I went to college in Canada, and whenever I’d think about medical school, I’d romanticize how great moving to the United States would be in terms of opportunities and career development. However, in college, I was in a romantic relationship when I applied to medical schools in the U.S., and with that, I was very cognizant that I’d have to be in a long-distance relationship for at least four years…
As I took my shirt off this morning to shower, I noticed my teres major muscle in the mirror — or more precisely, I identified it for the first time.
Like many medical students, I was vastly underprepared for the emotional turmoil that the nature of the third year of medical school can create.
The interviewer smiled, gave a vague answer and followed it with a diatribe about how present-day residents have it so “easy.” How his generation had to “walk through feet and feet of snow” to get to work and how work hour restrictions did not exist. Caught off guard, I wondered what sparked such an emotional response to a common interview question.
Blue, white, red, yellow, pink, brown. These are the colors of the ties and strips of fabric around the scrub pants and tops indicating their size. At the start of medical school, I would squeeze into a red top and red pants: these were the larges.
My sister is nine years older than I am. We went to different high schools and currently live over 500 miles apart.
I came across a photo on social media of some classmates that appeared almost identical to another one I had seen months ago — beaming medical students crowded together against a brick wall of a campus apartment. Déjà vu. But there was one difference. Nearly all the students in this picture were white, whereas all the students in the older picture were non-white.
The dispatcher called in to the emergency department to alert us that someone had collapsed in the parking lot of the hospital. The emergency medical services swiftly brought the patient in and our team surrounded him, placing lines and drawing blood. In the midst of treating him, I learned that Jones had just been released from prison where he had remained sober after years of heroin abuse.
A classmate of mine committed suicide a few weeks ago. Though I’ve heard the harrowing statistics about physician and trainee suicide rates, to be honest, I never expected to personally encounter such a tragedy. The small classes at my medical school allow for a strong sense of community in which we all know each other, celebrate important life milestones, and happily reconnect when we’re together after clinical rotations scatter us throughout the hospital.
For better or worse, I have always partaken in escapism in one form or another. “Escapism,” defined as the practice of avoiding a difficult reality by immersing oneself in distraction or entertainment, is a concept that rose in popularity in the 1930s as a natural reaction to the Great Depression of the previous decade. Although I did not know it at the time, I have been practicing escapism since 2000 BC (before COVID). As the eldest daughter of immigrants who were new to the continent and busy building a life from scratch, I would get lost in stories from a very young age. I had little in the way of friends and even less of an interest in being popular, so naturally I was drawn to books to fill that emotional void; novels were the way to my heart — fantasy and fiction, oh my!
On July 27, 2020, I began the first day of orientation week at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG). After over four years of living in Atlanta, the initial 25-minute drive from home to school threw me back to my high school days of having to wake up at six o’clock in the morning. The entire first week was a bit of a blur, and I do not remember much aside from getting my stethoscope and helping draft a class oath.
Presenteeism does not simply exist for seasoned providers; it seeps down the medical training pipeline and perhaps poses the greatest threat to trainees at the start of their careers. The fear of missing out as the “beginner on the team” can be paralyzing when there is so much important knowledge beyond us. Such pressure persists longitudinally, too, as trainees at every level fear that taking time off will appear as a lack of dedication to clinical education or will result in lower performance evaluations.