Welcome to the medical profession


Dear medical student, resident, or fellow,

You will one day forget something. We are currently in a systematic plot to have everyone forget something important. We are quietly unaware it is happening. We are asked to forget how we got here. I want to remind you. I want us all to remember.

You undoubtably were more mature than your peers. You undoubtably sacrificed to develop the persona that one day would impress a high order to accept you. You sacrificed pieces of your life often happily often with a greater goal and delayed gratification. You approached life with determination and a steady anxiety. You felt a pull and pushed through long nights and the stress. You stacked classes and activities and leadership roles into a delicate Jenga. You volunteered. You studied into long hours and said no to frivolous things long before others did. You welcomed over and over being weighed and measured, and you wanted to come up tall and solid. There are constant intervals where you are merely preparing for the next test or next evaluations. This has been going on for years.

We were looking for leaders. People with maturity beyond their years. People capable of composure and alertness under a thick air of fatigue and uncertainty. People with good judgment and critical acumen. We needed members for a tribal counsel and representatives of compassion and humanity. We asked you to be nonjudgmental. To write well. To communicate well. To exercise constraint tolerance and the highest aptitude for memory and cognitive synthesis. We needed thinkers doers and teachers. We wanted innovators. We expected you would sign your name over and over and when asked who will take responsibility you would not cower.

We screened thousands. We denied thousands. The fraternity tries to pass a torch only to those who can hold a war path against illness.

Today we are told we were not so meticulously screened. That we did not perspire or cry. That we somehow just got lucky and are replaceable at the table discussing humanity. We humble ourselves to bear the weight of a broken system. We question each other. We question ourselves. It is in the way they talk to us refer to us and describe what we do in terms of smallness and simpleness.

We were born leaders. We were selected by those that came before us with expectations we could command the orchestra of things that battles illness away. We are not average in ability nor in the kind of courage that gets someone a medical degree.

We remember it took all we had to arrive here.

I know you will get tired and need to refuel. I know you will be ill too or broken one day. That is OK and allowed. We are not gods. We follow normal human needs and wants. But don’t ever forget how hard it was to come this far and how you are stronger than most. This is part why training is the way it is. We are making you more able. We need you to be able to function hungry tired taxed. We need you able to forgive trespasses and absorb insults and try always to do the right thing. We ask of you much, but we know you have it to give till you don’t.

We will support you when you don’t have it.

We have invested in you.

Do not allow the failings of few in our order so widely publicized to strip you of your calling rights and dues. You are truly more able than those around you to help humanity. We saw this potential. We found it of the utmost nobility. We know because we accepted you here.

We will always be highly selective because we are looking for generals. Never accept the increasing label of private. We are not foot soldiers mindlessly walking.

Don’t forget: Be aware of the way you walk and talk because when you forget how hard you worked to earn where you are it tells the society around you the wrong message. Humility is not cowardice.

Welcome to the profession.


All that have traveled as you; all that have come before

Jean Robey is a nephrologist who blogs at ethosofmedicine.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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