No one goes into medical school expecting it to be easy, but students like Annie Beauregard who have had to complete their residency during the pandemic have faced unexpected challenges. Annie, 26, lives in York with her boyfriend, Matt Airey and his two children, ages 6 and 9. She grew up in Dover, New Hampshire, and came to Maine to attend University of New England, first as an undergraduate, and then as a medical student.
Annie said when she first started at UNE, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She found herself drawn to the sciences and wanted a job where she could work with people and have a positive impact on society. While working in hospitals as an emergency medical technician and doing patient transport she connected with some doctors who took her under their wing and gave her more insight into the field of medicine.
A recipient of the Doctor’s for Maine’s Future scholarship, Annie recently completed her third year of medical school with a rotation in Bangor at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. She is currently in rotation at Maine Medical Center in Portland and has upcoming rotations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. With multiple family connections in Maine, Annie feels fortunate that she has had placements in New England. She hopes to one day land a position in internal medicine in Maine.
“My primary role is a learner, and I’ve definitely learned so much through this, in just seeing the system come together and the healthcare workers really answer the call, because it has been a huge burden on the system – there’s just so many people who need care as a result of this pandemic,” she said. “It’s a busier environment. There’s more responsibility on the doctors and the nurses. There is much more expected of them, given the circumstances.”
As a student in rotation during a major health crisis, she had experiences that students in Bangor before her hadn’t. The psychiatry portion of the rotation was done completely through telemedicine.
“The doctors who were in the hospital would bring me along on an iPad,” she said.
She volunteered her time on several Saturdays at COVID-19 vaccine clinics, at which hundreds of people came to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. She also volunteered at pop-up clinics in Concord and Nashua, New Hampshire.
Annie did home visits to give vaccines to those who were housebound, as well, and it gave her more of an understanding of the day-to-day life of some of her patients.
“It was really rewarding to help people outside the hospital and outside the clinic,” she said. “It was nice to feel that we could help in some way – in any way.”
The pandemic took a toll on nurses and doctors, who spent extra time to follow protocols to protect themselves and patients, but it was worth it to limit the spread. Annie is passionate about vaccination, having spent time in the COVID ICU. She’s seen how the virus can affect the lungs and make someone severely sick. One personal win was when she convinced her father, who was at first skeptical, to get a COVID vaccine.
During the pandemic, hospitals had restriction on visitors.
“That was hard, seeing people in distress and not having their loved ones with them,” said Annie. She recalls one time when a woman was delivering a baby, and her husband had to stay home because there was no one to watch their 4-year-old son, who wasn’t allowed in the hospital.
“I was her support person,” she said.
Annie said she has had some great, sometimes unexpected, connections with her patients. Often it occurs with those with the poorest prognosis, and it’s been rewarding to build relationships and be a familiar face to patients.
“That’s been really meaningful for me and that’s helped me decide that I want to be an internist and practice general medicine,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen and you never know where you’ll be able to make a difference for your patients.”
Annie’s days often begin at 3:30 or 4 a.m., when she wakes early to get some studying in for the board exam before heading out the door at 7 a.m. She gets home around 6 or 7 p.m., and Matt has dinner waiting for her on the table. She and Matt and the kids recap their days and spend some time together, and then she gets in some more studying before keeping to her strict 10 p.m. bedtime.
“Her life is very different, and we’re both okay with it for a short period of time,” said Matt.
“I have a really good support system,” said Annie. Not only does she have Matt, who is her number one cheerleader, but she has her classmates from UNE that she calls daily. A few times a week, Annie does indoor cycling to decompress.
Annie and Matt say they are fortunate to live near the shore, and often take a short walk to the beach to reset and recharge. Annie makes sure to set aside time on the weekends to spend quality family time such as hiking.