I wonder how many other essays exist out there that start with this next sentence: medical school is hard. Typical, I know, but I will not lie to you, I will not sugar coat things, I will tell you how it really is. It is hard. But I’ll tell you what, you know that fabled light at the end of the tunnel? It’s there.
As I am finishing up my first year of med school, I am almost surprised to emerge in one piece. After countless hours of lecture, studying, and memorization of seemingly endless details about the intricate workings of the human body; after praying for “just a passing grade” when a few years ago a B wasn’t good enough; after sacrificing time with family, friends, and loved ones; after a few minor breakdowns and many tears – I can honestly say that I can’t wait for next year. More importantly, I can’t wait for third and fourth year, residency, and my future career.
Despite the struggles we all faced as MS1s, there were moments I experienced that reminded me why I am putting myself through what is possibly the greatest challenge I have experienced thus far in my life. Like tiny beacons, they happened in the most unexpected circumstances to push me through a tough year. We all have these moments, each one unique to the person experiencing it, and I want to share with you some of mine.
While practicing physical examination skills on a veteran in the inpatient ward of the hospital, fumbling with your new, large, clunky otoscope, he leans in to reassure you that you will make a great doctor – you have warm hands.
While shadowing in labor and delivery, tagging along with the MS3 on duty that night diligently answering all of your queries (thanks Ashley!), you head in to an emergency C-section to witness your first birth – and get to be one of the first people to welcome this new healthy baby boy into the world.
While conducting a volunteer patient interview, practicing how to best communicate with patients and ask all the important questions, learning to do the very basics of our chosen profession – Ms. C thanks you for being so attentive, kind, easy to talk to, and making her feel comfortable (even when you have to ask a 76 year old about her sex life).
While shadowing in hospice care, visiting people in various stages of the ends of their lives, talking to those who still can, sitting and just being with those who can’t, your social worker tells you that Mr. G asked where you were last week – you brightened his day enough to make an impression, just by listening and smiling.
While in New Orleans on the spring break trip, working with homeless HIV/AIDS patients at a transitional home, you are entrusted with a life story: he served in the army, studied psychology in college, and knows five languages – by opening your mind and your heart to the triumphs and suffering of others, you have been rewarded.
While sitting in the audience at the OB/GYN residency panel, listening to four amazing women talk about their chosen field, how they got there, and what they are most looking forward to – and realizing you wish you were in their seats, because more than anything you want to do that too.
Peers and patients alike will open up to you, should you only earn their trust and respect. The kindness of others, through shared wisdom, friendship, and kind words, will be an unheralded source of strength and support. You will be privy to so many secrets and be a part of some very special moments. You will be astounded by the perseverance of the human spirit, both in the hospital and the classroom. Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, talk to everyone, and make each conversation count.
You will work hard and lose sleep. At times, you will be frustrated and angry. But you will seek the good, and do it. You will immerse yourself into learning and enlightenment, and be guided by your teachers, your mentors, and your peers. You will succeed, and be justly rewarded. I am only (almost!) through my first year, but I can promise you this: it is hard, and it is all worth it.