It Depends How You Look At It

By Anonymous – Class of 2016

In almost any social situation, including those that are personal, professional, or academic, there exists a hierarchy.  The individuals on the superior level of these hierarchies hold more power, responsibility, and decision-making capabilities. Medical school and the field of medicine are no exception. In fact, there exist numerous visible tracers, which further express where one falls on this academic scale. These include the short white coats worn by medical students (as opposed to the longer ones worn by seasoned doctors), the yellow border on our ID badges (denoting our status as learners), and our bright orange backpacks (given to every entering medical student in Canada this year). However, depending on the perspective taken by the observer, it is easy to tentatively move up or down this overarching hierarchy.

The journey leading to medical school was a unique experience. In being accepted into the program, I was more than experienced in university training and held a resume filled with outstanding achievements. I was skilled and knowledgeable in my field of education. Academically, I was superior to the first year students based on more experience and a stronger knowledge base. Upon acceptance to medical school, my hierarchical position was shifted upwards. I was going to become a doctor, and based on this hypothetical qualification, I began to look that much smarter, personable, and more trustworthy to those outside the profession. Friends began seeking advice on their medical school applications; my parents received numerous congratulatory comments as they now had a doctor joining their family. However, just as quickly as I moved up one hierarchy, I descended down another.

In the medical profession, I am a pre-clerk, and by definition I know the least amount of information. Although we carry stethoscopes and yellow badges, we remain the people who make more mistakes than adequate solutions; those who have the most to learn. Even among the other pre-clerks in my class, my vast amount of university knowledge seems minuscule compared to other students accomplishments. And still, to outsiders of the program, family members and friends, this same yellow badge and stethoscope give me an abundant amount of diagnostic power and signify my excellent breadth of knowledge.

In medicine, there does exist a physical hierarchy in terms of responsibility and decision-making; however, perspective makes all the difference. Depending on the onlooker, without changing any qualifications, one is able to alter their position in this hierarchy. Thankfully, the only perspective that truly matters is mine. The orange backpack and stethoscope are characteristic symbols not identifying position, but symbolizing growth and positive change. As a medical student, I am aware of my lack of knowledge, the constant reminder to “know what I don’t know”, and am eager to discover this new information. This hypothetical hierarchy provides me with a humbling outlook. Depending on perspective, a single quality will make you either admirable or dismissed. Medical students are forced to normalize this ever-changing shifting of positions; and this shapes us into the knowledgeable, forthcoming doctors we hope to become.

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