After reading Short White Coat, by James A. Feinstein, it prompted me to really ponder the responsibilities and privilege of one day becoming a doctor. As I sit here, midair on the plane to SXM, myriad things are running through my head. I’m finding my mind contemplate large picture things: how will I like med school? What will my peers be like? Smart, funny, personable? What does my long-term medical training future hold?
By sheer luck, I was paired with what could possibly be an essential contact for residency and/or work thereafter. In an effort to keep things confidential, I’ll call my fellow passenger Reali. It all happened on the first leg of the two-part trip from Albany to St. Maarten. Things start off extremely cordial; we greet each other, crack a few jokes (mainly pertaining to my clearly oversized carry-on rolling luggage — I had to check it despite my best jamming efforts.), and engage in good spirited small talk. You know, the usual: the weather, where each of us is headed, and the reasoning for where we’re headed. Reali took the figure of a late 20′s, early 30-something Indian-American male. Little to no accent present in his voice. He’s headed to Florida to get married. He’s obviously extremely happy/excited.
We hit it off. He prompts me to explain the purpose of my trip to SXM. I tell him of my medical school endeavors. Those two key words pique his interest, particularly when I tell him I have a special curiosity in surgery. Reali delves into questions, all of which are thoughtful and appreciated. I notice an Indian man one row up, kiddy-corner to us glancing back every so after during our conversation. His father. Long story short, Reali owns a radiology firm and his father is a vascular surgeon. They both are extremely nice, congratulating me and wishing me well. Reali ends our time with an all-important business card:
“We’re actually looking for [another surgeon] to join the practice. [He chuckles.] You’ve got another eight years ahead of you, though. Be sure to give me an email,” he says with eyes directed right into mine.
It’s funny how things like this, even if it turns out benign and nothing long-term comes of us meeting, can shape our present and future. That’s precisely the integral thrust of In Stitches, a new memoir by Anthony Youn, MD. I found his book to be tantalizingly engaging; his colorful commentary on all things pre-med, relationships, on through to the infamous Match Day, make this book truly unique. Unlike other med student accounts I’ve read, In Stitches opens a portal of emotions and thoughts that are so carefully crafted, it’ll make you swear you’re a long-time friend of Dr. Youn’s.
As a medical student about to begin my first year in an international med school, I find books like his particularly useful. Although his dilemmas stem from somewhat disparate issues (Dr. Youn comes from an extremely traditional Asian family, brought up in a predominately white area in Michigan), our core emotions are one in the same. Only recently, after it finally sunk in that I’ll be living in a foreign country for the next two years, did I realize that I’ll be the one who’s different. Not a bad thing, as one of the things I love is exploring new cultures, but nevertheless I feel slightly isolated. I just hope to fit in. I want to fit in amongst my peers in med school, and I want to fit in amongst the Sint Maarten (Dutch and French) culture. It’s a tall order, but one I’m taking head-on. Dr. Youn thoroughly covers his emotional hurdles and triumphs in his novel.
I highly recommend this memoir to anyone even considering a pre-med path (that means high school students). Furthermore, pre-meds and med students alike will benefit from the emotional content Dr. Youn discusses; I laughed, pondered, and debated as I read deeper into In Stitches. It’s a wonderful narrative of how Dr. Youn came to be the man he is today; how his true calling in medicine came to the fore; culminating in choosing a specialty to pursue and finally the program he was selected into. It gives me great hope that although I may have my own challenges to overcome, with due diligence and insistent studying, I can achieve anything.