Today was my last day at the main hospital where I spent the vast majority of my waking hours for the last five years. It is a day I have counted down to for the last week, the last month, the last year — the finish line after a grueling period of too many patients and not enough me. I can stop being one of the hospital system’s top mobile EMR users and instead make plans for weeknight dinners I can keep. I won’t have to drive to work so early, when the sun is nowhere in sight, all the while wondering what new unpleasant surprise might await me. It is a day of celebration. But also a day of sadness.
The path of medical training includes so many goodbyes, so many relocations, so many new starts. Most of us have a relatively limited ability to choose where we go next, subject to the whims of medical school admissions boards, the residency Match, and the lottery of job openings. But somehow, we end up where we are meant to be, with the people who will teach us, guide us, and support us. Residency in particular is a trial by fire, a time that will show you what you’re made of and influence the rest of your career. Whether it is Stockholm Syndrome or true emotion, the places and people of my last five years have become my home. The days have been at times excruciatingly long, but the years vanishingly short. So much of the content of my life has centered on this group — they are woven through the ups and downs, the failures and the triumphs. And so I’d like to take advantage of this public forum to thank all of the people who have been such a big part of my life.
To my mentors and teachers. You have taught me so much about how to be a physician and also about how to be a good person. Whether you knew it or not, I noticed every time you did the right thing, the hard thing. You earned my respect not only for your successes, but also for how you handled your failures and challenges. I was lucky to train with you all and I will forever appreciate your kindness and your patience. And even though we are no longer allowed to roast the attendings at graduation due to past events, rest assured, you are regularly roasted within the confines of the resident room. With love, of course.
To the NPs and PAs. When I knew nothing, you took pity on me and showed me the way. You’ve worked tirelessly and tolerated the parade of residents in and out every month who all do things a little differently, and done it all with grace. You have listened to me complain without a single eye roll and been trusted confidants. If the junior residents have learned anything from me, I hope it is to show you all the appreciation you deserve.
To the clinic nurses, scrub techs, OR circulators. Thank you for gently correcting me when I was being dumb and handing me the right instruments without me knowing to ask. You could without a doubt do my job. If I ever impressed an attending, it was probably because you had previously filled me in on their preferences and peccadillos. I will miss our conversations between patients or cases, particularly the hot gossip.
And to my co-residents, my colleagues, my friends. There would have been no joy in this experience without you. Even on the worst days, work room banter with each and every one of you could produce a laugh amid the stress and disaster. You have been my fearless team members and loyal soldiers, and I would not have stood a chance without you. I can’t wait to see where you go and what you do.
And while my time with my actual family has been limited by distance and the demands of work, you all have been a more than adequate substitute. You have shaped me both as a person and a physician, for better or for worse, and I will miss you dearly.
Who, if anyone, would you like to thank for supporting you through medical training? Share your experiences in the comment section.
Heather is the inaugural Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery fellow at Penn State. Her clinical interests include patient communication, medical education, facial reanimation, and complex reconstructive surgery. Heather was a Doximity Op-Med Fellow in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, and is a 2023-2024 Doximity Op-Med Fellow.
Illustration by April Brust