Monday, January 22, 2007

re: Anatomy and the Virtue of Humility

Without a doubt Gross Anatomy presents the first greatest challenge to the medical student. Long hours studying, little reward for extra time in the lab, a ridiculous volume of information, having to forget one's old vocabulary (e.g. the leg is not the whole lower limb, it's only the portion from the knee to the ankle), and having to forgo most every other pursuit, not just to get Honors, but for some of us just to pass. Anatomy is the first class I've taken that I loved but was not the best in, which brings me to an important point: humility.

The Greeks weren't big on this virtue, but medicine demands it. People come to the physician at their lowest moments, unequal partners in a covenantal partnership. The patient does not have the experience or knowledge which the physician has gained through countless hours with his head in a book, heart on hold, and hands upon some anatomical structure palpating it's normal and pathological examples. This is why the patient comes to the physician. He comes in a manner completely trusting and utterly vulnerable. This is why a physician needs humility more than others. He must always remind himself of the privilege of knowing what he knows about the human body and human soul. He must never forget that the profession permitted his entrance only after severe scrutiny and that it maintains its relationship with him on the stipulation that he provides care to a patient with competence, excellence, and integrity.

Gross Anatomy, for many of us medical students, is our first introduction to professional humility. And for Catholic medical students, it should be a time to accept our call to serve with humility recognizing that even doctors are human beings with fallibility and the possibility of erring. Most importantly for the Catholic medical student, humility must be accepted in imitation of Our Lord who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

So for you premeds, know that one of the biggest adjustments of medical school is knowing that you might not be the number one student. If you do become so, rejoice! God has graced you with superior intellectual talents. And because they are graces, they must be accepted with humility as well. For us all, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do "Do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31).

1 comment:

  1. A ha! Finally a Catholic Medical Student!

    Are you at Medical College of Ohio at Toledo? I was accepted there, but went to U of M instead.

    It is good to see an American Catholic medical student.