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A Personal Oath

What a surreal feeling it was, to slip my hands — the same hands that pulled me across the floor as a baby, plucked worms from the ground as a mud-covered kid, collected E. coli-infested water samples throughout high school, flipped through MCAT study guides for an infinitesimal amount of time during college — into the sleeves of my white coat. They were the same hands, yes, but as they slid through those starchy sleeves, they felt different somehow, as if they were metamorphosing. And the metamorphosis was contagious, spreading from my fingertips and up towards my mind and heart. It was overwhelming, that sensation, and as I stood in front of the photographer, I realized that he wasn’t simply snapping a photo for my parents to frame proudly over their fireplace; rather, he was capturing the exact moment in time at which my metamorphosis had occurred. In that almost immeasurable instant, I had transformed into not only a scholar of medicine, but into a crucial component of society, a mentor to others — all others — and, ultimately, into a protector of the human race.

Just prior to this truly ceremonial event, I had been amused by Dr. Pohl as he approached the podium of that same auditorium, garbed in a Bahamian T-shirt and a straw hat. I was startled at how drastically my impression of Dr. Pohl changed as he dismantled his outfit to reveal the professional suit hidden underneath. My opinion changed even further as he put on his white coat, transforming him into a powerful figure of intellectual authority. I was especially struck by his following statement that we, as medical students, could “no longer compartmentalize our personalities,” mainly because I had previously assumed this to be one of my better qualities. At the end of daylong study sessions as an undergrad, I often imagined that I was stranding my studious alter-ego behind at the library with the papers describing retrotransposable elements and the notecards on electron transfer. Listening to Dr. Pohl’s words, I understood that I could no longer envision myself in such a way and, subsequently, realized perhaps the most important aspect of not only the honor oaths and codes, but also of my transformation to come. This aspect is integrity.

Certainly, as future physicians, we pledge not to steal. We shall not cheat and we must not plagiarize. We shall not vandalize the campus or engage in harassment. And yet, there is so much more to the Honor Code, and to my metamorphosis, than such simply stated rules and regulations. To me, the Code insists that I must act as the same responsible member of society not only while in class or at the library, but also while outside the academic realm. I must make a continual effort to uphold such integrity, even when no one is watching. Representing an entire community of individuals committed to the altruistic act of medicine, I must report wrongs when I see them and perform rights whenever possible. Also, I must show consideration for the differences in each individual; our ability to be so extremely unique, after all, is the beauty of being human. In the same light, I must continually appreciate that I, myself, am just another human being, and thus remain empathetic towards others. It is through such empathy that I envision myself not only treating, but listening, to my future patients, as well as relating to my peers and colleagues during medical school and beyond.

Rachel Pian Rachel Pian (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Albany Medical College

Rachel is from Yorktown Heights, New York and has a rather peculiar and unyielding affinity for infectious disease. Before graduating from Yorktown High School in 2006, she carried out a three-year-long study on E. coli, which she presented at the 2006 International Science and Engineering Fair. Excited by that experience, and driven by her desire to make a lasting impact in the lives of others, Rachel pursued a premedical track at Boston University. At BU, Rachel earned distinction in biology through her research on White Nose Syndrome, a mysterious and devastating fungal disease that is currently wiping out northeastern U.S. bat populations. Also during her time as an undergrad, she worked as assistant director of the Health Career Opportunity Program at the New York University School of Medicine.

After graduating from BU in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in biology, Rachel earned her certification as an EMT and worked for a private ambulance company in Boston. The first person in her family to pursue a career in medicine, Rachel is currently working towards her MD degree at Albany Medical College, and looks forward to the many opportunities to come.