Two years ago I sat with my fellow students in the auditorium like newly minted pennies, fresh, enthusiastic, bright eyed and ready to mount up on our journey into the unknown world of medical school matriculation. Our enthusiasm was our armor against what we all felt, the fear of god raining from the sky smiting us out of medical school with the doomed possibility of failure. We had all heard of at least a story of the mishaps or misfortune of a poor medical soul lost to the abyss. It was a thought we couldn’t entertain, our enthusiasm alone would will us past our insecurities.
The all mighty validation of medical knowledge affectionately called the mean, ruled whether we were on track to medical success. Below the mean meant a darker sky, less enthusiasm, more pessimism. By the end of first year we were so good at reading each other, we could split the class in half by disposition alone.
While reflecting on first year, I took the the time to explore medicine outside the semi lit lecture hall. I read case files, sat in on tumor boards, attended grand rounds and visited patients. I saw the lives of residents and innovative leaders share their latest medical research. I saw a collaborative world where patients were put before board scores, publications, edging out peers and politics. They were candid about limitations and honest about missteps in treatment plans. I couldn’t help, but wonder if there was something intangible in medical practice that we all shared that went beyond valid assessment by neatly organized test scores.
Returning to second year the stakes were higher, the work load larger and of course our time more limited. We weren’t shiny matriculated pennies anymore, but our armor was still intact. After all we had survived first year, we could do anything. But as second year took hold, fatigue crept in and boards loomed, our armor began to crack. Enthusiasm wasn’t sustaining us anymore. We became more candid and open about missteps and limitations. We started to share study guides more openly, and compensate for each other’s missteps to save our friendly simulated patients. As our armor continued to break down we had only one thing left in our arsenal, we shared our gifts.
About: Aaron Schenone Third Year Medical Student in St Louis, studying clinical research in oncology.