January 18, 2024

Chief Residency Chronicles: Navigating Challenges, Triumphs, and Advocacy with Dr. Laura Getchell

Laura Getchell MD with her dog.
Laura Getchell, M.D., pictured with her dog, Frankie

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you receive medical training and where are you from?

I was born and raised in a small town in Maine (Raymond) and attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for undergrad. After graduation, I spent two years working as a medical video editor for OPENPediatrics, an online educational platform out of Boston Children’s Hospital whose mission is to provide open access educational content and help share pediatric best practices among clinicians worldwide.

I then attended Tufts University School of Medicine - Maine Track Program for medical school. I spent M1-M2 years in Boston and M3-M4 years in Portland, Maine. I then landed in Ann Arbor for my Pediatrics residency! 

What made you interested in UM for pediatrics residency?

I knew that a residency at Michigan would provide me with great opportunities to see the common pediatric problems, as well as more complex presentations while practicing within a large medical system that has an incredible amount of resources. Throughout my three years of training, I have been able to gain a deeper appreciation for the resiliency of our pediatric patient population and their caregivers. I have found that while this field brings some of the lowest of lows, it also brings some of the most joyous highs you may ever find in medicine. While working with children, you get to see a type of human spirit you won’t find anywhere else. I knew that I would never be tired coming into work and helping children and their families, who are seeing us on some of their worst days. I also felt like while I was “seeing it all,” the care we were providing always felt like a team effort. As a former college softball player, I truly valued this team-focused mentality. I felt empowered to ask questions, contribute ideas, take ownership, and learn from the people around me. It really is a great place to grow as a medical professional!

Why were you interested in the Chief Resident role?

I came here during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May of 2020, which was not the most ideal time to pick up and move halfway across the country. It was difficult to have social interactions with residents and faculty because of the pandemic’s limitations. Despite these challenges, our chief residents remained a great support system for us to lean on. And as the world started to open up again, our program was confronted with new challenges. They found creative ways to troubleshoot issues and support us – they really just felt like people we had in our corner.

I wanted to become a chief resident so that I could similarly provide the support I was given that felt so critical to surviving residency. I wanted to be an advocate for future residents. In addition to being an advocate and support system for residents, I wanted to resuscitate our pediatric resident mock code simulation curriculum, and I knew a chief year would lend the opportunity to have additional time to dedicate to this project .

The path to medicine is long and at times can be challenging. What or who has been your greatest inspiration along the way?

The people that keep me going are my family and colleagues. I came into residency hoping to find my greatest support system, and I feel like that is exactly what happened. We look out for each other and push each other to do the best we can for ourselves and our patients. I am constantly in awe of and inspired by my peers – they’re truly stand out people and doctors!

Can you share a memorable experience or significant learning moment during your time as a resident and/or chief resident?

There are so many – some happy and some sad. I want to be respectful of those I’ve cared for and protect patient anonymity, but I think some of my most significant lessons have come in moments of stress and feeling the unrelenting beast that is our own “imposter syndrome”. Some lessons I can relate to gaps in my own knowledge and/or experience and things I wish I had done differently; others I can relate to moments of feeling overwhelmed by a situation in front of me and somewhat losing my voice in the noise and wishing I had more confidence to speak up. What I have learned is that it is important for me to build in time to reflect on my days, patient scenarios, tough cases, successes and perceived failures. These moments of imperfection or wishing I had done or said something differently are chances for me to grow, and I think acknowledging them and building a comfortability with talking about them helps create learning opportunities from them. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love spending time with my mini goldendoodle, Frankie! I love taking her on walks and hikes and really just exploring the world through her eyes. When I’m not spending time with Frankie, I enjoy swimming, running, hanging out with friends and exploring all of the wonderful restaurants in Ann Arbor. I also love my daily Wordle and New York Times Mini Crossword Puzzle.

And finally, where are you going next?

I will be going to Johns Hopkins for PICU Fellowship!