A word to the applicants
Every year, our Faculty is contacted by many applicants who are eager to study medicine. It is wonderful to see the various reasons applicants have for choosing this field of study. These reasons vary indeed from ‘I want to help people’, ‘I have had an unforgettable role model in my mom (dad, uncle, friend...) who is a physician’, to ‘I always liked biology/science’ or ‘I spent x weeks working in a hospital and I liked it a lot’. And all of these different sources of motivation drive young people to become medical students, study hard, and eventually become physicians.
We as the teachers at a faculty of medicine enjoy this development, which starts as a spark (the first idea: ‘I might become a doctor’), continues with a commitment to work hard, and finalizes at the point when a mature individual is ready to serve patients.
Dear applicants, let us mention the darker side of wearing the white coat – the obstacles and hurdles the applicants will face during their medical studies. I do not want, by any means, to lessen the fire in your hearts which originated from the spark I have just mentioned. To the contrary, I want to name a few of the obstacles bluntly, and I want you to make sure that your devotion to medicine is strong enough to overcome them.
The human body
During the course of study, you will see people who need help, who may be sick, or who have died. You may not always feel comfortable about how they look, perhaps smell or behave. What you must do, however, is treat patients with respect. And during your studies, you must always actively seek more information that is necessary in order for you to become a professional. This means that you should overcome any reservations you may have (personal, religious, cultural or other) to pursuing these goals. Practically speaking, during your studies you will see the human bodies of various individuals, of all ages, both sexes, sometimes naked, sometimes suffering from diseases or injured.
Many people might be not too fond of seeing blood. Although even those who are not particularly attracted to blood can work as doctors, it is necessary that each time you do see blood, you do not let your patients or their families notice that you are not comfortable with it.
You must be ready to learn various basic techniques, some of which may be considered invasive. These include needle aspirations of blood or body fluids, the introduction of various catheters, and the manual part of a physical medical investigation. Again, you will be asked to perform these procedures on patients of various age groups and of both sexes.
For hygienic reasons, sometimes you will be required to take off pieces of jewelry or clothes, and to wear sterile and/or protective dress, gloves, etc. If medically substantiated (as in the case of a specific allergy), you will notify staff so that you can wear an alternative material.
During your studies, you will have access to medical information that is particular to a certain individual. You will be asked to treat such private information with discretion. You will sign a legal document that will specifically oblige you to treat all medical information with absolute discretion. We ask you to treat medical discretion not only as a legal obligation. We want you to take this as your own moral guide that you will follow because you believe it is correct. Period.
Make your decision now
Perhaps these four groups of possible obstacles are easy for you to deal with. Or you might face a different obstacle that will cause hesitation as to whether to proceed to become a physician or not. At this time, you are an applicant; you may say No, I do not want to overcome my reservations. In such a case, please choose a different field of study and work. Or you may say Yes, I am ready to study medicine and if I have any reservations, I am ready to overcome them with your help. Please, take a quiet minute or two for yourself and consider these important issues. Good luck!
Ondrej Hrusak, MD, PhD
Former Dean, a member of the Academic Senate