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How to land your dream job in infectious diseases

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Paul Sax: [00:00:12] Hi everyone. This is Paul Sax. I'm editor in chief of Clinical Infectious Diseases. And welcome to the Let's Talk ID podcast. Today we're joined by Dr. Courtney Harris. She's an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she also holds the positions of transplant ID fellowship program director and the director of cardiac transplant ID. I thought to have her on this podcast for two reasons. First, she recently went through the job search process during her ID fellowship and based on a terrific paper she wrote for transplant ID, I was sure she'd have an excellent perspective on this experience to share with listeners. And second, because Courtney is just an amazing, smart and fun person, to quote one of her fellowship letter writers. Dr. Harris has a magnetic personality. She could have an engaging conversation with a wall, and the wall would be grateful for having had that opportunity. Very true words. Welcome, Courtney.

Courtney Harris: [00:01:08] Hi Paul, it's so great to be here and reconnect with you. I'm honored to be asked to join you today.

Paul Sax: [00:01:13] Let's start off by hearing your story. Why did you become a doctor and an ID doctor in particular?

Courtney Harris: [00:01:18] I grew up in a small town of Northfield, Minnesota, and I had really severe childhood allergies for a young age. So when I was like three, four years old, I told my parents I was going to become a doctor to find the cure for allergies. And I never really wavered from the commitment to be a physician. I ended up going to the University of Wisconsin, Madison and majoring in medical microbiology and immunology there. I did that to learn as much as I could about immunology, but then I instead fell in love with micro. So I worked in micro labs. I actually worked in a trypanosome lab on African sleeping sickness. I learned I didn't like basic research, but I then was totally fascinated with micro. So when I got to medical school at University of Minnesota, I did an ID rotation and an allergy rotation, and at that point I was totally in love with ID. I rotated at Hennepin County, saw a ton of new diagnoses of HIV, and I was totally sold. Like, this is the patient population I wanted to take care of. Every ID doctor I worked with was so kind. They were smart and they were just phenomenal at their job, and I wanted to emulate that. I then transitioned to residency at Mayo Clinic, which is actually a great short story, if you'll indulge me. I didn't have a great step one score, so I didn't get an initial interview at the residency program I wanted to go. It had been my lifelong dream to be a doctor at Mayo Clinic, because my mom had a life saving diagnosis at Mayo, so I reached out to a mentor in internal medicine, Dr. Anne Pereira, at my medical school, and she contacted the PD, who was my now mentor, Dr. Amy Santiago, and said, you got to give this girl a chance. And they did. And then I ended up matching there and becoming a chief resident in their program. And I love telling that to let trainees know you are more than your board scores and any one thing on your application.

Paul Sax: [00:02:55] That's an awesome story. And let's just be honest here. Step one and its relationship to practicing medicine. Good grief.

Courtney Harris: [00:03:02] It's not good. Luckily, the step two was a little better, but I just I'm glad that step one is out of the picture. And that's a great story, proving why it isn't a great marker of your success in medicine.

Paul Sax: [00:03:13] Well, since we're sharing early failures, I failed my first semester biochemistry course in medical school and nearly dropped out. So those early, early stages of med school or whatever may not be highly predictive of future happiness or success in medical careers.

Courtney Harris: [00:03:33] I deeply believe that, Paul.

Paul Sax: [00:03:35] Well, anyway, you took a big leap geographically when you decided to come to Boston, which is where I got a chance to work with you. So what made you decide to do that?

Courtney Harris: [00:03:43] Yeah, at that stage of my life, I was newly married. I had never left the Midwest, and I knew that moving for every stage of my career really had helped me grow as a person and a doctor, getting to work with a new group of mentors, expanding my network, and seeing how medicine was practiced elsewhere. So we decided it'd be a great time to see a new part of the country and try out a new place. Plus, you see a lot of different ID things in different parts of the country, and I connected with everyone at Brigham and Mass General. I had a great interview day. It felt like the right fit. I also at that point knew I was interested in transplant ID. I had done some research in fungal infections, endemic fungal infections, and I really wanted to continue that there. And I knew there was no better crew than Jay Fishman and Camille Cotton at MGH and Lindsey Baden and Ann Wooley and Nik Issa at Brigham. And everyone was super welcoming. So I matched ID fellowship about 2 to 3 months before the pandemic hit. I was a chief resident in Covid, which was honestly an insane experience and a crash course in leadership I never knew that I needed and has totally shaped who I am today. So then joining you all, kind of in the second wave of Covid, my husband driving the moving truck out to Boston and you know, hitting it at that point was kind of a crazy time of life. Wouldn't have changed it, though. It was a great experience.

