Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Surviving Medical School with Faith intact...

With my first year of med school for the most part finished, I have been reflecting back on the year and having conversations with friends about how this first year has changed us. The most obvious change is, of course, our knowledge of the human body and that is pretty exciting to me. But an experience like medical school changes a person in much deeper ways. When we arrived here we were regularly warned by the deans and by students further along that if we weren't careful many of us would become cynical people who forgot our original altruistic or spiritual reasons for coming to medical school. As usual, I doubted that med school could change me in such a way. But looking back, I think med school has changed my personality and I'm pretty sure that it has not made me a better person. I think that the demands that our coursework puts on our time and energy can encourage a great degree of selfishness to grow in one's personality. I have certainly seen that in myself. Free-time, when I wasn't studying, became so valuable to me that I would rarely think of seeking the Presence of the Lord or of finding ways to serve others. Instead, free-time came to mean watching movies, reading blogs or occasionally working out. I also have thought less about my original ideals that I thought so much about when I entered medical school. Instead of dreaming of a future on the mission-field, I've begun to dream of a higher class rank or the possibility of a more competitive residency. The demands of medical school has encouraged my already perfectionist personality not only to demand more from myself but also to be more critical of those around me.

That all sounds bad, huh? I've told some of my closest friends here, and I really think it's true, that I'm probably in a worse spiritual state than I was back in August. My daily time in the Word and in prayer has shortened and I am less ready than I once was to try to encourage and pray for classmates. But with all of this apparently negative reality, I know that God has provided for me in marvelous ways.

When I told my friends that I thought I was actually in a worse spiritual state now than when I started, I also told them that if it wasn't for the various ministries I'm involved with here, things could have been much worse. The constant accountability and edification I have found in our weekly Christian Medical and Dental Association meetings and in our Men's Group Bible Study meetings have been invaluable. Through those relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ I have been given the opportunity to honestly share struggles, to seek the counsel of my colleagues and their prayers. Having a wonderful church family who I look forward to seeing every Sunday has also been very important.

Another conversation I've had with some of my classmates is a "what if" conversation considering whether we would have gone to some of the more prestigious schools we applied to had we been accepted. And there was a time when I would have said, "yes," that if I had gotten into Harvard or Mayo Clinic that I would have gone there. But looking back on this year and considering things with the eternal perspective of the importance of my soul, I would have to say, "no." Think what you will about Seventh-day Adventist theology, but I have to say that they have founded and nourished an institution where a Christian can become a doctor and where they can be affirmed and encouraged in their faith in Jesus Christ. For this I am very thankful to my Adventist brothers and sisters.

In closing I would say to any Christian entering medical school, do not underestimate the trial that awaits you. Temptations that once may have looked dull because of the vibrancy of your spiritual life may gain a new and enticing luster. But if you can find real Christians to be open and honest with, to pray with and to succeed and fail with, you will make it through with your faith intact.


TLF+ said...

Wonderful testimony, Matt.

I've been praying for grace, lately, because I am struggling in various ways. I went to II Corinthians 12:7-10 and realized that Christ was answering my prayers via the difficulties... his grace, strength and power come through all the "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions & difficulties."

Too often, I pray for grace with the expectation that it will be the removal of a problem. But more often it turns out to be my transformation to respond to or learn from the problem and become more Christlike.

Anonymous said...

I loved your honesty and depth in this reflection.

Here's some advice from a doctor who I think you'd be interested in knowing about.