Coming from a family consisting almost exclusively of engineers, the world of medics had always been somewhat a mystery to me. All the family friends who my parents hung out with were engineers. None of my friends in school had parents who were doctors. The only doctors I met were the ones I saw for the little cold or flu that didn’t happen very often. The only idea I had about doctors came from what I had heard from people around me, none of whom had a career in health care.
In my head, doctors had always been the smart, confident braniacs who had perfect lives and perfect jobs. That idea was not helped by spending the five years before starting med school watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” It only reinforced my belief that the life of a medic was pretty much a fairy tale: getting to do whatever you want, not being punished when you pull a dangerous stunt with a patient, not really needing to study and being able to run around and stay out late at night. You could totally steal a heart for some patient who you had been allowed to be romantically engaged with and still be allowed to practice medicine and not have your license taken away.
To that, John Green would tell me: “The world is not a wish granting factory.” Dumbledore would say: “It does not do to dwell on dreams”.
Yes, I am one of those people who likes to quote John Green and Harry Potter and TV shows. That was pretty great back in high school—reading books made you the cool kid. Especially the likes of John Green and J.K. Rowling because their books made you a part of a huge community with a common interest.
Surprisingly though, once I started med school, those references raised eye brows.
Why do you know that? Aren’t you in med school? Wow! You know stuff from outside those fat text books? When do you get the time to read those books? Aren’t you always studying? You actually watch TV? No way! You actually have time for that kind of stuff?
When I announced to my family that I wanted to go to medical school, this is what I was told: You don’t want to do that. That is not a good decision. That is going to be the end of your life. You are going to study all day and night, have no social life and turn into a psychopath. It’s not just those five years, it’s your entire life, lost! You will have no family or friends and you are going to die alone in the middle of a pile of books.
I might have exaggerated that a little, but I had been warned over and over again that being in medical school was going to end my life as a, well, human being. People, especially those that do not have doctors in the family or among friends, seem to regard medical students and doctors as a different species.
It is as if there is a definition that all medical students have to fit. Like Skittles, we may be different colors on the outside, but we are all supposed to be spherical with a hard sugar shell and a candy-filled inside.
When I first started medical school, I entered believing that I had to be a Skittle. I had to mold into the spherical shape, say goodbye to the life of a human and surround myself with the hard sugar shell and drown into a core made of books and lectures and late nights and insanity!
Today, four years wiser, when I look back at the time when I was as naïve as a fetus, I realize that those ideas were ridiculous. Medical school is hard enough as it is. There is absolutely no need to make it harder on ourselves by trying to fit into a defined box (or sphere). Through this column, I hope to be able to share some of my experiences from the past four years (and remaining one year) of med school—how it molded me not into a Skittle but (hopefully) a future physician in my own skin. I hope to give some of the advice that I wish I had gotten when I first started off on this journey.
“The Making of a Medic” explores that which transforms the head of a high school graduate to that of a medic, shedding some light on what the life of a medic is really like, away from the myths and speculations. This column focuses on the reflections of personal experiences rather than the scholastics of medical school.