August 24, 2009

Atul Gawande's Five Rules of Medicine

Now I'm over a week into medical school - which sounds so short, I'm sure - but when I think of all the things that have entered my consciousness and been mulled over in my mind as I talk with friends and family, as I go on runs by the lake, and even while I sleep - it seems like a whole lot.

It's such a different experience to be in class learning only about things that are directly applicable (or could be) to what you will be doing for the rest of your life. And more importantly, perhaps, they're things you will be expected to know - by your colleagues, patients, and the world. It's enough to make me feel like studying all the time isn't too much.

They say that after four years of medical school, students change their reasons for becoming a doctor, change their ideas of what is required of a physician, and try to figure out ways to avoid patient contact, when that's why they went to medical school in the first place. I am pledging that I will do everything I can to remind myself of why I want to join the ranks of this honorable profession - through sleepless months and difficult patients. My reasons for becoming a doctor are because I think it is the best role in which I can serve society - and I never want to forget that.

Atul Gawande, MD MPH, one of my favorite doctor/writers (Che Guavera is another, read Motorcycle Diaries if you ever get the chance), has 5 rules he recommends to new medical students, and by which I am trying to live as a I go through the beginnings of this process:
1) ask an unscripted question (he attributes this to the writer Paul Auster)
2) don't whine
3) count something
4) write something
5) change.

Surely we can all try to do that.

A link to the full text of the graduation speech here.

You are in this profession as a calling, not as a business; as a calling which exacts from you at every turn self-sacrifice, devotion, love and tenderness to your fellow-men. Once you get down to a purely business level, your influence is gone and the true light of your life is dimmed. You must work in the missionary sprit with a breadth of charity that raises you far above the petty jealousies of life.
-William Osler, MD

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