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Spring Reflections: Medicine & Garlic

In my first week at the IU School of Medicine, back in August 2011, I took part in one of the school’s most beautiful traditions. Along with the rest of my classmates I sat down to answer the question “what type of doctor do I want to be?” My answer was then sealed and kept by the school – to be returned later.

That experience remains vivid in my memory. I remember sitting among a sea of strangers, exchanging sheepish looks as we questioned the value of such an exercise. The 15 minute session seemed like such a strain on the precious time we had – to get to know our peers, to orient ourselves around the school, to start learning anatomy. How wrong we were!

In contrast to that sharp memory, I had completely forgotten what I had actually written. That is, until I received an oddly-addressed letter in the mail yesterday (reproduced below).

I am stuck how each of my points still fully resonate with me three years later. If I was to answer that selfsame question today I think my answer would be much the same. I find that to be a very reassuring thought. It tell me that I have chosen to pursue the right profession and that the challenges of medical school have not compromised my reasons for that pursuit.

Yesterday was also Match Day for IUSM’s 4th year students. Congratulations to you all! No doubt it is a wonderful feeling to see the culmination of all those hard years of work. You all deserve some well-earned R&R.

Indeed, I imagine that the timing of my letter’s receipt with Match Day is no coincidence. It suggests that someone at my school thinks I am on the verge of graduating and should be reminded of my initial motivations to enter medical school. Then again, I hope they aren’t planning on kicking me out early.

I had one final highlight yesterday – a lovely surprise poking its head through the soil of my garden:


Garlic buds! This is the first time I’ve tried to grow garlic: you need to plant the cloves in the fall and let them germinate over the winter. I was worried that the harsh weather may have frozen them but it seems garlic is plenty hardy for Indiana’s winters. Garlic soup anyone?

August 19, 2011 

I want to be a doctor who is:

  • clinically competent – having the expertise to evaluate, diagnoses, and treat my patients.
  • efficient – respecting that the time of patients, as well as my own, is precious and that resources are limited.
  • -research-oriented – seeking to improve myself and my profession through basic science.
  • -happy – maintaining strong relationships with family and friends and keeping a personal life outside medicine.
  • -helpful – helping my patients and colleagues however I am able, though kindness, trustworthiness, and empathy.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Stefan Tarnawsky

MS4 MD/PhD Student. Going into Internal Medicine; interested in Heme/Onc. Bread baker, bonsai artist, aspiring astronomer.