Medical student….a lifelong learner, doing something important.

I want to be a doctor cuz….I don’t know….I want to help people.

I’ve wanted to be a doctor for awhile now. Since high school, I’ve known. It seemed like a good idea.

My father is a doctor, a gastroenterologist. A stomach doctor. I’ve seen him occasionally…I’ve gone with him to see patients. The last patient I saw with him was someone getting a colonoscopy. It was all right. He checked for polyps, little growths that can eventually grow into cancer, but didn’t find any. He told me about the polyps while he was examining the patient. He’s a specialist. I wasn’t involved in his doctoring much….

I was talking to a friend who was doing opthamology…it’s a little more unique. Do you want to do it because you really want to do it or because you like the lifestyle? It’s a nice lifestyle. You have better hours and stuff like than. Better than some…like surgery. People do surgery because they like the idea of being a surgeon. I picked internal medecine because it’s more in line with my original thought of being a doctor. It is being a doctor. It’s very general and it involves a lot of diverse issues in one. It’s perhaps more…you know when you are not a doctor and you are not in med school…what would the average person think that being a doctor would be? You handle basically any problem. See patients and deal with lots of things at once versus like surgery….I guess some people have that vision…but if you just thought that you were going to be a doctor. I think people have a certain image in mind. I thought about specializing beyond that…you get trained to handle all the problems. You have the breadth of training but on the same note, I’d like to know at least one topic very well. Even if you can handle lots of problems, you still have to send people. And it’s kind of satisfying to know …about one topic. If you learn family medecine, it’s satisfying to know breadth….but on the flip side there are specific topics which you deal with where you’ll have to send people to specialists and you kind of want to be a part of that. I want to know something well. I want to know the final word on things too. I want to know something really well as well.

It’s hard to satisfy my patient interest and intellectual curiosity. You want to help people and you can help people. And that is what attracts people to medecine. But once you get into medecine, the intellectual curiosity part is a huge thing…. All these people who are in med school are pretty good students, almost too good some of em…obsessive compulsive….and to this group there is a lot of overlap with people who have intelectual curiosity. I don’t want to downplay doing good, but there are a lot of ways to help people…you can go to the peace corps, build lavines (toilet things)…if you are really driven to help people, medicine is good, but there are other ways. What medecine has that other disciplines don’t is the ability to use one’s education and satisfy one’s intellectual curiosity.

I don’t think intellectual curiosity sacrifices patient care. They aren’t opposing forces…if anything it will help as you’ll know more, work harder, figure out what’s going on and not just be satisfied with what is good enough. You want to be able to figure answer. That’s part of why you want to specialize…so you can know THE answer…but on the same note, if you specialize too much, like OBGYN, you don’t have the training to know . If you are too general, you’ll only know THE answer to the easy stuff…you can handle that. You don’t want to miss stuff…I don’t want to criticize. You’ll know the common things in family practice, but someone who specializes in pediatrics will know the rare stuff as all they see are kids and so they will be less likely to miss things.

I remember the attending I had the first month in medecine. The first month in third year doing internal medecine. I was very impressed by my attending. The first month of medecine one is kinda lost. YOu are trying to follow patients and neve b4….you get bogged down in the details as you have to follow everything. It’s confusing and kinda weird. There are cases which in retrospect aren’t so amazing, but I was impressed by how my attending could see the big picture and pose the right questions. He was a nephrologist and knew a lot about how things worked…electrolytes…

WE had a patient who had recurring pneumonia and our attending asked us why…she was young, relatively healthy and didn’t have immune problems. And she didn’t speak English that well…vietnamese. Maybe she has a problem swallowing….If you can’t coordinate your swallowing, stuff will get into your lungs and it will cause a problem. so we went in…it was hard to get a patient history because of the language. That was interesting, especially as a med student. You are thinking how to treat the pneumonia, do this, do that…rather than treat the real problem.

Beyond helping people, It appealed to my intellectual curiosity…I’d gone through 2 years of med school and learned things in a different way. Taking facts on their own. This was my first case of learning to problem solve. I might have learned in the first year swallowing causes Pneumonia, but I wouldn’t have seen pneumonia and thought about swallowing. There is a lot of stuff that can cause pneumonia….Throughout my attending could apply basic science to medical problems. That’s a relatively simplistic thing looking back, but at the time, at that point in my medical training, it really impressed me.

I’d also like to talk about computers as the computer part of my resume is striking….or curious. I guess it seems a bit strange as I’ve spent a lot of my free time not in medical activities. People keep asking me why I don’t do computer stuff. It’s kind of like…in that respect, I don’t want to necessarily get a job working for some big company coding boring stuff. Writing computer code is somewhat exciting but writing some database for some bank would be boring. Treating the patient is more interesting….Why am I not doing computer stuff for a living? I think its a little biased because…its a biased area because if someone is good at the violin or anything…has a hobby basically, you don’t ask them why they aren’t doing that for a living.

How is the pneumonia different than coding for a bank? There is more satisfaction in treating someone for Pneumonia than writing something so people can bank better. It goes back to the helping people part of it which is important. Coding for a bank does satisfy my intelectual curiosity a little, but I guess I want to be good at what I do regardless…I could be good at that, but it wouldn’t satisfy my…it wouldn’t make me happy…I wouldn’t feel like I’m accomplishing much…because I want to help people. I guess helping a bank doesn’t seem as noble a cause. Helping someone with pneumonia…you really feel like you are making a difference in something that is important. That individual’s life…people’s health…does matter a lot. Helping a bank might matter to them, but it doesn’t matter to me as much. It’s not as important in the grand scheme. I think everyone wants to do something important. That doesn’t necessarily mean what’s important to the world, but whats important to them…so if I thought that the world needs better banks, perhaps I should work towards that…but I don’t…not that I have anything against banks.

Also with medecine, you have more people interaction. Contrary to popular belief, I do like interacting with people when I get a chance. I do like talking to people. I like interacting with people and you get that more with medecine. It’s a bit selfish, but I guess everything might be a little selfish.

What I like about computer stuff and medecine is that it’s not just the intellectual curiosity, but the intelectual excercise. The difference between knowing the answer and coming up with the answer…the problem solving aspect of it. With computers, ….it’s part of a method…I know computer stuff…how they act and how to get it done…I can figure it out. It’s the same with medecine. You have your tools…you may have to learn to do something better or do research, but you

I heard when I was applying to med school, that one of the traits of a good doctor is ‘lifelong learning’…medecine changes. I think it’s true…. What I know in med school is not going to be true in 20 years. You have to want to learn. It’s a trait of the individual and I’d like to think it’s a trait I have that is shown in my work with computers. I see a problem and I want to figure out how to solve the problem. It’s the difference between learning and learning how to learn. I think learning how to learn will serve you better and I’ve found that true both in computers and medecine. Learning how to learn will help you in the future while learning may just help you in the short term. Same with medecine, you have to want to keep learning because things do change over the years.

If you know the principles of the computer, you can apply them and create answers to problems, even if the rules change….

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