Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thoughts from a budding doctor

There are certain careers that are more than just careers; they are a way of life. They require a lot of devotion, being other-focused, and having a readiness to be self-sacrificial. Medicine is one such career, and one that I have chosen.

As a physician-in-training, I’m learning a lot about self-denial and service. While the prestige of medicine has been waning over the years, I am still honored to be a part of this profession. I am humbled by the molding it takes to become a competent, compassionate, and effective physician. I find myself changing to be someone that I sometimes doubted that I could be. For example, with the start of clinical rotations, and knowing that I am not (absolutely not) a morning person, I was very worried that I would not be able to wake up on time to be at the hospital at whatever time that I’m expected to be there. Yet, something happened...the call of duty, knowing that I have patients to attend to, whatever it is...and I find myself, as if it were a congenital habit, waking up regularly at about 4 am, dressing and preparing for work, driving to the hospital, spending long hours in the hospital (with some positive and discouraging events), and finding myself awake and with my wits still with me. Even more exciting, I find myself content with how I spend my day. No, actually I do know what that "something" is--it's my God, helping me to be how I need to be. The bible reminds me that God never gives me more than I can handle.

At the core of a physician’s lifestyle is the idea of service—-doctors serve their patients, a somewhat weird idea given that doctors probably make more than some (if not most) of their patients. I always want to remind myself that I am here to serve my patients, to help them in any way that I can. I also want to make it a habit to pray for my patients before I see them, to acknowledge their complexity by soliciting help from their maker. I hope, years from now, as I become a seasoned professional, to always remember what a privilege it is to do what I do. In what other profession can total strangers come up to me, trusting me enough to be vulnerable to me, in hopes that I can help, that I can relieve their pain or distress? When I can help, my sleep-deprived nights, my years of studying, and the self-denial all seem worth it. It is a mutual relationship, this doctor-patient relationship. I know that doctors can sometimes be portrayed as heroes or as being altruistic. But there is some level of gain in my desire to care for others. The desire to help or devote my life to caring for others relieves the psychic discomfort of not having a purpose, of not being necessary outside of my own mind. Moreover, the knowledge that I am helping others gives me its own dose of joy and contentment. My life is meaningful by just being present and making myself useful to others. There are many ways to help people. I have focused on health because good health is a ticket that people need for the flight to their dreams, goals, and wishes. To not have good health is to render a life relatively immobile.

Right now, I feel that it is a joy to be on this path that I am on...caring for the sick and helping the healthy stay healthy. It is a fate that I have accepted, one that I know brings its own challenges and frustations. However, if I approach my work as I know God wants me to, this journey that I have started, the lives of these people that I will encounter will usher in maturity and insight into the mystery and beauty of the human soul, of the human being--this wonderful creation by the one and only wonderful God.