Article by Abraham Knoll, MD | “Doctor’s Orders” curated by editor Sasha Yakhkind
Becoming a doctor is a long road. One’s frame of mind during the process is important, because the wrong perspective can make the delayed gratification truly overwhelming. While your friends and family members may have sprinted through school, saying “I’ll be done in a year,” you are thinking “It’s going to be a lifetime before I’m truly done.”
I got married before I started medical school, and my wife (also in medical school at the time) and I were lucky to have three children while still in medical school and residency. When one is a medical student, the cultural expectation within medicine is that medicine is your whole life, the one and only priority.
But what if it isn’t? What if it’s only one of your priorities? Whether it is a hobby, family or significant other, there are many other important things that may require your time and commitment, even during the process of becoming a physician. So how can one find balance?
Firstly, it’s important to realize that there never really is a true balance. All the important areas of your life will never actually have equal attention simultaneously. It truly is about juggling — while one priority is keeping your hands full, a second priority is up in the air. It’s about alternating priorities, day-by-day, and minute-by-minute.
Secondly, realize that your priority is really only your own. You can’t expect your colleagues or superiors to understand what’s important to you. They are focused on their own work environment, and every person’s priorities are unique. So don’t expect others to validate your sentiments, or help you reach your own balance.
Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead. Is there an important event coming up? Plan for it, and make sure everyone you are working with is aware of it — with advance notice. This way, no one is surprised when you leave early or take a vacation. It doesn’t matter if they agree with your goal; what matters is that you are doing what you need to do to be where you want to be, while being a team-player at the same time.
Remember, it’s your life and your happiness at stake. Finding a way to maintain your relationships, commitments and interests will lead to overall happiness in your life. And yes, your patients will thank you, too.
Dr. Abraham Knoll, MD (“Abe”) graduated from the NYU School of Medicine in 2011 and is currently a radiology resident at Harlem Hospital Center in New York. He has three children with his wife, Mimi, who is a radiation oncology resident. His interests include sports, politics and the economics of medicine.