I will not soon forget the sound of my pager as it echoed and filled the resident work room with its triplet arpeggio. The minuet between me and this new technological appendage had begun and at once I felt I had not learned the dance, had not learned the melody. I glanced at the text, font enlarged as if for eyes far older and wiser than mine: Can room 19 have a diet? I longed for a choreographer, a conductor who might direct this unlikely duet. Seemingly inconsequential, and yet within the four walls of a hospital, everything is of consequence. I responded to the requests of this page and exactly forty-three more on my first day…and so intern year began.
The first five weeks of my intern year were spent on the oncology service at Newton Wellesley Hospital (NWH). I felt entirely unprepared for the gravity of the illnesses we were tasked with treating, and much of the time palliating, but found I was surrounded by a network of intelligent, supportive, and caring individuals who created an environment of sharing and processing, which proved vital in a time of great personal, intellectual, and professional growth. On my interview day, I recall many conversations with residents who cited their experiences at NWH to be formative not only because of the patients cared for and the medicine learned, but because of the immense support provided. I have found immeasurable support exhibited in daily practice in my first few months of training, and feel that this support has allowed me to grow in ways I did not anticipate. When a patient faced terminal illness and I was sick with sadness and concern, my senior resident was by my side sharing in my sadness. When my patient passed away, and the tears could no longer be kept at bay, I cried and that same resident and attending cried with me.
I came to medicine and discovered the world of psychiatry after a career as a musician and a teacher. In my mind, psychiatry represents a marriage of science, philosophy, art, history and literature, and is thus a natural extension of my varied interests in and out of medicine. The humanity, intellectual curiosity and ethical responsibility that characterize and define medicine were embodied by my grandfather, who was a general practitioner in Taos, New Mexico for over fifty years, and with whom I had the privilege of working for a few years before starting medical school at the University of New Mexico. His carefully annotated books and journals line many a shelf in my Boston home, and his voice rings clearly in my ears, reminding me of the person and physician I want to become. He passed away at the end of my first year of medical school before I decided upon psychiatry; I wasn’t able to ask him my many questions, or to hear the wisdom of his answers. When I considered residency training programs, I pondered what type of education he would have hoped for me: an education dedicated to cultivating my interests and aspirations, an education from clinicians I admire and respect, an education where patients and their families are the center of this learning. After only a few months of training as a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, I am certain I have found that education.
Though the trill of my pager will likely continue to be (at least for the foreseeable future) accompanied by a sense of dread that I will not be able to appropriately answer its siren call, I cannot wait to see what the next four years have in store. The next several months will be a medley of medicine, neurology and psychiatry, and while I am excited for my time in psychiatry to commence, I am basking in all that I have learned in my medicine months at NWH thus far.