Eight weeks after the beginning of my Internal Medicine clerkship, I feel as though I have spent a year in a remote and foreign world, its terror and beauty laid bare in each moment spent within the white walls of the hospital. Not unlike the aboriginal “walkabout,” I find myself a hundred miles from my starting point, having traversed a wilderness inhabited by bickering doctors, lackadaisical nurses, fingerless social workers (that can’t seem to dial phone numbers), and the many faces of suffering, whether by random chance or self-inflicted. In returning to New Orleans, I knew that my learning experience would have a unique flavor: what better place to explore a wide cross-section of functional and dysfunctional systems, to witness the downfall of American health care as well as the battle over its rebirth, than the fractured backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans?
For me, Medicine has been a rite of passage: it is during this rotation that I feel I have come into my own. Despite a difficult team, I was able to thrive and learn. Despite the most bizarre, belligerent, and unlikable patients, I hope and believe I have maintained my commitment to suspend the tendency to judge those I take into my care. Despite the missed sleep, missed meals, and missed opportunities to enjoy my life outside these white walls, I have not given up my passion for medicine and my commitment to guide and help people through their most vulnerable and difficult times.
Although my passion still remains with Vascular Neurology, it will be a challenge for me to decide how much Internal Medicine training I will want: should I do a sub-internship in Medicine, should I do a preliminary year in Medicine or a joint Med-Neuro residency, should I do medical school or residency electives with Medicine subspecialty services? I may reject the attitude of many Internal Medicine physicians that “internists are the only real doctors,” but it does contribute to the core of my training: how strong will I make that core? During the competitive mystery case-solving sessions of “Tuesday School,” my team solved one of the cases and won pins displaying the emblem of Tulane’s Internal Medicine department. When I move into the next stage of my training and my career, I will carry with me that reminder of my experiences: the chaos and confusion of the charity hospital juxtaposed with the steady hands and excellent instruction of my attendings, the endless scutwork alongside the moments spent holding the hands of my patients and their families while reassuring them and explaining the medicine, the good nurses and motivated social workers I worked alongside and who helped take care of me, and the kind compliments from my patients whose lives I was able to better in some way.