Monday, May 3, 2004

larger ramifications

i've been up to a lot of stuff lately, and none of it having to do with the academic side of being a medical student. rather, i'm trying to get involved and informed in the larger idea of what it means to be a medical student and a prospective medical professional. several things that i have done to sort of explore ways in which i can get involved:

* attended a talk by Sheri Fink, who wrote War Hospital. she graduated from stanford medical school but never did her residency and has since worked in Bosnia, Iraq, and Africa doing medical aid stuff. she talked about the difficulties of doing work abroad, which is salient for myself because of my upcoming trip to vietnam. one of the things that i found most fascinating was her discussion of our responsibilities there. not only as medical professionals, but as members of an international community. we represent out home country but we are guests in another. i think that is forgotten by a lot of physicians who think that they can go to some poor developing country and save a few lives and return to their nice suburban life, telling their neighbors and friends of the poor people that they helped. i don't know if i effectively got my point across, but you know.

* starting a student chapter of physicians for social responsibility with a friend in the public health program. when we were talking about what we wanted to do and what our goals for the club would be, it dawned on me that a lot of my classmates either couldn't care less and/or don't want to know more in order to care more. it's so surprising to me when i came to medical school to find that it was more conservative, more sheltered, and definitely more concerned with their own practice more than their own patients. i don't know if this is everyone's experience, but it has been mine. i'm sure that the people that i am thinking about when i say conservative, sheltered, and concerned with lawsuits and money think that there are too many wackos and lilberals in medical school.

i thought that there had been more things that i had done or attended that made me think of the larger idea of being a physician. oh well. i totally forgot them now. but yeah, i've had to question what i'm doing here in medical school. yeah, i'm getting a great education, supposedly getting smarter and learning, but really, what are my responsibilities after i finish and actually become a doctor?

one of the most memorable moments when it comes to my choice of a medical career was at a conference that i attended during college. then, i was working at a very small non-profit, doing women's health work. i was speaking to another advocate in the field and we were talking about public health and medical careers. i told her that i was considering getting a masters in public health in addition to a medical degree and i asked her if it was worth it getting a medical degree if i will just do public health work. what she said to me, which i will never forget, was "though i hate to admit it, the 'MD' after your name gives you a lot of respect and esteem among people. yeah, you may not actually be talking about medicine, but if they see those two letters, you're automatically 'in.'" it's amazing how titles and degrees, though you may not use the knowledge gained from them, get you places in the world. i'd hate to admit it or even concede to the possibility that i would "use" my medical degree in order to have an "in" with someone, but that's the world we live in. especially in politics, a field that i'm very interested in, that seems to be even more applicable.

so maybe i'm idealistic and optimistic (two charges of which i freely admit i am guilty). does that mean that i'm naive? no way. though i think i will change the world, i am happy with the thought that though it's unlikely i will change the world, it's highly likely that i will change someone's life. i just need to reminded of my idealism every once in awhile, especially where my day-to-day life consists of anatomy textbooks and physiology lectures.

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