How to keep your optimism in medicine
“Interviewing for medical schools was intense, excruciating, and terrifying. Despite the difficult questions, there are three that stand out to me. The first was to differentiate sympathy from empathy, where I spent 30 minutes defending my answer to be met with complete silence. He could have asked me anything, yet he sat in silence for almost my entire interview and asked me to explain emotional differences between two incredibly similar words. Or are they? I have been left to contemplate this repeatedly, and I have come to realize my first medical school lesson happened before I was even in training. That day, he taught me to see how we as physicians need to examine emotions, become aware of our capacity to both feel and heal, understand our patients, share their struggles and triumphs even if we haven’t walked in their diagnoses, and take the time—even if it is painful and met with silence—to realize the gravity of our position is not only responsibility for people’s lives but to be emotionally available.”
Erika Visser Aragona is a family physician.
She shares her story and discusses her KevinMD article, “The life cycle of emotion in medicine.” (https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2021/05/the-life-cycle-of-emotion-in-medicine.html)