Thursday, February 19, 2009

Med Student Taboo: Admitting Doubt

Posted By: Jeffrey Wonoprabowo, Internal Medicine, 11:31PM Feb 10

This is a post I started a while back after talking with someone I respect. He used to teach neuroscience here at Loma Linda University and now helps out with the freshman neuroscience small-group sessions. We were talking about medical school and what medical students go through. At the time I held off on finishing the post, but after reading Kendra's recent post, I decided to come back to this one.

Certain things seem to be taboo topics among medical students. Or at least things that medical students are not expected to say or feel. One of those things is doubt. Doubt about wanting to keep going. Doubt about how you're feeling. Doubt about yourself. And doubt about your motivations.

Students bravely walk to and from classes, labs, and the library keeping their heads high and answering that common "how are you doing" question with a "fine" and a smile. Sometimes in a moment of honesty one might sign and admit being tired. But admit being discouraged? Hardly. Admit to doubting the desire to keep on keeping on? Not to anyone but close friends. And even to close friends it is hard to admit when they are not (or have never been) medical students.

I've tried expressing my doubts and the not-infrequent desire to quit to non medical friends. All I get is a "Oh, don't give up. It'll all be worth it in the end." How would they know?
The thing is, nobody wants to hear us complain. Everyone is proud of where we are. They expect great things. And who wants an unsure doctor? So, it seems, we medical students continue putting on a confident and sure face even though each one of us goes through the low points of medical school.

In October 2008, the New York Times published a
piece written by Dr. Pauline Chen, MD. She writes about meeting with three former classmates twenty years after medical school. All three, for the first time, discovered that they all were miserable during those years. But back then, nobody ever talked about it.

Sadly, things are still the same today. Sure, we moan and groan to each other. But that's about it. We bottle up our emotions. We hide our failures. We ignore our insecurities. We project and exude confidence because that's who we should be. And all of it takes a toll.If only we could be honest with someone about how we feel, we would realize that we all share in the misery. And that in itself might be comforting.


  1. owh comment gambar:-->
    teringat zaman muda mudi dulu.. hehes.

  2. All I get is a "Oh, don't give up. It'll all be worth it in the end."

    money money money . :P
    Good luck everyone. :)

  3. to rin: haha. cun kn kite muda2

    to keyra: I rs org ni mesti ayah dia paksa amik medic. hohoho. N FYI, ada scientist ckp money leh beli kebahagiaan dgn cara menggunakan wang ngan bijak like shopping, tgk wayang,,jln2. haha--ada tipe2 kita x tu??

  4. baru I perasan... I rs yang pakai tudung ungu tuh I la..
    baju tuh mcm baju I