Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Go To Medical School?

By Richard P. Holm MD

Why do we choose the paths that we take in life? Certainly some of it is just happenstance, a chance occurrence that came about for no particularly reason. I believe, however, that often we are influenced to take on challenges by seeing other people fulfilled by doing good things. 

I remember, as a kid, watching on black and white television, a Hallmark-Hall-of-Fame version of Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis. This was a 1920's story about a Midwest boy who goes to the East coast to med school, comes back to practice medicine in a small town, and there develops a special interest in infectious diseases. 

The hero goes on a quest to halt an epidemic on a tropical island, has a tragic love with great heartbreak along the way, and then, of course, saves the day in the end. There was something about the compassion this physician had for using science to help people that intrigued me. 

Growing up in a small community I experienced the typical cuts and colds, bumps and bruises of a kid. There the good doctor, who was also a respected community leader, cared for me. One day during my high school freshman biology class while dissecting a frog, it came to me, "Maybe I should be a doctor!" 

It was at that moment I started pointing in this direction, and here I am 45 years later, still thrilled by the challenge.

What is it that triggers a person to apply to medical school? Is it an idealistic wish to make a difference in the world; the intellectual challenge to use science to discover something new; or the model of someone who provides one-on-one caring and healing to the sick or dying? 

I would say almost 34 years after graduating from medical school, that practicing medicine is a little bit of all those things, but mostly it is about trying to do what you can to help people, and the reward in knowing that sometimes you are able to help.

Whatever the experience, or example, or dream that moves a kid down the road toward a health care profession, I would call it a very good thing. 

1 comment:

drjonslater said...

There was no other choice for me. I wanted to be a physician so badly that my bones hurt. It has been and continues to be a privilege.