Waiting to emerge from its enclosure. Ready to hatch into this world fresh and new. Ready to take in all there is to learn in the world around them. Preparing for all there is to conquer and accomplish on the quest ahead. In many ways, unaware of the beauty that is before them and the strides it will take in achieving a fulfilling existence but possessing all that is necessary for a fully successful being.
Distinct from its egg stage as it is in a stage of growing and developing in a specific form meant for moving around. Taking in all there is to take in — knowledge, lessons and means for survival. In these stages, the larva begins to explore the world in preparation for the next stages. Still unaware of the full beauty that lies ahead, but the larva is beginning its ability to explore.
As the larval tissues break down, the pupa arises in a protective enclosure. It is shielded from the insects that may seek to hurt it as it develops into its final form. This stage is critical as the pupa undergoes critical metamorphic development so that it can have the distinct features and survival strategies as the full adult being.
As the butterfly emerges from its protective enclosure, it is now ready to take on the world. While it will have lessons to learn in this new form, it has the survival strategies to ensure its success in the face of predators and has the ability to thrive. It exhibits all of the characteristics of a full butterfly, with its wings finally intact. It can now help form the next generation of butterflies and pave the way for the success of the species. .
Much like the development of a butterfly, the journey through medicine is an exquisite metamorphosis. As a fourth-year student looking back at the past four years, I remain grateful to those who helped pave the path for me to grow into what will soon be a physician. As medical students, we start off in our first year bright eyed at all there is a head. Often also afraid of the challenges that will face us on this path, we forge ahead learning what is to be learned and seeing what there is to be seen.
As we continue through the preclinical years, we shape our medical school journey through research and extracurricular activities in order to work toward identifying our ultimate path. And as we venture into that third year, the clinical space is new — exciting, but for many also scary. We operate under the protective guidance of our mentors and those who came before us; we learn, grow and adapt to new surroundings. And by the time we reach our fourth and final years, we have grown the wings to fly off on our own. And in a life-long career of learning, we too will pave the way for the next generation while continuing to learn ourselves.
As a fourth-year student now, I see glimpses of myself finally becoming the physician I want to be. With all of the growth that will continue through residency and beyond, I find myself able to have more in depth conversations with patients about their hospital courses and rationale behind their treatment. I find myself able to come up with more in-depth plans for my patients’ care than I could one year, two years and — of course — three years ago. I find myself able to teach the third-year medical students on my team about bedside procedures and pathophysiology in ways I could not have imagined being able to this time last year.
And while there is still more growth to be done — one could argue residency training is its own metamorphosis — the growth of medical students from a new M1 through a M4 ready to start off their career in post-graduate training is exponential. With that, I look forward to starting another new evolutionary process again next year — the next metamorphosis.