Wednesday, March 30, 2016

National (Almost) Doctors Day

To our Doctors: Thank You.
Posted by Nemours on Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Today is National Doctors' Day, a chance for hospitals, support staff, and patients to thank their doctors. The newborn nursing staff at one of our local hospitals bought the docs a basket of snacks and goodies they shared with the medical students after noon conference. Hillary Savoie over at The Cute Syndrome wrote a heartfelt thank you to the many doctors she has encountered during her daughter's life with special needs.

Hillary also posted the video above, from the Nemours Children's Health System. (I interviewed at Nemours/Alfred DuPont Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware.) The text lauds the day that "you" decided to become a doctor. It occurred to me that I cannot remember the day I made up my mind about this career choice. I have wanted to be a doctor since before I can remember. When I was a preschooler, my father played "order-lady" (orderly) for my stuffed-animal patients lying in hospital beds made of wooden blocks while I ministered to them with my PlaySkool doctor's kit. I don't know why I wanted to be a doctor then.

I made the decision again in elementary school--now to be a pediatric neurosurgeon like Dr. Benjamin Carson--because it sounded hard, and I liked the admiration the declaration won me from elderly neighbors and substitute grandparents at church. Apparently my pediatrician told me to choose anything but medicine, but I wouldn't listen to him.

In middle school, I once wrote that I wanted to practice medicine as my first career, serve as President of the United States as a second career, and then retire as a United Methodist minister in some local church. (I kid you not; Dear Husband can corroborate this.) It was all "service," and you can't even run for POTUS until you're 34-going-on-35, so it all made sense to me.

In high school I decided to become a doctor in order to help people. Young radical, I bristled at injustice and wanted to right the world's wrongs. I toyed with the idea of medical missions abroad, or practicing addiction medicine among the inner-city homeless here in the United States. Then I met my now-husband, whose own career was incompatible with a dusty village or a refugee camp, so I dreamed again.

In college I had my first crisis of confidence. Although I knew I wanted to work with kids, I didn't want to be a general pediatrician ("too boring"!), but a dear family friend and nurse warned that I wouldn't like myself after neurosurgery residency and that there were plenty of other kinds of doctors. At the same time, I learned about PhD "not that kind of doctor" doctors and changed my plans from medical school to a dual-degree program (MD/PhD). I remember lying on my parents' bed one night, confessing to my mother that although I liked anatomy and physiology, I worried that I wasn't actually going to like the day-to-day practice of medicine, and the prospect of reading books all day as "a historian" sounded much more appealing. She promised to support me in whatever I chose, so I decided to become a doctor-doctor.

Over the last twelve years, whenever I have switched between graduate and medical school, I have fallen in love with the idea, and the reality, of these fields all over again. When the stress of exams made me consider giving up, I had to choose to recommit myself. The healthcare system is just as broken as when my pediatrician advised me to find career happiness elsewhere, but the ability to sit in an ICU workroom and talk about pathophysiology, the history of medicine, or the social contexts of end-of-life care is a dream come true. I will probably never make a living teaching or writing history of medicine, but it has shaped the physician I will become in just over one month.

The next year of medical training promises to be one of the hardest in my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. Every time I roll out of bed before the sun in order to hit the wards for pre-rounding, I will decide to be a doctor. When I find myself explaining what antibiotic resistance is and why I won't give an unhappy patient an antibiotic for an infection that is most probably viral, I will choose to be a responsible clinician. And when I comfort a patient or a family, I will recommit myself to becoming the kind of physician who earns a little extra "thanks" on Doctors' Day.

1 comment:

Your comments let me know that I am not just releasing these thoughts into the Ether...