I know that being a third-year medical student is like being a transplanted kidney. One starts the day in one body. School is composed of lecture halls and written exams. However, the world has shifted by the end of the day, and shockingly, one’s old body is not present.
If gross anatomy has taught me any topics, they are the sheer beauty and capability of the human body.
When I was younger, I, too, had problems both with listening to my M.D. and alcohol use. However, I am not referring to M.D. as in medical doctor but M.D. as in mom and dad.
After our first year of coursework, our LC mentors asked us to write a confidential letter to our “2016 self,” or ourselves at the time just before we began medical school. Right away, I recalled that at that time, I was a nervous wreck.
It was not until our second semester of medical school that we started gross anatomy. Finally, I became that quintessential medical student walking home too tired to change out of my formaldehyde-tinged scrubs.
Second year? Could that be? It felt wrong. It threw off my whole identity. “I’m just a first-year,” had been my motto for the past twelve months.
Medicine is a sacrifice. I knew this upon admittance into medical school. I did not know the sacrifice would be an erosion of my humanity.
While there is no way to choose our patients’ outcomes, we can certainly choose to be empathetic and compassionate regardless of their outcomes. Medicine without empathy and compassion is not medicine at all.
Whenever my friends or family ask, “How’s medical school?” I have a simple, scripted response … But this response relays a fraction of what medical school has been like.
A decision was at hand. Which trail would lead him where he wanted to go? The right or left? Both or neither? A simple choice. An impossible choice.
Empathy is a muscle you have to exercise just like any other. It is a choice. It’s something you have to study and practice and sometimes fail at and always try again.
I breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, trying to slow my heart rate. Countless hours of preparation had led to this day: the day when I would get the honor of donning the white coat that characterized the profession I was about to enter.