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 my career as a doctor began.
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 several years have in store.