Match Day Q&A: Melissa Sheber

Date: Friday, March 8, 2024

Hometown: Norwalk, Iowa 

Undergrad: Iowa State University 

Matched: Emergency Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

Portrait of Melissa Sheber

How did you decide to pursue a career in medicine?

I started college as a medical illustration major. During that course, you take science classes to understand what you're drawing. I ended up loving biochemistry and switched to a biochemistry major. But then I found out that you don't really talk to that many people in the lab, and I really love interacting with people.  

When I was going to graduate with my biochemistry degree, I was thinking, “OK, school’s over. Now I get to start living. What’s that going to be like?” I realized that if I'm going to spend the majority of my waking hours for the rest of my life doing something, I want it to be meaningful. I decided to just go ahead and see if I could get into med school. And I did so, and I love it! 

I think what makes this career path in emergency medicine the most meaningful to me is the privilege of providing care to patients and families on what could be the worst day of their lives. Whether you're performing a life-saving intervention, delivering a diagnosis, or comforting a grieving family, the empathy and compassion you show in these moments can have a profound influence. The brief but meaningful connections you form here have the potential to make a lasting impact on how patients and families experience and remember these pivotal moments in their lives, for better or worse. It is a very important role to me and makes me want to give my best every day.

What were some of your most formative extracurricular experiences during your time here?

Through the Teaching Distinction Track, I tutored our keystone course, which is a big course to get ready for clinical rotations. While I was doing that, I did a bunch of hands-on activities, like helping with suturing and ultrasound skill workshops. I loved coming up with practice questions and ways to deliver information in a new, different way.  

I also volunteered as a clinic coordinator for UI Mobile Clinic at Shelter House. We would offer basic screening services and see what we could do to help people. It was really humbling to go into a space like that and recognize all the multitude of problems that we can't address as well, and just try to do what we can for the people that are there. 

What drew you to emergency medicine as a specialty?

I was a scribe for two years before med school, so I was basically shadowing multiple emergency medicine doctors for two years and seeing what they do and how they do it. I just loved everything about it. The major thing that I love about emergency medicine is that it's the “front door of the hospital.” You can go there no matter if you have insurance, no insurance, if you stub your toe, or if you can't breathe, and people will take care of you there. 

What are your hopes and goals for the future?

I would love to do a medical education fellowship and then use that to incorporate simulation into what I do. It's a very creative process to create simulations; I feel like I would get to have a creative outlet while teaching emergency medicine. It can be simple as a pig foot that you're suturing as a simulation of suturing human skin, or a whole mannequin who has vital signs and pupils that dilate, controlled by someone in another room. The creativity comes in when you’re creating nuanced cases—because patients don't read the textbook before they come in with a heart attack. Sometimes the symptoms are more subtle, so you're creating scenarios to target different types of situations and how they might feel in the real world. 

I would also love to find myself in a residency program leadership position in a public hospital someday, in keeping with that mission of serving people who have no other place to turn and then helping residents in that situation be the best that they can be.