Paul Sax: [00:04:54] Oh I have a very distinct memory of sitting with you outside, because of course, we couldn't be together inside except masked and trying to explain to you how our clinic worked. And you just took it so well. I mean, it was really amazing. I think you told me that you didn't even see the apartment you rented before you arrived.

Courtney Harris: [00:05:12] We signed it sight unseen. It was a pretty nuts experience, I think. You know, it was a really hard time to transition because there really were no, like, social events. It was hard to connect with everyone. So I feel like I kind of missed a little bit of that in fellowship. But it was nice towards the end of fellowship, getting to stay for an extra year in transplant ID, I got more time to do those social events with faculty and like co fellows.

Paul Sax: [00:05:32] So tell me now we're going to fast forward to the end of your fellowship, or maybe not the end. At what point during your fellowship did you start thinking about the next steps, and when did you begin the search process?

Courtney Harris: [00:05:44] It kind of started once I matched a fellowship. I think I started early. It was kind of always at the forefront because that's really the end game, right? So my dad's in business and he always gave me the advice that growing up, he always said the best way to get where you want to go is really all about who you know. So it's about creating connections, having a strong network to have those who know you, help you in those big career transitions. My transition for med school to residency was the same way, my letter writers, my connections at Mayo, really helped connect me to coming out to Harvard. And so that's what I started doing early. I tried to go to as many conferences as possible, presenting my research, meeting new people, attending networking sessions. I leaned heavily into ID Twitter, now X, figure out where people enjoyed working, who I'd want to work with possibly, just to make sure I was as well connected as possible when it came around to thinking about jobs. There's always been the strong possibility of, like, we always considered, of going back to Minnesota. So that was always a strong pull for us. But we were pretty open. I was open to looking anywhere. We really wanted to find the right job fit. That would lead to a good work life balance or whatever that means. So I started sending out feelers kind of towards the spring of my second year. I stayed for a third additional year of transplant. So for a two year fellow, that would be at the end of your first year in the spring, I started sending out feeler emails to division directors to kind of gauge interest. And just checking with friends. All my mentors at Brigham, you know, asking them where they new jobs might be open or if they had jobs that I should think about.

Paul Sax: [00:07:16] So I think the message is it's never too early, is it?

Courtney Harris: [00:07:19] It's never too early. That's the message. Absolutely. You should always be thinking about it and have your ears open. A lot of the positions that I ended up interviewing at, there was no formal posted job opportunity. It was really reaching out early. And then you're kind of the first one they're considering. You don't have this like competitive field of open applications. They're interviewing you and then figuring out if they can get you as a fit into their division.

Paul Sax: [00:07:44] I think another reason why this might be non-intuitive is because for many people, they've gone from position to position that's really been assigned to them. So they go to medical school, and during medical school they apply to residency. And then during residency they apply to fellowship. And then now this is that big leap toward your first I'm going to put it in quotes, "real job."

Courtney Harris: [00:08:03] Yes. Each division has its own constraints, its own time where they have hiring times. And so they may or may not know very early that they want to hire someone over a year out from now. So you're only benefiting yourself to reaching out early, in my opinion.

Paul Sax: [00:08:16] So now let's move on to the specifics. What sort of position were you interested in?

Courtney Harris: [00:08:21] I was pretty open to this. I favored staying in academics because that's what I knew, but I was open to considering something that would be a mix or really just the right fit. So as long as there was some ability to teach trainees in some capacity, I said I would consider it. Since I'm transplant ID, however, this mostly lended itself to a larger academic center, so that's primarily what I focused on. I did, however, actually interview or have like initial job talks with a few practices that were like connected to an academic center, but they were very clinical based. There was no research expectations, really no trainees, just to get a feel of like, how is the schedule different? What is the compensation like? What are the basics of these jobs, because you don't get exposure to that during your training. Like to what private practice is or a, you know, academic affiliated institution? There aren't many great resources for fellows to really get a great understanding. Occasionally you'll get a job talk, but then actually living in those shoes yourself, it's difficult to kind of understand it. So I did do a few of those like initial meetings to, and I really did figure out that that probably wasn't as right of a fit for me. Most of the reasons were because I really wasn't going to get to work with trainees anymore, and each one varied so much, though, that I'm very glad I did that. I probably had about ten initial like meetings with division chairs or directors, just to kind of get that fit, and then after that, meaning if it didn't feel like it was something I would entertain at all, then I usually just said, I'm very gracious for the time and getting to know you and your program based on geography and or all these other factors, this probably isn't the right fit for me, and most of them were so thankful that they didn't pursue a full interview day with me, knowing that it wasn't the right fit.

