I have friends in very strange places. It’s a bit deliberate: throughout college and after, I’ve tried hard to make and keep friends outside of my premedical and medical education.
Why would I ever do that? As a premed — and especially as a med student, it can be very tempting to make friends with the people in your classes, pursuing the same professional goals. They’re a readily accessible group of people, with clearly identifiable common interests. They’re smart! They’re passionate! Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’re interesting!
And so I’m not saying that one should specifically exclude premeds as friends — I certainly haven’t. Having a group of friends to study with and share professional goals and ambitions with is incredibly helpful and maybe even inspirational. But having the same professional goals is very different from having the same life goals, and that’s ultimately what has been so rewarding about having these “strange” friends.
Both my friend who works in the record industry and I want to revel in the human experience. My friend who works as a third-grade teacher in Denver shares my goals to make life for kids just a little bit easier. Talking to these close friends and sharing our successes, failures and experiences in tackling the same problems is both refreshing and mind-expanding. Having these friends allows me to investigate my role as a physician in society more generally and look outside the strict bounds of medicine to consider how I can broaden my impact to serve the same life goals.
And on the individual patient level, having “strange” friends helps me to connect with those under my care: when your pals are lawyers, technicians and writers, you’ll understand your lawyer-technician-writer patients that much better.
So while it might seem a little harder, and you’ll have to endure complaints about “50-page papers” and mean anthro professors, go out there and make some “strange” friends. You’ll thank me, and your patients will thank you.