Sunday, May 15, 2011

On the Eve of Graduation

“Open your eyes. School is done.”

The voice of our faculty member echoed through the lecture hall as he culminated our medical school training with one final session. Earlier, he had lead us through a period of meditation in the last moments of class, guiding us through reflecting over our time as students and thinking about the individuals that have impacted our growth as physicians and humans.

I found myself thinking back to my first experiences as a medical student-- the first moment I stepped foot on the UCSF campus during my interview, my first day of medical school in the same lecture hall, my first patient interview in Moffitt hospital, my first time teaching an MSP session, my first clinical clerkship, my first surgery, my first delivery, and my first residency interview. As these memories whirled in my mind, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the people in my life-- my family, friends, teachers, mentors, and patients--who have been the foundation of my education and identity.

On the eve of graduation, I am overcome with a myriad of emotions--it is a confusing mix of excitement, anxiety, nostalgia, and fear. As I leave behind four years of medical school, some amazing friends, and an incredible city, I embrace the opportunity ahead. I look forward to finally being able to take care of patients and practicing medicine. With a higher level of responsibility, I know the learning curve will be steep and that I will be unprepared.

To help guide us through the unknown and nebulousness that has come to define internship, our faculty members have peppered advice into our concluding lectures.
If there is one unifying theme threaded through the lectures, it would have to be that one must remember what they do not know and to ask for help.

“If you do not know, just say ‘I do not know.’” This line was repeated to us multiple times by our faculty. It seems simple enough.

The following is a small sample of some of the advice passed on to us (listed in no particular order). I include this list as a reference to myself and as a way to calm my nerves right before I am gowned and donned the title of doctor tomorrow morning, a designation, I still feel I need to earn.

Advice from my faculty:

1. Absolute honesty is a must.
2. When working with patients and their families, remember their vulnerabilities
3. You are the intern; therefore you are at the bottom (again). Just remember that.
4. There needs to be a free flow of information up and down the chain of command similar to that in a military hierarchy.
5. Take the time to know yourself--the core you--not influenced by being a doctor
6. Realize your limited competence.
7. Do not take things personally.
8. Learn from your patient’s stories
9. Look like a doctor. And that means that men need to grow their beards on vacation. 10. No comment on the women’s dress.
11. Remember why you went into medicine in the first place--to help people
12. Find balance in your life and take care of yourself

Graduation tomorrow...