Why I wanted to become a physician?
I wish I had an answer that looked better on applications and tickled the fancy of those in the general public looking for altruism in health care.
Something playing to the “making the world a better place” or “providing health care for those that need it most,”or even a politically-driven nicety like “health care is a human right and I will work towards making that a reality,” but I don’t.
The frantic cramming and borderline panic have come to define the medical education experience. But the often unrecognized and, I believe, the most important aspect of medical school, is how it grabs you by the nape of your neck and forces you in front of a mirror. Once you are stripped of your pretenses about medicine, and the cynicism begins it’s slow creep into the periphery of your view of the medical field, it leaves you with a brutally raw perspective of your motivations. The platitudinous flowery language that filled individual essays on applications is gone, and you are made to really evaluate where you are and whether or not you really want to be there.
Once you get a peek behind the curtain, the mirage of what we believed was medicine evaporates, and the grittiness and uncomfortable reality becomes stark. Now, of course, there are those saintly individuals that were imbued with just the right amount of optimism and intelligence that are so whole-heartedly on board with their own self-sacrificial dogma that they are able to enter the promise land with clear eyes and open hearts. But, the reality of medicine is too real for some of us. When the rose tint of our glasses disappears, we don’t like what we see on the other side.
Medicine is life, and the practice of medicine is as close to real-ness as you could possibly get out of a career. Life is hard, it’s unfair, it is uncaring and uncompromising. Bad things happen in life, to good people, with no explanation; and in the practice of medicine, these truths become obvious day in and day out. But, as in life, the other side of the coin is as beautiful as its counterweight is cruel. Life is made as babies are born, it is prolonged as cancer is beat. People fall in love and they lie in the sun. Hopelessness becomes faith as mental illness is wrangled. But the stark reality of life, and therefore of medicine, is that the only inevitability is its end.
The insurmountability of life is that it is but a dying flame. Death, dying, disease and dysfunction: it is unavoidable. This is at the crux of medicine. It is the only job that regardless of what we do, no matter how well we do our job, people die. But, an indomitable foe is necessary for the birth of heroes. In the face of inevitable defeat, to be willing to go to work every day and fight your [expletive] off, that is beautiful, that is courage and that is why I went into medicine.
In medical school we aren’t hit with the barrage of challenges that makes up a medical practitioners day to day, but we are afforded a glimpse of what is in store. We are the next set of gladiators peeking out from the tunnel watching those that went before us fight “unwinnable” fights against unstoppable great beasts. It is as real as an occupation can be, you have a direct relationship with what it means to be alive every day. It is difficult and it is trying, it is unassailable and it is arduous. But, it is rewarding, it is exciting, it is revealing and although it may not be why I entered medicine it is definitely why I fell back in love with it — it is fun. And if that isn’t what you are looking for in life, I don’t know what to tell you.