It’s difficult to put the first few weeks of medical school into context. First, I’ve been homesick. That’s getting a bit better. Second, the style of learning is different than anything I’ve experienced before. We do a lot of group learning which was difficult in the beginning. It seemed absurd that they assembled small groups of ultra driven, high achieving, type A independent learners and expected them to learn from each other via ‘collaborative discussion’. Everyone wanted to be the teacher and no one wanted to be the student. The atmosphere seemed charged and competitive. And yet, somehow I think we’ve figured it out. In the last few weeks, we’ve relaxed. Our small groups have found common ground and friendships have formed. And the things we are learning from each other…wow. These kids are amazing.
I used to get excited about a lot of things. Frankly, it’s been awhile since I felt that way. But today, I felt it – a familiar thrill. I’m holding it closely. I’m looking at it. I don’t quite know what to do with it. I don’t know if I can trust it…but I want to.
Last night I went with my roommates to the Vancouver Film Festival. We watched a medical documentary called Code Black produced by a young emergency doctor/filmmaker who introduced the film himself. For eighty-one minutes we were guests in the emergency department of the LA County Hospital. The hospital is one of a small number of point-of-care hospitals in the United States where people aren’t turned away if they don’t have health insurance. It also houses the busiest emergency room in the country. The movie documented the logistical and financial challenges faced by the hospital in light of the medical needs they were expected to meet. The applause lasted for well over a minute when it was all over.
As a child I kept a journal. Every entry for months and months started either with the words “Today was fun.” or “Today was not fun.” As a young twenty-something, I chose personal training as a career because I felt it was most likely to allow journal entries starting with “Today was fun.” Now that I think about it, I think I started 90% of the classes I ever taught with the words, “This is going to be fun.”
People keep asking me what kind of medicine I want to do. Here it is: I want to treat people who are sick. Really sick. Broken bones and troubles breathing and mental illness and unexpected pain and fevers that just won’t go away… To me, that kind of medicine – the kind where you could really help somebody who needs you and needs you now – requires a little adrenaline. At least sometimes. And without a little adrenaline, you don’t feel the thrill. And I don’t know if it’s right or wrong or just the way it is, but I’ve missed that feeling, and I’m pretty sure that it’s never too late to look at something and realize that once again, just maybe, you could start your journal entries with words like “Today was fun.”