

Photography : @salaam_ali

Photography : @salaam_ali

I got my bachelor’s degree in economics, but my goal was always to go into medicine. The nice thing about medicine is that you can do your undergrad in anything, complete your pre-med requirements, and apply to medical school. I wanted to take advantage of that and expose myself to other subjects, just to make sure I wasn’t more passionate about anything else.

Being surrounded by so many ambitious people in med school felt intimidating. I remember rushing past groups of students huddled together after my first pathology exam, trying not to hear what I may have gotten wrong. For me, the most challenging thing about med school was the sheer amount of information I had to consume in a short amount of time—it taught me how to learn again. Everyone had different ways of learning. Some people had a photographic memory, some could just read the material and memorize it. For me, it came down to consuming the material several different ways, such as going to extra lab sessions, constantly reviewing the material, watching videos, participating in study groups, and talking to the professors after class. There were definitely students that just read the material once or twice before the exam and got good grades, but I was not one of those. I chose to do my doctorate at Eastern Virginia Medical School and my pediatric residency at Albert Einstein Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. I now work as a general pediatrician at the Peninsula Pediatric Medical Group in California.

When you become a pediatrician you’re supposed to know everything about kids, but when you have your own kid, the dynamic changes. I chose my professor as my first child’s pediatrician. I remember walking into the room and the first thing he said to me was, “Ambreen, when you’re in this room, you’re a mom. You’re not the doctor, let me take care of her.” It really resonated with me, and I try to share that with the families that I work with. I want to share the responsibility of taking care of their child so that they can take the time to enjoy being the parent and not have to worry about Googling every little thing.

One of the toughest things about being a doctor is finding the balance between your family, doing what you love, and taking the time to care for yourself. Planning in advance helps; I schedule family or self-care time the way I would schedule appointments at work. I want to make sure I give quality time to my children and help build lifelong memories for them. I remember when I was in first grade, my parents planned a Halloween party for my class. I dressed up in a cat costume and my mom as a clown, and even my not-so-festive dad participated. We had all these games and it made me the coolest kid at school. It meant the world that my parents had dedicated so much time and effort to plan something that was important to me, and I try to put time and effort into making my kids feel the same way.