You are No Longer Learning for an “A”

First day of class and I already felt out of place.

As I entered into the TMEC Atrium where all the First-Years were having breakfast of muffins and coffee, my polo, shorts and sandals stood out like a sore thumb. Many were dressed up in business casual, with a nice shirt tucked into their slacks. Some were in jeans, some were also in dress pants. Guess I didn’t get the memo.

Our entire day consisted of orientation and a big welcome to HMS. We also started our first course of the year, called Introduction to the Profession or ITP. Dr. Katharine Treadway, the course director, explained how this course will introduce us to what it’s like being a doctor in a hospital caring for patients. This includes conducting patient interviews in a hospital (I got MGH) and delving into case studies.

Dr. Treadway seems like a great professor and a doctor (she’s a primary care physician). Her talk was engaging, inspiring and genuine. One of her most memorable phrases was in response to a question of the definition of success in medicine. She replied, “Be a good doctor, a good person, and someone who treats your patients well.”

We did an interesting exercise in class today when Dr. Treadway asked us to talk about what we were excited and anxious about. Some responses included “I am excited about meeting cool, smart people,” “I am excited about doing something that’s helpful,” and “I am excited about pass/fail” (that was mine). Other responses were “I am anxious about not living up to the expectations,” “I am anxious about having a person’s life in my hands,” and “I am anxious about love in med school” (that was not mine).

Today I felt more at peace with everything that’s going on. Before coming to Boston I was feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety, not knowing what it was like here or who my classmates were. It’s only the first day but I’ve already met some incredible people doing incredible work. However while it seems that many of my classmates were excited about healing people and saving lives (“doing something”), I did not share that same sentiment. I think my background in anthropology has taught me to be critical of medicine and its tendency to “medicalize” things that reduces complicated conditions into categories of disease. I think that after working with people suffering from addiction and mental illness, I recognize that medicine isn’t the end-all-be-all and that other factors such as poverty are just as important and necessary to consider. I also think that after reading books such as “House of God” and Atul Gawande’s “Complications” and “Better,” I’ve developed a view that medicine is ruled stronger by uncertainty and ambiguity. Healing is noble, yes, and I have embraced a lifelong journey of service. But I just can’t help chuckling to myself that I am entering into a profession in which I’ve spent most of my time critiquing. My hope these next four years is to use this critical eye for good.

In other news, check out my sweet dorm room:

4 Responses to “You are No Longer Learning for an “A””
  1. phillip says:

    Keep these coming, Eric. They are inspiring! p

  2. bna says:

    Hey Eric, great reading about the beginnings of your medical school journey! Totally can relate to your social science background – I too feel that way when it comes to medicine, that it’s really not about curing any specific disease, which I guess then leads to the question of what a disease actually is, etc. etc. etc.

    That said, omgz, is that a Harvard dorm chair? D:

  3. Eric Lu says:

    haha nah I brought that chair from home =P

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