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April 8, 2016

Reading : Subjective & Science

Rodin at Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Spring 2015

When I interviewed for medical school at a well-known institution that will go unnamed, the surgeon who interviewed me arrived half an hour late, hadn't read my file, and mistook the Latin honors on my application to mean that I had studied Latin. When I told him I had actually studied English, he put his feet up on his desk and said, "I don't get that. I mean, it's too subjective--how can someone tell me that my multiple choice answers are wrong about a book?"  I tried to explain to him that none of my English exams ever contained multiple choice questions, but as his eyes, which had never really looked at me to begin with, started to deliberately look past me to the door, I gave up.

In contrast, the person I had interviewed with before him (at the same institution) spent the whole hour with me talking about my thesis on Hemingway and thought that a love of literature could really contribute to medicine. His office fit enough space for the two chairs that seated us and just enough room for me to stand up and leave the chair without bumping into him, whereas the surgeon's office had the kind of space that allowed him to comfortably put his feet up on his desk while he pretended to talk to me. Needless to say, I didn't get into this school, for more reasons than just the interview I'm sure but I will always remember the surgeon's disdain for me.

I knew then that although the humanities-medicine romance is trendy and familiar these days, that the subjective is still naturally dismissed in most conventional settings. And to be honest, while you're going through intense scientific training, you find less and less time and will to pay attention to fiction and history and storytelling. But in any job dealing with people (and what job doesn't, really), it seems obvious that insight into their characters and stories would be important.

Besides that, it's really fun and relaxing to read. So on Fridays I hope to share ways I've found to integrate reading and work, and readings I've loved. Fiction will always be my favorite but I've enjoyed branching out in the past few years, so all recommendations are welcome.


  1. Haha, I need to swap terrible med school interview stories with you. Sorry you had to put up with that unpleasantness and rudeness though. Couldn't agree more about needing insight into people's character and stories in our profession - but I don't think a majority of people understand that. Do you agree? Maybe its different in primary care?

    1. Oh yes, I have even worse stories--would love to hear yours!! I think that in primary care there is a large vocal subset of people who really advocate for this, and so in the right environment I feel like it's the status quo. But I think you're right, in the general community we are still really focused on only certain parts of care. I think it has to do with our training and what the system values, and then the health system itself being so overwhelmed. I'm glad that we had such great English teachers early in life :)

  2. i also interviewed at this well known institution. and maybe had the same surgeon interviewer. he was late and then he fell asleep during our chit chat. i didn't get in but then went to this other place where i met you. i can't thank that surgeon enough.

    1. Yes! I remember having this conversation with you and we determined it was the same person after swapping just a few telling interactions. I am extremely thankful as well <3


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