Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Makes A Good Doctor?

There comes a time in the life of (some) pre-med students when they must ponder the age old question: what makes a good doctor? Normally this happens as one prepares for the interviews you've (hopefully) been invited to - perhaps the most important part of the application process. And so as I prepare to travel across the country for my own interviews, from St. Louis to Chicago, Boston to Michigan, I've been asking myself the same question: what is it that really makes a good doctor?

In college, most of my pre-med classes focused on weeding out those students who "can't cut it" and cramming in as much generally irrelevant information as possible. This is, to my mind, beneficial for only a few reasons. Firstly, it teaches you how to jump through those hoops. Because let's be honest, life as a doctor (and especially medical school) is full of hoops you're going to have to get used to jumping through. You can bitch all you want about the fact that you'll never need to know the mechanisms of Grignard reagents, but it won't change the fact that you have to learn it and do well on your exams. Also, it acclimates you to assimilating large quantities of information, which will only increase by orders of magnitude if you make it to medical school. But often, I've wondered if despite the few benefits of this "trial-by-fire" approach, we're just selecting for (in the evolutionary sense) the biggest tools around to join the medical profession?

I got solid grades in most classes I took in college. But the only way I was able to do that was by first distancing myself from the entire "pre-med" scene and mindset, majoring in the humanities, and drinking heavily. I'm guessing that of all the kids in my organic chemistry class (400 or so), about 30 or 40 got A's. Of those 30, how many of them, would you say, were pounding 2$ PBRs with me on Thursday night? Or inhaling cheese steaks and watching football instead of studying on Sundays? Not many. Most of the pre-meds at my school were so socially retarded that the only thing they had to talk about was their grades. They generally only hung out with their other pre-med friends. And they invariably failed to realize that their 3.9 GPA is about as unique as the dyed blondes with tramp stamps my friends were hitting on in the bar last weekend. So I guess what I'm also asking is, are these the students that become good doctors?


As I start this blog I do so conscious of the fact this is a time of many beginnings for me (and I suppose the requisite endings as well). I'm beginning my life as a paid semi-professional person, working in a lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I'm beginning life outside of the town where I spent most of my childhood, and thus saluting the end of an era. And I'm also beginning to interview for a position in medical schools across the country. I'll be using this blog to catalog the trials and tribulations of my path to medical education. Well, that and my opinions on various and diverse matters, which I plan on shamelessly promoting.