Doctors can be some of the most humble, down-to-earth people or the most obnoxious, self-centered jerks. You probably know some in each category. The sad thing is that medicine can condition one to think very highly of themselves and people infrequently tell them the truth about themselves.
Since the day you are accepted to medical or professional school, you are automatically elevated by your family and friends. It is very easy to get the superman/woman complex. The praises and adoration come in immediately… “My baby is going to be a doctor.” Or for my Nigerians out there, “My child, thee doc-tuh!”
Furthermore, the white coat takes you to another level. I can tell a million stories of med students and medical doctors who let this get to their head. I’d like to share 5 areas that may help you to stay humble despite the constant praise.
1. Be Grateful:
Always be thankful to those who helped you get to where you are. There are always people who made sacrifices for you. Sometimes those who sacrificed for you were not fortunate enough to be in your shoes. My father is one of the brightest men I know but as a young father of four who had the opportunity to go to medical school, he chose not to in order to feed his family. Just imagine if you were born a few decades ago, medicine may not be an option for you because of your race, gender, birthplace or socioeconomic status. You worked hard to get there but you didn’t do it on your own. Being appreciative for the opportunity may bring humility.
2. Drop the Doctor Title:
Yes, you worked hard for it but it’s sometimes refreshing to be around folks who aren’t referring to you as doctor or who don’t even know you are a doctor. Maybe it’s playing soccer with a group of people or playing the saxophone with a jazz band. Let them see you in a different light. After four years of playing basketball at a local gym, my cover was finally blown a few weeks ago because someone saw my picture in the newspaper. Now they all call me doctor (argh) all the time. It’s not the same.
3. Volunteer or Work Menial Job:
Volunteering allows you to be selfless and working menial jobs allows you to relate to others. Some volunteer for selfish reasons but when there are no applications to check boxes on genuineness and humility shows. I am always impressed by my colleagues who volunteer when a natural disaster occurs. One of my favorite things to do while I was a fellow was riding with my buddy buying junk or unwanted appliances, repairing them and selling them. We really looked like Sanford and Son out there but it felt so good. Better yet, I learned a lot about something outside of medicine and met a lot of cool people.
4. Escape the Cycle:
I always looked at medical training as never-ending inferior-superior circle. You keep rising up during your training but can never reach the top. Each time you reach the top, you graduate to the next level where you are back at the bottom. Someone is always looking down on you and it is very easy to take that out on someone else. It’s a perpetual cycle where people are always projecting their insecurities on those perceived as being less knowledgeable or of lower caliber training programs.
5. Emulate a Positive Person or Deity:
None of us are perfect but we can only try to be the best people we can be. If we think of 3 people we really admire and want to be like, I suspect most if not all of them are humble. Strive to model your behavior after them. It sounds cliché but WWJD is a solid guide for many. He would heal the sick without expecting anything in return. He would wash others feet. He would lay his life down for His friends.
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