Thursday, September 27, 2007

everyone believes in how they think it ought to be*

There was this guy F in graduate school who was quite smart, but also quite, quite proud of that and felt the need to make sure everyone knew this. In fact, he'd go so far as to hold his exam up after the professor had handed it to him and actually say, loudly enough for everyone in my 25-person graduate class to hear, "Wow, I can't believe I got another perfect grade!" Then he'd also turn around and try to show his exam to those around him.

The funny thing is, everyone just kind of rolled their eyes at him and put their eyes back to their books. The class was filled with pretty sharp people, and they sort of felt sorry for this kid's need to prove himself to everyone in order to validate himself.

I find that funny now because, basically, I'm in class with about 25 F's, except they're less smart than the original F's, and then on top of that, I'm in class with about 70 people who do not shrug off such proclamations. Instead, they either moon over how superior those 25 people are or get so annoyed with it that it is really obvious that they're jealous.

So, see, I think this is my main problem with medical school, and really, if this is your only problem in medical school, you probably should shut your trap and be grateful. And I am pretty grateful. But I am pretty sure that, by and large, I dislike doctors. I don't like the self-importance, I don't like the fake positivity or fake altruism (in some), I don't like the blatant greed (in others). But most of all, I don't like the way they approach knowledge, like it's some kind of weapon. In graduate school, you had to know your sh*t, but ultimately that was going to come to bear in your research, not on how you did on one quiz. And when it comes right down to it, medicine ought to be the same way.

Of course, the way the system is designed basically opposes that in every way possible. First, there's the competitive process to get in. Then, there's the competitive process to match for residency. And about a million competitive things in the middle of it.

And my problem is not that those people exist, because I already knew I was in for that. What really worries me is the possibility that I could turn into one of them. The system is designed to turn you into this kind of person. So trying to keep my own perspective about things is definitely swimming upstream. I have my ideas of what is doing well and what is doing poorly, and I want to anchor my feelings on that-- but I can see that, even in the past month, there have been moments where my ideas have drifted based on external influences. I was able to shut them out and get back to my own center, but I wonder how long I will be able to maintain that.

You really won't believe this, but medical school lacks nerds. There are a lot of highly driven (maybe even madly driven) overachievers, know-it-all's even, but that is very different from being a nerd. They are passionate about things, but not about learning, not about the science of medicine. Maybe none of them care about the science, but to me, without the nerds, the educational experience is a bit lacking.

The bottom line is that I don't think I like doctors. But I do like medicine. And that's the dilemma. But I have to remember that there are definitely doctors I like a lot, and also that I don't have to be anyone I don't want to be. So I can tell that the biggest challenge that will face me in school is those moments of having to draw those lines, the lines that point out this is who you think I need to be and this is who I am willing to be, and then not crossing those lines.

* Even though I doubt he's reading these days, Abhi should note that I did something monumental today- I quoted a John Mayer song. I still hate him (John Mayer, not Abhi! I really need to work on my grammar), and I even hate this song (based on the lyrics) but I must begrudgingly admit that the music is actually kind of good. God, maybe medical school has gotten to me.

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