According to my mother, I came into this world full of curiosity. She tells me I was born eagle-eyed, staring down all the doctors and nurses in the delivery room, leaving them both amazed and amused. My curiosity has served me well on my journey of becoming a physician and is a quality that I make an exerted effort to continue to cultivate ever since earning my MD.
A strong component of my curiosity has been my fondness for reading, especially Shakespeare. Through Shakespeare, I have learned a great deal about the human psyche and have appreciated how to better relate to the diverse natures of the patients and families I encounter. Reading King Lear, for example, helped me fathom the effect of aging on our mental faculty and how this may result in both a lack of agency and cause disrupted family dynamics. This of course was years before I would ever encounter my first patient with dementia, or warring family members who swore they were acting on the patient’s best interest, a scenario that is too oft encountered in the medical field. Each of Shakespeare’s plays has opened my eyes to a unique aspect of the human condition, whether it’s ego in Hamlet, insecurity in Othello, or sexism in Taming of the Shrew. I aspire to complete all of his works to better understand what connects us as human beings.
Beyond Shakespeare, my curiosity has afflicted me with the desire to move toward novelty and discovery. It was this curiosity that helped me find new ophthalmologic drugs within the first six months of my research gap year prior to enrolling in medical school, drugs that have since become university-owned patented technology. This curiosity for novelty and discovery now drives me to stay up to date on cutting-edge therapies and interventions that can be incorporated into patient care, an integral responsibility of any modern-age physician. It also inspires my desire to continue making significant contributions to medical research, now involving my chosen field of cardiology.
After many years of encouraging my inner curiosity, I have come to the conclusion that my curiosity does not have to be so well-contained. I have learned to drop the shame that I had at one point internalized by always wondering... and thinking... of everything... of anything. This quality serves me well as a physician. It helps me think outside of the box when thinking of differential diagnosis and helps me keep my differentials broad, while at the same time staving off the lamentable error of pre-mature closure.
As I write this piece, I am reminded that my curiosity has come a long way from being pent up in the confines of my mind to more easily translating into actionable ideas. During my third year in college, I wanted to enter an astronaut-suit design competition held by NASA. I bought a mini notebook with a velvet-red exterior, “poetry” embedded into its front cover in gold ink. In it, I drafted a very rough sketch of a space suit that could help astronauts pass body fluids more hygienically. I never submitted my entry. After all, I did not plan to become an engineer, astronomer, or physicist. Only recently did I discover that the space suits used by astronauts presently are very similar to what I had thought of proposing many years ago. I still have that velvet-red book of ideas today. I still scrawl in it once in a while when I have some time away from patient care. The only difference now is that I am more resolute to turn my ideas into reality and speak up when I have a proposition. Most importantly, I have come to respect the deep interconnectedness of my various thoughts regardless of the momentary hat I am wearing whether of learner, teacher, physician, researcher, or writer. I’ve finally accepted the import of the various directions my curiosity propels me in.
How has your curiosity helped you in medicine? Share in the comments.
A native New Yorker, Dr. Babar is passionate about classic literature, studying novel advancements in medical therapy, and helping younger generations foster a shared curiosity for all things science. Dr. Babar is a 2021–2022 Doximity Op-Med Fellow.
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