We exist in a fast food culture in which immediate gratification is a must. Education, in general, is not exempt from this mindset. This devaluation of education is nowhere better exemplified than in the proliferation of online degree mills in nearly all careers and professions. Overpriced schools with truncated curriculums and expedited degrees leading to the illusion of one possessing more knowledge than one actually has. Because the degree implies this is so.
In the specialty of medicine, devaluation of our expertise is prevalent. We are told that others with less or different training than ours can do what we do. Some of us question whether it might be more wise to advise others interested in the medical profession to choose another discipline within the health industry that will enable one to spend less money, less time in school and graduate with the potential to earn more income. I understand this sentiment completely. My perspective differs however. I want to bring us physicians back home. To remind us who we are, why we chose to do what we do and that it was, and is, indeed worth it. Take a seat.
I entered the medical profession because there was nothing else I wanted to do. Nothing. I knew it would be expensive, but I also knew the return on the investment would be great. The return was not just about compensation, it was about knowledge and my ability to use that information in ways unforeseen at the time. It was about the expertise I would soon possess to practice my craft. You see, I love being challenged. This love of being tested has never changed during my entire career.
No one can do what we can do…no one. They can only impersonate. My mechanic has 60+ years experience. Sure, I can work some on my car, but I will never know what he knows. And I know it. But I can imitate. And somewhere, I could find someone naive enough to allow me to work on their vehicle for a price, I just need to sell myself. And I’m an amazing saleswoman. However, I would never do this because I have a conscience.
It is so, so important to remember that we are the masters of our domain. Regardless of political correctness and accusations of arrogance, our proficiency cannot be ignored or denied. Attempts are made to demoralize us by belittling our education as foolish when we could have done less for more(supposedly). We cannot fall prey to that and give up. Why? Because it is simply not true.
For those of us who were present during the beginning of the AIDS crisis….have you forgotten that it was the primary care physicians in the community who rang the first alarm? They knew something was not right. They knew what they did not know. And they blew the whistle. Let’s also not ignore the multiple inventions and discoveries by physicians…Joseph Lister and the introduction of the antiseptic technique; Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin’s individual discoveries of the polio vaccine; Charles Richard Drew and his development of blood preservation in what we now refer to as blood banks; Patricia Bath, the first Black female physician to complete a residency in Opthalmology and her invention of the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment; Gerty Cori, the first woman to earn a Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine or Physiology when she discovered the enzyme responsible for the catalytic conversion of glycogen to glucose(remember that cycle from med school?)…and the list goes on. I am honored and humbled to be amongst such illustrious peers.
OUR PLACE IS IN MEDICINE. We have earned it. We are the leaders; we must own it unashamedly. What I find most abhorrent is the possibility that brilliant minds may fester and future innovations remain undiscovered because we physicians were too practical. I have no desire to encourage those who come after to take the path of least resistance because it is cheaper and easier. By doing so we ensure mediocrity in medicine. I want to inspire them to pursue excellence. It was never about the money for me…I will always make money. We, as a group, have the ability to mount a crusade against the overwhelming costs of medical education, and we will. It just won’t be at the expense of our education. The mind…the mind…the incredible mind….what a terrible thing to waste. Becoming a physician, waste we did not.