Appendix 23 - Selfless

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]


"Don't you see, it really is an extraordinary thing that you are so afraid to be what you are, because that is where the beauty lies" - Krishnamurti

Some students resist the pressure to distance themselves. One student writes, "Though there certainly are admirable people who need a sterile, scientifically defined mode for relating to people (who also need the superficial closeness of medical practice), I don't think I am among them."[286]

Others are more accommodating. "Right now I worry about being too involved, but I believe the coldness will come in time with the more patient exposure I get."[287] For students like these who pride themselves on their detachment, there is least to lose. "Among those who pride themselves upon their sensitivity, sympathy, and openness to their own feelings, however, to observe in themselves an absence of anxiety, revulsion, or fear can be surprisingly distressing."[288]

Quoting from a Yale medical journal, "Thus it happens that many students wonder what medical education is doing to their humanity, their sensitivity, and their capacity for feeling."[289] From Lancet, "Medical students ask, 'How can I do that and still be me?' Students wonder whether there comes a time when they are no longer affected by children crying in pain after surgery and whether they have to stop noticing the crying to become a doctor."[290]

Among groups of medical students meeting to discuss the effects on them of medical school, the question, "Are we leaving the human race?" recurs regularly and even monotonously.[291]

 
 

[286] Keniston, K. "The Medical Student." Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 39(1966):346-358.

[287] Hafferty, FW. Into the Valley: Death & the Socialization of Medical Students Yale University Press, 1991:115.

[288] Keniston, K. "The Medical Student." Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 39(1966):346-358.

[289] Ibid.

[290] Harper, G. "Breaking Taboos and Steadying the Self in Medical School." The Lancet 342(1993):913-915.

[291] Keniston, K. "The Medical Student." Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 39(1966):346-358.

 
 
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