Sarah Kidd-Romero is an IO MPS alum and an Internal Medicine Residency Program Administrator.


What made you want to pursue a career in IO?

There are two things that made me take the leap into pursuing this Master's degree. One was COVID-19 pandemic, and the other was my son. When I was looking into applying to this degree, he was about a year old. I had been in my medical education career for 13 years, running a program and spinning my wheels a lot, and sort of banging my head against the wall. Eventually, once you bang your head against the wall for long enough, you have to change something. I didn't want my son to see me come home frustrated anymore. I wanted him to see me happy in my job. The more I dug into the principles that I really wanted to apply for myself, I realized they are intrinsic to the field of IO. We spend so much time of our adult lives at work, why wouldn't I want to make that better for myself and others if I could? I've always loved psychology, and I majored in psychology for my undergraduate degree. But I'm not the counseling type, so IO is a way for me to work in psychology and be able to provide solutions in very concrete, systematic ways. 

With the pandemic, the workforce changed so much. I think it tilted the world upside down in so many different ways, and it showed us how much individuals need to be valued and feel respected in the workplace. Otherwise, employees are not going to stay, and that's what we're still seeing. So how do companies make sure that their human capital is getting what they need to succeed and to grow, not only themselves, but the company as well? I am super interested in this because of my work in medical education. I want to help fix the broken system I work in, in terms of competencies, training, evaluation, and taking a lot of the tools I've learned thus far into my current field. I recently moved from a role within academic surgery for a position in a community-based internal medicine program, as I wanted to see the differences in the two types of medical systems and within the training paradigms. If I do end up staying on this healthcare route, I really want to be able to say that I know both sides and can see where the resources are lacking in both fields and where they can be fixed. 


Why did you choose UMD’s program?

I looked at this program about five years ago, before I had my son. I came to an open house back when they were in-person, and Ken was leading it, and really enjoyed the enthusiasm he brought to talking about the program. After that open house, I was about to apply but at that time my schedule wasn’t going to allow me to go back to school full time in person. The program wasn’t hybrid yet and I couldn’t commit to that amount of in person classes with my schedule. So I put it on the backburner, had my son and then the pandemic happened. The program always lingered in the back of my mind, especially as I would learn more and more about the field of I/O by reading books by Adam Grant or even by attending my educational conferences. One day, I was having this truly bad day at work and something (I’m going to call it fate) made me visit the website for the program. The program's fall deadline was 3 weeks away, it had to be a sign, right?  So, I called my mentors, collected the application materials and took the leap of faith by applying to the program. It was scary to go back to school after so long, but I know that this is what I want to learn, and I have life experiences that I’m able to put into practice. I am so thankful for that bad day that led me to this opportunity!


What skills did you learn at UMD that will help you in your career?

I've learned a lot thus far, including statistics. I just love discussions on talent acquisition best practices, such as what Ken has done with the NFL. It's incredible, and I feel like that's something I want to try to do in physician recruitment. It’s the same element of working with high level professionals and high performing people, so I feel like we could align that draft-esque way of doing things in this field and change the way that we bring physicians into training. For my cohort, I have the same four professors the entire length of the program, so it really builds solid relationships with your mentors, and I love that! The content of the program builds foundationally on itself. A lot of the theories that Niki and Matt presented laid the foundation for what Ken taught, which led into Analytical Thinking with Meg. It feels like building brick by brick, so I don't feel in over my head too much with the material. This program has pushed me to a new level, but in a good way!


What’s your favorite leisure activity? 

I LOVE the outdoors, if the sun is shining I must be outside to enjoy it. I'm a big hiker and cyclist so my husband, son and I spend a lot of time doing those activities. We have traveled to a lot of National Parks and hope to see them all in our lifetime. There is nothing like the feeling of being in the mountains, without any cell service and it’s just me, my family, and the beautiful world we live in! My son has been with us to the Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah, places on the east coast, but we haven't taken him out West yet. That's on the “to do after graduating school” agenda. 


What advice can you share with incoming and future IO psychology students?

I am a big quote person, and I love Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson said, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” I feel like a lot of us live in the past or think about the future. If anything this past year has taught me, it’s that there's no time but today. You just can't take it for granted. That's something the pandemic also taught us. We really have to push ourselves to be what we want to be, and we can't live in regret of not doing something we didn't at least try. So as scary as it is to leave a job after 14 years, or to start a family or to jump into a program that you don't know anything about with a bunch of people you don't really know, it’s only gonna work out as much as you want it to work out, right? You will get out of it what you put into it. I love that this cohort is so diverse, and that we’re all in such different phases of our lives, with such different backgrounds. I'm one of the “elders” in the group, and it's kind of funny, because other students will tell me that they are excited to work with me because I know about life. It's interesting, and it gives me perspective, because I don't want to live in this mindset of how “boomers” think about the world, since this isn’t how the world works anymore. You have to think about the generation behind you, and how you're going to help influence them and help them to grow, and also learn from them.

I also believe that everything happens for a reason, as cliche as that sounds. You have to accept that it may not be the reason you thought it was going to be, but eventually it ended up all working out. Whatever made me check out this program again after 5 years of first considering it is still a mystery to me. However, I am very thankful for whatever it was because I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I get to learn and talk about what I enjoy with people that care about the same thing-what could be better?

A woman in a tank top is sitting on a rock in front of a lake, with a mountain in the background. She is smiling at the camera.