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Trading in My Sneakers for a White Coat...or Putting on Both

Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA

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May 19, 2021

As I write this post from the on-call room, I feel extremely grateful to be a psychiatry resident and marathon runner but also fatigued and a bit run down, being halfway through my 24-hour weekend call. Psychiatry is one of the more forgiving specialties in terms of hours, but there is no avoiding being on call during residency!

Marathon running and residency actually have a lot in common. They both require a long-term commitment and the results are not instantaneous. Not getting that instant gratification can be difficult at times, but what I like about it is the process behind it: Every week, month, and year builds on one another. It's a slow building process that amounts to a greater goal. There is a love-hate relationship at times due to grueling hours and fatigue, but I also am exhilarated and excited about both, which keeps me going.

I got into running during my elementary school days when my mom dropped me off at school early to run the mile with the Braeburn Striders running group. Running has stuck with me ever since that day in 3rd grade. I was the kid who loved running the mile and found out in a 4th grade town-wide mile race that I was one of the top runners in town. I also discovered my passion for science around this time, and remember thinking that red blood cells and the circulatory system was the coolest topic I ever learned in school. Later on, during high school, I realized the connection between running and science, which further spurred my desire to go into medicine.

These passions have stayed with me and have helped me have some balance in life. It is easy to solely focus on medicine and come home from a long day at work and crash. (I've done this.) But most of the time, I am able to get on my running shoes and get out the door.

I get asked all the time, "How do you have time to run?" I make the time, even if it seems inconvenient, and I always feel better and surprisingly energized. I usually run 5 to 6 days a week and put in a longer run over the weekend. I had to learn to be flexible and make adjustments due to my schedule, but I always find that there is a free hour or even 30 minutes in the day. Those 30 minutes scrolling through social media can be time used toward a run. I try to be mindful of this and use my downtime wisely. A run also does wonders for my mood and mental health. I don't think there's ever been a time when I've come back from a run and regretted doing it.

We have faced many changes in the past year due to the pandemic, but running has remained a constant for me. Running has been my comfort during the pandemic and during my first 2 years of residency. For residency, I moved to a new city and knew no one, which was an added stress. Running has helped me manage all of this and feel like myself in a world that has left us with much uncertainty.

I am pleased to say that my marathon training has been very consistent, and I have even met some new people to train with as well as getting my co-residents to jump on a bike with me and help pace me.

Currently, I am doing some base training for the Boston Marathon this fall. Stay tuned for more details in my next post!

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About Dr Emily Goncalves
Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA, is a psychiatry resident at Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle. She is a competitive runner and ran for Syracuse University. She continues to live an active lifestyle and has competed in eight marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Emily hopes to share her passion for running with her patients and is interested in pursuing a career in consultation and liaison psychiatry. She also enjoys writing about her running adventures.

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