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Mark Packer, MD, explains what he wish he knew in med school.
If you could go back in time and tell your younger self-the impressionable medical school student unaware of everything you will end up exploring, learning, and accomplishing in the world of ophthalmology-what would you tell yourself? In this new series, we posed this question to several of our editorial advisory board members. Up first is Mark Packer, MD, FACS, CPI, private practice, Boulder, CO, and clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland.
10. Medicine is an art and a science; the physician serves as a shaman and a clinical researcher; trust is the most important thing a patient can ever give you; only you know if you truly deserve it.
9. It is essential to know what gives you strength, what recharges your energy. Always hold tight to those things that you love most in life. They are more important than the things you do because you must.
“Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive; Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive.”1
8. You must remember who you are, and whom you love: your spouse, your best friend, your children-those who care about you, and support you.
“There are things you can replace – and others, you cannot.”2
7. If you see good in others, you should try to imitate it, not waste time feeling inferior because it wasn’t you who thought of it, discovered it or demonstrated it. Innovation is always at your doorstep, if you but look for it.
6. It is crucial to invest time and energy in the education and development of the people around you.
5. The most important thing you can learn is how to learn. Today’s certainty rapidly becomes tomorrow’s fallacy.
“Half of what you learned is wrong.”3
4. Stored up resentment at those who overworked, underpaid or belittled you only serves to poison you in the end. Whatever drives them to do those things is surely its own punishment. Move on into your own beautiful future, and leave them behind.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.4
3. You must become aware of when someone or something appears to offer itself up, only to seize power in your life. Position, glamor, riches – nothing the world can offer is worth giving up the only thing that truly matters.
“As long as you regard your own inner virtue as stronger and richer than anything offered by external fortune, as long as you remain inwardly superior to fate, fortune will never desert you.”5
2. It is impossible to be a compassionate physician without learning one’s own life lessons. These experiences plant the seeds of empathy. Being a successful student does not provide nearly enough experience to succeed as a physician. Believing that you are somehow better than others because you graduated from medical school is a fallacy that will wreak havoc in your life.
1. Learning to be a physician is a self-evaluation course. Because we learn within the hierarchy of academic medicine, with constant grades and evaluations, it appears that one’s superiors in the profession have the prerogative to evaluate your development as a physician. However, this official evaluation process is only the beginning. The more important evaluation process is between you and your patients, and the ultimate evaluation is between you and you.
1. Browne J. Running on Empty. 1977 Swallow Turn Music.
2. Hunter R, Garcia J. Althea. Ice Nine Publishing. First performed August 4, 1979, at the Oakland Auditorium Arena.
3. Burwell CS. Dean of Harvard Medical School 1935 – 1949. https://hms.harvard.edu/about-hms/facts-figures/past-deans-faculty-medicine (Accessed June 9, 2015)
4. Angelou M. https://betweenfearandlove.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/four-truths-dr-maya-angelou-shared-with-the-world/ (Accessed June 9, 2015)
5. Wilhelm R, Baynes CF. Peace, in "I Ching: Or, Book of Changes;" 3rd. ed., Bollingen Series XIX, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967, 1st ed. 1950).