December 13, 2009. This is the date I first saw Duke University Medical Center. As a soon to be physician, I had heard several frightening things of medical residency. I remember standing in front of the hospital at night thinking, “If only I could learn how to be a doctor here!”. That dream has now come to past. Amazing how time flies! These are my personal reflections which are written for me, but shared with you.
During my 3 years as a Duke Internal Medicine resident, I learned many life lessons; and perhaps most important, is that God is my rock. Fighting to sustain the breath of life in my patients, it became ever more evident to me that I needed God. Often times I wondered how I could possibly make it through; how I could truly sympathize with patients without having an emotional breakdown. Forming personal relationships with patients as they lay on their death beds was rewarding beyond measure. Making sense of it all after they died was an emotional catastrophe. Many of those nights I found myself on my knees in the call room praying to God; asking for understanding, asking for personal strength, and asking for patients’ family members to be strengthened as well. Lo and behold, my God never failed me.
I learned that life happens. My wife and I were blessed with a son who remains a beauty in our sight. Understanding parenthood is something you cannot do without experiencing it. Working 30 hour shifts in the Medical ICU every 3rd night with an infant at home and a wife who works just as much, if not more than I did was an eye opener. Before then, I had never truly comprehended the concept of fatigue. From this I learned that excuses are worthless. You can’t tell your infant child that you are too tired to take care of him after 30 hours of work. He simply will not fix his own lunch! You can’t tell the dying patient you didn’t determine the correct diagnosis because you were up late the prior night with a crying baby. All you can do is keep your mouth shut, deal with it, and handle your business!
I learned that it is with both confidence and humility that the White Coat is donned. My patients expected many things from me. They expected me to be intelligent. They expected me to make the correct diagnosis. They expected me to formulate effective management plans. That element of confidence was necessary to reach their expectations. But even more important, they expected me to be honest; to say “I don’t know” when I didn’t know. To admit I am human just as well as they are. To humble myself and to remember that I am the one serving them. In our doctor patient relationship, I am the employee, they are the employers. I learned to always remember, my white coat is one of servitude.
As a mentor for DiverseMedicine students, I can’t help but to think back to when I was a premed and this all seemed so far away. I wondered how I would do it. I wondered if I’d do it. Though this remains the beginning of my career and I am now starting an entire new journey as a medical fellow, I still have a feeling of awe and amazement that I am living what was once a dream. On June 21, 2013 after 3 years of training, for the last time as a Medical Resident, I walked the hallways of Duke University Medical Center. Many thoughts filled my mind, but one prevailed above all. This thought was a quote from the individual I admire most. Regarding my residency training, “It is finished”.