Martha Ward, MD
Undergrad Institution; Degree and Major:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BA English Literature
In practice since:
Where and for how many years did you train AFTER medical school:
5 years in combined med psych residency at Emory
How did you choose your specialty?
I was initially drawn to Internal Medicine because I felt like a detective when determining the cause of a patient's symptoms—I liked the logic, the teamwork, and that the specialty included every organ system in the body. I also liked procedures. Increasingly I became interested in the motivations and behaviors of patients, and the psychological aspects of wellness and disease, as well as personality. I am also fascinated by mental illness and how it impacts a person's sense of self, as well as the effects of stigma associated with mental illness. I had always wanted to treat underserved populations, and increasingly became interested in addressing the marginalization of those with severe mental illness (particularly as relates to health disparities).
What do you like MOST, and like LEAST, about your specialty?
- Most: As a primary care provider, I love the continuity of relationships with patients, and empowering patients to make healthier life choices. I like that I treat a broad range of medical and psychiatric comorbidity, and there is unpredictability to each patient encounter. I feel honored to participate in the lives and health of my patients in a very direct and intimate way, and to be there for them during some of the hardest times of their lives (and deaths).
- Least: I don't like the time crunch of clinic—with just 30 minutes per patient encounter, my eyes are always on the clock. Additionally, my job never ends—there are always more voicemails to answer from patients, paperwork and prior authorizations to call in. Additionally, I do not like it when I need to remove autonomy from my patients and hospitalize them against their wishes, at times when they are a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness.
In your opinion, what attributes are important in anyone choosing this specialty?
- Willingness to accept ambiguity
- Drive and perseverance—one of the hardest parts of residency is seeing your colleagues in categorical medicine or psych programs advance their knowledge and graduate faster than you will
- Intellectual curiosity
- Self-motivation and creativity in creating your own path in residency/career
- Improving medical care for individuals with mental illness
- Sexual and reproductive health
- Improving wellness and rates of depression/anxiety/suicidality in medical students and residents
- Global health/global psychiatry
- Functional syndromes and somatic symptom disorders, including chronic pain
Outside of medicine:
- Cooking & Eating
- Exercise: Biking, Walking, Hiking, Yoga, Pilates
- Reading fiction & reading/writing poetry