Paul Sax: [00:09:58] Yeah that's very good, the message there is to communicate and communicate frequently.

Courtney Harris: [00:10:03] Absolutely.

Paul Sax: [00:10:03] So with hindsight being 2020, any particular resources that you found helpful? You know, they could be maybe going to academic meetings or job boards, etc..

Courtney Harris: [00:10:12] Personal connections and turning to mentors were absolutely the number one thing. Because most people over the course of their career have accumulated trainees that they've trained that have ended up somewhere else, you know, friends that they've made from meetings who may be hiring, or they can, like, send a personal connection email and at least introducing you and saying like, hey, I know you're not the chair, but do you know if you're hiring or would you ask your chair because Courtney's interested in possibly coming to this institution? Those were the best connections that I got. So I think you really need to leverage your network and really ask all the faculty at the program you're at, you know, to really reach out to places that you're interested in just to connect you, even if it's not with the chair of the division, because usually those can get escalated pretty easily. And then other things I use with IDWeek was a phenomenal networking opportunity. I'll be honest, I probably had a majority of my interviews before IDWeek, since I started a little bit earlier on the job search, so about half were before IDWeek, and then I think I had 1 or 2 afterwards, but it did benefit me incredibly, because most of the programs I interviewed at also invited me to their faculty gathering or their social at ID week. So then it was much easier to gauge the culture of the program by attendance, see who interacted with who, are people hanging out outside of the meeting?

Courtney Harris: [00:11:27] It really kind of helped me feel like if it was a good fit, and then it allowed me to meet with people I didn't get to connect to on my interview day. I did look at some job boards. There are a few out there, that was better for some of the more like private practice or academic affiliated centers. A lot of the academic centers posted on their website. So you can just go to jobs at like, you know, Brigham and they should be posted if they're available. For me in transplant, like the American Society of Transplant has a few job postings. And that's actually how I found an opening for the position I got. And then a lot of it though was cold emails. So if there was a program that I was interested in and I didn't find that they had any sort of job posting, I just cold emailed the chair to see if they would consider hiring me in transplant ID, and when I did that, and we can talk a little bit about what I did, I would always attach my CV and a formal cover letter so that they knew I was like, this is a real interest. And I'm not just like cold emailing 20 programs.

Paul Sax: [00:12:23] Great. During the fellowship process, anything else you did to prepare a mock interview, something like that, or presentations that you prepared?

Courtney Harris: [00:12:31] So I made sure that when I started acquiring about jobs, my CV was fully updated and in a ready to go format to send at any time. So the spring of my, and again, probably the end of your first year or second year, depending on how many years you do, have that ready to go. I had a few people review it and proofread it that are in medicine. I sent it to my dad and he's like, I don't know what any of this means, so that was not as helpful. Then I also made a standard cover letter that had like three solid paragraphs every single time. The first one was introducing myself and talking about my training experiences and unique experiences that I had had. The second was why I felt I was a good fit for their program, so really like tailoring it to their program. Maybe it was to their job posting or maybe it was to someone I knew in the institution. And then the third one was why I was interested in it. So maybe it was geographic, it was close to family, maybe it was their posting had something that really excited me. Or maybe it was just that I knew someone who worked there, and I met them at a conference, and they loved working there. That showed these chairs that it was a real interest that I had. And I wasn't just looking for jobs anywhere. And I always got great responses back to that, even if they didn't have an open posting. And that made it, so if anyone connected me via email, I could very quickly attach both of those things, edit the cover letter for like ten-20 minutes, and then be ready to go and be able to quickly respond to anything that came up.

