When We Became Doctors

Residency and the years that defined us

When I graduated from medical school, I believed that residency would be dedicated primarily to the acquisition and furthering of my medical knowledge. I knew these years were important as a foundation for my eventual dream of becoming an oncologist, but part of me thought my development into the doctor I would ultimately be as a practicing oncologist would take place during fellowship, as those would be the years I would acquire the medical knowledge I would use day to day. Now, at the end of residency, I understand that while acquiring medical knowledge is necessary to becoming a doctor, the physician and oncologist I will eventually be was truly formed and developed during these past three years.

Throughout residency, beyond the immense medical knowledge we obtained as residents, we learned the art of medicine. We honed our problem-solving skills, facing complex cases that challenged us to think critically and creatively. We built relationships with our patients, learning to listen, empathize, and communicate effectively. We also forged strong bonds with our colleagues, relying on each other for support and collaboration. It became clear that the "art" of medicine was independent of the specific field we chose to pursue. And in learning this art, we became doctors.

For many of us in internal medicine, our ultimate goal was to subspecialize, with our sights set on becoming cardiologists, gastroenterologists, oncologists, and more. Initially, we may have viewed residency as a means to that next step. However, as we progressed through our training, we began to appreciate the true significance of these years. Residency is not just a stepping stone; it is the crucible in which we are forged into the doctors we will be for the rest of our careers. As we move forward in our chosen fields, I hope we always remember that the foundation of our medical practice will always be rooted in the years we spent learning how to be doctors—the years when we learned to listen to our patients, think critically about their cases, and work collaboratively with our colleagues; the years when we discovered the true meaning of empathy, compassion, and dedication to the profession of medicine.

For me, the next step in my journey is a clinical & research fellowship in hematology/oncology, the dream I began with so many years ago in medical school. I am excited to apply the skills and knowledge I have gained during residency to help cancer patients navigate their difficult journeys. I know that the art of medicine I have learned will be just as crucial as the medical knowledge I will continue to acquire. I hope to refine both the science and the art of medicine as I work with my future colleagues and patients, providing them with the best possible care and support.

As I reflect on my residency, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and lessons that have shaped me as a physician. It has been an incredibly transformative journey, one that I will carry with me throughout my career in oncology and beyond. Residency has taught me that becoming a doctor is not just about acquiring medical knowledge, but also about mastering the art of medicine—the ability to listen, empathize, think critically, and collaborate effectively. These skills, which I have honed during my residency, will serve as the foundation for my practice as an oncologist. As I move forward, I will always cherish the years of residency, the years when we truly became doctors, and I will strive to apply the lessons learned to provide the best possible care for my future patients.