I think Medicine gives you a better appreciation of the smaller things and teaches us to count our blessings. Just being able to make yourself a cup of coffee, sit down, grab a book and highlight the same paragraph for the eleventh time, all that we take for granted and sometimes complain about, is nothing short of a miracle.
When I was in first year and I studied Embryology I was amazed by the number of things that could have gone wrong with my coming to this world. Have you ever really stopped to wonder what a multitude of processes have to be executed precisely so that a human being is born? I was amazed by the whole process by which two cells became one and that one cell could become, in time, a bus driver, an Olympic swimmer or -if it all went wrong- a whiny med student.
I used to tell my mum about every new and interesting thing I learned. But she would get really worried thinking about all the possible rare diseases one might have and then she would get depressed thinking about all the ways in which things could go wrong. (Needless to say, I stopped telling her all that). To me, learning had the opposite effect. I became more and more aware of all the awesome things my body was doing. Things that would keep me up all night trying to understand, analyze and memorize them, my body would do instinctively, like it was easy. It never had doubts about Krebs cycle, it never stopped to wonder “Oh, wait. What was I supposed to do next? Man, am I tired! Who do I call at this hour to help me out with this?”. I mean, I didn’t learn how to fold paper into an origami seagull until I was about 14 years old and there I was a couple of weeks old in my mother’s uterus, folding and twisting my way into a trilaminar embryo.
I remember that when I was in second year, cramming data on Biochemistry and Physiology, at times I would simply lay quietly in bed in awe of everything my body was doing to keep my pathetic little body alive: my heart pumping, my lungs moving back and forth, all the synapses firing -more slowly and erratically than I’d like to admit-, all the enzymes doing their job… a silent symphony of life...I must admit however -since I take after my mother-, I also though about all the things that could be silently going wrong without my knowing: all the regulating enzymes that might have decided to take a break and go out for a smoke and missed the errors in my DNA and forgot to arrest the cell cycle... At some point, I even thought that if I was really really still, I could almost hear the tiny pop of a pyrimidine dimer being formed.
This may sound silly, but I think that at some level, way up high on top of Science Mountain, there’s a place that borders with -oh, well, I’m just going to come out and say it- with faith. There’s so much we don’t know, at some point we have to take a leap of faith. It’s so hard not to think about the possibility of a divine design... What a dull world this would be if everything was a product of chance and coincidence! (and this is an atheist speaking)
Before I entered university there were so many questions I hadn’t asked myself. I was ashamed of never having stopped to wonder about those things. Everything I’ve learned has helped me appreciate the enormity of things I am still ignorant of. I am humbled by everything I still don’t know… And so eager to get out there and try to find the answers, you wouldn’t believe!