With the dawn of the social media era and the further implications of the political and pandemic-related turmoil that has plagued this nation recently, the concept of remaining professional as a representative of our field is more important than ever. For me, this initially meant making sure to remain compassionate and attentive to those around me as well as participating on the Admissions Committee for OSU to help sculpt the future generations of our school. More than that though, I came to realize that it also meant maintaining a strong sense of professionalism despite the happenings of the world at large and also personal events.
Perhaps one of the most salient pieces of advice I had gotten prior to medical school was from a motivational speaker as I began volunteering at a hospital back in my hometown of Los Angeles. The advice was “to check your feelings at the door.” However difficult it was, the doorway to the hospital or my clinical rotation has always served as a grounding point where I made attempts to put aside any anxiety or other feelings about my work or personal life. This meant that when I saw patients or was working with the clinical team, they had my full attention. This reflected well in my reviews as it made me easy to work with and also the added attentiveness, I had with patients was frequently noted by my peers.
I could not have known, however, how much this ideal in particular would be taxed. Unfortunately, with my late career pivot in deciding to apply for Ophthalmology, I fell short and did not match. Although I was frantic to figure out the next steps of how to best approach the process of going unmatched, I was on my Emergency Medicine rotation and I had a shift that afternoon. It was strange, but it was a combination of both wanting to get out of the house and get the horrific news off my mind but also a strange sense of calm when reassessing my perspective.
When informing my team, the attending offered to let me leave my shift in order to handle my business in figuring out the next best steps. While tempting, I was of the mind that whether I began frantically planning that day or the following day once I had my emotions better under control, it was not going to make a difference. More importantly, I felt compelled to be there as there will be times that I will be under significant duress either from sleep deprivation or other circumstances and in those cases, a way out may not be available. For me, it was almost surreal. I remember replying almost as if stating a matter of fact that “if this was to be the worst day of my life, compared to many of the patients I would see that evening, it wasn’t so bad.”
It is almost strange to be writing this now as the experience itself almost feels out-of-body but I am happy to know that even when faced with some of the most devastating news I have experienced in my life, that my moral compass remained resilient. When going over my feedback at a later date, I received one of the most heartening forms of feedback I have gotten in my career. This has helped me immensely in continuing to look forward, aiming to continually strive for success in the future.