Reflections on medicine and lifelong impact after half a year of clinical clerkships
As I’m writing this last post of 2021, it’s hard to believe I’m less than a year away from applying to residencies (and ultimately selecting a specialty!) but at the same time I’ve felt like I’ve progressed so much more towards becoming a physician in this last half year than I have in the entire first half of medical school.
Looking back at some of the words I wrote as I was starting third year with To MD or not MD…
But the same voice that asks me that festering question speaks up again..."What
if it doesn't?" What if medicine doesn't match up to everything I hoped it would
be. What if I can't find the same joy and passion that I know I've already found
working in other areas of healthcare.
Medicine, these last few months, has truly been energizing and life-giving. I’ve met grateful family members for the first time at discharge after days of sharing their loved one’s rollercoaster journey in the ICU by phone, seen the pure joy on a patient’s face when they hear they’ll be receiving a new kidney, witnessed the seamless coordination of 3 specialties in a busy trauma bay all expertly performing what they were trained to do. These last 6 months were full of all sorts of humbling, inspiring, and ultimately affirming experiences that make me even more sure that medical school (and residency) will be a pivotal point in my career moving forward.
At the same time, I’ve run up against seemingly countless failures of our imperfect healthcare system. From encountering frustrating inefficiencies to insidiously subconscious examples of inequity, I can understand how so many of us working in healthcare get ultimately desensitized to inadequate system we unintentionally perpetuate.
For me, starting this very blog was centered around the question, can I begin to work towards a longer-term calling of connecting what I see “on the ground floor” as an aspiring physician to what I see at a “systems-level” as a healthcare innovator.
As I’ve been reflecting more on the type of impact I’d like to have on healthcare long-term, I see myself drawing meaning and joy out of both one-to-one patient interactions I’ll have one day as a practicing physician and also the one-to-many systems-level work in either directly or indirectly improving patient care.
What surprised me this year though, is how much additional joy I derive from indirectly supporting others to think more broadly about healthcare. Each week I chat with ~3-4 medical students and aspiring physician-innovators either through my work with MD++ or other channels. Even after long 14+ hour days on surgery, I get rejuvenated on calls I take while commuting home on ways we can train an innovator’s mindset even while clinically training. Occasionally, even these conversations have happened at the hospital itself - in the OR with a surgeon interested in exploring NLP-enabled surgical pathology labelling, in the team room with senior residents interested in learning more about value-based care, exchanging emails with Anesthesia attendings interested in passive vital data monitoring, etc…
It’s made me reflect on a probably more accurate reframing of the above where I can see myself leaning towards all four quadrants of this 2x2 at different points in my career.
I have to keep reminding myself that careers are long and there’s a time and place for everything and not feel the need to flex into all of these areas quite yet. At the moment I’m focused on becoming the best physician I can be, especially with two intimidating board exams (STEP 1 and STEP 2 😬) in the next half year. There will be later parts of my career where I’m sure I’ll spend more of my time thinking about the other quadrants where I can leave an impact on healthcare.
Looking into the first half of 2022, I have a few more drafted posts lined up in the areas of Anesthesia and Emergency Medicine where I’ve spent time in the past month, but please wish me luck as I head into my dedicated study period and hopefully re-emerge with some more insights about my remaining clerkships in Neuro, Psych, Peds, and OB. And happy new year 💥 to everyone reading!
If you’re new to Margins of Medicine, I’d love to share a bit more about the origin and purpose of this newsletter. If you’re a medical student or recently minted MD interested in exploring a hybrid career in physician-innovation, I’d love to connect with you through MD++. If you work in healthcare as an entrepreneur, operator or investor, please connect with me on LinkedIn!
If you found this post or any other posts thought-provoking, would love your help sharing with any other up-and-coming movers and shakers in healthcare. My lifelong dream is to be an eventual catalyst in connecting both “insiders and outsiders” in healthcare around me to solve issues I believe need to be addressed. This year that mission takes the form of this newsletter highlighting systemic issues in healthcare and medicine and thinking more critically + creatively about how we could address them - and I warmly welcome any/all comments!