« Why Do We Do It? | Main | Enough Whining About Primary Care »

I'm Trying To Grow Up

JeffJeff Wonoprabowo -- As I write this it's raining outside. It's finally starting to feel like winter here in southern California. I used to love these rainy days as a kid. Playing in the rain was always fun. And I loved sitting in the car when it poured outside and the streets were filled with rushing streams of water. I used to hope my mom or dad would drive through the water. They didn't like to. I never understood why. But on occasion it was unavoidable and then I would sit wide-eyed as the water splashed high and the sound of the water hitting the bottom of the car echoed through our minivan.

The rain isn't as welcome these days. Sure, it's nice to be inside on a rainy day. But the joy of playing outside isn't quite the same. I drive my own car now. Going somewhere when it rains just means I get wet and the inside of my car will probably get dirty, too. And I don't drive through puddles. Who knows what could be hiding beneath the surface?

I've changed. And maybe that's part of growing up.

In high school I found my anatomy and physiology class absolutely fascinating. That class allowed me to realize my own interest in the human body and how it worked. In high school, though, I didn't know what it meant to be a doctor. I didn't know what it would take. I didn't know what kind of lifestyle the residents had. But I liked the idea of being a doctor. You could help people. You could make things right.

It's a little different now. Sure, I still believe that you can help people as a doctor. But I have a better idea of what goes into the making of an MD. Medical school is tough. (I heard that before, but now I know just how tough.) Residency is long, the hours are grueling. And attendings have to worry about the practice of medicine in the 21st century. It's no longer just about patients. Modern practice involves worrying about being sued, malpractice insurance, billing insurance companies that hardly ever pay what you bill, and dealing with endless bureaucracy and time constraints.

I guess I've changed in this area, too -- at least my understanding has. And I guess that's also part of growing up.

Later today I'll be going out to meet some friends for lunch. The rain will probably hit me on my head and, with my boots on, I'll probably walk through a puddle on purpose. It won't be the same childhood glee, but the amusement will still be there.

And when I once again come face to face with real patients instead of an exam, I know that the same wonder I had about the human body will return. It'll be tempered with the realities of modern practice. But at least the wonder hasn't died.

I guess growing up is about finding balance between childish naiveté and cranky, old cynicism.

December 23, 2008 in Jeff Wonoprabowo | Permalink


The thing you said about rain, that was just...warming somehow!
I once wrote about this matter of growing up, and started by talking about rain! But i wrote that in my mother language "Arabic".

I know how it feels Jeff, the whole thing about growing up, being thrilled to be here, being able to do things you dreamed about as a child, but in the same time being disappointed about how you let some childish thoughts and feelings just fade away as you only watch or wonder why. It's the price of growing up, i think, kind of sacrifice, and, yes, it sure hurts.
Wonder...that what we really must not let go. It's the source of every question we may ask and the motive to get the answers, the right satisfying answers...
We grow up, it can't be stopped, but for those who keep the wonder, life and medicine will always be challenging them to give their best, and that's what great people do, great doctors too, give their best.

Posted by: Asma' | Dec 25, 2008 2:43:47 PM

I was like you, didn't know what it meant to be a doctor. I didn't know what it would take and also didn't know how it would be. Nobody born to be a doctor.I always believe that this 6 years in medical school will make us a better person to take the doctor's role. I've chosen a tougher way..dealing with different languages and cultures which force me to grow faster..
I think..I know how it feels too...

take care~

Posted by: min | Dec 26, 2008 6:46:15 AM

For me, this was one of the best posts on The Differential.

Thanks Jeff.

Posted by: Habiba | Dec 30, 2008 7:22:26 AM

It's sad physicians in the US have to worry every minute about being sued.

In my country, this is not something to worry about, the Doctor role here is still viewed by ppl in the sense of "a professional who is gonna help me", not like in the US "somebody who can screw it up in any moment and whom I can get money from".

Well, of course there are some malpractice lawsuits but in very bad cases where they screwed it real bad (Prostatectomy for a patient based on the PSA of another one, Amputating the wrong leg, Arthroscopy in the wrong knee...)

Posted by: | Dec 31, 2008 9:05:15 AM

Jeff, I understand your mindset. But being a med-student/doctor is all about what your focus on. You're right about the lawsuits, long hours etc. but that's just a small part of being a doctor.

Med school is tough no doubt, and towards the end a lot of students express similar emotions to you. However, find ways to see the positives. Medicine is fun, joking around with colleagues, social respect, and the list goes on.

It's all in the mindset! N-Thug and I a while back created a blog just to beat this mindset, it's called www.thugmed.com we put all our electronic notes (mindmaps) online too. Hopefully this might provide you with some inspiration. Feel free to drop us an email too!

Live the dream.

Posted by: S-Thug | Dec 31, 2008 10:06:40 AM

I dont know...I am 22 myself but i think i am stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood...i really dont believe i will have to make decisions and take care of patients in a year from now...it is my last year in med school...but i still think i am just a child...i guess it is the long years of med school that really makes u feel not ready to face the real world...

Posted by: ahmad | Dec 31, 2008 1:19:45 PM

Hi,,,,, this my first participation in the Differential.
I think responsibility of being skillful doctor(who able to take true decision for his patient) make me GROW UP to face this responsibility...
Thanks Jeff

Posted by: SoFar | Dec 31, 2008 1:36:55 PM

Yes the pressure while being the attending doctor is big to oneself.I know it because I've been through it and I'm only 4 months into my internship.Hopefully it gets better as we gain more experience as a health professional.

Posted by: akiringo | Jan 2, 2009 9:51:07 PM

I feel like never grow up in the medical school. I am now in third year, but feel like stil very innocent... asometime I even can't make dicision for a small things, and can't sure really need to do such things or not. very bad...when I wonder am I suit for this care or not? I look like I had loss

Posted by: choo | Jan 3, 2009 8:47:07 AM

yes jeff...we are growing up. but we are really growing fast, I'm now a 6th year medical student..i remember my self when i was a in the 1st year , it's just like being yesterday! but iam really different now; my way in thinking and looking at things, dealing with people around , choosing my friends , many and many things in my life have changed, but the child inside me hasnt died...

Posted by: Ala' | Jan 10, 2009 2:30:27 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.