This episode provides a valuable perspective on imposter syndrome, emotional intelligence, and personal growth within the medical field while offering relatable insights for listeners from all walks of life. Learn about Paige Porter's inspiring journey from an athlete with a biology degree to a fourth-year medical student with aspirations in dermatology. Her experiences and path offer valuable insights into the world of medical education and career progression. Paige Porter grew up in the Metro-Atlanta area and received an athletic scholarship for soccer at the University of North Alabama where she completed a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. She then completed an MS in Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia. Currently, she is a fourth-year medical student at Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah, Georgia. She is interviewing for Dermatology residency in 2023-2024. She was originally drawn to the field of dermatology because of her family's profound skin cancer experiences. During medical school, she was astonished at the impact dermatologic pathologies can have on patients' quality of life and mental health. She has written on impostor syndrome, which is why I asked her to come on today. Link to article here.
[00:00:00] Christine Ko: Welcome back to SEE HEAR FEEL. Today, I am happy to be with Paige Porter. Paige Porter grew up in the metro Atlanta area and received an athletic scholarship for soccer at the University of North Alabama where she completed a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. She then completed an MS in Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia. Currently, she is a fourth year medical student at Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah, Georgia. She's interviewing for dermatology residency in the 2023 to 2024 cycle. She was originally drawn to the field of dermatology because of her family's profound skin cancer experiences. During medical school, she was astonished at the impact dermatologic pathologies can have on patients' quality of life and mental health. She has written on imposter syndrome, which is how I got introduced to some of her writing, and I will put a link to that article in the show notes. Welcome to Paige.
[00:00:55] Paige Porter: Thank you for having me, Dr. Ko. I'm happy to be here.
[00:00:58] Christine Ko: Happy to have you on. Could you first share a brief anecdote about yourself?
[00:01:03] Paige Porter: I was listening to your podcast. You spoke with someone about the book, Lean In, and I actually recently read that, and it really helped me. I really liked it. When I was working on the imposter syndrome paper, we thought about possibly including, some references from the book. Maybe women are more affected by imposter syndrome because of some of the things mentioned in the book. She talks about this meeting she was in, and there was a table in the conference room, and there were a bunch of men, sitting at the conference table, and there were women, sitting on the side. There were limited seats at the table, and she talks about taking a seat at the table, like, why are women less likely to go for it or lean in? I think that has to do with how society has been and how women are historically expected to, be more reserved and polite. And when we do lean in, it's sometimes viewed as being bossy or...
[00:02:08] Christine Ko: ...the other b word...
[00:02:11] Paige Porter: Exactly. When I have had opportunities, my first reaction is to be scared of them or intimidated of them or to feel imposter syndrome, but since reading that book, it has really helped me lean into opportunities, and then more opportunities come from it.
[00:02:34] I said yes to helping Dr. James write this paper on imposter syndrome, and then we were contacted by Derm World magazine. So that was another opportunity. And then you asked me to be on your podcast and that was another opportunity. It's all good things, but it wouldn't have come if I wasn't leaning into this whole process.
[00:02:56] Christine Ko: Yes. When you said you are offered an opportunity, say, and then, write a paper, or some other opportunity, and you may initially be intimidated or some other emotion that might make you not want to do it. For me, it's coming back to mindfulness and self reflection.
[00:03:17] Paige Porter: Yes, exactly.
[00:03:19] Christine Ko: Like, why would I be afraid of that and what's the worst thing that can happen?
[00:03:23] Paige Porter: Exactly, that's what I have to tell myself during this whole process, like, why not? Just, lean in and go for it.
[00:03:30] Christine Ko: When you were talking before about the Lean In book, I was thinking when you're describing there's a table, like a literal table, and, women or whoever else chooses to not sit at the table, and only, say, men are sitting at the table, already...
[00:03:45] Paige Porter: Yeah.
[00:03:45] Christine Ko: What's the harm in literally taking a seat at that table rather than a seat on the edge of the room? That being said, it's interesting because I think personality wise, I like sitting on the edge of the room.
[00:03:59] Paige Porter: Me too.
[00:04:00] Christine Ko: Sometimes I'm like I just want to not sit at the table. Can that be okay?
[00:04:06] Paige Porter: That's how I am too. That's exactly how I am.
[00:04:10] Christine Ko: When I talked to Samantha Dodson, I did like it that she ended with her definition of feminism, where she was like, let's let women do and be the way they want to be. If they want to lean in, great; if they want to lean out, great; if they want to literally sit at the table, great; if they don't want to sit at the table, great. The problem is that if you really would actually prefer to sit at the table, but then you don't just because of some kind of fear or intimidation in your own head, that's where maybe there's an issue.
[00:04:42] Can you define imposter syndrome?
[00:04:44] Paige Porter: Yes I first got introduced to
[00:04:46] imposter syndrome
[00:04:48] starting medical school. I think each medical school is typically required to have some sort of wellness curriculum in their institution, to introduce students to medical school and kind of help with that transition. That was when I first heard about imposter syndrome, an internal feeling of self doubt in someone who is perfectly qualified, perfectly accomplished. You feel as though you're a phony in that field and that one day you're going to be discovered. Somebody is going to point out to you that you're an imposter.
[00:05:23] Christine Ko: In your wellness course that you had in med school, did you learn about emotional intelligence?
