I’m Training as a New Doctor in the Shadow of a Pandemic
My generation of physicians is entering the field at a historic moment. Covid will likely follow us through our careers.
The transition from medical student to physician, even in normal times, is a profound one; Covid-19 projects a whole new improbability to this moment. I graduated from medical school early to briefly join the ranks of New York City frontline workers in April, as the pandemic reached its peak. I had dreamed of being a doctor for more than half my life, and as a college student volunteering in a hospital, I conjured up gallant stories of my first weeks as a physician. Instead, Covid-19 ruthlessly dashed my expectations.
The gravity of this moment is now starting to sink in as the majority of medical residents start their training on July 1. I’m among a class of more than 35,000 other newly minted physicians who are entering hospitals across the country this summer amidst the worst global pandemic in over a hundred years. It’s not lost on us that we sit on the precipice of a major change in our lives during a critical moment in history.
Though it may seem unflattering to admit, I take some delight in joining the medical profession in this historic moment.
Like everyone else, we are afraid. We are scared of getting sick or passing Covid-19 to a loved one; scared for our psychological health; scared for our educational trajectory. I fear my early residency training will prepare me more for a career in palliative care than in my desired specialty of cardiology. But of course, we are also motivated, energized, and eager to help.
There is no “normal” way to become a doctor. Nor is there a “right” time to make the transition from a naive student to a physician who is confronted by life or death decisions for their patients daily. Humility takes on a heightened significance for new physicians in hospitals. Our radical advances in medical technologies over the last century have provided little solace or tangible benefit in our fight against Covid-19. In fact, we have resorted to medieval plague…