Never forget your natural calling…
I recall how much emphasis was placed on extracurricular activities during medical school interviews. They wanted well-rounded, academically achieved students. However, I really suspected I would walk into a medical school class surrounded by 200 very studious but one-track minded students who beefed up their applications with activities they were forced to do. Maybe a class full of Mark Zukerbergs, a couple of Screeches from Saved by the Bell, a few Napolean Dynamites, and throw in a couple of Erkels and Myras in the mix. I really did not know how I would fit in.
On orientation day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a college buddy of mine who had played for his basketball team. We had been playing ball together for the past 4 years and neither of us had a clue we were both pre-med. Beyond this I came to find out there were other students in my class with extremely diverse backgrounds and talents such as athletes, local musicians, stand-up comedians, military men and women, and even a major former Broadway show planner. Everyone in the class had hours and hours of volunteer activities that we all seemed so passionate about. These people could have easily succeeded in other fields but chose to serve their fellow man through medicine. I blended right in and made some very good friends over those 4 years.
One thing I did notice was that those 4 years of medical training really narrowed down extracurricular activity participation. We all enjoyed our free time and occasionally I would get shocked to find out about more hidden talents other students possessed but managed to hide over the years. As I went through residency these talents became even harder to discover. Not only that, volunteer participation became scant. One of my favorite questions to ask a group of medical doctors has now become, “If you were not a doctor, what would you have done for a living?” This instantly brings a smile to many people’s faces as they open up their talent chest and past childhood dreams. I’ve heard answers like a chef, a stay at home wife, a fashion designer, a pilot, and a librarian. A few people have ‘no idea’- medicine was all they ever wanted to do. The scariest one I’ve heard was- a professional sniper. Needless to say I kept my distance from him after that. Personally, I probably would have been an artist living a relatively simple life.
Medicine is an amazing field that has a lot to offer. Your training takes you through a roller coaster with some of the worst and best days of your life. During the same period, many transitions are taking place (relationships, marriages, children, first car/house, etc.). It may even become difficult to offer time for volunteer activities when that time could easily be spent making money by moonlighting. Medicine can really consume our lives at times. We sometimes lose sight of prior dreams and talents that helped set us apart from others in the first place. These God given talents were given to us for a reason and they have the potential to really change lives if we use them. I think it is very important that every once in a while we set some time aside to volunteer or re-explore a talent or two.