[00:05:30] Paige Porter: To some degree. I think that as a field we're moving in the right direction, but I feel like we need more of a wellness curriculum than what we've historically had. They did allude to if you're feeling burnout, anxiety, depression that's like worst case scenario, but if you feel yourself going in that direction, they coached us to be mindful of that and take a step back because ultimately, your life and your mental health and your physical health is more important than getting an extra few hours of studying in.
[00:06:05] Christine Ko: Yeah.
[00:06:05] Paige Porter: So just being mindful of that.
[00:06:08] Christine Ko: Yeah. I don't think we ever had a wellness course when I was a student.
[00:06:12] Paige Porter: Yeah. I think they're going in the right direction. Physicians have a very high, unfortunately, very high suicide rate. The topic of imposter syndrome came up, starting medical school, being around a lot of other students who are very smart, a lot of new concepts, a new academic area... tends to be a very difficult transition for most people. I met Dr. James, who is a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and he brought up this idea of wanting to talk about imposter syndrome in a new way because it tends to be thought about in a negative way.
[00:06:53] Christine Ko: Yeah. What do you think the significance of imposter syndrome really is?
[00:06:56] Paige Porter: It's significant because I think, especially in the medical field, throughout medical training, we all, at some point, feel this way, whether it's in medical school, in residency, or even in fellowship, or as an attending. If everybody's feeling it, we should acknowledge it, understand it, and maybe not look at it in a negative way. Maybe it's a natural part of learning.
[00:07:23] Christine Ko: So you think really most, or maybe all, people in medicine have imposter syndrome?
[00:07:28] Paige Porter: I do feel that way. I feel like this may be blunt, but if you haven't at some point in your life felt a little bit of self doubt, you're either a genius or possibly a narcissist. So yes, I do feel like at some point everybody feels that way.
[00:07:46] Christine Ko: How do you think imposter syndrome should be redefined?
[00:07:49] Paige Porter: In the paper we wrote, we discussed the term " syndrome", using it being like a negative connotation. "Syndrome" implies negative feelings. Originally when imposter syndrome was first defined, I think in the late 70s by psychologists, it was coined as imposter phenomenon, wording it a little bit better. The wording is not as important as how we look at it. If we just acknowledge that this is a natural part of learning and reframe our mindset when we're having these feelings: step back and try to see where these feelings are coming from. That is more important than just simply changing the name of imposter syndrome. While that could be important, positive introspection when you're feeling these feelings is significant.
[00:08:42] Christine Ko: Yeah. It sounds to me in a way like what you do with emotional intelligence, when you're feeling a certain emotion, to reflect and think about it. So same with that feeling of imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon, to just reflect and think about why you're feeling that way.
[00:08:59] Paige Porter: Essentially, I feel like at least for me, and I feel like for many of the people I've talked to about this, we're having these feelings because we really care about our education. We care about our future patients that we're treating. We care about the medical field. I'm going into dermatology. My other classmates who are going into other fields are feeling the exact same way. And I think it's because we truly care about what we're doing. So I think imposter syndrome can be looked at in a positive way.
[00:09:28] Christine Ko: Yeah, and imposter syndrome or phenomenon or whatever you want to call it, I don't think it's only in medicine.
[00:09:37] Paige Porter: Yes. Yes.
[00:09:38] Christine Ko: I've felt that for sure at different points in my life, and I can feel it sometimes in various social settings as well.
[00:09:47] Paige Porter: Yes, I agree completely. Having grown up playing sports and playing soccer in college, I even felt it at that point. In high school, the recruitment process for trying to go play sports in college was very stressful. I remember feeling the same feelings I'm feeling now, applying to dermatology, starting to schedule possible interviews and being on away rotations. It's a very similar feeling, and probably a lot more intense now than it was back then.
[00:10:19] Christine Ko: It sounds like it would probably maybe be harder to play soccer, to get an athletic scholarship. I'm sure that's extremely competitive.
[00:10:28] Paige Porter: It was, yes. It was both mentally and physically taxing.
[00:10:33] Christine Ko: Yeah. So since you experienced imposter phenomenon then, as well as in interviewing and applying for dermatology residency, do you think that you've learned any tips on how to deal with this?
[00:10:47] Paige Porter: Yes, I'm a lot older, hopefully more mature. I do feel like I have more confidence now in my abilities. And understanding imposter syndrome has helped me become more confident because I'm perfectly qualified to be where I am. I just have to remind myself that when I'm having these feelings.
[00:11:10] Christine Ko: It's interesting because life is just hard. You don't want to be under confident, but you don't want to be over confident either.
[00:11:17] Paige Porter: When you say you don't want to be overconfident... it is definitely hard going through the interview process and application process because you're supposed to talk about your accomplishments and you're supposed to showcase everything you've worked for, but, sometimes I feel uncomfortable that way, too, bragging, basically. It's like trying to find a happy medium between being... underconfident and overconfident. Trying to work towards that.
[00:11:43] Christine Ko: Yeah, it's really difficult to come across as a confident but not arrogant or conceited or narcissistic.
[00:11:51] Paige Porter: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:11:53] Christine Ko: Do you have any final thoughts?
[00:11:56] Paige Porter: I would like to encourage medical students, residents, everyone. We're all gonna, at some point, feel this way in our medical training. I'll be starting intern year next year, and I'm sure that I will feel this way. We should use it as kind of motivation to learn and grow in our field and, eventually become more confident, because hopefully it'll help us to gain that motivation to study and work hard and ultimately, help our patients.
[00:12:28] Christine Ko: I love it. That's nice. Thank you so much for spending time to do this.
[00:12:33] Paige Porter: Yes, thank you for having me. I love talking about this kind of area.