Day One of orientation has confirmed this program to be almost everything I thought it would be. That is: very structured, very well-supported, massive numbers of administrators, fun (now), interesting (later), lots of partying, lots of inflated egos, lots of pumping further air into these already inflated egos, some quirky personalities, mostly needing-approval-from-society personalities, lots of intelligence and diligence to go around.
One thing that strikes me as so unfair is that professional programs, and medicine in particular, receive so much attention, support, and funding–leaving all other programs in the dust. The Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry here seem to have enormous support staff networks, which is great now that I’m in it, but I think to the alternate career path I’d been considering and how absolutely barren the Bio Sci department is when it comes to support programs for their students. Had I been pursuing a Masters right now, I’d be completely alone on my hunt for a supervisor, discouraged from already having spoken to two and been rejected, completely unsure of the project I’d want to take on, no particular department to guide me, no particular person to take an interest in me, and definitely no funding behind me. It seems so unfair that these well-structured programs get all of society’s support and recognition, while a lone researcher goes almost completely unrecognised until his or her research has achieved the intended result (usually a product of decades of work). Thank God that I am where I am, and at the same time… it’s so sad that our world works this way.
Another bone that I have to pick is the ego thing. Why do med students feel they have accomplished the entire world just by getting accepted? Your struggle is only beginning, dude. I recognise that a lot of my peers did a whole lotta studying and volunteering to get to where they are, but chill out–all you did to earn a pat on the back is get the grades. You probably didn’t have to fight for your life the way people do in other parts of the world… you probably had enough food on your table to eat a decent meal before every study session, unlike medical students in Bangladesh, or Indonesia, or Kazakhstan… you probably had tons of family and friends backing you up in this journey, as opposed to being told that you don’t deserve to pursue an education the way many women in Afghanistan are… I could go on. The point is, be proud of your accomplishment, but keep it in perspective. I don’t ever want to turn into one of those people who feel a sense of entitlement and a sense of importance simply because the admissions committee picked me over the next guy. Getting into medical school has not given my life some kind of greater value than any other human being, and I’m fully aware that the hardest part is yet to come–sure, maybe not in preclinical, maybe not in clerkship, but I’m looking forward to getting my butt kicked in residency… and that other thing called “real life.” Balancing this job with a family, with crying kids, with aging parents, with the rest of my community tugging at my sleeves… that’s when I’ll feel accomplished.
However, amongst all the medicine bashing, there’s still a lot of respect that is due for the program as well as the people in it. My peers are definitely all brilliant, probably all in different ways. They all have a fun and outgoing side, which came out in the scavenger hunt today, as I’m sure it will in more intimate sessions in the future. I love that people can take themselves lightly enough to be partying right now despite 8am start time tomorrow. And as for the profs and administrators that put this program together, I definitely owe you one for allowing me to be a part of this. As much as I feel like it’s a cool kids’ club, I have to admit it’s nice to have the luxury of being treated like society’s cream of the crop, whether we deserve it or not. The admins have designed it to be a cushy ride, and maybe that’s fair only because of the hard work that is sure to come after these four years. I know with absolute certainty I’ll be treated well here, much better than I deserve, and more importantly–that I’ll be taken care of. I know without a doubt that this program will train me to be a hands-down good quality physician, and at the end of the day when it comes to evaluating medical school, that’s what counts.
I know that I’m in good hands based on the Dean’s speech today:
Put pen to paper privately or venture publicly onto your Facebook page and post a positive thought, a statement of hope, an affirmation or a prayer. Put this positive thought nugget in a place where you can revisit it from time to time, to remind yourself of why you are here.
I don’t know if this post counts as a positive thought, given the amount of criticism in it, but I hope this counts as a realistic (albeit naive) interpretation of what I feel the next four years will really be like. I do know this is what I feel at this moment, and honesty to oneself is probably what matters most. So here’s to fulfilling my Dean’s request, documenting the joy, anxiety, accomplishment, and anticipation I feel about being a physician in the near future.