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What Is This Passion Thing Anyway?

NewaaronAaron Singh -- I’ve blogged about passion before, and it got a lot of responses. Everybody talks about it; from the half-dead old professor who gives the introductory lecture in first year and then disappears back into his coffin until next year, to the tough-love-doling quasi-military doctor who first takes charge of you when you start work at the hospital. Every book on medicine contains at least a chapter on it; old doctors swear you’ll never make it through med school if you’re just in it for the money (just before they get into their chauffeur-driven BMWs and drive off sipping champagne, the old coots), and young doctors credit it for keeping them going (besides truckloads of caffeine, of course, but that’s another story).

But what is this passion thing all about anyway? People talk about it as if it’s something big and fiery. Go to an Anthony Robbins motivational lecture and he’ll have you jumping around in the aisles thumping your chest and singing uplifting songs. So, are passionate doctors supposed to bound into the hospital every morning with big goofy Cheshire Cat grins on their faces, kiss the nearest nurse, hug the nearest patient, scream some cheesy overused cliché like “Let’s save some lives today, people!” and get down and dirty with more energy than aging hippie rock stars on stage?

I’m still not sure what passion in medicine is all about. But I may have uncovered a few clues. The top students here at Cambridge, some of the most gifted medics alive, are all very quiet people. Most are so soft-spoken you can’t hear them in a crowd, but they know enough to convince you that they work diligently (and that they’re not human, but that’s another story). Is that what passion is then? Is passion really a flame, but not necessarily one that burns brightly and loudly? After all, the noisiest medics (the ones who seem to have a pathological need to show off just how much they know to the lecturer and inadvertently make you think of situations involving them and lots of sharp knives) in my year tend not to be the brightest.

Another totally different kind of insight may have come when I was on one of my shadowing assignments. One doctor in the general surgery ward was performing what must have been her 55th rectal examination that day, and me having watched enough episodes of Scrubs to know that my role was that of the annoyingly eager medical student, decided to chime in with a question exactly when half her hand was off exploring territories that had never seen the light of day.

“So, uhm. What is it that keeps you going? You must have loads of passion to do this kind of thing all day.”

She turned, gave me a poisonous glare that must have set off half the radiation alarms in the hospital, then smiled with the kind of black humour that only a doctor performing her 55th rectal examination of the day could muster. She inclined her head towards a window behind her, overlooking the high street.

“It’s what keeps me from jumping out right now.”

July 3, 2007 | Permalink


Before I read:
Its soooooo good to see you back Angry medic!!!I missed you a lot!

Now will you excuse me as I have to read one of my favorite blogger's recent entry

Posted by: Umme Habiba | Jul 3, 2007 1:17:01 PM

There is no passion!!...It is Obligation that keeps us going!! I know how she felt!!...It's the consequence of a single wrong decision that is haunting us...since we ourselves have done it to us, we just keep quiet and accept the horrible situation.

Posted by: Mojtaba | Jul 4, 2007 5:15:27 PM

It's not the medicine but the patient...thats what keeps so many in it.

Posted by: prodigalme3 | Jul 10, 2007 7:44:39 PM

What a great post! Perhaps you missed your calling and should've been a writer, instead. Hmm... Either way, keep your humor about you as you find the source of your passion. :)

Posted by: sbap | Jul 10, 2007 8:39:18 PM

You're a great writer...very rare among the Doctor types!
Additionally, I appreciate your point of view as a med student in the British Healthcare system (NHS), which ranks and rates much higher than the US system (or lack there of) in which i've been studying!

Posted by: | Jul 11, 2007 1:17:25 AM

hi aron,nice to see u back. i guess for me i still havent found what it is that drew me towards medicine. but i am hoping one day i will know it and hopefully i will be very happy abt it.have a grt day.

Posted by: | Jul 11, 2007 8:09:51 AM

Hei! I'm a 5th year medical student in Portugal (here our medicine courses lasts 6 years). Yeah, I also heard that passion is the main source of doctors motivation. But there are other reasons: the intelectual pleasure of making diagnosis; the need to be useful to the comunity; to actually spend your life helping other people; to make a difference. Anyway, and I speak for myself, it's tough motivating especially when the main concern as a student is to do presentations and exams. I just hope it comes with medical practice, experience and plenty of hard work :)

