One month ago, I was an antisocial, overworked bleary eyed machine. I was inhaling facts as fast as I can, trying desperately to keep them down. I was listening to a dozen lectures a day, reading a couple of hundred pages of books forcing esoteric facts into my struggling memory. I didn’t know how to talk to people anymore. My social skills were non existent. All I talked about was the horrendous 8 hour exam I was to take. I was pretty miserable. I was constantly stressed, worried and afraid. I had nightmares that I’d failed Step 1. One of them featured my kindly white haired Dean who pushed an ornately carved scalpel across to me and told me to do the ‘honorable thing’… It wasn’t a nice time.

Today, I’ve been working in a hospital for 3 weeks. I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to being called ‘doc’, to asking patients matter of factly if they want to kill themselves, how and how they’ve tried. I’ve heard heart wrenching stories of agony and pain, learning to clamp down on my emotions so I can feel empathy, but can stay ‘objective’. I actually feel like I’m of some use to people. I’m required to wear my white coat to work and since I travel by subway I’ve grown accustomed to being looked at a little differently as I wear the uniform of my profession. It’s a nice feeling.

The only thing is, I don’t deserve it yet. Each time I get called doc or someone looks at me with a hint of respect for the white coat, I realize how much more I have to do to actually deserve it. I’m a 3rd year med student. At this moment my ability to help people is minimal. My clinical acumen remains nascent, my skill as a diagnostician unformed and untested.

Frost said it best, miles to go before I sleep…

Oh, and fyi, I did end up passing Step 1. And I saw my Dean today. No ornate scalpel in the office. I checked…