Friday, December 30, 2016

6 Specialities in search of an intern

I don’t do well with time off. My last real vacation, before we started med school was a five day trip to Hawaii. It was beautiful. Swim up bars, blue sea, white sand and I spent most of it on the lanai finishing my health informatics thesis, which was for all intents and purposes already finished. OCPD at its finest.

Something about having time off, is that is gives me time to think about what I have been doing—where normally I’m so busy I don’t have time to think too hard. As third year is now 2/3rds of the way over, I feel mounting pressure to decide on a specialty.

I thought deciding that I wanted to go to medical school was the biggest decision I would ever make—but it turns out that we are not off the decision making hook. Now in addition to being asked if I am dating anyone when I return home for the holidays, I am asked about what kind of medicine I want to practice. What kind of doctor I want to become.

The answer is honestly—a good one. One that isn’t too burnt out or disillusioned. A doctor who cares, who is able to live comfortably. A doctor who does right by people and has good friends and colleagues by my side. Oh—and one who is competent…let’s hope that comes with time.

But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the fact remains—we have to pick a specialty and therein lies the trouble. Everyone seems to have their own thoughts about what I should be doing. They mean well, but I’m the only one who can live my life.  Anesthesia makes a lot of money, but I worry its lonely. ER gets beat up by everyone in the hospital, pediatrics is way too stressful, IM rounds forever, surgeons seem too intense and psychiatrists never use their stethoscope. There is no one perfect specialty, but I'd like to get as close as possible to finding one. The thing is-- what makes medicine good, and fulfilling and meaningful, doesn't really have much to do with the chunk of it you pick. 

I am in search of a specialty that will make me ridiculously happy, but to be honest I’m not sure its possible to find one. Medical school doesn’t make me any more happy than I was before and although I don’t regret it, I think I had unrealistic expectations about what it would do for my life. Lo and behold, I’m still me. Still as happy as I was before, just more poor but with lots more friends by my side (care about you).

I think that’s one of the most important things about picking a specialty. Are you going to have good people with you? Will you be loved and supported? The rest is gravy. Remember the year after you finished college? It seemed like such a huge thing deciding what to do—but it all worked out right? After all, here you are.  

So friends, wherever you go, whatever it is you chose to do—know that we’re behind you, every step of the crazy, difficult, winding way.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stealing Jesus

The Baby Jesus has been stolen from numerous naivety scenes across the county this holiday season. In Boise, Idaho thieves snuck into a Rotary Club nativity in the middle of the night to remove the plastic baby. It was returned two days later when the culprits threw it out the window while driving by the nativity—which if you ask me is the ultimate Hail Mary.

NPR just featured a piece where a woman recounts stealing her sister’s nativity ornament with the words Peace on earth inscribed on it, inciting a ten year long family feud. Peace indeed.

Even our feline friends have been ousting the babe from its manager in the most adorable removal of the Christ child ever known. The old, if I fits I sits adage makes exception for no one.

Some curators of nativity scenes have even resorted to securing the Baby Jesus with a metal band bolted to the manger. Which seems kind of ironic, but a good solution none the less. And of course this being 2016, some plastic babies even have location trackers in them-- coining my favorite term of 2016-- "GPS Jesus."

But I can’t help but feeling like there is some kind of bigger metaphor here. The most important part of the holidays what ever one you choose to celebrate is too easily lost in politics, in spending money and in the stress that accompanies this time of year (bonus if you’re visiting family members who are Trump supporters). We are robbed of what this time of year is really all about-- remembering the light when it is dark. 

And as we get ready to say goodbye to what was one hell of a year, may we all try to do just a little bit better. So whatever religion you are or whatever weird family traditions you partake in, don’t let what can easily be a really stressful time of year get the best of you.

What matters is that we remember what matters. We’re going to need to try harder than we ever have in 2017 in order to protect our world, and to protect each other. We won’t be good friends, community members nor good citizens if we don’t remind ourselves what peace and love and joy feel like. So if you've stolen Jesus this holiday season--or had a plastic infant stolen from your yard, I hope the holiday spirit finds you, and puts you back where you belong. 

I hope you can take a moment to recharge this break. Take a walk in nature, donate money to your favorite charity, buy someone coffee (heck buy yourself coffee you look tired). 

So gentle reader, fill your glass with a beverage of your choosing. Let us cheers to being more present and less petty (although frankly some days go better than others). We will survive elections and exams alike. We will pick each other up, or sit with each other on the ground—whatever feels right. And at the end of the day, we will not rob ourselves of hope, even if we so often loose our way. Let us come back with renewed strength and energy and perseverance to put 2016 to bed and welcome in the hope that a new year always seems to bring.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Where does the good go?

I took 9 days off over Thanksgiving break. While the rest of you were getting up at its-still-dark-out o’clock, I was snuggly, warm and fast asleep in my own bed.

I never thought that I would be so glad to return to the Boat House, but after almost three months away in Redding it was comforting to be among the familiar.

I sipped coffee in the mornings, and wine in the evenings. I answered emails, read two books, cooked dinner every night, saw a multitude of friends, had a dance party and hugged Roshelle whenever we passed each other in the hallway. Oh and Netflix….lots of Netflix.

The days passed quickly. Too quickly.

Nine days off was not enough to fill the deep void that being alone in Redding for three months has left. I didn’t realize that it would be so hard to be the only med student for miles around. I miss you guys. I knew not having you around me all of the time would be hard, but working with an extremely terrible attending who has a penchant for yelling and living with incredibly weird dental students makes things extra difficult.

Its hard to work at clinic all day and never once get told that I did a good job, or got a question right or showed empathy and understanding towards a patient. If this was KevinMD there would be a slew of comments that med students are too soft these days and we need to suck it up and we can’t expect a trophy for participating. Screw those people. They don’t know (or don’t remember) what it feels like to be a third year med student. I need to hear that I did at least one thing right every day. I just do—otherwise I go home and hate myself. And is it really that hard to be thrown a bone once and a while? We’re human and we’re trying. How about showing a little empathy to your med student every now and then.

And the thing is, we’re good. We’re so good. We want to help so badly. We care. We’re good people. We’re working as hard as we can.  That matters. The rest will come with time. Being made to feel like terrible incompetent idiots just doesn’t pay. It doesn’t make for better doctors, it makes for burned out students who lay in bed at night and question whether they should have gone to med school in the first place. It drives us to have a secret fantasy about working in a little shop that sells soap and other sundries (just me?). If we are not going to be reminded that we can do this and that we are going to be good doctors—then we need to remind each other- every day, all the time.

I am so lucky to have such wonderful, smart, caring and capable classmates. When in doubt think about graduation day—its going to be here sooner than you think. We’ll come out the other side of this academic war, perhaps a little worse for wear, but still awesome, still good.

So where does that good feeling go? It didn’t go anywhere.

You’ve always had it.

And all you need to do to feel it, is remember that its there.

And if you can’t find it, we’ll be there to help you look.