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.