Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to not rust

Whenever we learn about an illness in medical school, we also talk about the etiology - the origin of the disease.  The etiology almost always includes a combination of: genetics, environmental factors, drugs, and sometimes, nurture.  What we don't talk about as much is how these things interplay in curing illnesses as well.  Maybe we'll talk about it a bit more later on, but for now it's usually "Drugs X, Y, and Z; get lots of exercise, eat well; and have a supportive family".  

Over the last few weeks I was thinking about how environmental factors continue to shape us as people.  Specifically, the friends, colleagues and classmates we have around us.  I don't know about you, but for me, where I went to school played a huge role in selecting the friends I had growing up.  And it continues to do so.  Coming to an amazing institution like Penn Med means the friends I have around me are equally amazing.  

One of the reasons it matters so much to have good people around you is because they are there to set you straight when you make a mistake.  It's never really about the mistakes you make, it's more about how you deal with the mistake and handle its repercussions.  That part's hard, sure - but the hardest part is knowing that you made a mistake in the first place.  This is where good friends come in: they care about you enough to call you out on your mistake and then stand by you and help you handle the fallout.  

The reason I've been going over this in my head is because of the field I'm entering.  A field where (a) mistakes happen (although we really wish they wouldn't) and (b) handling those mistakes are so crucial (because lives hang in the balance - sometimes literally).  Often in our ethics class we are asked "If gold rusts, what will iron do?"  As doctors, we'll be held up to very high standards and it's important to practice not-rusting as early as possible.

Obviously, you don't keep good friends around you just so they can call you out on your mistakes.  They are good friends because they do it without you asking or expecting them to do it.  This is why it's important to surround yourselves with wise people that you can also call your friends.  The environment always matters, and it'll continue to matter.

Now of course, you are probably asking yourself "wait, then why do people keep you around?"  Well, wise people need to laugh too.  And I'm one hell of a comic relief.

P.S.: New rule - new blog post every Sunday!  Let's see how long I can keep this up :)

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