Friday, April 17, 2009

Doctor's Diaries on PBS' Nova

In 1987, Nova featured a series which followed 7 medical students from Harvard med school through their careers in the medical profession. Last night I watched the most recent installation not realizing that the series had continued over the years from 1987. However because I had just been expelled from college as a pre-med major, I immediately remembered the program so it was with great anticipation that I watched the program last night.

The immediate first thought that came to mind was that the age for admission to medical school really, really needs to be increased to at least 28. And I don't think its a coincidence that the happiest practicing physician among them entered medical school as a 31 year old divorced nontraditional student. I was taken aback by how old they all looked knowing that they were only a couple years younger than me. Now I understand quite well that medical school WILL age you, but IMHO nothing ages you faster than being stressed AND unhappy. Multiple marriages, health issues, unhappiness, it just didn't paint a very pretty picture of the personal toll having a career in medicine takes, but as a realist I appreciated their perspective.

Case in point, I predicted during the first commercial break that neither of the two Black women featured were 1) Married or 2) Mothers. Why such a gloomy prediction? Again, I'm a realist and I know of many professional women, especially Black women Physicians, who are in a similar social situation. I was also not surprised to hear one of the Black women talk about the racism she's experienced in her career, the "dances" she has to do to be seen as equal to the "average" physician. Then there was the Jewish physicians who I remembered for snapping at the filmmaker in 1987 as she was about to go into surgery (I have no idea why that scene stands out in my mind). She has a career serving the underserved as a primary care physician and was one of those Docs that when you hear them tell their story, you're so happy there are people like her in the profession. I won't talk anymore about the characters, just click the title of this post for the link.

The overall affect of seeing these stories was initially some hesitation about my career goals, then I thought about how thankful I am to be doing this in my 40's where issues like having kids, getting married, confidence in myself, knowing who I am in the world, are non issues. At the end of the day, I'm reminded of a quote which I paraphrase, by one of the doctors in the series: "Do medicine only if you can't imagine yourself doing anything else because only then will the sacrifices be worth it". And at 42 years old, having thought about everything else at least twice, there's nothing else in the world I'd rather do than become a Physician

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