Residency creates bonds that benefit patients

Nicole Arnold, DO, thought back on her past three years in the Family Medicine Residency. She contemplated her training in medical school. She considered the many lessons – both clinically and beyond – that challenged her and meant the most to her.

Then she succinctly explained what she now knows about herself.

“The ability to endure anything,” Dr. Arnold said.

The statement itself was brief; the meaning behind it, though, was profound.

She entered the program inexperienced and eager to learn. Now she’ll graduate in September, ready to accept the responsibilities of being a full-time physician.

“The actual learning of medicine is easy enough, in retrospect, but there are many other things you learn as a resident that you weren’t aware of before,” she said. “We now know there is a social responsibility and other expectations we need to keep up with despite constant change.

“I think that represents lessons learned, which will make me be better prepared to handle so much more as a physician.”

Dr. Arnold isn’t the only one to find great worth from this experience. Graduating with her will be friend and colleague, Katie Bittner, DO. Both will stay at Carle as Family Medicine physicians.

Five others recently graduated from Carle’s other programs.

  • Robert Hoffman, MD, General Surgery Residency
  • Lauren Sakai, MD, General Surgery Residency
  • Joseph Williamson, DO, General Surgery Residency Intern
  • Seyed Tofighbakhsh, DDS, OMFS Residency
  • Amin Khoshnevisan, DMD, OMFS Residency Intern

On the verge of another life change, Dr. Arnold recalled what it was like starting her residency. 

She found common ground with her colleagues, who were also feeling apprehensive. She bonded with many over the experiences that shaped students into physicians, nobody more so than Dr. Bittner.

Although both say they have the same personality, each took a different road until they met.

Dr. Arnold took the more winding path, first graduating from the University of Illinois with a Spanish degree and business minor. Medicine remained in the back of her mind, just like it did as a kid growing up.

She remembers wanting to be a veterinarian. She even went to the University’s open house at the Veterinarian School in first grade and recalls suturing a sponge.

Later she was in awe of the operating room as she watched her stepfather conduct surgery.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bittner took a more direct route to Carle, based off a love of science. She completed undergraduate work in biology at Michigan Tech University before medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The women were there for each other as their lives away from work became fuller and they never seemed to have enough time  to manage it all. Still, they answered each other’s questions, answered their colleagues’ questions and eventually managed concerns as co-chiefs.

 “The term ‘resident’ comes from the idea that you used to live at the hospital,” Dr. Bittner said. “Sometimes it feels like that, but because of that we developed an extremely close bond. That turned into a higher level of trust than most experience with their friends or colleagues.

“We understand each other well now, and it’s been important to have her here with me for everything we’ve accomplished.”

Both Dr. Bittner and Dr. Arnold also applauded others they learned from along the way.

“From a medical standpoint, we have become better, more efficient clinicians,” Dr. Arnold said. “We have also learned a lot about becoming better leaders and how to handle the business side of medicine.

“I think we took all the opportunities we could to learn more outside of just practicing medicine itself.”

The colleagues and friends’ next steps seem logical.

Dr. Arnold will practice at Carle’s Mahomet location, where she went to high school and wants to raise her family. Dr. Bittner will practice at Urbana on Windsor as her husband earns his PhD at the University of Illinois.

Just as Dr. Arnold briefly summed up how she changed during her residency, each was concise when describing how they feel about graduation.

“Relief,” Dr. Bittner said.

“Finally,” Dr. Arnold said. “We’re ready to move on to the next step.”