Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

The Martial Art of Medicine 


Master Sam taught me that to be successful, I have to envision success. Helping patients see a brighter future is now part of my clinical approach. 

I was inches away from earning my coveted taekwondo yellow belt. As my eyes caught sight of the thick wooden board in front of me, I asked incredulously, “I have to break that?” What followed was an eternity of me squarely hitting the board with my fist and wincing as it bounced off each time with a dull thwack. 


My teacher, Master Sam, leaned towards me and whispered, “You’re hitting the board correctly, but I can see in your eyes that you don’t believe you can break it. Envision yourself smashing through the board.” 


I felt frustrated that he hadn’t given me practical advice. What good could my imagination do? In desperation, I breathed in and filled my mind with the moment my fist would connect with the board and break clean through it. Certain that it wouldn’t work, I steadied myself and brought my fist down on it with the same force as the last 10 times. As I braced myself for the sound of flesh bouncing off wood, I heard a sharp crack and the sensation of whooshing air. 


Entering unknown territory 

It’s been years since this moment, and yet I feel a sense of déjà vu as I enter a daunting new phase of life, once again facing a new formidable wooden board. As myself and my classmates start med school, we don’t know what the coming years might be like. Although we can guess at the countless hours of studying, laughing over game nights, and discovering the charm of Charm City, otherwise known as Baltimore, the future feels amorphous. I’m equal parts excited and terrified. In moments of doubt I’m comforted by the words of Master Sam that follow me throughout all my life’s journeys. I envision a future for myself and my classmates where we’re on the other side of the seemingly insurmountable exams, spending every day trying to be better for our patients. I feel the honor and the privilege of the time we’ll spend advocating to leave medicine a little bit better than when we entered it. 

Bringing past strength to the present 

 Master Sam taught me that hope and belief in myself can carry me through trials. Faith in yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone. So here in a new city, at a new school, and alongside a new group of passionate people, I’m arming us all with the belief that we can succeed and the courage to keep trying to break through our own wooden boards, each and every day. 








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.