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.
The most stressful part of the medical school application process for me was the last phase, when there was nothing I could do except wait to hear back. I feel most content when I know there are concrete actions I can take to influence an outcome I care about.
Imagine this: You’re trying to secure that bank loan to start your dream business and everything is working out just right, until the very last minute when you learn of a hard requirement that disqualifies you from securing your loan.
Congratulations, you’ve started medical school! The dream you have had since you were nine years old is finally coming to fruition. You’re going to be a doctor! Just … not in 2012, when you think you’re going to graduate. In 2018. I’ll get to that later.
Felt like war, those early years, / We fought a fight for all those years.
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.”
Dear medical students, I’m sorry. You had just finished two years of didactic learning and couldn’t wait to feel like a “real” doctor. You were finally starting your clerkships, that is, finally working with patients and getting deep in the trenches.
During the team huddle I was assigned to Room 403, Bed 1. “There is a lot you can learn from this patient. You should see him.” I got the one liner and was off.
When pre-med and medical students think about where to attend school or where to apply for residency opportunities, they also undoubtedly consider the hard work, dedication and sacrifices required along the way. But how often are they thinking about location in this process?
“What’s the matter with everybody?” asked Mrs. Palmer, a hopelessly demented woman with water wells for eyes. She had just endured her third consecutive tongue-lashing by the bulldog masquerading as a nurse anesthetist.
This path has been far from cookie cutter, / From being kneaded and rolled / By demanding needs to fulfill multiple roles, / I can’t help but wonder, will I make the cut?