Watching the news, you’d think that US hospitals are being crushed by the weight of an Ebola epidemic. While Ebola poses a non-negligible risk, it pales in comparison to the epidemic of whining.


Just finished reading a piece called “I never understood the loss of empathy during medical training. Until now.” The title is harmless enough. It describes the trials and tribulations of a medical student hoping to find her special path.


She clearly regrets her decision.


I would call my friends and family often in the beginning, sobbing and anxious. But how could they understand? To them, to the outside, a doctor’s life seemed very glamorous indeed. After a while, I stopped calling…..

My happiest times in school were early in the morning, before the residents and the attendings were around to expose the holes in my knowledge, or reprimand me for forgetting to test cranial nerve IX, or scold me for my presentation being too long (or too short, depending on the person.) It was listening to my patients as they told me about their children. Their patience as I clumsily stumbled through the interview. The way their face relaxed as I told them that I would bring up their concerns to the doctor. Holding their hands and telling them it was going to be alright. Laughing, connecting, loving. Ironically, the shortest parts of my day. No time for that sort of thing with notes to write, tests to study for, articles to look up….

I fantasize daily about leaving medicine for the endless sky back home. I miss the person that I was so very much. But I’m still here. And I hold onto my faded dreams in my little hands.


There’s much more of this in the complete piece.


While this anonymous medical student might suffer from intractable chronic depression, the article struck me as more whining than pathology.


Not everyone should become a doctor. It’s hard. All worthwhile endeavors are difficult.


Maybe my memory of medical school has faded.


Here’s what I do remember. At the end of my first year, I received a call my younger brother had the immense misfortune of walking into a convenience store while it was being robbed. He was paying for $2 of gasoline. Wrong place; wrong time. He was marched into the back freezer, and shot in the back of his head – left for dead.


My brother spent months in an acute care hospital and rehab facility. He finally woke up, then slowly regained his ability to speak. He went home, back to college, graduated, and married his childhood sweetheart. He became a social worker and now works with families at a head injury unit in a busy trauma hospital. Decades later, he still has neurological deficits. Significant deficits. But, he’s done OK, and he’s eminently grateful for the second chance.


I remember our family believed it would help my brother if someone spent the night in his room while he was hospitalized. I cannot even count the number of other fellow medical students who stepped up to fill that role. They just volunteered. No complaining. And these students didn’t have the benefit of the current 80 hour work week limitation.


My brother does not have an easy life. But, his life has immense meaning – and he’s been an inspiration to me – and so many others.


If any person deserves to be a whiner, it should be him. He says – and I’m quoting him – he tolerates whining as much as he needs a hole in the head.


Yep, the gallows humor runs in our family. Autosomal dominant with complete penetrance.