Posted by: susana | Jul 11, 2007 10:00:31 AM

I can only imagine the struggles you face as aspiring medical students, off to save and change lives through all your hard work and dedication. It's a sad tragedy the system we live in, medically, and how it absolutely puts a damper on true passion. I have MD's for friends with 25-30 years of the medical system under their belt who NOW love what they do, after dropping the AMA, insurance, and certain malpractice firms... due to the constraints you & your patients live within in those models. I wish you the best. Stay true to your heart of helping people to experience life more fully. Keep searching. Ask the right questions. Live congruently, and you will be used to serve humanity.
Dr. SHolmes, Chiropractor

Posted by: sholmes | Jul 11, 2007 2:04:08 PM

hi everyone
i'm a first year med student in egypt. i read the post it's really amazing, but do u know i do believe that this passion should exist in the doctor cause the med school need very hard work all know that, what keep us studying so hard is that passion of knowing more about subjuct we are interested in , people we like to help not just help, you can help people with money and any other way but it's much greater to help people end their suffering. cause if you don't have this kind of passion you can do anything else and save yourself the pressure and spending all days and nights studing while your friends- at other college- are just hanging out. i may be wrong i'm still at first year going to 2nd Gods willing but i really believe in that passion.

Posted by: M.M.S. | Jul 11, 2007 3:35:11 PM

i guess we all are passionate about things that we know how to do..because doing something perfectly gives us a sense of satisfaction. So we do it with full vigour and energy.
People who work patiently and quietly and diligently are just like robots i guess tooo practical soo they can keep themselves organised and never go overboard with their emotions and one job done nicely is a job done nicely which would keep their life going smoothly.

Then there are others who might not be soo good by instincts at doing something in the first place and then obliged to carry on it at the second place..such people need to resort to artificial methods of getting themselves inspired..when they hug or shout or talk they are just asking for acknowledgement and assurance that they are not that bad and that they could and should continue with whatever they are involved in....

To wrap up the discussion some are like Roger Federer and some are like Rafael Nadal..both passionate in their own ways....one should not confuse passion with aggression...

but i guess if you ARE genius or talented passion will follow and if you WANT to become genious or talented you have to cultivate passion in you and that too passionately...

Posted by: Mini | Jul 12, 2007 12:09:47 AM

Good article: raises some interesting issues with a touch of irony (btw, why is irony a feature which appears more frequently among doctors than any other jobs?).

And I liked the last comment, too (that of mini); especially the last paragraph makes a very good analysis.

Posted by: medical student | Jul 12, 2007 3:02:42 AM

Great timing for a great question, Singh!

Posted by: Soniely Lugo | Jul 12, 2007 4:07:28 AM

Great to have you back!

Sometimes, I wonder if it's good to know that some doctors are sick of doing 55 rectal examinations, as your doctor... Or to see lower GI surgeons still as excited about their dunno, thousandth DRE, as though it were any medical student's 1st.

I think it is possible to be a leetle too passionate about rectal examinations.

And I could NOT agree with you more about know-it-all, or rather, shout-it-all medics. My scenario involves syringes, rather than knives... Ideally, syringes containing massive amounts of tranquilizers, aimed randomly across the body.

Here's to the elusive passion, and/or the existence of something, ANYTHING, to sustain us, even if it is merely a fascination with the anal region, to keep us going throughout the hell that is medical school & the hospital.

Posted by: Sheena | Jul 12, 2007 6:31:32 AM

The definition of passion : a journey
1. M.D. students and those who just got their M.D. : How come the world is not like us? how come they are not passionate about whatever they are doing?

2. Those worked for 3 years or more : it takes more than an idealistic self-righteous passion to make sure nobody dies at your hand, it takes commitment and maturity too.

3. Longer than 10 years, it is also good if you are rewarded for what you have been doing or have done in the form of promotions, pay rise or huge patient base.

4. More than 20 years and yet you have not really moved forward careerwise and your classmates are earning twice or ten times you are earning (Sigh), and yet you are still doing it this seemingly unrewarding, thankless job and you would continue doing it : That I call true passion.

In short, passion is best spoken not in words but in actions and character; it is best written not in pages but in years and your life.

Posted by: Eric Draimbler | Jul 12, 2007 6:59:06 AM

is it passion or perseverance?

Posted by: surgeryresident | Jul 12, 2007 10:51:24 AM

there is a difference between passion and obligation - both does produce perseverance but both separates the difference between a good doctor and the best doctor.

when one is obligated to do something, one may not do it with one's best ability. when one is passionate about something, one actually cares to walk the extra mile.

