I didn’t get into core medical training (CMT) at the first time of trying. This was unplanned for, uncalled for, and in my mind unquestionably someone else’s mistake. I was a molecular man who was destined to tinker with the weights and measures of nephrology. Or so I had thought.
Thinking back to that time now it seemed like my career had stuttered before it had even properly begun. But it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I “settled” for psychiatry, thinking that I’d try CMT again in a year. I never looked back. Psychiatry let me flourish in a way I never thought I could. I realised there were more molecules in the brain than in the kidneys, and that they mattered less than the connection you try to make with your patient.
The types of people medicine attracts are not known to be failures. Maybe that’s why we’re so unprepared for it. It’s not something that medical school teaches us how to deal with. But medicine is hard—sometimes cruel. Visit any paediatric oncology ward if you really want to understand the consequences of our failures. But when done right, the rewards are immeasurable—visit the same paediatric oncology ward to see just how rewarding. Maybe we learn more about doing it right from our failures than we do from our successes.
Parashar Ramanuj, Harkness fellow in healthcare policy, Columbia University department of psychiatry and New York State Psychiatric Institute, USA.
A recent article in Student BMJ asked six doctors to reflect on their biggest career disappointments. This blog was originally published as part of the article.