My Good Friends and Patient Readers,
I’ve decide to stop blogging. Although I have enjoyed writing this blog and mightily appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read and comment upon my many articles, keeping the blog going has taken an appreciable toll on my sleep, studying, and even on my family time. As I am about to enter my last year of residency I will have many new responsibilities to my program competing for my time. Additionally, I have signed a contract for my first job and, as I need to devote my last year of training to ensure that I am completely ready to take care of you, your family, and your friends if you ever end up in a gurney in my trauma bay, I won’t have time to update this thing and I’d rather just end it than let it fade out.
I’m going to pull the plug in a few days. Feel free to copy any articles from my archives to read at your leisure. Remember, however, that all of this stuff is copyrighted. I plan to write a book and have given some thought to its layout and content which may include some of the material from the blog. As to when this book will be ready I don’t know. I like to write but I don’t like to do it under pressure so this might not be for several years. There’s a big difference between writing an article every now and then and carrying a theme across a hundred pages, something for which I may need a lot practice.
As for medical school and residency, there are days when I wonder if it’s been worth it. I look at the financial devastation of the last seven years with every asset we ever had, every dime of equity, and every drop of our savings poured into the bottomless void of medical education and wonder if we’re ever going to recover. As I said, I still have a year left of residency in what will have turned out to be an eight-year ordeal and we are going to arrive at that glorious June day a little more than a year from now with absolutely nothing in the way of wealth to show for it. Just a couple of old cars, some household effects, an empty bank account, and a quarter of million in debt. Comes that June day then one last push before the money starts rolling the other way…one last leap of faith and credit to scrape together the money to pull up stakes and get started in a new town. Just a few more months of distracting the wolves, I promise my lovely and long-suffering wife, of playing the financial shell-game, of sandbagging Peter to pay Paul, before we start to pull back, slowly, from economic catastrophe.
Then there are days, fewer now then previously, when I look up from the petty humilities of working in the academic medical environment with the stifling egos, the petulance, and the sheer bad manners that are a hallmark of this kind of thing and swear that, if I had known the level of disrespect with which medical students and residents are treated, I would have laughed and thrown my medical school application in the trash. Except that most of our attending in my program are easy-going and manage to work in a large amount of teaching despite the constant stampede of patients in our department, dealing with the surprising level of malignancy in this whole system has been almost unbearable. Certainly if I wasn’t trapped like most medical students and residents I would never have put up with it. But what choice do any of us have? By the time you find yourself in third year, where the abuse really begins, you are not only deep in debt but now thoroughly unqualified for any other kind of work. I doubt I am going to work at an academic medical center ever again, even as an attending. I have just had my fill.
And on some days I get the strange sensation that I haven’t really done anything but shuttle one hopeless patient after another into the hospital for one more round of expensive and only marginally effective therapy. Most things are either self-limiting or utterly hopeless and sometimes it seems that the millions of dollars which have poured through my hands have bought nothing real. Just a bunch of redundant tests to confirm that your aged mother (or grandfather, aunt, uncle, brother or sister) is pushing ninety and at this point almost everything we do is more harmful than just letting things run in their natural courses. Either that or the solution, the cure, lies with the patient who could do more for their own health by giving up the smokes and fatty food, not to mention the booze and the drugs, than a whole hospital full of doctors. We’re just putting expensive duct-tape on most of our patients it sometimes seems.
There are days, however, when somebody taps me on the shoulder in the grocery store and says, “You may not remember me, Doctor, but you took care of my mother in the Emergency Room last month. She’s doing great and I just wanted to thank you for everything you did.”
Up and down.
Up and down.
Up and down.
With my Deepest Respect and Gratitude,
Panda Bear, MD