To being a humble medical trainee

I am approaching NJCB’s entry, “To Being a Smug Medical Trainee“, as an onlooker who can appreciate both sides. I initially wrote this as a very long comment to his post so it was suggested that I make this a separate entry:

I humbly respect the work that doctors do because I have witnessed how much it requires to even get in to that white coat — to compile a strong resume with years of dedication, to navigate through a ridiculous interview process, to study endlessly in order to master every twist and turn of the human body and all that can go wrong with it, to work for years without earning a salary and actually paying tuition to do so, to face demanding supervisors and skeptical patients while kneeling on the humblest end of the hierarchy, and to hone your craft so that you can better serve society. I admire these actions and characteristics in my boyfriend, friends, and colleagues. I have the privilege of knowing and working with very humble professionals with a stethoscope around their necks for the right reasons, who I hope will be at my bedside when I need it.

I think the key is that it is up to people like me to recognize this dedication and skill. It is important that doctors feel appreciated and remind themselves that they are doing special work. It is ok for me to say this aloud. The problem is when students step into the hospital that day with the mantra NJCB shared from his colleague bitterly playing in their heads. Feeling like martyrs who have been cursed with intelligence and sentenced to a hell that features public service. They all had a choice. They did all they could to get into med school, and then chose their specialties knowing what the schedules and duties entailed. They are also not the only people who gave up Saturday nights in their 20’s to study like maniacs. To lug around heavy books and have no money. To work long hours and feel a nagging depression because work has cast a shadow over relationships and recreation.

There are so many other occupations that can suck these high points out of a person’s life with even less recognition in return. I had a long conversation at work last week with an immigrant who drove a taxi through the night to support his large family, dealing with racist remarks from drunk Canadians in his back seat when nighttime set in. This man gave up his sleep, family time, and happiness, yet had no words of complaint. Nurses can write their own lamenting soliloquies like the one above. So can teachers, policemen, fast-food workers — you name it.

NJCB highlighted that it is a privilege. A privilege to make the independent choice to try to enter medicine and to succeed in doing so. And it is the “dregs of society” that deserve the most support, as it is society that has played a role in their landing in that state. I’m sure that’s what the writer of the ode to med students babbled about in order to suck up during his entrance interview.

So, to make sure I’m clear, I think health care professionals make significant sacrifices and I respect them wholeheartedly. Thankfully doctors are well-paid and well-respected, which sadly cannot be said for countless other hardworking employees.


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