It has become more and more evident with time that the health care delivery system in the United States is riddled with issues, which have led to many disagreements about policy because there is no clear and universally acceptable solution to our problems.
I breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, trying to slow my heart rate. Countless hours of preparation had led to this day: the day when I would get the honor of donning the white coat that characterized the profession I was about to enter.
Before long, I will become, to my patients, a keeper of time. With my long white coat will come the privilege of speaking to a patient who is learning what it means to have limited time left.
Staring at each high-yield line in First Aid, attempting to commit every word to memory, hour-upon-hour, is the life of a medical student. The stress, isolation and over-caffeination, amidst the constant influx of information, is overwhelming and can cause even the most compassionate student to forget why they are studying.
Earlier this month, I watched my younger sister begin her medical school journey as she walked on stage in front of family members and peers to be officially “white-coated.” I had never been to another white coat ceremony since my own years ago. It was fascinating to observe it from my now-more-seasoned fourth-year medical student eyes — especially at another institution.
Humans understand things in contradictory pairs. We are not standing still if we’re moving. To move to a new place means leaving behind another.
Law, medicine, and dentistry — these were the careers that I was constantly exposed to at home. With my father as a practicing lawyer for over 25 years, two of my siblings already qualified as doctors, and the third on course to completing his medical journey, most of my relatives and friends thought medicine or law would be my choice naturally.
“From now on,” our deans told us at orientation, “society will see you as a doctor. Sometimes you may not feel like one, but that is what you are becoming. This week marks the beginning of that transition, which will continue in the months and years to come.”
And what does it mean now? To be accepted? To be initiated, congratulated and nudged toward a curriculum made jokingly infamous by well-meaning administrators and by a culture which treats such consuming endeavors as medical school like abstract forms of busyness?
Most of us enter medical school with a desire to affect change for our patients in meaningful and positive ways. Despite being aware of the impossibility of achieving this dream in every case, we hope to provide our patients with definitive diagnoses and successful treatment plans.
In 1913, nine years before his death, the physician and medical historian Eugene F. Cordell gave his presidential address to the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland. His topic was the “The Importance of the Study of the History of Medicine.”
During our psychiatry block, I learned how the aching sadness within me curls through my brain. It begins in the thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus — three points that sit like stars in my body’s sky.