8 residents discuss how their perception of medicine changed throughout residency

By Kristen Fuller, MD
Published July 10, 2023

Key Takeaways

I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I entered medical school; I couldn’t wait to change the world by becoming a doctor. As I entered my clinical rotations, I learned that practicing medicine was much different than I thought. Hollywood often romanticizes the profession, but there is nothing romantic about taking care of sick patients, experiencing death and dying, and working grueling hours on limited sleep.

As I progressed through residency, my perception grew darker but I grew thicker skin. I became resilient and adaptable, and I forced myself to see the good sides of medicine—helping patients, bringing a life into the world, comforting a family member after they lost a loved one, and more.

We asked medical residents how their “perception of medicine has changed throughout residency.” Here's what they had to say.

Tired doctor sitting at computer screen at night

A deeper appreciation for my career

Carla Saoud, MD: “My residency experience has profoundly transformed my perception of medicine. It has provided me with a deeper understanding of the complexities and intricacies involved in patient care. Witnessing firsthand the impact of various diseases on individuals' lives has humbled me and reinforced my dedication to making a difference. 

“Residency has taught me the importance of collaboration and teamwork, as well as the significance of effective communication in delivering optimal care. Moreover, the challenges and successes I have encountered during my training have fostered resilience, adaptability, and a continuous quest for knowledge.”

"My residency experience has instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility and a deep appreciation for the privilege of being a physician, reaffirming my commitment to lifelong learning and compassionate patient care."

Carla Saoud, MD

tired doctor leans against window resident

Working in a broken system

Tina Yang, DO: “I think I’ve become more jaded, as I see how broken the US medical system is. I’ve seen the system fail multiple patients, and it’s just sad and frustrating.” 

"As a doctor you signed up to help people, and you have to accept that certain things are out of your hands."

Tina Yang, DO

Tired doctor at his computer resident

Medicine is a business

Vignesh Ramachandran, MD: “Throughout my residency, one significant shift in my perception of medicine has been realizing its dual nature as both a service and a business. While the fundamental ethos of medicine is to serve and heal, I have come to understand that the practical functioning of healthcare involves a complex intersection of clinical practice and business operations. 

“From managing patient flow in outpatient clinics to understanding the intricacies of insurance coverage and reimbursements, I've seen how critical the business aspect is to the delivery of care. Balancing the clinical and business sides of medicine can be challenging, but it's a necessary skill for ensuring patients receive effective and efficient care.” 

"It's been an eye-opening aspect of my training, adding a new layer to my understanding of the broader healthcare landscape and the role I play within it as a physician."

Vignesh Ramachandran, MD

female doctor patient resident

Making real connections with patients

Jake Jacob, MD: “My perception of medicine has evolved profoundly throughout my internal medicine residency. Residency has given me a deeper understanding of the complexity and nuance inherent in the practice of medicine. It has taught me that medicine is not just about diagnosing and treating diseases, but also about connecting with patients on a human level and addressing their unique needs and concerns. 

“Throughout residency, I witnessed the tremendous impact that effective communication and empathy can have on patient outcomes. The art of medicine became as important as the science, as I realized the power of active listening, compassion, and shared decision-making.”

"I learned to view each patient as a whole person, considering not only their medical conditions but also their social determinants of health, emotional well-being, and individual goals."

Jake Jacob, MD

Masked doctor with male patient checking heart rhythm

The importance of mental health

Esha Hansoti, MD: "I have come to recognize that mental health care cannot be limited to the walls of a clinic or hospital. Residency has emphasized the crucial role of community engagement in addressing mental health challenges. I have learned the value of collaborating with community organizations, building partnerships, and leveraging community resources to improve access to mental health services and support networks.”

"Engaging with communities has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of their unique needs and cultural contexts, enabling me to provide more effective and culturally sensitive care."

Esha Hansoti, MD

Diverse medical residents

Other changes in perception

  • Gurinder Kumar MD: “I feel there are a lot of racial disparities and we need to address that at all levels. The more we try to remove barriers the happier we will be—both patients and physicians.”

  • Mihir Upadhyaya, MD: “The practice of medicine became less glamorous and romantic the more I did it.”

  • Olivia Sutton, MD: “The system can be abusive, and residents really do get taken advantage of in a lot of cases. In a system where you have to rely on authority and administration to 'allow' you quality of life, it's very easy to drown."

Parting thoughts 

Practicing medicine is not what the movies portray. It can be heartbreaking, messy, unfair, and a bit corrupt, but it is a remarkable career with immense satisfaction, responsibility, and selflessness. Although my perception has changed immensely since I began medical school, I am beyond grateful for this tremendous opportunity to help others, even when it means making immense sacrifices and dealing with a corrupt healthcare system. 

Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!

Read Next: 7 residents reflect on moments they thought about quitting

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