“Cream of the crop”

Today, yet again, this issue came up. “You are the cream of the crop.” “You are the top two percent of society.” “You are the top of the food chain, the top of the hierarchy.” “This position demands respect. Everybody is looking up to you!”

I am so sick and tired of hearing how great we are. How our greatness has somehow pushed us outside the realm of normalcy and we are now at this superhuman status. “We know how hard you all worked! How much partying you must have sacrificed, how much free time, your friends, your family–we know the sacrifices and that’s what sets you apart!”

Um, excuse me? Hard work? Sacrifice? Exactly how does my studying and “hard work” compare the village girls in Somalia whose daily “hard work” comprises just getting water to sustain their families for the day? Exactly where does my “sacrifice” of free time rank amongst the thousands of Syrian and Pakistani children who have sacrificed their lives? Don’t talk to me about sacrifice or hard work. For us to even be using these words in our cushy, centrally-heated and air-conditioned 21st-century lives is an insult to everyone living outside this North American bubble–hell, outside the medicine bubble. The only reason we think we are the centre of the world is because we have crafted the world to revolve around us.

The irony of this is that my angry, heated feelings arose from the screening of The Doctor today, a movie in which a stereotypical cocky surgeon faces the hospital from the other perspective when he’s admitted with throat cancer. After the movie, two physicians talked about how their lives paralleled the movie in many ways, and with it came 1) the reaffirmation of how amazing and special and superhuman we are, and 2) the huge red flag warning that you’d better not turn into an asshole about it either. This makes me furious because, as I mentioned for one thing, we’re really not that special… give any kid in Africa a bunch of textbooks, a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, and all the resources we have at our fingertips and I’d be damned if they didn’t turn out better doctors than us. But secondly, and more importantly, if you don’t want us to think we’re so great, stop telling us how great we are.

We honestly get told at least once a day by a different instructor that we are the cream of the crop. I just want this stupid self-fulfilling prophecy to stop, where our preceptors and administrators tell us we’re amazing, but expect it not to get to our heads. I love my class though, honest to God, because of how many people came up to me after I made that comment saying they agreed with me. I think this for sure reaffirms my faith in my class in particularly, and our generation as a whole, that things are changing. Doctors are not gods, and society has stopped treating us as such. It’s no coincidence that the instructors who insist that “med students are not normal!” are all older docs who’ve been treated like gold all their lives, only to have it backfire on them through their family and personal lives. I have really strong hope that my peers will remain humble, whether because of the fact that we know we’re not that great, we all have friends on the waiting list for med who didn’t get in but are just as smart and hard-working, or we’re just humble people in general. Whatever the reason is, I thank God that my colleagues will be very normal human beings partaking in the delivery of health care with other very normal, very bright health care professionals.

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