Saturday, November 1, 2003

so, i went to a residency forum today at Harvard Medical School. first, HMS is an awesome campus. everything's grand looking and all marble. tufts looks like a pile of crap compared to it. ah, but i still love my school.

so, to relay the real story. i was asking a residency program director about health policy opportunities in the residency programs at his hospital and in internal medicine / primary care residencies in general. he said not to worry about this unless "you plan on becoming head of the WHO and getting rid of worldwide malaria." i didn't say anything to him then, but i immediately thought, "well, yes, i do plan on becoming head of the WHO and getting rid of worldwide malaria." though i admit that i am wildly optimistic (my favorite phrase to describe myself right now), i will not say i'm naive...just because i say that i will do all this stuff doesn't mean that i will do it. it merely means that i have the possibility of doing it. i mean, when i heard that the head of the WHO was stepping down and they were looking for a new director, i looked at the biography of the outgoing director and wondered how i'm doing in comparison to her. is that weird? i've also done the same for surgeon generals, heads of state public health departments, people in the news, kofi annan, etc. i say that i know i'm a true nerd when kofi annan is my hero.

but the residency program director's comment reflects a certain societal expectation that as you grow older, your expectations of the world and of yourself become more "realistic." i guess no one in those high positions starts out thinking that they will be where they are X number of years down the line, but i mean, there's gotta be some thought of a possibility in their head. i'm just accepting the idea of that possibility. will i be disappointed if i don't save the world? no, because i know that i will have tried as hard as i could to become whatever i want to become and in that path, i have changed the world. even making a mark in the world, whether it's developing some trivial piece of policy or helping someone overcome childhood cancer is worth the ride. the "unrealistic expectation" of becoming an answer on jeopardy (one of my goals in life) by becoming some grand figure is helpful to me because i know that even if i don't become that person, that i will have enjoyed the journey and that i have tried my hardest to get there.

maybe this attitude comes from the fact that my parents made the "american dream" a realization by owning their own business and becoming part of the middle class. maybe it came from the fact that i believe there's still room for change in this world. but mostly, i think it's from a deep-seeded feeling that everyone is doing something for a purpose. i never felt like i was going into medicine because i wanted to make lots of money and earn a lot of prestige. i went into it because i knew that's what i enjoyed and that was one way in which i could make a real difference. my purpose is to serve others, as a physician and as a person. though that's hard to keep track of while i'm writing papers and studying biochem, it's still in the back of my head when i ask myself "why?"

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