Paul Sax: [00:13:53] So now let's move on to the interviews themselves. You decided to go visit someplace. How did you highlight your strengths to the programs that you were visiting?

Courtney Harris: [00:14:02] Going back to your question on mock interviews, I didn't do any mock interviews before I went. My dad had done mock interviews with me for med school and residency, so I felt like I was, you know, kind of ready for that. But I had a really good vision for what I wanted my career. What I would do the night before the interview, at most places I went, was I would write down kind of the top three things that I wanted to get across, and I can tell you mine if you want, but that's probably a little more nuanced. But I had like three clear messages of what I wanted to get across.

Paul Sax: [00:14:32] Go ahead.

Courtney Harris: [00:14:33] Okay, so one, I like love leading people. Being a chief in Covid taught me this. My strengths are managing others. So like my goal for my first position was to start off with some sort of leadership role, something I can sink my teeth into and develop useful programs. The second was I'm passionate about medical education. I have this experience in curriculum development, creating successful educational initiatives, lectures, teaching. And so that was something that I was a really a large requirement for me joining a faculty job. And then third, I wanted to be involved in growing transplant ID as a specialty at their institution as a leader and then nationally. So I really wanted to find ways to be integrated into it, either in a leadership position or in an educational role. So those were kind of the three things that I got across so that they like. And then in every interview I had, I tried to reiterate that and then really give key examples of what I had done to support that. So whether that was like my involvement in Twitter and like our transplant ID fellows, or like papers I had written to really kind of back up that I had these experiences and then what I really wanted to accomplish when I joined the faculty.

Paul Sax: [00:15:34] Well, that sounds excellent. I would hire you based on that.

Courtney Harris: [00:15:38] [laughs] Thanks, Paul.

Paul Sax: [00:15:39] Now, interviews are a two-way process. You're also checking out the places you're visiting and you want the inside scoop. So what were the most important factors that you were looking for in a specific place, and how did you go about evaluating them?

Courtney Harris: [00:15:53] I think this is different for everyone. For me, culture was number one. So I think loving your boss and who you work with immediately is probably the most important factor in enjoying if you love coming to work or not. I wanted to make sure people enjoyed each other enough that there was some hanging out outside of work. That's always a good sign. It was a real family atmosphere. People were willing to cover each other when they're sick. They had some sort of structured way that they handle that when you're on faculty. And this is important because I was a new mom, I was interviewing with a one-year-old at that time who came on all my interview trips with me, and I was pumping and breastfeeding. So it was really great to see how programs accommodated that during my interview. So that also was very, very clearly showed how they'll prioritize that when I reached out to them about that. And I always requested to meet all of the faculty I'd be working with. So for me, in transplant, that was all the transplant ID faculty. So, you know, if you're going to be an HIV physician, that's meeting with everyone that's primarily focused on HIV, etc., etc. and then I also requested to meet people that weren't in ID but were adjacent to my job. So that would be so maybe, you know, for me, that was people in the transplant center. So that was surgeons and transplant medicine physicians. Anyone who was willing to meet with me to really get a sense of what that culture was. I think the other major factors that I looked at, I mean, there are many things, but kind of the other key ones are compensation.

Courtney Harris: [00:17:09] I think we should be all upfront about how ID can be under compensated. And so I was very aggressive in trying to make sure that the salary, the compensation package was going to be adequate. It was above, you know, the national average of what I was looking for and all the other benefits that come along with it. The other big factors were the leadership and education roles. I talked about how I was going to buy down my non-clinical time. I think that's so important. And then like what the schedule was going to be of the clinical time. What was the mix of inpatient? How many half days a week of clinic? Do you have to do them when you're on service? What's the call structure like? To make sure that that seemed reasonable. I usually try to inquire about that in the first meeting before I went to campus, so if there was anything that was a total deal breaker, then I usually asked, is there flexibility in that? Yes? No? And if there wasn't, then there's really no point in me going to campus. I also think geography matters. I mean, I ended up in South Carolina, close to the beach, you know, in a great weather. As someone who's never lived in warm weather, if we weren't going back home, that was something we really wanted. And my husband's job has a team that's a little more focused in the South. So that was a priority for me, and I made sure I reiterated that to all the programs and that I really wanted a leader that talked about promotion timeline with me, what my opportunities for advancement were, were in the division and the organization.

