The Lancet Student

The 81st Parallel

This blog was submitted by Adam on 1st March 2012.
Tagged with rural medicine, Global Health, career

In the fall, I wrote a post I called “Around the World in Eighty Ways”, which described my angst and guilt regarding my classmates’ desires to travel the world and to work in rural areas when I lacked the will to do so. Yet in the past ten days, I have interviewed for residencies at rural and semi-rural sites across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Maritimes. Since I know my life is followed with rapt attention, I'd like to tell you the story.

My change of heart came only about a month after I penned my original entry, when I was coming off a tough Psychiatry rotation and into a core rural Family Medicine block. I didn’t feel like I was in a position to learn anything, let alone make use of my knowledge. When I confided this to my preceptor, he suggested I come in for an extra weekend of call so that he could see where I was at, skill- and knowledge-wise, and it was one of the most intense learning experiences of my medical schooling. It felt as though this was what clerkship was actually about, and I had somehow missed the point up until then.

I started actively exploring rural options, and I realised I had a lot of reflection to do if I was going to sustain such a massive change of heart. I had to accept that the virtues and flaws I projected onto my classmates out of jealousy and frustration with my own lack of direction weren’t realistic. After all, if I wasn’t all of those things, then how could they be? I’m not adventurous, exciting, or exceptionally altruistic, yet I’m now enthralled with the variety and intensity of rural practice. As I’ve talked to residents and other applicants, my image of the “rural doc” has zoomed out to the point of losing focus, which is how it ought to be. Their motivations ranged from family ties to the rural lifestyle to feeling like the training they were getting was what best suited them.

In my previous post, I talked about the road-less-travelled-by, and now I feel like I’ve walked a little—just a little—of both. What drew me to quieter urban practices is still munching away at its quiet trough, but now there’s something excited there, too. While I might not yet be ready to travel the world as a healer, I might have one more stamp on my metaphorical passport.