Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Worth it

As usual, my Aged Mother asked me today whether I thought that it was a good idea to study medicine and be a doctor.  Normally I brush off these questions with a glib answer in order to avoid losing my mojo.  Let's face it, dwelling on whether you've made a really really bad decision to throw your career away is not fun.

But now that I am halfway there, in the sense that I have studied medicine but not yet actually worked as a doctor, the question made me sit back and wonder.

Had I known four years ago how much work still lies in front of me I don't think I would have ever started.  But now I'm here I'm glad I did.  The work is actually enjoyable.  It's interesting.  It's fulfilling.  It's rewarding.  It's a shame though that the medical uber-institution, by which I mean the grand total abstract "church" of medicine at whose altar we are apparently expected to sacrifice our lives, takes itself far too seriously.

Here's a great quote from Thoreau that I read yesterday:
"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them."
The upper ranks of medicine are heavily populated by people who burned up their youth trying to build that bridge to the moon.  I honestly don't know if they believe they succeeded or if they know they failed and hate the world because of it, but I often get the feeling that they look at older students like me, just trying to achieve modest goals, and get angry that I'm not trying to emulate them.

Back in first year, one of my tutors once said to me that being a doctor is not a calling, it's a job.  At the time I thought he was just being a cynical old bastard (despite the fact that I was actually older than him).  Actually, I still he think he was being a cynical old bastard.  But even stopped clocks are right twice a day, and in this case I have grown to appreciate his words.

I don't deny that for some, medicine IS their calling.  They will devote themselves entirely to it and will achieve incredible things.  They will spend their lives making an amazing contribution to other people and I admire them greatly for it.  But it's not for me.  Not anymore.

I'm not prepared to make medicine my life.  Maybe that will make me a bad doctor.  But I think it will make me a better person.


Lesleyfish said...

Quite right. I realised in degree number one that I could either work all the hours God sent and maybe get a first, or I could do enough to get the mark I needed to get into med school and meanwhile enjoy wholeheartedly everything else uni had to offer. I made a very conscious decision in favour of the latter, and have never looked back. I love being a doctor, I enjoy my work, and there are days when I stay late when I don't have to. But it isn't now, and never will be, my top priority or the be-all and end-all of life. It's a great job, but it is ultimately just that.

Anonymous said...

Once again you hit the nail on the head. I expected med school to be as it has been. Work, lots, then more to come. But haven't let it rule my life. I leave all the reaching for the stars to the wannabe rocket scientists. The rocket scientists will realise that publishing is not the bees knees (it never got me a seat on the bus or an upgrade on a plane) and like, who really reads it or cares?
I want to do my job well, get off on time mostly, be able to sleep at night and have nice holidays with people I care about.
Anyway, if ever you need to borrow wood of varying types and lengths, nails, nuts and bolts, funny shaped bits of tin, odd bits off gagdets bought years ago that have never quite made it to the bin,old expensive stereo that I don't have the heart to throw out, let me know, I have a shed full! Help yourself!I have been constructing my shed for a while..

PTR said...

Thanks folks. Maybe if stack up enough of these wood-sheds we can reach the stars after all...