Courtney Harris: [00:18:28] So I think those were kind of the crucial things. And there were a couple key questions that I asked to really get at those. So I asked like, what's the state of the consult service? What is the volume that you have? What's the state of your transplant center? Are any of the transplanted organs at risk of, you know, not being not transplanting and have you had any major divisional, you know, hurdles over the last couple of years? And what do you anticipate as the changes in the next five years? So do you anticipate there's going to be a new service line that needs to be added? Do you anticipate that you're going to need to add extra clinics for the faculty? If you don't ask, they may not tell you. I asked to how my salary was structured. So is the ID division paying all of this? Is there any other sort of funding like a transplant center, or is it tied to, you know, HIV funding? So if that were to go away, would that be a huge issue? Is it RVU based? So some places are RVU based, some are not. And is there a portion of your salary that's at risk? I learned that that's actually pretty common in a lot of places. And then I also loved asking, why is this position open? Is this because faculty left? And if they left, why did they leave? And I asked that of other faculty, not just of the chair, to see if all those answers kind of agreed with each other? Or is it just because the program is expanding, like our service lines are expanding and we need more people, or is it that there is a specific position they're looking to fill? Maybe they are looking for a medical director of a role.

Courtney Harris: [00:19:53] Maybe they are looking for someone to grow an educational program. So I thought those were some of the key questions I asked. And then really, I always asked the chair, what are my opportunities for leadership? How would you see me getting promoted? How would you see me growing in roles? What roles would I be a good fit for? And i think the last one was what are the protected opportunities for research? If that's important to you. And if so, if I'm someone who doesn't get any grant funding, how much time can I have protected by the division? And then because of that, what are the measures like? What is the output or productivity you're going to ask of me. And for me to be successful, what are some of the measures or metrics of my success overall that you're going to be looking for? So I want to make sure that if I come and I join you, that I'm going to have the expectations of you that you have of me. So I think that's fair. And then that makes it makes you understand if you're kind of a good fit for each other.

Paul Sax: [00:20:48] God, what an incredible list of things to think about when you're interviewing at a place.

Courtney Harris: [00:20:54] It's a lot, though, right?

Paul Sax: [00:20:55] It's a good checklist. I mean, it really does make sure you're checking all the boxes before you make this important decision. All right. On to a controversial topic. Do you send thank you notes after your interviews?

Courtney Harris: [00:21:07] Well, I always try to. So my mom made me write handwritten thank you notes for everything growing up. So she would cringe if she knew I sent them via email, which I did. Mom, I apologize.

Paul Sax: [00:21:19] I think that's okay in 2023.

Courtney Harris: [00:21:20] 2020. [laughs]

Paul Sax: [00:21:21] Whenever you did. [laughs]

Courtney Harris: [00:21:22] It was fine. I at minimum I did send it to the chair of the division, and then I tried to send personal ones to anyone I really connected with during the day. I mean, some days your interviews stretch over the course of two days, maybe 15 to 20 interviews.

Paul Sax: [00:21:37] Wow, yeah.

Courtney Harris: [00:21:38] So in those situations, it's just not feasible for a busy fellow to do that. So I always chose the chair and a couple other individuals if I did any, to reconnect. I also sometimes based it on like if I'm going to be really considering them as a group. It was a great way to kind of ask a couple follow up questions, ask them if they had any other questions about me, but I really wanted to also give back because, you know, it is a big effort to bring someone to campus, spend their time. You know, an administrator has spent a time probably coordinating your entire day. Everyone's read your CV, they're investing in your career, and they're going to be lifelong colleagues for you. You know? So even if you don't go there, you want to maintain a great relationship with them going forward. So I just always wanted them to know I was grateful. And if I just emailed the chair, I said, please pass along to anyone who interviewed me that I'm very grateful for the day. And I think that's probably the happy medium.

Paul Sax: [00:22:30] Okay, so now you start getting some offers. This is a very tricky  thing to handle. Very exciting though. And some of us are better at this negotiation than others. So what factors did you negotiate and how did you ultimately choose where to go?

