Last week on December 26th 2014 I officially became a medical doctor. Graduating from a Caribbean medical school means that our timeframe can sometimes become a little bit off cycle [due to one reason or another] and it’s possible to finish a couple weeks or months ahead of schedule [like me]. No complaints here though, more time to watch Serial, read Atul Gawande’s amazing catalogue of books, and rewatch Star Wars [which is always a treat].
I wanted to write a post on some of the thoughts that were running through my head as I walked through the hallways of my last rotation and head to the parking lot to drive off as a student for the last time in my life. Short white coat safely tucked underneath my arm I couldn’t help but allow the flood of memories from the past 4 years to run through me. Here are some that stuck:
1. I feel like I’ve been a medical student for 109348098 years but actually its been 4.
Medical school feels like it lasts forever but it does eventually end. There are so many days where the tediousness of studying and the inability to spend time with the people you love really make you consider your career choice. Other days its the fact that getting a grade above average is harder than it ever was, even with the extra time put into work. All in all you can’t help but ask yourself if you’re losing out on the “prime of your life” as you sit in the library scrolling through Facebook photos of your friends going out on the town, relatives getting married, and family phone calls asking you “when will we see you again?!”. It’s tough but the surprising truth is that there is plenty of life for you to live once you finish. The people that truly love and care about you are still there at the end. The exotic travel locales you wanted to go, the photography hobby you wish you had time for, and the fun activities with friends can all be salvaged because medical school is a small part of your life. It’s just tough to see that when you’re in the middle of it all.
2. Wow I still had a lot of growing up to back when I thought I knew everything
I entered medical school with the very wrong mindset that I had already proven myself, that’s why I was there in the first place. The results of my first block exam quickly made me abandon that notion. The second set made me reconsider if I even belonged there and the third resulted in me having to retake what is arguably the “easiest” of all medical school classes…Histology.
It was a huge blow to my ego and I remember talking to the professor a couple weeks before that last test which sealed my fate. I needed an A on the last test to pass and for someone who was just starting to make Cs that seemed reasonably far fetched in his eyes. He told me to withdraw from the class and I remember the bit of advice he offered me that day “This is Histology” he said using his index finger and thumb to signify a small dot in the space infront of him. “This is your career as a doctor” he then spanned his arms as wide as he could and looked at me expecting a reaction of understanding. But I didn’t understand. In my head I had decided long ago there was no way I was going to fail even when the odds were stacked highly against me. I refused to listen to anyone. Well it didn’t work out and I learned the importance of perspective, heeding the advice of others, and approaching problems with a balanced head that day.
As my grades got better my problems didn’t go away, they just changed. People. Work-life balance. Family. Career Choices. Medical school exposed me to all sorts of challenges that I couldn’t dream of facing 4 years ago. I’m wiser because of it, and I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned.
3. The most amazing things I did all followed a chance I was scared to take but did
I want to be clear here, being consistent and steady got me through medical school. Having a routine and sticking to a plan helped me do well on my exams and land my residency interviews. It was the time-tested formulas that brought results. What I’m talking about is taking a chance on myself. I had ideas and passions I was scared to act on either because I didn’t see others doing them or I wondered what gave me the right to be so audacious. Each time I saw in myself the desire to bring to life a dream of mine [dreamer doc, get it] I decided to act on it. What resulted were trips to far reaches of the world with people I will never forget. I got the chance to work with victims of horrible crimes and even this blog seemed far-fetched when I thought about it a year ago. All of these chances have become treasured memories and they never would have come to fruition if I didn’t take the risk of trusting myself.
4. Being good at things helps you move forward, but so does just refusing to give up
Somedays things came naturally and others had to work harder than me. Other days I couldn’t figure out how to wrap my head around something while my friends or coworkers picked it up easier. The only people that didn’t keep moving forward were the ones who walked away.
5. Being humble is the key to success, and a lot harder than I thought
Humility in the dictionary is defined as “to have a low opinion of oneself”. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that knowing exactly where you belong in the scheme of things is to your benefit; somedays it means you know more than others and you become a teacher. Other days it means realizing you know less and becoming a student. So I think humility to me means not feeling so important that you stop learning from others or from your experiences. This is really difficult! It’s tough to say “I don’t know” and I realize that more with each passing today as society now expects me to live up to the two letters at the end of my name. The tricky thing is though, that I’ve only ever learned something when I entered a situation with the mindset that the people knew things I did not, and for that you must be humble.