An NEJM Perspective for Every Medical Student

This perspectives article in the NEJM is a wonderful read. Describing the eternal struggle of the Third Year medical student, it is a wonderful narrative look into the rather sensitive issue by two people on two sides of the table: Katharine Treadway, a long time teacher, and Neal Chatterjee, a third year medical student, both from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvrd Medical School, Boston.

Whilst this brigs back memories of my first code, my ER experiences and of course, the last year when working in the critical care unit, time passed in a hazy blur.

Read this article. If you have crossed the third year med student level (maybe final year or internship year, considering the Indian scenario), this will resound deeply with your experiences. Just like they did with mine.

In a 1989 lecture on medical training, the medical sociologist Renee Fox remarked, “As they struggle, individually and collectively, to manage the primal feelings, the questions of meaning, and the emotional stress evoked by the human condition and uncertainty aspects of their training, medical students and housestaff develop certain ways of coping with them. They distance themselves from their own feelings and from their patients through intellectual engrossment in the biomedical challenges of diagnosis and treatment, and through participation in highly structured, in-group forms of medical humor. By and large, medical students and housestaff are left to grapple with these experiences and emotions on their own. . . . They are rarely accompanied, guided, or instructed in these intimate matters of doctorhood by mature teachers and role models. Generally their relations with clinical faculty and attending physicians are too sporadic and remote for that.”


Katharine Treadway, M.D., and Neal Chatterjee, M.D. Perspective. Becoming a Physician Into the Water — The Clinical Clerkships. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1190-1193 March 31, 2011

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