Courtney Harris: [00:22:43] So I interviewed at a bunch of different programs. As we talked about, I think I ended up going to five places in person. And then the nice part was I had a few offers from that when making my decision, so I could kind of compare them and contrast them, and each one was very different. And then really the work came in asking others about things I found that were missing or vastly off compared to other programs. So things that I wanted to change or add to the offer. So for each offer that I had, I probably made my top my list of like top three things that I wanted to make sure that I talked about with them. And then I asked them, like, is there any sort of, you know, flexibility in kind of these three things that I'm interested in? I think giving a laundry list of like ten things is really, you know, that's not really going to get you far and it's going to look like you're asking for a lot. It's a give and take process. So I tried to have three kind of non-negotiable things that I wanted to kind of focus on. And then I went from there. It was different with each program. Some communicated via email, some communicated over like recurrent Zoom meetings or Teams meetings. So each place was very different. I focused on my salary, so I got a hold of the AAMC faculty salary report.

Courtney Harris: [00:23:52] So I knew what the median academic salary in transplant ID was, so that I could use that to kind of as like a start, if the offer was lower than that and say, like, well, that's not what the median, you know, faculty salary is. And then once I got higher offers at other programs, I could kind of use those to counter at other places. I also negotiated like higher sign on bonuses, CME money and startup funds. It's different at every place. But networking is important to me. You know, attending national meetings, especially when I serve on national committees, is really important. So making sure I can get to the 3 or 4 meetings I want to every year and that those costs are covered, especially as I'm a, you know, I'm a representative of the institution. It gives us a lot of name recognition. So really selling the importance of that and then moving costs. I think the other thing was like clinical time. So like negotiating the weeks on service and the number of half days in clinic. And then finally, for me, the other big thing I negotiated was like leadership roles. That was huge. So I ended up, you know, getting a couple different offers with different leadership roles and then really talking them through with each institution to see if they could kind of create something similar to me. When one program gave me an idea of something that was really a good fit, you know, some you have to also go within the constraints of the division.

Courtney Harris: [00:25:05] Some places already had a transplant ID fellowship, so I couldn't be the program director of that. But that was something that was really important to me. So that was kind of one of the top things I was looking to do was to create a transplant ID fellowship. So that was then kind of like one of my number 1 or 2 things. Or then it was like getting roles in the residency or medical, you know, medical school, because I have an educational focus. So for me, I negotiated an admin role. So this director for cardiac transplant ID, which like roles can be created out of thin air, ladies and gentlemen. So if you're going to prove a value and you're going to, you know, really create a program and you have ideas for initiatives, sell that. Tell them what you want to do, say what you hope to achieve and what you want to grow. So being able to start a transplant ID fellowship, have an admin role, and then a few protected education roles really was able to get me the mix of clinical and non-clinical time that allows me to pursue a lot of my core passions. I also, Paul, negotiated a month and a half off before I started, which I highly recommend to everyone doing.

Paul Sax: [00:26:09] The last time you can do it.

Courtney Harris: [00:26:11] Yeah, the last time you can do it if you can swing it from a financial standpoint.

Paul Sax: [00:26:16] Well, this is amazing. So looking back, want to share some of the biggest challenges?

Courtney Harris: [00:26:21] Yeah. The biggest challenge, you know when it came to kind of the end of it was timing of the offers. If you spread your interviews over the course of like 4 or 5 months, it can get a little dicey. I found the best way was just to be super transparent up front. We talked about being a good communicator, but I would always tell programs when my last scheduled interview was and if another one came up that pushed me out farther, I sent them an email right away to let them know, you know, telling them explicitly to. I'm like, I have several offers and I need an offer from your program by X date and being conservative in that. Because great programs that you know are interested in you, they would rather probably know when they need to pull it together. A lot of programs are phenomenal, but maybe they have hiring restraints. Maybe it takes a month for their chair of medicine to sign off on an offer. There are a lot of factors outside of a division's control that can push that timing back. But if you have a time sensitive offer at another program and you really want to be able to choose between the two, that can get into kind of a a sticky situation. Mine ended up working out pretty well. But I think that's because I told programs like, you know, I will make a decision by this time, or, you know, I need a little bit more information to make a decision.

