July 1 – The Start of Something Wonderful

Some in medicine look upon July 1 with fear and trepidation, worrying about patient safety & the need for increased vigilance, but most can remember their own first day on the wards, of the wonder and excitement that permeated every place, every person, every step. Though more seasoned practitioners may fret, surely those starting out are more anxious, hoping for the best but fearing the worst, wondering when an attending or program director will say “You! We made a mistake, you’re not supposed to be here!” As a now PGY-5 in my second year of training to become a neonatologist, I’ve had many mentors and role models, and I’ve thrice had the privilege of working with new medical students and interns, trying to impart some of the knowledge and experience I’ve gained.

Although July 1 is the magical date, many residents start in June and I just had the good fortune to guide a new pediatrics intern in our NICU stepdown unit. The enthusiasm and desire to learn that she brought to work each day was contagious and I found myself equally excited, striving to teach her as much as I possibly could in this, her first week of residency. After going off-service, I emailed her some feedback and she replied “Thank you again for making my first week as an intern seriously the best I could have imagined!” I say this not to brag or to boast, but to emphasize the impact that we in academic medicine have upon our learners. I’m told that families remember the exact words that their doctors use, and I think the same applies to medical trainees.

It’s easy to become jaded and to wonder, “how can they not possibly know that?!” and to just “do it yourself” instead of helping more junior learners. But the director of my residency program kept a decoration on his desk that I think captures my sentiment and can serve as a guiding principle to all those in a position to mentor and guide. It said “those who can, do; those who can do more, teach.” It’s certainly more difficult, but the effort is rewarded many-fold.

And to those starting upon this wonderful journey, I’ll only paraphrase words that I hope you’ve already heard: Cherish this special time, and keep your sense of wonder and excitement, for time’s arrow flies in only one direction, and for goodness’ sake, have fun!