Mamba Medicine

January 26th, 2020… We will forever remember where we were when we heard the news. Shocked… speechless… heartbroken. We all felt the exact same way.

In the days that followed, there was a collective grief and melancholy that flooded social media. This man we all watched play basketball since his teenage years was no longer with us. He seemed larger than life and had accomplished so many amazing feats. I believed the best was still yet to come in his retirement years. Kobe was in a league of his own. He was the last of a dying breed in the league. See, NBA players no longer leave it all out there like they did back then. The top players never partake in the dunk contest and at times skip out on representing our country during international play. It’s a different game now. While they all work very hard at their craft, no one did it better than Kobe Bryant. His Mamba Mentality is unrivaled. This man would be up at 4am working on his game. It really got me thinking about the parallels with medicine and if this mentality translates positively or negatively.

Can you think of what the Mamba Mentality would look like in medicine? I call this Mamba Medicine.

Imagine someone who is extremely passionate and infatuated with being the best doctor possible. This student wakes up before sunrise every morning and gets to the library before everyone else. I can see him or her being president of the premed society and maybe even lead their regional chapter. This hard work would pay off no doubt with a near 4.0 GPA and 99th percentile MCAT score. This same student will aim for the top medical schools and crush that as well on their way to earning a highly sought-after fellowship. See, those with the Mamba Mentality don’t believe in leaving outcomes to fate – hard work is next to God. This is their ticket to success and it consumes their lives. Forget “Ball is Life” – “Medicine is Life”!

Mamba Medicine may look a bit like this. Looking from the outside-in, others will revere this student or doctor. Besides, this is the smartest student in the class and it all comes so easy for her or him. We all know the type. However, I don’t quite envy this individual. In my mind, I see the strain and stress one with this mindset places on their own body. The waking up at 3am to study translates to little sleep. The hours studying or working means very little time spent with their family and friends. The always in a rush leaves little time to eat healthy or take in the beautiful little things in life. The competitive nature makes them suspicious of others. The Mamba Mentality may cause a student to partake in cut throat acts in order to get a leg up on or advantage over his or her peers.

I appreciate hard work and all but I feel we at times do a disservice to individuals with this mentality. We in a way further mold them with positive reinforcement and enable toxic behavior. We place enormous expectations on them and hold them to a different standard. We don’t ask about their well-being enough or encourage them to rest. I believe this Mamba Mentality takes a huge toll on the individual. I would actually liken it to what med students would call a “gunner”. As a practicing physician, this can certainly lead to burnout, depression, addiction and health problems. I picture the TV character House as one with this mentality. He may seem super smart but would you want to be him knowing what goes on in the background?

At the end of the day, I believe many with this mentality don’t take in the big picture and fail to see things holistically. Happiness with this mentality relies on being superior to others around you so you have to outwork them or bring them down. In medicine, it is important to exhibit passion and good work ethic but eating, sleeping and breathing medicine in order to be the best doctor is detrimental to your health. While it may be admirable in sports and entertainment, the Mamba Mentality in medicine can be toxic to your health.

What are your thoughts on the Mamba Mentality in medicine?

In loving memory of the nine passengers who lost their lives.

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Mereena Jolly

Great post! I definitely can relate to the concept of Mamba medicine. I feel like in high school I was always praised for my work-ethic. Later in college, I definitely started to work so hard to a point of being burnt out. Although I made it a priority to stay healthy, exercise and sleep, I was slowly becoming a workaholic. I didn’t realize then, but looking back I wish I knew that earlier. I think the main solution I found to prevent this is to always try and put God first in life, no matter what. In college, I was definitely idolizing medicine and putting it first. The posts on Diverse Medicine have also been great reminders of why Mamba medicine is problematic!

12 months ago

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Dr. Daniel

Thanks Mereena Jolly  I'm glad you recognized and fixed it early. It really creates a toxic environment. We had 2 suicides while I was in med school. One I learned was top of his class and was to match in Urology. His father and brother were doctors. The pressure became too much they think. Things like this get swept under the rug many times. Something else I notice is when doctors leave an area for good personal reason (family, burn out, etc) often I hear hospital administrators and sometimes patients talk about them in a disappointing manner like he/she abandoned us or was too lazy. It's very sad. Almost like they think they own you. Sort of similar to sports stars who want to relocate for personal reasons. Jerseys are burnt. I just wanted to warn others not to trap themselves with this mentality since it is glorified in medicine.

12 months ago

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Oumou Fofana

Wow I like how you compared the mamba mentality in the nba to being a premedical student. Having that mentality, while it does give you great results, does lead to burnout and depression as you said. You almost start to lose focus on what life is truly about and forget having time to spend with family/friends and time for yourself. We should work hard to get results but sometimes we have to let fate take the way.
But in regards to Kobe’s death, it was very shocking and it made me think about life in general. I am really glad that he got to spend the last moments of his life enjoying his family, especially his daughters because although being in entertainment is a privilege, being with family is one of the treasures of life that many people miss out on and seem to forget about.

12 months ago