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There Is Always Space to Learn and Be Vulnerable About All the Things I Have yet to Know

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As graduation looms, just a short week away, I look back at my time in medical school and feel astounded that it has already passed. It feels like just yesterday that I was holed up at school eating oatmeal and popcorn to sustain myself while I studied for Step 1. I can barely believe that I will be “Doctor” in a matter of a few short weeks, and carry that responsibility. I am honored, exhilarated, and relieved beyond belief, but also nervous and sentimental.

The truth is, there are things I will miss about being a medical student. Of all the years, I loved my third year of medical school, which was as enlightening as it was rigorous. I was excited to wake up early (as much as I also dreaded it) because every day meant something new. My medical school is a place where learning is scrupulously prioritized and where I always felt free to ask questions, to engage, and to be fully present. I will miss the chance to learn for the sake of it, to be able to ask questions and read as a full-time job.

It is strange to be nostalgic for days when I felt overwhelmed by how little I felt like I knew, and for days when I had no idea what specialty was a fit for me. Yet, there is a certain joy in the endless possibility, in the feeling that every specialty might be for me.

I am already wistful for learning about specialties that are not my own— to have the chance to dabble in Plastic Surgery and Internal Medicine, to spend a day in the TICU and learn to put in a central line, to use ultrasound in the Emergency Department. There is something to be said for the chance to play a different kind of doctor every few weeks, a certain vitality in having such wide variability and a vast unknown.

I am eager to begin my career as an Ob/Gyn and thrilled about the future, but I know that there is a new kind of difficult path ahead. I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I am anxious about the long hours, adapting to a new hospital and a new city, the feeling of learning a specialty from the ground up. While I feel ready, I also know that the next four years hold a tremendous amount of growth and will likely shape my future as a physician more than medical school itself. Much like beginning medical school, there will be a steep learning curve, but this time the responsibility will be greater, and will impact patients in addition to my own individual success. The immensity of this is overwhelming in a wonderful way. All the time and hard work I've put in have led to this.

One day, I will look to my medical students and remember being in their shoes — optimistic and delighted by the novelty of our profession. I will think back to myself during my white coat ceremony, after Step 1, starting third year, opening my letter on Match Day — and I will remember that elation, how much I wanted to be where I am now.

This last week of school, I have roamed my neighborhood, bidding my favorite places farewell: the coffee shop that sustained me, the gelato place I rode bikes to in the summer, my favorite running trail, my old apartment.

I would be remiss to forget the hospital, where I spent so many hours of my day becoming this person, this doctor. It will always be a little kind of home, and someday I will reach back for that place in my life and it will be a buoy, a reminder that there is always space to learn and be vulnerable about all the things I have yet to know.

Mariam Gomaa is a 2018-19 Doximity Author and the author of Between the Shadow & the Soul (Backbone Press). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, TIME, NBC, BBC, xoJane, Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, and more. She is an alumna of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Northwestern University. This summer she will start her Ob/Gyn residency at Howard University Hospital. 

Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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