Posted by: RC | July 13, 2010

Pretending to reinvent the wheel.

Introductions first — I’m RC, another member of this blogging collective, and am in my last (so they say) year of medical school. On the cusp of finishing 20 years of formal education, we’ll see what I have to offer here.

Holla back at Morgan — I daily read:


Star Tribune — focusing on the Minneapolis homicide map and how the Twins are doing.

American Elf — heartwarming webcomic

Shit City — less-heartwarming webcomic

Nedroid — incredible, risqué?

and last but not least:

bike love — a listing and forum of all things bike in Minneapolis (and even St. Paul)


Now that that’s out of the way — what’s really on my mind is my personal statement. To apply to residency and continue our schooling, but to finally start getting paid we have to add on to the initial “why I want to be a doctor” essay to cover “why I want to be a doctor that mainly does _____”

Unfortunately the _____ must be filled with something other than “plays guitar,” “builds bicycles,” or “enjoys sex on lazy Sundays.”

The safe way to play it is to follow a format:

This patient confirmed my choice to be a doctor in ____

I am uniquely suited to _____ because of skills x, y and z

I utilized these skills at this compassionate volunteer opportunity.

I am more human and accessible than most of the other robotic medical students because of ____ as proven by the aforementioned patient encounter.

What keeps cycling through my head, however, are the wild patients I’ve attracted. During my short career, I’ve noticed that I am a sort of shit-storm magnet. If you want to see something rare, dramatic or just plane bizarre, go to work with me. I’m not sure why this happened, but it is one of my favorite parts of medicine. Though it makes a great essay — it doesn’t make a great admissions essay — in fact it makes a damn weird one.

One day at clinic a worker form the deli across the street came in, cradling a bandaged hand, saying:

Corté mi dedo — puede ayudarme?

Meaning that he cut his finger, he wanted help. I was working as the resident Gringo at an exclusively Spanish speaking clinic, and as such was used to the patients minimizing problems. Besides learning medical Spanish, I also learned that most white people are huge fucking whiners.*

Under instruction, the patient slowly unwrapped the bandage, revealing a perfectly severed index finger hanging by a tiny flap of skin. He had been slicing meats for the deli, and as deli knives neatly cleave porcine and bovine flesh and bone — the same is true for humans.

Necesita ir al regional I told him — you need to go to Regions — the closest hospital with good trauma surgeons.

What still sticks with me about the whole experience is not that he severed his finger — that happens all the time, and is not the first severed finger I’ve seen — nor will it be the last. Rather, it’s that the patient really thought that we would be able to fix it at the clinic. There is such a disconnect between how the medical field is seen and what really happens, and to so many people a doctor is a doctor.

I repaired a slightly less-severed severed finger on my own in Alaska, since we needed to do something to bide the dangling bit some time to take the 800 mile journey to Anchorage. Back in civilization tt hurt not being able to say — sit right here, grit your teeth and I’m going to sew this bad boy back on — the worst pain you’ll feel is the anesthetic. I realize that patients do better with specialists doing their special things, but it fragments the medical community to a degree, confuses the public about what doctors actually do and makes everything cost a LOT of dinero.

More importantly, I wanted that guy’s finger back on right then and there dammit,

And I think,  so did he.

*To all — how do you feel about causal swearing in this blog. I, obviously am pro. But I’d be interested to see what others think, and don’t want to stomp on other toes here.



  1. Ryan,

    Ala might have some thoughts on the personal statement dilemma. As to patients not seeing the distinction between doctors: I suspect a lot of confusion is a consequence of social status/economic class. Someone with a job that provides sophisticated health coverage is likely to know that cancer treatment requires an oncologist. Someone who works for an hourly wage, and who doesn’t have health insurance, is much less likely to know this…especially if his first language is not English. @ casual swearing: meh. I neither condemn nor condone. We’re adults; we make choices and we live with them. I do think that peppering one’s language with well-chosen profanity demonstrates maturity. I don’t trust people who don’t swear, just like I don’t trust people who don’t drink coffee.

  2. me too — i’ve never liked it when my bosses don’t casually swear.

  3. In case you’re thinking of becoming a cancer doctor (at a walk-in clinic), a short typology:

  4. […] – Cause I need my white ass kicked once in a while. The Star Tribune – What RC said. Religion Dispatches – Best source of religious-social-political commentary online that […]

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