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Primum non nocere

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Tomorrow is my white coat ceremony.

Tomorrow, I take the Hippocratic oath. I don the short white coat of the medical student. I take the first real steps to becoming a doctor and, more importantly, a healer.

(Aside: it’s a shame that Penn doesn’t allow students with doctor parents to be coated by their parent. I would’ve loved for my mom to do the honors, considering the ways in which her and my dad’s lives as physicians and parents have inspired my love of science and my drive, ultimately, to help others. However, she did give me the wonderful gift of an incredible stethoscope this evening. I was more touched than I let on.)

It’s strange, because it feels simultaneously so important and so meaningless. Wearing a coat doesn’t mean I magically know all of anatomy. It doesn’t mean I can respond to a medical emergency on an airplane. It certainly doesn’t make the decision of choosing a specialty, whenever that happens, any easier.

However, it does mean I can walk through the halls of HUP with the knowledge that it is now an institution of learning for me and my classmates. It ties me inexorably to my classmates in the shared experience of medical student-hood. (All of whom, by the way, are fantastic and fascinating and beautiful and intelligent in their own right. I find that they embody the true essence of “kindness”, not only simply nice but also part of the greater human community.) It marks the beginning of a frightening, busy, unbelievably awesome (also in all senses of the word) phase of my life. I will have taken an oath nearly as old as the healing profession itself. Though it has thankfully changed with the times (a bit less threatening, and more accepting of abortion, now), the concept is the same. I will promise to dedicate the remainder of my life to the healing of others – in my case, both at the bedside and the bench.

And I’m so fucking scared.


Written by calculusgirl

August 12, 2011 at 2:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

I am really bad at blogging.

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So bad, in fact, that I decided to start my entire blog with one of the more clichéd blog titles in existence.

Meta-joke aside, I have a horrible tendency to start a blog only to heartlessly cast it aside after only a few posts, then rediscover it several months later and feel like an utter failure. (I can’t share any links with you, as I deleted them all out of painful embarrassment, but suffice it to say there are at least three specific examples of this occurring.) In an attempt to prevent this from happening again, I’ve tried to identify the main causes of my blogging impotence:

  • No one reads it. I admit, I’m partially in it for the personal validation. I’m also notoriously bad at personal journaling – if no one’s reading it, I don’t see any reason to take the time to write pages and pages for myself. When I was younger, I was way better at this. I think it’s because I really didn’t see any other output for my (desperate, painful, secret, teenage) emotions, and I found it incredibly difficult to share my emotional vulnerability with others. On the flip side, though, I’ve adapted somewhat by discounting and/or dismissing my feelings, which just leads to them re-appearing down the line. But I’m straying from my original point: I need some sort of external source of accountability for my writing. I absolutely respect those who don’t, but I do.
  • It’s a lot of work. Part of my reluctance to blog long-term is the fact that it takes me a pretty long time to write something. I wish I were a faster writer, I really do, but I self-edit so much that I sit staring at my screen, trying to come up with the perfect way of phrasing something. (And yes, this totally bit me in the ass when writing long term papers.) For me, writing is like exercise: it takes a lot to get me motivated enough to start, but once I’m done, I’m incredibly grateful that I did it. I think that, like exercise, this should in theory get better with time. One day, I’d like to write like a motherfucker, but that day hasn’t come just yet.
  • Corollary to the previous point: I have better things to do. I was in high school, trying to do well in my schoolwork so I could get into a good college. I was in college, working my ass off both in class and out. I’m in medical and graduate school, and I think – I think – one of my goals is to be in Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honors society. The point is, there’s always something higher on my priority list. I’m also a horrible procrastinator, at times, and the resulting panic tends to push blog-writing and other writing for enjoyment even further down on that list.
  • The overarching theme? I don’t think I, or my writing, is worth the time it takes to write a blog. Which, if you think about it, is an intensely personal thing to write in one’s inaugural post on a blog. And it certainly sounds like I’m fishing for a compliment, which I’m not. I hate compliments. No, instead, it’s a thing I need to both personally and publicly recognize. I’ve been trying to identify those self-destructive thoughts which have insinuated themselves into my subconscious existence and undermined my success. Acknowledge them. Accept them. Let them go. And while of course I’d like to write a blog that interests other people, I’m also writing for myself, as any other blogger is, really.
All of that personal nonsense aside, I did want to mention what I’d like this blog to be. I’m a scientist and a medical student, and of course I’m going to write about my personal experiences as well as my thoughts on the role of science and medicine in society. But I also sing, a lot, and I cook and eat, also a lot, and I watch television and read books when I can. Like basically every twenty-something before me, I’m learning how to be a real person, too, and I’m going to act like I’m the only one who’s ever done it. I don’t want this blog to have a single topic (though god knows single-topic blogs take up a good amount of my procrastination time), and so it won’t.
And now I think I’m finally ready to go tackle that most annoying of tasks: describing my 3-5 “core values” so I can share them with my learning group during medical school orientation on Monday.

Written by calculusgirl

August 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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