By Cassidy Lane, OMS-II
This piece was originally published in the September/October issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.
I was 13 years old the last time that I experienced a summer break, because it was that summer that I decided that I wanted to be a physician. I spent every summer after that through high school at the Volunteer Department of the nearest Level I Trauma Center in East Texas. If I wasn’t volunteering I was shadowing, and if I wasn’t shadowing I was scribing or taking classes that would prepare me for medical school. It became a constant cycle, month in and month out for 11 years. Every one of my spring breaks, winter breaks, and summer breaks was jam-packed with exciting new medical adventures, classes, or some other activity that was someday going to get me into medical school and ultimately help me become a physician. As crazy as it sounds, my story is not unique. This is the path for many students, former, current, and future, who pursue a career as physicians. This is a way of life that we gladly accept, because for many of us the idea of doing anything else is much more depressing than spending every break of our youth working towards our future career.
I was all geared up to spend the summer after my first year of medical school the same way. I had two in-hospital research projects lined up, was interviewing for a pediatric research program to review case studies and publish reports on the cases, and I was already looking for a summer job to bring in a little extra income during what I considered my “slow” month between the two academic years. Then, in an instant, a global pandemic hit, all my plans fell apart, and I was left with a very empty calendar during a period that was supposed to be a time for me to check all of the boxes that residency programs would want to see completed by the time I apply just three short years from now. When the initial shock wore off that a virus was capable of shutting down medical programs created and run by very people who live to combat these same types of diseases every day, it was like I had stepped into the sunshine for the first time in 11 years. As I began to read about the attempts of countries all over the world to contain and combat the virus, I was struck by an unexpected common theme in the rest of the world that I felt within myself: rejuvenation.
There were stories about nature being able to cleanse itself once people were no longer allowed to pour waste into it every day. Families were spending more time with one another at home, and smiles were being shared through technology all across the world because people were no longer able to go, go, go. Self-care began to emerge at the forefront of peoples’ minds, and I began to understand what it meant to take a step back and soak in the moments. I started cooking dinner every night, I read books on history and got outside every day. At a time when uncertainty was the norm and we were all scared, I spoke with colleagues and friends who were learning and growing personally outside the realm of medicine into better spouses, friends, and students. With this fresh new start that we received, we have been able to go back to school refreshed and ready to learn about medicine and people instead of being burned out and emotionally exhausted. During the time that our medical lives stood still, our mental and emotional health was able to re-blossom into excitement about life, medicine, and being the physicians that we are destined to become.