What You Really Want to Know

As hopeful future physicians face many obstacles in order to get their MDs, one of the most nerve-racking trials can be sitting for an admission interview for medical school or residency programs. We research into each university and program, we seek advice, we plan our responses and then we practice, practice, practice until the daunting day arrives. On this day, we anxiously wait in the lobby, trying not to sweat through our please-pick-me blouses, until our name is finally called out. We stride into the room with confidence on one shoulder accompanied by terror on the other, knowing our entire futures may depend on the next half hour.

All interviewers want to know the same thing, but few rarely ask it directly. Instead, you like to play a game of cat and mouse; releasing your captive only to satisfy your continuous crave for the hunt. Most interviewers tempt their mice with vague demands such as “tell us about yourself”, followed up by redundant questions like “what are your hobbies?”  

Knowing these questions are inevitable, thousands of aspiring physicians torment their brains for faultless responses, all the while trying to stand out to their feline counterparts. Just as Gen Z only experience “meaningful” adventures if they can prove it to the world of social media, medical students only have hobbies that are significant enough to neatly strengthen our resumes. Who am I? I am an exhausted, lonely, pessimist who is better at improving others’ suffering than facing my own. What are my hobbies?  I like to compete, whether that be physically in sports, intellectually on exams, or even cunningly in card-games. Let’s just say, don’t invite me to game night if it’s just for fun where points aren’t tracked.

A possibly more enlightening question into our future selves and how we spend our scant free time would be “how do you celebrate after finishing exams?” Many might say sleep, some might say exercise, others may even exaggerate and say further studying. Whatever the response, you would be peeking into our decisions as a sleep deprived, responsibility-free individual. After-all, since we are choosing a path marked by inadequate sleep mixed with paramount decision-making, why not see how we spend those moments before the responsibilities of another’s life is added.

However, that’s not the juicy flesh of ourselves that interests you the most. After hearing thousands of interviewees beg for their spot in your program every year, the last thing you want to learn about is how good of a person we are and how we can further propel your program’s reputation. You obviously know how to read a resume and are frankly tired of hearing hopeful benevolence. Even so, you are too proud to confess your obsession with suffering.

Before truthful conversation can be had between cat and mouse, toilsome introspection must be performed individually. Yes, most doctors say they like to care for others, but really, we are all just fascinated with adversity and especially captivated with the possibility of controlling its outcomes. Evolutionary theorists contend that survival has taught mankind to prioritize and memorize negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. Though much of early death has been thwarted by modernism, technology has not dissipated the obsession with hardship. The ability to distance oneself from emotional burden can be one of the strongest tools a doctor-to-be can sharpen. We want to relieve others of their burdens in order to face the challenge along side our patient. Yet, to protect from long-term burn-out, we must also learn how to cope with such heavy responsibility.

You don’t care for our cookie cutter synopsis of who we are. You don’t want our prepared responses of the hobbies we picked up just a few months prior. That isn’t really who we are or what we like anyhow, why must we all shield our honesty behind imitated positivity?

So, go ahead and ask us what you really want to know; “how have you suffered, what have you left behind and who have you sacrificed in order to be a doctor?”

Secret is, some of us focus on the suffering of others in order to distract from our own pains and struggles. You want to know if we have the gumption to continue pushing our heavy wagon filled with others’ suffering by judging on how we have coped with our own. Will you ask us what you really want to know by taking on the load of our burdens the way we hope to bear the burdens of others, or shall we continue this tournament of truth jockey?  

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