A calling

Medical school application season is upon us again – another round of personal statements to read.  They’re all BS. (Fine – 95% of them are).

You have the students who were inspired to become a physician by some patient while they were volunteering at the hospital.  Mind you, they were probably volunteering at the hospital in hopes of getting into med school (an unspoken requirement).  So which one came first?  Probably the latter.

Then you have the students who have family members who were sick and that’s why they want to become doctors.  I’ll buy that – sort of.  Everyone gets sick at some point.  But as a patient or relative of a patient, you don’t actually get to see what a physician does all day.  Usually it’s the nurse who takes care of you directly.  Plus, you’re not allowed to treat your family/friends.  But maybe it’s out of gratefulness and they want to pass it on to others who are ill.  I suspect they don’t get inspired to become nurses. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

The ones who do know what it’s like to become a doctor usually had parents/relatives who were physicians.  They would say their relatives were their role models who inspired them to become doctors, too.   I’m willing to bet some of them are going into med school because their parents want them to.  Or for money/lifestyle.

Despite what they claim in their personal statements, most medical school applicants are probably motivated to pursue this career due to job stability, income, lifestyle, social status, etc.  Why else would they suddenly have a strong interest in dermatology or radiology?  Don’t get me wrong – I think they are perfectly legitimate reasons to go into medicine.  It is okay for it to be just a job – a means for living.

A very tiny group of applicants say they want to go into medicine because it’s a calling.  That they want to do God’s work and serve the needy.  This one is always hard for me to wrap my head around.  Maybe because I’m not a religious person.  But for some reason, out of all the applicants, they are the ones I am most inclined to believe.  Here’s why:

The Merriam-Webster defines calling as “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence”.

The fact of the matter is people have external motivations to go into medicine.  For those who truly believe medicine is a calling (from the religious type of applicant), that motivation is a higher being.  I respect them for it.  They recognize that it may not always be an easy, happy path, but they do it anyway.  But most of all, if they are as devout as they say, they aren’t lying like the other applicants.  It’s silly – we don’t lie about reasons to go into other professions such as business or law.  Yet in our personal statements for medical school, we have to say that we are going into medicine for some altruistic or inspirational reason.  Or else you’re a monster.  I just want to lay it out there.  You can become a doctor for whatever reason you want.  Just do good for your patients.

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What do I want to be when I grow up?

That’s what my advisor jokingly asked me the other day.

“I don’t know.”  That’s right – I still don’t know.

It amazes some of my friends that I am nearly 30 and still don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life.  Many of them have gotten married, had kids, and have been at their current jobs/career for >5 years.  Most of us medical students are single, definitely have no time for kids, and have been in school forever still trying to decide what kind of doctor we want to be.

It’s like we’re developmentally delayed.  Like we aren’t real adults.  But we’ll catch up… someday.

Good luck 4th years!

My former classmates have just submitted their applications for residency.

It’s hard to imagine that will be me in a year, especially since I haven’t figured out what specialty I want to go into yet.

I haven’t hated any rotation (so far) so much that I wouldn’t go into that specialty.  But I haven’t loved any of them either.  Hopefully the electives I signed up for will help narrow it down.  At least I have a few more months to decide.

Impostor syndrome

According to Wikipedia, impostor syndrome is “a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Ever since I started medical school, I have felt this way.

It’s interesting because in college, I did well without much work or stress.  I figured I was coasting along since I picked easier classes, had some good luck, and relying on some kind of innate “talent” or “brains”.

That stopped as soon as medical school began.  Everyone else was so smart – they were at the top of their classes in college, learned much more quickly than me, and just knew everything.  Our grades were pass or fail, determined by a cutoff relative to the class average.  I was doing so poorly I thought I should just drop out and pick another profession.  One that I knew I could be good at.  The only reason that didn’t happen was because I couldn’t think of any.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder during medical school didn’t help.  Now it became more than just “what if they find out I’m not smart?? I don’t deserve to be here”.  Thoughts like “what if they found out I’m crazy too? Now they’ll really kick me out!” started entering my mind.

I know it’s all irrational.  I know it’s common.  I just wish I could make it go away.