I wish I could say that the motivating factors for me to enter medicine was to find a profession where I could be helpful to others. I wish I could say it was for the love of science. It's certainly what most people, universities, even patients expect to hear and it's what I almost
wrote on my medical school application essay.
But I didn't. And it's not.
To be honest, I believe it started when my parents bought me this:
Unlike the deceiving smile in the photo, I spent most of my childhood wearing a tragic frown while learning to play the violin. Starting at any early age, I didn't realize I had a choice. The violin was always a part of me - the frustrating scales, the maddening finger exercises, the bitter time away from friends, the bitter hours practicing the hollow and unwelcoming taunts of Vivaldi or Mozart. My nemeses.
Like thousands of other children, I progressed in music. But it was a series of random circumstances that led me to progress a bit faster than my peers. A violin virtuoso living within walking distance from our home - a chance audition that led to private lessons painstakingly paid for by my immigrant parents - a well-developed music program at my grade school. By junior high school, I was a concertmaster of our district's symphonic orchestra and I had won several command performances in our state music finals.
By then, I had a taste of something that I later realized became a core fiber of who I am: competition
In hindsight, being competitive has always been with me much like the violin I carried to and from school as a elementary student. Early on, I knew what being competitive could lead to. As a child, it brought me victories. As a young adult, it lead to opportunities.
I would like to think that the musical "left side of my brain" was responsible for my attraction to the humanity aspect of medicine and maybe it has to some degree. But if I were to be completely honest with myself, I think my fierce competitive nature drew me to the challenge of medical school. I distinctly remember reading about the dauntingly impossible statistics for applicants and instead of intimidation, I thought "I can do this."
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of my medical colleagues also share similar stories of having a dominating feature of their childhood rooted in competition whether as an athlete or musician.
The wonderful complexity of the human body, the privilege of working with people at the most vulnerable moments of their lives, the responsibility that is felt when implicit trust of their most cherished possession is squarely placed in your learning hands, the love and pain of living at the edge of medical discovery - these are the motivating forces that keeps me alive in the house of medicine. But it was my competitive nature that first opened the doors.