It’s official. I’m FINALLY a doctor. And, I’ve got to say, it’s pretty much exactly as I pictured it would be. Now I can just relax and start cashing my giant paychecks. I’ve basically just been too busy deciding what to do with all the fame and fortune that has been bestowed upon me to blog lately, so – apologies.
Riiiight. But I really am a doctor. And I feel pretty much the same as I did before graduation. But now people jokingly call me Dr. Howard. Well, half-joking, I guess because I’m actually a doctor, but…come on….I’m no more a doctor that I was a month ago.
Graduation was indeed a momentous occasion. But it wasn’t a day I was particularly excited about. I was excited to see my friends and classmates, many of whom I hadn’t seen in the past two years. And I was excited to have my family come and see me walk across the stage. But even after walking across the stage and moving my tassel from right to left, or left to right, or whichever way it is, nothing momentous really happened. The diploma they handed me wasn’t even real. I have yet to receive the real one in the mail. (And with the hundreds of thousands of dollars I paid in tuition, I’m expecting it to be made out of gold.)
I’m not sure why I wasn’t that into graduation. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t technically done with rotations until after graduation since I was behind from taking maternity leave. Maybe it’s because I still have six years of training left and graduation doesn’t really feel like the end of anything. But I think the real reason is that becoming a doctor doesn’t happen in a day. It happens in a lifetime. Becoming a doctor has been a journey that started almost 28 years ago. And it’s one that will continue throughout my liftetime.
Following my graduation I traveled back to my hometown of Harvard, Nebraska to spend time with my family and attend my ten-year high school reunion. I saw so many of my old teachers, neighbors, friends, and classmates. So many of them were excited to see me and be one of the first to congratulate me and call me Dr. Howard. I was overwhelmed with the unexpected multitude of people who knew I had just graduated because they have been reading my blog these past four years.
Many of you might not know it, but I grew up in a very small town of roughly a thousand people. I graduated with a class of only twenty. And only one or two other people that I know of have gone on to become doctors from my hometown. And it never really occurred to me that me becoming a doctor was something that my whole town would be proud of.
And they should be. Not because I’m some big shot doctor now. But because the love, support, and example of my family, friends, and community are what shaped me into the doctor I am today. These past four years of medical school might have taught me what I need to know in my career, but it takes more than knowing medicine to be a good doctor. It takes love and hard-work, sacrifice and determination, empathy and compassion. It takes kindness and humility. There is so much more to being a doctor than medical school can teach you. And that’s what I learned from my small town.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: It takes a village to raise a child. I think the same can be said for good doctors. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for so, so many people who have helped me along the way.
For my family who has loved me and cared for my whole life. For my teachers in elementary and high school who taught me how to read, how to write, how to calculate, and how to think. For my classmates who taught me friendship and how to work as a team. For my neighbors and church members who set amazing examples of me of what it means to be good, decent, and moral human beings.
So many people share in my success that it really seems wrong to think of my becoming a doctor as a feather in my own cap. The reality is, becoming a doctor is what I was supposed to be. It’s what everyone has worked so hard at helping me to become, and for me to become anything less would have meant letting all of those people down.
So, thank you. To all of you. Especially those who read this blog. Your silent support by simply reading my stories is almost tangible at times. To write and have my words be read is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. So I thank you. I hope that this blog has lived up to your expectations. As I hope that I have lived up to your expectations. I will continue to write, as being a writer is also one of the things I must do with my life. And I hope you will continue to read.