Monday, July 23, 2012

Doctors: Humanitarians First, People Later

Warning: I may get a little preachy here, the line between opinion and fact will be blurred, but please try to look past that and understand what I'm trying to get at

Whether you are currently a medical student or even a doctor or just beginning to contemplate the idea of pursuing a career in medicine you have at some point pondered what has pulled you that way. Stock answer "i want to help people".  We're so programmed to think that and to say that but I feel as though the true force behind that statement has been diluted.

What prompted me to write this post was the onslaught of status updates via different social media regarding the absolutely horrific events that unfolded at the Batman movie premiere.  There were a variety of different reactions as well as differing levels of sensitivity (or insensitivity) that got me to thinking.  I realized then that insensitivity (be it online or otherwise) strikes a chord with me the most when the individual is a medical student (and as the slow progression up the totem pole of medical education occurs for me eventually it will be residents, fellow doctors, etc).  No matter how human we may be by taking on the role of physician we are answering a higher calling.  People expect more.  There is an expectation that you are more caring, more understanding, more sensitive and more skilled in empathy than the average person.  Additionally, we are all in this thing together, if one med student is a jerk I feel like it reflects on use poorly as a community.

Maybe there isn't an expectation and I came into this with my head in the clouds but I do feel that way. We owe it to ourselves as well as our future patients to shift our world views in a way that allows us to empathize first, judge and mock later

One of the hardest lessons the past year has taught me is that although I chose medicine because I absolutely am enthralled by the inner working of the human body and because talking to people, learning their stories and understanding how I can bridge the gap between science and medicine and society and culture, not everyone does.  Sometimes people want to go to medical school because they have a passion to serve the underserved while others crave the honor and prestige of being a world renown surgeon while others still simply want to secure themselves a certain type of lifestyle.  The toughest pill for me to swallow is that its okay.

Medical school gives you ample opportunity to self reflect from a pit of angst and rage, it is easy to forget the optimism and lofty ideals that may have brought you where you are, but I implore each and every one of you to look deep down inside you and hang on to that thinnest thread of wanting to care for people.

I am a firm believer that little things like that can truly change the face of medicine.

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