It’s July 1st, a time of year when third year American medical students take the step from auditorium to clinic. It’s a time of sorting out. Every medical school deals with their share of students appearing on clinical clerkships showcasing their unique brand of personal expression. Meetings ensue. The argument is always the same: ‘I can be a good doctor with purple hair.’
Of course you can. But this isn’t about you.
Among patients the measure of your ability is no longer limited to how smart you are or how hard you studied, but includes how you’re perceived. We’re one-half of an important relationship and the confidence we inspire sets the stage for the success of that relationship. While there may be patients not preoccupied with a surgeon’s eyebrow-to-lip chain, there are likely those who are.
Ultimately the work of a physician requires that we surrender a small piece of our independence. A career built on the privileged relationships shared with patients requires consideration of what will make them most comfortable.
July is the month when senior medical students face the reality that it’s no longer just about them.