“Be a duck,” became my mantra throughout medical school, so much so that my mother had it printed onto a canvas and has it hanging on a wall at home in my honor. As a medical student you might think I would be more interested in having the prowess of a lioness, the elegance of an eagle, the speed of a cheetah or the energy of a dolphin. A duck, as most envision it, does not have much appeal; except, however, when swimming. The quote that led me to emulate the duck is Michael Caine’s, “Be a duck, remain calm on the surface and paddle like the dickens underneath.”
Last Saturday evening I was on the admitting team in Orange County. We got a call about a hematology/oncology admission that we would later pass off to another team in the morning. We were told “fever with an ANC <500.” That admit, was Ronaldo, a young male with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
It is one thing to be a doctor and another to be a patient. It is a radically different thing to be a medical student paired by your medical school to a physician who is your “patient-partner.” Sounds like a word salad, but that is where I found myself as a first-year medical student at The Geisel School of Medicine of Dartmouth a few weeks after moving to New Hampshire, weeks before I would receive my white coat, months before I would have any clear idea of what the medical world is really like.