Ladies and gentleman, without further ado… MedZag

I never intended on being a blogger.  Thinking back, I can't remember why I started to begin with. I believe it was to keep friends updated on what my life was like in medical school, as we all dispersed across the country to start our respective careers. I'll admit in the beginning it was a pretty sophomoric affair. I cringe when I read some of the things I wrote early in my 'literary' life. But I believe that is partly the point of the whole silly thing.

Medicine is a very unique field. Not better than other fields, or more challenging than other fields... just unique. Likewise, the transformative process of medical training is also quite the unique experience. What originally began as a project to chronicle the foibles and struggles of medical education has become, in a way, a means for me to process the often profound and always important experiences of medical training. Hence the name: Training Grounds.

In many ways, I am your stereotypical college student turned medical student turned physician-in-training. I knew from a young age I wanted to be a doctor. When looking at colleges, I chose one with a strong pre-med program. I studied biology (among other things) in college and proceeded right on to medical school, perhaps not entirely armed with the maturity at that point to properly navigate the field. Luckily, we are allowed to acquire maturity along the way in our lives. I am currently an otolaryngology senior resident, but I wrote my first post the week before my medical school orientation.  There's a couple of things I'm hoping this column can contribute as I chronicle my progress through the various aspects of discovering, rotating through, applying, interviewing, matching into ENT, and beginning residency:

(1) Give a sense of the journey
The 4 years of medical school are intensely productive, and when looking at everything you must accomplish in between your first cut into the cadaver in anatomy lab and opening that envelope on match day, the journey can seem exhausting and overwhelming.  Easy to become lost in the forest from the trees, to borrow an oft-used cliche.  I hope that providing a chronicling of the journey as I progress through each step can help lend some insight into each hurdle in the obstacle course and provide some reassurance that getting everything done that you need to is most definitely possible.

(2) Dispel common misconceptions
Yes, otolaryngology is quite a competitive field to match into.  To downplay that fact would be a disservice to the realities it takes to match into the field.  However, with the blessings of the internet and all the information it affords us, there is the same amount of misinformation out there.  I hope to provide a good sense of what the baselines requirements are to make it into ENT and hope to dispel some of the notions that it is impossible to match into a competitive specialty like ENT.  I can assure you, there is nothing particularly incredible about myself (despite what my mother will tell you); I was just like the majority of the 17,000 other medical students out there trying to do my best to succeed within the rigors of medical school.

(3) Provide good resources
Along the lines of information and misinformation, one of the most difficult things in medical school is finding the right places to learn the sort of things you need to know in terms of choosing a medical specialty.  Unfortunately, such things are not handed to you on a silver platter, with a note stating "You are going to be an otolaryngologist.” My "exposure" to otolarngology my first two years of medical school consisted of a one hour lunch talk and the luck of having an ENT surgeon lead one of my physical exam small groups in my clinical medicine class.  There is often a dearth of good information about learning a realistic overview of a given specialty, and opinions from docs in other fields can often be skewed by personal opinion and misconception.  Along the way, I hope to give some good resources you can reference to better frame your expectations and desires for how you want to practice medicine as a career.  

(4) Tell some stories
We live in an exciting time of narrative medicine. With the explosion of social media, more members of the medical community than ever have emerged to share their experiences - often humorous, often sad - in the care of the patient. I don't pretend to be anything more than a small voice in that larger narrative. But I think it is important to be a part of it. Public perception of the physician is still based on a 20 year old stereotype. To a large segment of the public, doctors still drive ferraris. Doctors place the interest of the pharmaceutical companies over their interests. Doctors live extravagant lifestyles and are desensitized to the suffering of those they care for.

Regardless of how far this stereotype is off of reality (hint: it's far), physicians as a whole have been poor advocates of themselves for quite some time. We allow this stereotype to fester and spread like a subclinical cancer when the fact is that the reason why myself and many of my medical school classmates went into medicine wasn't to get rich or live some extravagant lifestyle. We went into this field because we love caring for our patients. Their stories change us, transform us, challenge us, and educate us - making us better people and better providers of care. This is why narrative medicine is important. 

So, I hope you stick around for the journey.  Grab your popcorn, or favorite multi-grain bar of choice, and stay tuned.  I hope I can shed some light on what it’s like... becoming an otolaryngologist (dramatic dimming on lights).

Robert J Morrison, MD
Medical School: Oregon Health & Science University
Residency: University of Michigan
Current Location: University of Michigan
Contact Dr. Morrison

This blog is for entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for proper medical advice and care from a licensed health care professional. Stories contained herein are a composite of multiple experiences and have been altered for literary purposes. Any details related to specific patient encounters have been changed or omitted to protect patient privacy. The content of this site is protected by United States copyright laws. The author reserves any and all intellectual property rights in the site. I am happy to loan or link content, but please contact me first.