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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

    Inexplicable frustration are the only two words that come to my mind as I look back on my pre-med experience here at SUNY Stony brook, a place where the atmosphere stinks of worries, competition, and of course FEAR. “Will I get into medical school”? “Oh, did you hear what that guy got on his MCATS…he’s so smart, I can never get such a grade”.

    I hear such nauseating conversations on a daily basis whenever I walk through the infamous commuter lounge, or perhaps while waiting in line at the SAC overhearing the conversations of dedicated early risers in line for their morning breakfast. One does not associate attributes such as fear and uncertainty with a doctor, rather an ideal doctor has an aura of patience, inner strength, and most importantly the need to work incessantly to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

    In his new book Better: a Surgeon’s Notes on Performance renowned surgeon, writer, and Professor Atul Gawande examines the three essential requirements for success in a career in medicine, 1) Diligence, 2) To do right, and 3) Ingenuity. In this collection of essays, Gawande takes one through his struggles, frustrations, mistakes, and learned lessons in part of his experiences in the field of medicine. His stories take us all around the world, as he discusses his time working in surgical tents in Iraq, or taking part of the effort to eradicate polio from South India.

    Aside from discussing his own experiences, he offers his opinions on various problems that modern medicine faces, such as euthanasia, medical malpractice, physician income, and even corruption in the practice of medicine. All the technicalities and specifics he discusses regarding the field of medicine is a great source of knowledge for aspiring pre-med students, but what fascinated me most about his book was more his unique and profound outlook on the life of doctors.

    Gawande best explains, “Betterment is perpetual labor. The world is chaotic, disorganized, and vexing and medicine is nowhere spared that reality. To complicate matters, we in medicine are also only human ourselves. We are distractibility, weak, and given to our own concerns. Yet still, to live as a doctor is to live so that one’s life is bound in others’, and in science and in the messy, complicated connection between the two. It is to live a life of responsibility. The question, then, is not whether one accepts the responsibility. Just by doing this work, one has.”

    Gawande urges future medical students to transform themselves into physicians who want to make a difference. He emphasizes the constant need to strive for excellence and assesses that becoming the ideal doctor is a life-long struggle, and patience and self-assurance are the only crutches for you to lean on.

    As opposed to his grand achievements, it his modesty which captivates me most. His endless drive to better himself as a doctor even at the stage he is in, is remarkable, and should be an inspiration to all aspiring pre-med students.

    So the next time you sit in chemistry class punching in your answers on the CPS pad, remember that the journey is long and endless but at the same time immensely rewarding. If you have made the decision to become a doctor, remove all doubt from here on push yourself forward day in and day out, and do not let that weakening pre-med jargon effect your mind one bit.

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