Why do you want to be a doctor?
We’re in the home stretch, friends. As I write this, we have just 3 more days of class left for the semester! Then next week we have our last biochemistry exam and 2 shelf exams (one for CMB—cell and molecular biology—and one for biochemistry). At the Muncie campus, CMB and biochem are combined into one block, so we have both shelf exams in one day. That should be an interesting day. Let’s just say I’ll need to hibernate afterwards.
At this point last year, I was anxiously waiting to hear about med school acceptances. I’m sure many pre-med students are in the same boat right now. For those of you who have already interviewed at IU and are freaking out because you haven’t heard back yet, let me tell you what my interviewer told me: “No news is good news.” Although the exact process is a bit mysterious, just know that IUSM gets a ridiculous amount of applications (especially since it’s the only MD school in Indiana), so obviously it takes them quite some time to discuss the interviewees. Try to take your mind off of the anxiety and enjoy the Christmas season! If you’re interested in my decision process (i.e. how I ended up at IUSM-Muncie), check out this post at my personal blog: Med School Update.
Since Thanksgiving just passed, I’ve been thinking a lot about being thankful. Unfortunately, complaining is a big part of many careers, and medicine is no exception. You can hear people in the healthcare field complaining about patients, co-workers, people in higher positions, people in lower positions, studying, professors, the government, insurance companies, facilities, and so on. You name it, someone is complaining about it.
Granted, there may be a lot to complain about in this field. But there’s also so much to be thankful for in medicine.
Here’s the thing we need to remember about medical school: we chose this. No one forced us to be in med school. No one forces us to stay in med school. I decided on my own that I want to be a doctor (at the wise old age of 5). And I was given the opportunity to do so.
It’s so easy to forget that we aren’t required to be here. Sometimes the studying gets overwhelming and all we want to do is complain. We want to whine about how much we have to do. We want to whine about the professors. We want to whine about the exams. But no one is making us stay. I’m choosing to stay. You’re choosing to stay. Some of you are choosing to apply to medical school, knowing fully well that it’s not an easy road. We’re all making these decisions.
And we all have our reasons. The classic med school interview question is “Why do you want to be a doctor?” Regardless of what answer you came up with to impress your interviewer, that question will come back over and over again. Except now you are the one asking yourself that question. Why do I want to be a doctor?
I want to be a doctor because I remember the feeling of helplessness when I was unable to provide medical care. I was leaving an orphanage in Camboriú, Brazil when I saw a van pull up and a woman step out with a little girl. I’ll never forget that child’s face. It was covered in blood and she was clearly injured. I wanted nothing more than to help her, but all I could do was watch. I had no medical supplies or training. I was with a group from church. We had brought joy to the children in the orphanage by making balloon animals (or in my case, popping balloon animals in the process of making them), and performing skits and puppet shows to share the love of Jesus. It was wonderful. But when I saw that little girl, my desire to be a physician grew even stronger. I didn’t want to watch her suffer: I wanted to have the resources and training to step in and ease her suffering. I promised myself that one day I’ll not only be able to bring laughter and joy, but also provide medical care to orphans.
Medicine is unfortunately filled with a lot of losses. I used to wonder (and often still do) how I’ll be able to deal with those losses. During medical school, the losses mainly consist of missed test questions (which I’m not downplaying: it can be really discouraging, especially when you know you’ve studied hard). But as I advance in the medical field, the losses will become greater.
I want to be a doctor because Bri taught me how to deal with losses: she taught me the true meaning of winning. I met Bri when I walked into her home in Budapest, Hungary and immediately received a hug from her. My family stayed with her family shortly after getting robbed in Europe (think “Taken”…except only passports/money/possessions were taken, so Liam Neeson didn’t show up).
Obviously we were a bit shaken up. Staying with Bri and her family (none of whom we knew previously…we’re adventurous) proved to be the perfect “treatment.” Bri never once minimized our loss, yet the loss seemed minimal by the end of our stay. She exemplifies pure joy and trust. Her bubbly laughter was contagious and I’m a better person because I met her. This beautiful girl, who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, taught me something no class ever could. She couldn’t change my circumstances, she couldn’t reverse the losses, but she taught me how to treat a person, rather than just treating the loss or disease, and win every time.
I want to be a doctor because of children like Zoe and families like hers. A family dear to my heart adopted inseparable best friends, Zoe and Zane, from an orphanage in China. This family became Zoe’s and Zane’s “forever family.” However, both kids had been dealing with medical conditions. I won’t go into details here, but Zoe’s health issues were very extreme and involved her heart. Her family spent more time in a hospital than any family ever should. They probably know more about the heart than they ever wanted to learn. Zoe underwent many procedures and surgeries. And her family stayed with her through it all. They loved her fiercely and clung desperately to the knowledge that they serve a God who loves Zoe even more. In the end, the Lord chose to take little Zoe home to be with Him.
But she left a mark on my life. I want to be a doctor for children like Zoe. I want to be part of the medical team that works hard to save those facing scary situations. I want to have the privilege of standing beside families like Zoe’s, hearing them sing praises to Jesus in the midst of their pain. I want to witness heart-wrenching love like that. Medicine is certainly full of pain, but there is so much joy and love there too.
Those are the stories I remember when I begin asking myself “Why do I want to be a doctor?” You have your own stories. Remind yourself of them. Be mentally prepared to answer that question, especially when the going gets tough and the complaints abound.
Let’s embrace the long nights of studying.
Let’s embrace the test questions that we blank on.
Let’s embrace the lectures that drag on.
Let’s embrace the people that frustrate us.
Let’s embrace every high and low on this journey.
Because guess what: we chose to be here. We have the privilege to be here. And this is an opportunity we ought to be thankful for and embrace wholeheartedly.