During my second year of medical school, a doctor asked a group of us to write down a few qualities that we thought a good physician should have. Rolling my eyes, I wrote down “empathy, honesty, and perseverance.” It was a question that I had heard too many times during my medical school interviews, and had stopped giving much thought to my answer. The doctor then asked us to share our response with the rest of the group, with examples of how these qualities were applied to a medical setting. My other classmates began reading their answers, which were all typical responses to such a question. Some said intelligence, others said compassion, and a bunch shared my idea of empathy, honesty, and perseverance. However, when it was one student’s turn to share his response, he only read one word: “fight.”…
My stomach immediately clenched when I heard that answer. I associated it with competitiveness, and I wondered why in the world he would think that it was the most important quality in a physician. But as he kept going, the idea behind his response was made clear. “Physicians need to have fight,” he said. “Medical students need to have fight. When times are tough, and you’ve been working hard, you just have to keep fighting.”
Although I continue to believe that empathy, honesty, perseverance, intelligence, and compassion are all incredibly important characteristics as a physician, that day I decided that the one quality I would work on is having fight. In fact, medical students already have a good sense of fight. We fought through all of the pre-med pre-requisites, combatted the daunting MCAT exam, and slayed the medical school admission process. When we finally make it to medical school, we fight through the core sciences, demolish anatomy, tackle all of the systems, and absolutely destroy Step 1. No medical student lacks this type of fight. It has always been in us, and always will be.
However, while we are constantly focusing on this type of fight, another one tends to be forgotten. The fight we constantly have with ourselves. It is the fight that not a lot of us talk about, although it is the most important battle of all. It is the fight to wake up early on a rainy Sunday morning, when the last thing we want to do is study. It is the fight to stop comparing yourself to your classmates when they are bragging about how much studying they did the night before. It is the fight against the study guilt you have after you decide to take a much needed break. It is the fight to not feel lonely when you see pictures of your college friends going out on a Saturday night, while you were studying for an exam. It is the fight to tell yourself that it is okay to not always know the answer to a pimp question during rounds. It is the fight to admit that being tired doesn’t make you lazy. And finally, it is the fight to think that maybe it is okay to have a few weaknesses, and even more okay to ask for help. Because chances are, a lot of your classmates are fighting these fights too.
Studying and working in the medical field is not an easy thing to do. While it is simple to get lost in the world of patient care, you have to always remember that the most important patient to care for is yourself. And if you ever have a hard time fighting to do that, it okay to ask someone to help fight with you. We are all united in this battle, despite how hard things seem to be. We are smart enough, focused enough, and good enough. And most importantly, we will keep on fighting.