Some of the questions I get most often via email are about medical training - not necessarily my medical training, but about medical school in general, surgical training, and what it takes to do what I do. In the past day I've gotten email requests for blogging about both my training and medical school, so it seems like these might be some good topics to discuss.
Let me start by saying that being a doctor is pretty damned cool. I can think of very few professions that get as big an "OOOH!" as when someone asks me what I do for a living, especially when I tell them I'm a trauma surgeon and explain what I do. Yes, I'll admit it's glamorous as hell, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.
I didn't know that when I decided to become a doctor at age 5. I remember visiting my grandfather's office (he was a general practitioner) and playing with all his cool instruments and thinking, "I want to use these when I get older!"
Getting to medical school was difficult, as expected. There is a lot of competition, and everyone who applies is just as good as you. I was near the top of my class in high school, and medical schools select the cream of the crop. Even though you may have been used to being at the top of everything, once you're there, you're just like everyone else. EVERYONE is just as smart as you.
Medical school itself is just as difficult as you've heard. The workload is heavier than anything you've ever experienced, and the sheer amount of material you're expected to learn seems impossible. However, somehow you manage to learn it. ALL of it. A few people drop out every year, but for the most part, everyone passes despite the difficulty. The running joke in medical school is this:
Q: Do you know what they call the person who graduates last in his class in medical school?
I entered medical school expecting to become a pediatrician or a psychiatrist. I always loved working with kids, and the human mind has always fascinated me. But having done my third-year clerkships in both pediatrics and psychiatry, neither of them seemed to be a good fit. Then on my first day of my surgery clerkship, I scrubbed into my first surgery, put on my gown and gloves, and laid my hands on the anesthetised patient. YES - THIS FEELS RIGHT! And that was it - a feeling. A feeling like I belonged right there and nowhere else.
I'll discuss my surgical training in my next post. I'd hate to bore anyone by making this too long.