By Dr. Kwadwo Mponponsuo
It is that time of year again when the days and nights get colder, the days shorter and those of us that are susceptible to cold, like myself, bundle up for winter. Some bundle up to hit the slopes or the ice; others do it to stay warm for activities where most of the time can be expected to be spent upright instead of face-down in the snow. With this change, however, comes the excitement of the holidays, fam jam time and a new year.
For many, the end of a year is a time of reflection. As I look back on the year, fond memories of achievements and failures alike are brought forth. I think of the sleepless nights wandering the halls of the Foot. I think of making a rare diagnosis of HLH – something even “House” might smile and give me a C+ on an evaluation for. I think of traveling to Iceland to explore the abundance of nature packed into a country half the size of Alberta. Last but not least, I think of the time spent with friends and family. I think of meeting my newborn nephew for the first time or seeing my little brother and realizing he’s not as small or little as I picture him in my mind. Fond memories return of time spent with colleagues reminiscing about the days we should have studied or worked on a project but instead watched an entire season of Riverdale because why not. The nights we can’t remember, or the evenings we spent stuffing our mouths with food because it was journal club and when else might we get to feast like kings and queens?
I also think of the changes that this past year has brought and what further changes may be seen in the coming year. Too often I find myself focusing on promises made that I did not or could not keep. I think we all do this. For example, one of my resolutions this past year was to eat fewer muffins per day. This resolution lasted all of three days, which truth be told is probably the longest I’ve ever had a resolution surrounding muffins go. Despite that, I know I will make the same resolution again this year. Why? Because through all the failures, I may become physically softer but mentally I become stronger. I hang on to hope because it is what we, as humans, need to keep going. Be it for something noteworthy such as conducting a landmark trial or as simple as making it through the call-shift bestowed upon us by the Grinch. And so, I will continue to make hopeful resolutions about eating less junk food and being a better version of myself – because even if I fall short amidst all the organized chaos of residency, what better way is there to live?
We often ask ourselves why we do what we do in our profession, why we put ourselves through years of training, sleepless nights and what seems like an endless barrage of exams and ever-increasing expectations. I believe that in a borderline obsessive inveterate way, this is what drives us – to be better and to be the best. Medicine attracts those who embrace change; those who welcome a challenge; those willing to sacrifice a part of themselves for the betterment of others; and those whose passion lies in the complex being that is a human – physically or mentally.
We should not forget the privilege we hold. Medicine allows us the ability to play various roles. We can diagnose disorders with a history, physical exam, supporting investigations and sometimes hours of head-scratching nearly pathologic perseveration. In most cases, we can also intervene on that disorder to change the life of the afflicted person. We can play a justifiable version of Dr. Frankenstein to give someone with a non-functioning heart a transplant that will save his/her life. And all of that only brushes the surface of the advances medicine has made even in the last 20 years.
So as the holidays come about, I urge you, whether it is 2 a.m. on Christmas Day or 11:59 p.m. New Year’s Eve and you find yourself roaming the halls of the Foot, Rockyview, Grey Nuns, UAH or Children’s, remember that we have the coolest jobs one could ever ask for. That without each and every one of us, the hospitals literally could not function. That what we do, each and every day, does truly have an impact whether we notice or not. That we are not replaceable in what we add to health care. All that being said, however, I also hope you get out of those hospital walls to spend some well-deserved time with your friends and family. You work hard and deserve that reward.
Going forward into the New Year, I wish you days singing in the shower, dancing in the rain, mornings with the perfect cup of coffee or tea, warm hugs, cheesy bread, loaded nachos, sleepless call-shifts dealing with cases you actually find interesting, call shifts where you sleep more than one hour and best of all, time away from the hospital to refuel and recharge.
Dr. Kwadwo Mponponsuo is a PGY 2 in Internal Medicine. You can read his full profile here.