Becoming a Doctor: Reflections

Becoming a Doctor: Reflections by Minnesota Medical Students

Caring for patients is a privilege. During medical school, students glimpse “the wonder, terror and exaltation of being on the edge of being” (Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness) and come to terms with the responsibility of this privileged position. Watching and assisting patients as they grapple with the challenges and joys life dishes out provides insight into our own struggles, if we are paying attention.

The poets and writers in this collection are listening. While attending lectures or dissecting cadavers in the anatomy lab, rounding on the hospital wards, scrubbing-in in the operating room or seeing patients alongside physicians in outpatient clinics in the metropolitan area or small towns of the US or in the hospitals of distant countries, these students reflect on their experiences.

Future doctor Hammer examines what professionalism is and is not. Krohn and Endrud share insights about healing from their own experiences as patients. Spampianto and Cook reflect on caring for patients in other countries and how this gives them insight into their interactions with patients here at home. Others examine being and ministering to patients different from themselves, a reality in today’s global world. Each writer and poet grapples with the new role—the privilege and responsibility of observing the events that make up a human life. Such reflection is an important skill in medicine.

My thanks to the many students who submitted poems and stories; there was not enough room to include all of them. Appreciation to those who helped to edit, design and layout the print collection and to Dennis Kelly and the Minnesota Medical Association Foundation for recognizing the importance of creative reflection in medicine and agreeing to fund this effort. Special thanks to Carmen Peota for her advice at many junctures along the way. May this collection inspire future medical students to remember the wise words of Sir William Osler:

"The student begins with the patient, continues with the patient, and ends his/her studies with the patient, using books and lectures as tools, as means to an end."
Aequanimitas, 1905

–Therese Zink, MD, MPH

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
University of Minnesota