Thursday, February 10, 2011


What are you going to specialize in? It’s a question that plagues many med students. For me, it has become almost like a cerebral parasite—growing, replicating, taking over my thoughts. There are some kids who come to med school knowing exactly what they want to do. From day one, they stake their heart’s flag into surgery, or psychiatry, or delivering babies, and this effectively vaccinates them against these brain bugs. But I missed that memo. So I came to school hoping to figure it out as I go. The problem is the more I learn, the more my mind becomes riddled with the tiny eggs of new possibility.
All my friends know at some point or another, I’ve ruled out the likes of emergency medicine or surgery, only to rule them back in the next day after hearing a cool lecture, reading a good article, or even after enjoying an especially satisfying bowel movement. Maybe I’m just indecisive. But I’d like to think we all balk just a little when we see that significant fork in the road ahead. It’s not simply about choosing right, wrong, left, or middle. It’s that when I’m hiking and the trail splits, I catch a glimpse of the multiple winding paths stretched out before me, and I never want to choose just one.
I’ve always felt this to be one of the greater disappointments of growing up. As a kid, it seemed rather certain that I could be a doctor, and a fireman, and an astronaut, and a ninja turtle. For all I knew, I just had to get good grades and eat my vegetables. And as long as I remained a boy, my boyish professional aspirations were encouraged. Because a child’s job is not to pick his favorite cog in a wheel, but rather to imagine what infinite gears might fit together to power his constant daydreams.
Time travel, for example. Let’s set the dial back to fifth grade. I remember science being one of only five subjects in school—the other’s being math, English, physical education, and social studies. Social studies! Looking back, it’s almost comical how broad the real estate is under a title like “social studies.” But at the same time there is something exhilarating about education in its expansive unbridled infancy. In fifth grade, no one was asking you to specialize. Not yet, at least. But science soon became biology, biology became molecular biochemistry, and molecular biochemistry eventually turned into cardiovascular electrophysiology.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not so much choosing my favorite cog on the wheel as I’m choosing my favorite corner on that cog.
So here I am deciding on this question of specialty. And I’ve grown tired of not having a definitive answer. Therefore, I’ve decided to go ahead and announce that I will be pursuing a career in minimally-invasive super-heroic medical aeronautics. Or MISMA for short. I know some of my friends will laugh and tell me this is just a fancy acronym for pediatrics. At this point, your bet is probably as good as any.

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