Columns, I'm No Superman
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I’m No Super(wo)man. Just Give Me a Wand.


INSIn case you were wondering: Yes, the title of this column is a shameless display of my love for the television show, “Scrubs”. Multiple real MDs have affirmed that “Scrubs” is more true to life than all the other medical television shows — which I can only take to mean that I won’t be judged too badly if I ever yell “Eagleeee” in the middle of the hospital while running in slow motion toward my best friend.

On a more serious note, the show’s dynamic between comedic absurdity and the exploration of a physician’s responsibility toward his or her patient embody a kind of humility to the medical profession that is not so evident in other medical shows. “Grey’s Anatomy” presents an idealized version of my future attendings and love life. “House, M.D.” contradicts the medical adage to “think horses, not zebras” and also plays up the physician’s ego. With these other shows, it’s no wonder society expects doctors to be super humans with our fancy machines, embroidered white coats and four-syllable words. At some point as trainees, we start believing it too. How many of us chose to go into medical school thinking we can solve all the world’s problems? I would be a hypocrite if I said that did not apply to me, but one year of med school has taught me that it’s dangerous to be all ego and no humility.

So, I chose the theme of “I’m no Superman” because I think it’s important to stay human despite what TV portrays and how much we want to be the best. In honor of “Scrubs” and its eclectic musical repertoire, here is a song for your enjoyment: 

The first order of business is to recognize that the road is long and though there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it can get pretty depressing. A mental escape now and then is healthy. So what do the future docs of America of our generation turn to in our hour of despair? The magical world of Harry Potter.

During one of our first modules, our genetics professor referenced the “fifth book of Harry Potter … whatever it’s called.” I forgot what he was talking about. All I remember is calling out “ORDER OF PHOENIX” at the same time as one of my classmates. We looked at each other and it was best friends at first sight. I soon discovered that liking Harry Potter made you one of the cool kids, a phenomenon that only happens when you put a bunch of open and closet nerds together. This got me thinking about reasons why we’re so eager to identify ourselves as Potter fans beyond simple nostalgia. Here are a few I came up with:

1. The med student dream: Imagine being 11 years old and receiving a letter explaining why you’re such a weirdo and accepting you into an awesome school without ever applying. Then you find out that you’re actually a trust fund baby, so you won’t have to pay for that education. It’s every med student’s dream: all the prestige, but no applications and no debt.

2. Exclusivity: The thought of an exclusive school teaching secret skills to which the rest of the world is oblivious is very enticing. You get training in potions (drugs), transfiguration (surgery), muggle studies (epidemiology), defense against the dark arts (ethics), botany (alternative medicine), charms (clinical skills), divination (psychiatry), and care of magical creatures (research).

3. House system: Hogwarts has houses, each with their own stereotypes. My school divides each class into communities with the colors blue, red, yellow, green and black. Hogwarts has a prefect system. We have a medical education committee and an honors council. This is just too easy.

4. OCD tendencies: “It’s leviOOOsa, not levioSAAA.” “It’s beNAzepril, not BENadryl.” — No one else cares, but we know it makes all the difference.

5. The desire to fix things: The wand chooses the wizard, and one wand fixes all. The feeling of elation upon getting that wand is similar to getting the white coat at the beginning of the year: feelings of hope and importance that are soon quelled by the realization that you actually don’t know what you’re doing.

6. Meritocracy: Unlike superhero tales, magical prowess takes practice and hard work. Studying makes a good impression on the professors, and you can find a job you want with a good test score. These are facts that med students learn to accept.

7. Importance of experiences: We all know that Harry lives through seven books because of sheer dumb luck, no matter how much other people are in awe with him. Books will only take you so far. There comes a point in our training when experience (and maybe a little dumb luck) dictates the proper course of patient care. When faced with the ultimate enemy (whether that is Voldemort or mortality), there is only so much you can do before it’s no longer under your control.

8. Our so-called social lives: Harry has to go to school despite dealing with major family issues and a sketchy love life. All he wants to do is be outside and fly around on his broomstick. He has a gunner best friend and another best friend who somehow still manages to stay in school despite being completely clueless. Sound familiar? Thought so.

9. Camaraderie: The best experiences are the ones that you don’t have to go through alone. There are some things that only fellow med students can understand. We’re heavily drawn toward this fictional world because the human elements are true to real life: identify the common goal, go through the necessary pains to achieve that goal, and form lifelong relationships along the way.

10. Pride kills: Both of the “super humans” in Harry Potter failed in the end. Even Dumbledore will succumb to his own mortality in a moment of weakness. If Dumbledore had flaws, the rest of us must be human too. Also, Voldemort, the obsessive loner-sociopath,  missed some important lessons in life, most notably not accounting for “love,” which made his plans not as flawless as he thought. Human-ed.

That’s all I have folks! Keep up those mental escapes–sometimes, it’s just nice to read about other people’s problems rather than dealing with our own. I’m open to other suggestions. /Nox.

I’m No Superman

Many of us go into med school with big visions for bettering modern medicine, but as we go through this journey, we realize that there is still a long way to go, and we can’t do it all alone. This column is not meant to be extremely profound or didactic but simply a reflection on the what it means to stay human in midst of society’s expectations and our own expectations.

Jennifer Yang Jennifer Yang (6 Posts)


University of Alabama School of Medicine

Jennifer Yang attends medical school at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in the Class of 2016. She is from San Diego, CA and did her undergrad at UC Berkeley studying neurobiology and English. To keep her sanity intact during school, she distracts herself with music, food, reddit, and way too many TV shows. She firmly believes that laughter really is the best medicine.

I'm No Superman

Many of us go into med school with big visions for bettering modern medicine, but as we go through this journey, we realize that there is still a long way to go, and we can't do it all alone. This column is not meant to be extremely profound or didactic but simply a reflection on the what it means to stay human in midst of society's expectations and our own expectations.

  • Jency Daniel

    What a fantastic read. As a fellow open nerd and medical student, this piece really spoke to me. As many times as I’ve read and analyzed the world of HP, never have I compared it with my own med school experience. In my mind, the two worlds were mutually exclusive, never to meet until I read this. Looking forward to more of your column!