At this phase in my life I have memorized a short, succinct answer to several questions. Lately the most common question is “Hey I heard you did an Ironman! How far is the swim/bike/run again? How was it?”
There is no possible way for me to casually describe such a crazy day, especially during one of those quick conversations that occur with people you see every now and then. So I usually reply with something like “Well, I had a really good time. It was a long day, but I am happy with the outcome.” All of that is true, but it skims the surface of a goal that has taken me years to accomplish.
A few weeks ago the most common question was this:
“What are you doing now that you have graduated from college?”
Me- “Well, I am going to medical school in the fall at _______ Medical School” This was followed immediately by.
“What kind of doctor are you going to be?”
Me- I have some ideas, but I likely won’t decide for a while. I want to get some firsthand experience first”.
Once again, that is true. I have some ideas of specialties I am interested in, but I am not interested in deciding for this reason right here:
See, since I have this vast sea of ignorance to overcome, I can’t make a remotely informed decision. I understand that some students come from a family of cardiologists, or that they have had their hearts set on pediatrics since they were little, but I have none of that background. I have absolutely zero health care workers in my family, and my motivation for becoming a doctor is based mostly in a desire to help others and an above average aptitude for biological sciences and problem solving. It’s my belief that there is no “ideal field” for me, the only place I will be truly happy as a doctor. Instead, I think there are likely many areas of medicine in which I could practice and be satisfied with my choice, but I have no way of deciding between them until I get in and experience medicine firsthand.
Back to my point. After I tell people I am undecided on a specialty, I sometimes get feedback like this.
“Well I had this doctor once. Man, he never listened to me. Every time I was in his office I had to wait for 3 days to get seen for 4.7 seconds, then he would just prescribe whatever drug was on his pen. He was rude, smelled bad, and scheduled me for a follow up in a week. Follow up for what? I was only here for a bit! He told me I had cancer but it was just GERD. Bla bla bla bla…..yeah so don’t be that doctor.”
You, the reader (hopefully I have more than one eventually), may have done this yourself at some point to another prospective medical student. I don’t understand this. This doesn’t happen for other professions
“Well I knew this architect who built a building and then it fell down and killed a bunch of people, so he went to jail. Don’t be like that architect.”
“I have a friend that’s in sales! He can be really pushy and annoying, trying to sell me stuff all the time, and just doesn’t know when to back down. Don’t be like that.”
“We hired an interior designer once to do our conference room. She picked these horrible colors that we didn’t like, then went on vacation and didn’t call us back. She also only spoke French. Don’t be like that!”
My cousin’s boss was in management! Yeah….turns out he embezzled a bunch of money from a non-profit that runs an orphanage and used it to buy a private jet. Don’t be like that guy.”
Seriously. I am certain this experience is not unique to me, and I will count on other medical students out there to back me up if they have been through this bizarre ritual as well. First of all, I have no idea what to say to someone who gives me that “advice”. There are better ways to make small talk with people embarking on new career paths, people.
Thankfully, I have had so much genuine support from friends, family, co-workers, and doctors. The people closest to me have been universally encouraging, often telling me that I will make a terrific doctor someday. That’s good to hear, especially from some of those who know you the best.
As always, there is a lesson to be learned here. Physicians treat people that are often in very stressful and emotional situations, so every thing they do is magnified. See, people tell other stories about doctors as well. Doctors that cared for children, parents, and friends during cancer, births, surgery, etc. Doctors that may not have spend much time with these patients, but nevertheless had a huge influence on them. These doctors were compassionate, respectful, and friendly. Even though the stories I hear may be 20 years old I can still see the respect and love in their eyes as they tell me about a good experience they had with an excellent doctor somewhere. That’s the kind of doctor I hope to be.
Thanks for reading!