I have little doubt that most of us in medical school and beyond got there because we love medicine but it can become easy to forget what that really means. Because as one of the world’s best-known doctors the eponymous protagonist of Dr. Who reminds us “love, it’s not an emotion. Love is a promise” and promises by their very nature have value in large part due to the difficulty that lies in keeping them. As I look to 2020, I cannot deny that 2019 has been a difficult year and the decision to pursue this profession lies at the heart of much of that difficulty. At various points throughout the last 12 and particularly the last 6 months, I have felt undervalued, overlooked, and have on several occasions found myself surprised at how others perceive my heartfelt and earnest efforts. In midst of these disappointments, the sentiments that motivated me through my pre-med years and led my friends to comment that despite whatever feedback no one wanted to be a doctor more than I can become lost in a murk of frustration, self-doubt, and questioning. It is in those moments that the promise aspect comes into play.
When we enter medicine we take a literal oath but we also taken upon subtler oaths to all those who educate and support us as well as those aspiring doctors whose positions we compete for to perceiver and see our efforts come to fruition. These moments also remind me of my favorite quote from Chekov himself a physician “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.” While normally I turn to this quote in light of my own dual passions, this quote also speaks to the fact that at this stage in life where many of our peers are forging lifelong romantic attachments medicine is very much the centerpiece of our lives and must in some ways be treated as a romantic partner. One aspect of this is confronting frustration by reflecting on all the positive aspects of your partner or in this case profession brings to your life. In a way, this is an excellent time for that as the residency application process is coming down the road with increasing rapidity so thinking through what aspects of medicine motivate me to get through the obstacles is of particular value. All of this is to say particularly to those early in medical school or other health profession training that we have chosen a difficult path full like any relationship of pitfalls, frustrations, and enormous emotional burdens but to return to the Doctor and in particular my favorite episode the Girl in the Fireplace “One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel” and for each of us that angel is what particularly motivates us as we work towards our professional goals.