I’m not a doctor who engages with the community; rather, I’m a community member who became a doctor. This identity has helped me strengthen and maintain my relationships with my patients.
The desk that I used as a child to do homework, write college applications, and, ultimately, complete my medical school applications was built by my father before I was born.
“The wood was behind the building my Union was tasked to paint. It was good wood and your sisters needed a desk.”
Family and friends
Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a doctor. The process itself is tedious, and requires persistence, grit, and sacrifice. We’re amazed we pull it off, not perfectly, of course, but the eventual achievement of being a doctor is a success story in and of itself.
For medicine is, in my belief, a calling. Something early on speaks to us about the field, and its gravitational pull becomes stronger and stronger the closer we are to selecting our future careers. But what common thread helps us in this journey? My answer, which has been reaffirmed the more I speak with undergraduates and medical students, is family and friends.
The positive energy from family and friends has many significant effects. For instance, they alleviate negative feelings from our first failing grade. Or feed us when we haven’t gone grocery shopping in weeks. They celebrate our achievements, and are there with equal compassion during our lows.
Family and identity formation
In fact, for me, doctoring relies on the lessons I learned from both my mother and father, especially in how it impacts my identity. Growing up, I watched as my parents offered their services to neighbors, friends, and families, without ever asking for anything in return. Why? My belief is that they never declared themselves a “seamstress” or a “painter” as an identity, but rather a person of the community who became a seamstress or a painter. They were a member of the community first. And for me, I follow in that same path: I’m not a doctor who engages with the community; rather, I’m a community member who became a doctor. Such a notion, I believe, has helped me strengthen and maintain my relationships with my patients.
As June becomes July, a new group of interns will walk the halls of hospitals and clinics. They’ll work long hours into the night with little rest. It will be family and friends making sure these doctors are well themselves.
Reflecting on my own family, I’m often reminded of the desk my father built for me. The desk was built from leftover wood from Johns Hopkins Hospital, tossed out during renovations, and given a new life by my father as a desk for his children. Now, decades later, I’ll be receiving a new desk from Johns Hopkins – one in an office, on their campus, as faculty. A fitting end to one chapter of a journey, co-written by my own family and friends.