Dear Journal,

DECEMBER 16, 2007

Christmas break. A time to sleep, I mean, reflect.

As I write this, I started med school exactly 100 days ago. It's really hard to quantify the change I've undergone in that time, but its really fascinating for me to think about it. I've been challenged more then I've ever been before: academically, socially, emotionally. I've developed an incredible capacity to absorb information, beyond what I ever thought was physically possible. I've witnessed medical miracles, children given life who in the past would have left behind grieving parents and a book full of "what if's." I've witnessed tragedy, people who I was talking to one moment and who slipped into death moments later as their heart quivered inside their chest. I've learned the power of the scalpel to flesh, the power of a pill. I've learned the subtlety of disease heard through a stethoscope, the devastating effects of a cancer that spreads to every reach of the body. I've experienced the thrill of putting someone back together with a needle and thread. I've learned I currently suck at putting someone back together with needle and thread.

I recently went back and read my med school application, skimming through all the points I spilled to schools about "why I want be a doctor" and "what I know about the medical field." It was amazing how much I was wrong about things. Medicine is definitely one of those fields that is difficult to "get" until you are in it. I remember back in August coming into school being afraid that once I learned what being a physician is all about that I would find it wasn't really for me. I think its a danger that we all face entering medical school, and there are stories of people who find out once they're in that they don't really want to be doctors.

Luckily, I've found myself more committed then ever to my career choice. Medicine is highly romanticized in our society and on our televisions, and I'm glad that after that glossy veneer was taken off that I still like what I see. But my visions and thoughts of who I will be when I finally move to practice on my own have definitely been shaped and shifted by the past 100 days. I think most of us come to realize we will not be those shining saviors riding into work every day curing disease with the touch of our stethoscopes. Real daily medicine is a lot more mundane then that. But there's still a thrill in it (and there still is the thrill of that truly miraculous cure every once and a while).

They say the changes you undergo in medical school only get swifter the longer you are in it. If I've experienced this much in only 100 days, I cannot even begin to predict what the next 100 (or 1000, yes I will sadly be in school that long) will be like. The time has been flying by, but the next 3.5 years still seems like a truly insurmountable climb. Luckily, I've learned that I can function much better if I break things down to much smaller pieces to chew on. The next week ain't bad and the next day is definitely do-able.

I think above all, I'm looking forward to continually gaining more skills in what I do. While being the wide-eyed new med student who looks at everything with wonder has been fun, I'm truly in my element in the realm of competency. It makes me frustrated to get pimped in clinic or the OR and to not know the answer. But I know I have to have patience, because such a large breadth of knowledge and such a radical transformation of my person can't come overnight.

Here's to the next 100 days.