As the nation, physicians, hospitals, and political pundits await the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, I find myself waiting for something else: to begin medical school. I will be hitting the books, studying vigorously, and desperately trying to remember the myriad of information being thrown at me well after the justices decide the fate of President Obama’s landmark legislation. So what does this mean for me, or any other medical student for that matter?
There are many what ifs: What if the law in totality is overturned? What if parts of the law are ruled unconstitutional, such as the mandate? What if the law is upheld, and if Romney is elected, how will he and the other Republicans act to repeal it?
For the sake of my naivety, I do not want to lose myself in all of this commotion and deviate from why I wanted to become a physician in the first place: to serve. There is a certain feeling of “humanness” that I experience when I observe physicians working with patients, communicating with the friends and families of those who are ill, and even when I see them stay faithful to the “Foam In, Foam Out” logic of my local hospital’s Infection Control and Patient Safety departments. However, this is often complemented by the seemingly obnoxious paperwork, fidgeting with meaningful use electronics, and the rush to see patients before leaving for office visits. When did medicine lose its purity?
When I worked as an aide for an outpatient physical therapy clinic, many of my patients (yes, I say “my patients” because I instinctively took a strong interest in their health and well-being) told me that I am perfect for medicine. They flattered me by claiming that I have the brains, compassion, and personality to make a great physician.
However, do I have the understanding? As I begin to enthrall myself in social media and the political underpinnings in medicine, I have discovered that my passage into medicine is not about the MCAT. I cried over or the frustration I found with schools that did not interview me. I stepped out of my bubble and considered resorting to isolationism as I learned about all of the bureaucratic red tape with insurance companies, the rising costs of medicine, and how the United States healthcare system just doesn’t stack up against other developed nations given the amount of money we spend.
Fortunately, these heartburn-producing revelations eventually pushed me to strive harder in achieving my goals to become not just a physician, but a great physician. And not just great in patient care, but in public education and healthcare policy. I often found myself repeating the distorted version of one of Gandhi’s famous sayings, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” to those that complain about this and that on any subject matter.
I now find that I say this to myself as I strive to stay human and pure while I learn one of humanity’s great act: the art of practicing medicine.
Michael Mank is a medical student.