Courtney Harris: [00:27:37] Then I'll get back to you in a week or two. So I think keeping the lines of communication open and being very responsive is the way to go. The other biggest challenge would be balancing family in this decision. You put in so much work to get to this point. You know, you have career ambitions, you have career goals, you're trying to find the right fit for your career, but you're also like putting your family first too. So I think like not discounting that for us, geography did end up being a factor. What your life looks like outside of work matters. Like what's the neighborhood you're going to live in? We spent hours looking at homes on Zillow, like, where are we going to live? And we made weekend trips, long weekend trips out of most of our interviews so that we could spend the weekend after the interview. We would like either tour homes, set up times with a realtor to kind of look at things, just to see if we could see ourselves living there, because that's half the battle, right? Are there schools that you want to put your kids in? So that made it easier to make kind of a more holistic decision for us rather than just the career.

Paul Sax: [00:28:38] Well, Courtney, that's just an amazing list of things for fellows to consider when they're looking for jobs. I mean, it's just really this is a must listen podcast for them, as is a must-read paper for those interested in transplant ID. So any final words of advice?

Courtney Harris: [00:28:51] You're going through this process, have a couple key mentors that you run all this by, whether it’s is this a reasonable email to send back to a program? Or like lean on your co fellows. Hey, some of you as co fellows may be interviewing at the same program. I had co fellows. We were talking to the same institutions and comparing notes and being collegial and talking about it. You can only benefit each other. Leaning on co fellows in your mentors to really make sure that what you're doing seems sound and that they're able to help you think about it and always have a person or two in your life that you're talking about this with that has no stake in the game. You know someone who it doesn't matter to them where you end up. They are your advocate first and foremost, so that they can give you a really non-biased view of your decision-making process, because it can get really insular at times. So I think having a few people you can talk about it with, the more the merrier, and the more feedback I got, the more helpful it was to make a better decision.

Paul Sax: [00:29:49] Okay great advice. Lightning round. Quick answers only. Number one, what would you be doing if you weren't a doctor?

Courtney Harris: [00:29:56] I think business. I think I would go into business some.

Paul Sax: [00:29:59] I'm not surprised. [laughs]

Courtney Harris: [00:30:00] Some sort of management role. I did minor in business in college. So that was that was my back up plan if medicine didn't work out well.

Paul Sax: [00:30:06] Well I think you'd be an excellent leader no matter where where you are in medicine or not in medicine. Number two. What do you like to do in your free time?

Courtney Harris: [00:30:14] Oh I'm a big reader, Paul. I just finished the big like Of Court of Thorns and Roses, the Acotar series of, like, five books. I also started a Women in ID book club. So for those of you who are listening to the podcast and you love reading, email or like DM me on X and we can get you added to our listserv if you want to join us. That's a passion.

Paul Sax: [00:30:35] What's your most recent book?

Courtney Harris: [00:30:36] Oh, so our most recent book that we did was the Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, which had mixed reviews, mixed reviews, but we pick some real winners. So there's been a great interest. I think we've had like 7 or 8 of them up to this point. So we've been doing that over the course of the last year and a half. And my other, my other time is chasing a two-year-old around. So that takes most of the, uh, most of the time up. And we have another due in November. So yeah. So that's going to be that's going to be the primary focus of my time right now.

Paul Sax: [00:31:06] Oh congratulations. No more time of childhood is more, uh, exhausting and cuter than the toddler age.

Courtney Harris: [00:31:12] That's right. Couldn't agree with you more there, Paul.

Paul Sax: [00:31:15] So your choice for the ideal vacation activity?

Courtney Harris: [00:31:18] This stems from the passion. I'd love to, like, lay on a beach with a splash of adventure. So one big adventure activity where I can most of the time, just like lay by the beach or the pool, read my book and turn my email off for a week. And just lots of kid playing time.

Paul Sax: [00:31:32] And favorite name of a microbe?

Courtney Harris: [00:31:35] You know, I've always loved Serratia or Serratia, however you love to pronounce it. Dealer's choice. Um, although I've had a few recent bad patients with Serratia infections that have maybe made me reconsider that.

Paul Sax: [00:31:47] Well, thank you so much, Dr. Courtney Harris. We've been talking with Dr. Harris, who is the director of transplant ID fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina, and this episode was produced by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and edited and mixed by Bentley Brown. Thank you for listening. 

Transplant ID physician Courtney Harris, MD, FACP, speaks to Paul Sax, MD, FIDSA, about her experience job hunting as an ID fellow and provides tips on finding your dream job in infectious diseases. 

Read Dr. Harris's piece



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