It's like, there are students who become students to learn but there are students who hate school but just go to school for the sake of school. one can definitely see the difference between the two - the passionate one is felt by others around while the one obligated grumbles all day and live like half a zombie.

The result? Both get things done but one does it better than the other :)

Perhaps, that is what separates a doctor who is in it for the money and a doctor who is in it because he/she cares.

Keep the passion!

Posted by: tiffany | Jul 12, 2007 4:54:11 PM

Hello everybody, you all have been doing a great work here, i comend you all. well, i don't just understand this passion thing, could some explain to me.
From Debi Ogunli

Posted by: DEBI | Jul 13, 2007 12:13:17 PM

DUDES!!! If we were not passionate about medicine then we wouldnt have had any obligation to study it, unless youve been pushed by your parents into a corner where the only option was to have the name DR. before your surname. However if what motivates you is the money dont get tooo excited, the NHS is in huge debt, and quite frankly the physicians are not getting paid enough, not for a minimum of 5 years MBBS and then another ample amount of time to specialize.
So my advise to anyone who isnt passionate about what they are doing, generally speaking, should consider to look elsewhere where they feel their passion lies!! Otherwise the result of being unpassionate just makes you ordinary.

Posted by: | Jul 14, 2007 11:47:23 AM

Passion is not about anything but about things that you put all your heart into!!!
Why would one put his/her heart would depend on N number of factors and the biggest reason could be passion itself sometimes..like it goes love me for a reason and let the reason be love..a very rare thing to happen though..

Posted by: | Jul 16, 2007 11:42:56 PM

What is passion anyway?

First and foremost : Is motivation passion?
Passion is more than motivation, motivation is part of passion. Motivation has an element of motive in it. If everything turns against the motive (You are getting the recognition for the efforts, years you put in, )you will loss that motivation.

The actual meaning and origin of passion:
The English word passion referred to Jesus' suffering long before it evolved to other, more sultry meanings. Therefore, passion and perserverence are not entirely separated or a different entity.

Perserverence is part of passion, it is when everyone turns away, gives up or laugh at you and yet you still continue doing it to see that what you believe in or passionate about accomplished.

Let's not theorize what passion is or not and use it as a yardstick to measure whether this professor, that head of department, your superior is him/her having 'passion' or not. Bear in mind, they were once like you. The last thing you want is keep whipping yourself or others whether they or yourself is 'passionate' or not. Let's not be too judgemental and categorize people either as 'working for passion' or those 'working for money'. 20 years down the line, who is to say that you yourself wouldn not go into the latter group?

If people around you do not show any passion, it is simply that they are looking for people with true passion who wouldn't give up to ignite their passion once again.

So live life with passion, show that it is possible to do things for passion and spread the passion through your actions.

Want to change the world? change yourself. Stop trying to change others or complain whether how people should change.

Posted by: Eric Draimbler | Jul 18, 2007 10:40:52 AM

"Perhaps, that is what separates a doctor who is in it for the money and a doctor who is in it because he/she cares."

Not always true: Years of experience has enlightened me about this: when money is a motivator, the reputation is almost always just as important. Hence, those going in for the money will try to excel in whatever they do so that they can build a good reputation among the patients. Yes, the caring part can be faked and given the training and on the job experience, it is not hard to fake it.

As for the truly caring, passion type : Yes, I have seen enough of them who are truly incompetent. The one who shout the most about passion and care, unfortunately isn't always the one who excel.

Posted by: | Jul 18, 2007 12:12:44 PM

Does everyone who does medicine end up sticking to it only because its taken too much time and money to get them there and they couldn't face the "waste" of giving it up? Seems like everyone thinks that all doctors hate what they do in the end. Kinda sad.

Posted by: lala | Jul 31, 2007 12:55:11 PM

passion?????really..i dnt knw..may be its for few but not for all..

Posted by: supriya jadhav | Aug 20, 2007 12:58:18 AM

I think ppl r free to choose their way of life..but I really agree with lala about spending a lot of time n stickin' to it..if u wanna be perfect..u should care about other aspects of life too..specially urself..I can't understand y ppl forget themselves to help others..u r responsible about urself n ur life more than anything else..if u wanna know u really luv ur job,just put urself in a situation like having a deadly cancer..what will u do for the rest of life..?if tha's medicine..u luv it..if no..just leave it cause u don' luv it..actually it's so hard to do so..but I'm sure it works.

Posted by: Parissa | Jan 7, 2008 2:05:57 PM

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