This is a very controversial topic somewhat pertaining to conformity and individuality. I would love to hear what people have to say about this. Agree or disagree? I hope it makes you think.
You’ll never be a doctor! How many of you have heard this before? How many of you have been told that you will not amount to anything in life? How many of you have been told not to apply to medical school by someone who does not really know you?
Many people’s default is to look at minorities and assume we are not good enough to practice medicine. We do not have what it takes to care for society’s physical and mental ailments. Let’s be real, who wouldn’t rather have the elder Caucasian gentleman take care of their lung disease as oppose to me, the 30 year old black guy? The chips are stacked against us from the start, and we have to dig ourselves out of the hole just to reach even ground.
Why are we viewed in this light? I dare to say that it is the image we paint of ourselves. It is not that this image is a bad thing, but rather it is not the image of a stereotypical physician. I recall very clearly flying home to Houston from St. Louis during my college years. Back then, my dress style was consistent with hip hop culture. My winter wardrobe consisted mostly of baggy sweats and hoodies. On this particular flight, for near 2 hrs, I sat next to an elder woman who berated me for my dress and assured me that nobody would take me serious. She seemed certain that I was a thug who was up to no good and had no aspirations. I am not sure I could have ever convinced her that I would one day be a physician. I just did not look the part.
So, does looking the part matter? I think it does. The first month of medical school one of my best friends who wore his hair in long twists was told by our Dean that he would cut the twists out by the time he started his clinical clerkships. My friend, who is very strong willed, asserted that would not happen. “I’m doing me”, he would say. Two years later his hair was cut. Whether this was because he grew tired of it, or because hr realized that slightly less individualism and slightly more conformity was needed, I do not know.
Perhaps it is unfair, but the way we look affects how far we make it in certain arenas of life, Medicine included. The fact of the matter is that there are very few people who want the guy in the sagging sweats (i.e. me in college) to take care of them when they are dying on life support. They simply would not be able to see me as someone who can provide adequate care. So why would a medical school dean want to admit me to his or her school if he or she cannot visualize me as his or her doctor. It simply would not make sense for them to admit me. To take this one step further, what many pre-medical students do not realize is that a significant portion of your college grades are subjective and to a certain extent, are influenced by the way your teacher views you. Subconsciously, we look at people and rate their potential level of success even before we know them. This rating is based on the way they walk, talk, dress, etc. So it is very important to consider that the way your teacher views your appearance will likely play some role, even if small, in your final grade.
I would suggest to our members that if you want to be a doctor, then behave like a doctor. It is okay to be unique and you certainly should not let go of those things that make you an individual. But you must find that balance that allows you to bring your uniqueness to the conformity of the Medical field. You have to fit in while being yourself. Never be someone who you are not, but understand that there is a certain look which patients expect their doctors to have in order for them to feel confidence in your medical abilities.
Because this is a loaded topic, I will end it here and perhaps revisit it in the future. In the end, it comes down to realizing that getting into the Medical Field is like playing the wise game of Chess. You have to make smart moves pertaining to how you study, how you look, etc. “Being wise is better than being strong”. So be wise in your decisions pertaining to how other people view you.
Image from: http://wecort.com/archives/171