I’m already in my second week of my second year of medical school, but I realize that I didn’t get the chance to properly bid farewell to my summer home: Washington, D.C. Although I worked harder than I would have liked or intended, these past two months have been very important to my career and personal development.
First and foremost, the bond between myself and a fellow physician-in-training has grown stronger and even more profound than before, leaving me excited to continue along this medical journey side-by-side with a kindred spirit. Though we have differences in interests, approaches, and educational styles, there is much we can learn from one another and much that we can share, and I feel very grateful that I can share this challenge with someone close to me rather than feel that the duress is driving us apart. When you’re too tired for self-reflection, it always helps to have someone else hold the mirror in front of you so that you can see who you are, how far you’ve come, and where you’re headed.
Secondly, I’m grateful to my lab group and PI (principal investigator) at the NIH, where I spent the summer with a research fellowship. Nowhere else have I ever felt as welcome and as much a part of the group in a working environment as I did in this lab. My PI would check in on everyone each day, allowing thoughtful discussions to continue across the course of experiments rather than simply intersecting at the conclusion of experiments or the beginnings of new ones. (At no point did it feel like he was looking over my shoulder, either!) The other members of the lab were very friendly and welcoming, and they always seemed genuinely interested to know what I was working on even though the lab was very diverse in its lines of investigation. Lastly, despite some (government-style, administrative) mishaps, the overall atmosphere of the NIH seemed to encourage cooperation, professionalism, and productivity. In some ways, I feel bad that the experience didn’t inspire me to incorporate lab research into my vision of my future career; it certainly wasn’t because of the people or the place! At this fork in the road, I do feel that I am more drawn to clinical research (drug trials, treatment protocol development, etc.) as it more directly draws from the source of my inspirations to enter medicine: to improve health care, and to relieve suffering and the burden of disease to the best of my ability. To that end, research as a means of improvement will inevitably be an integral part of my career, though I hope my career will always keep me at the interface of individual experiences and disease rather than at a computer in an office – by choice, rather than by necessity.
Lastly, thanks to my wonderful, old friends and new friends in D.C. who made the city feel like a second home: I may come back someday to stay, if my pathway through medicine leads me back there.