As I walked home last night I glanced up at the evening sky of Dominica. Twinkling down at me was what seemed like a surprisingly bright star compared to all the rest. It couldn’t be a plane because planes very rarely fly over this Caribbean island. It seemed to be stationary so it couldn’t be a meteor. Confused, I pulled out the sky map on my iPhone and discovered it was not a star at all but instead turned out to be the planet named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty: Venus.
Earlier the same day I sat in my last lecture of my first two years of medical school and it felt strange. There was a buzz in the air. My entire class was about to be done learning new material. From then on out, we were to learn everything we already knew but in more depth and with greater stress on integrating each subject in preparation for the step. Except nothing seemed to change. I went to the same place for lunch that I normally do, went and got coffee like any other day, and procrastinated as always.
It took me until later that evening, looking up at the night sky, to register the significance of this transition. In that moment, staring up at the night sky alone with my thoughts, a smile snuck onto my face. It’s a smile that my close friends know quite well. It’s the same exuberant smile from the moment I first tried to place an IV port in my friend’s vein. It’s the same smile from the galvanizing moment when I successfully found my other friend’s uterus using an ultrasound. It became a smile from the moment that clarified how utterly happy I was to be on my journey in pursuit of medicine.
As corny and ironic as it sounds, I had to literally stare at the planet named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty to be reminded of how much I love learning about the human body. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always wanted to know how the silent orchestra of salient biochemical processes worked so well in perfect harmony. For me, its breathtaking to realize that I have learned most of the important processes that were once such a mystery to me and that I will one day be able to expand upon the zeitgeist of medicine.
It’s important to remind ourselves of our goals and our original reasons for why we wanted to pursue medicine: To remind ourselves that the sleep, sanity, and social life that we sacrifice are worth it. To remember why we spend our days in the library instead of on the beach.
I got lucky in that I’ve always wanted to learn about medicine and that I am happy to be doing so right now. I got even luckier in that I stumbled upon a strangely bright “star” that reminded me of my passion which has given me motivation to complete my remaining exams with the utmost ferocity and determination. My passion and curiosity to understand the human body was a small part of my original reason for wanting to enter medicine but has become an integral engine that drives me to learn everyday. It is what will power me through the next few months leading up the step exam and beyond it as well.
Ultimately, I could try and answer the age-old interview question of “Why did I choose medicine?” except I don’t think it’s the most important question for us anymore. Instead, ask yourself, “Why do you still choose medicine?”
Marc N. Katz is a medical student who blogs at MyKatz, where this article originally appeared.