Walking towards the clinic, I could hear my shoes clicking. With every step my nerves, excitement, fear, and anticipation increased. I was heading to my first clinic, my first day of work, and meeting my first patient. I had met patients before as a student and had even been primary caregiver for them at times, but today felt different. Today was the first day that I would be someone’s doctor.
The clicks of my shoes seemed to gain volume until I found myself in the clinic, where I met my fellow. As he asked me what year I was in, I fumbled on the words, “PGY 1,” which meant first year resident physician, or intern.
“Oh, I see,” he nodded agreeably, “You’re a PGY 1 finishing your first year?”
“No,” I paused, “A PGY 1 on my first day.”
He laughed, kindly, and looked at me with amusement. It was as if he was imagining his first day as an intern. He took a moment to congratulate me and walked me through logistics and the electronic medical record system. And soon our patients were ready to be seen.
He asked me to see the 9:00 am patient, and quickly walked away. I then saw him slow down and stop. He turned around and walked back toward me; I wondered if he reconsidered his decision.
“This is your first patient, right?” he asked, and I nodded in agreement.
“Well then, good luck, doctor,” he said the words deliberately and meaningfully. He shook my hand firmly and looked at me with confidence.
As long as I am practicing, I will remember that moment. He knew that this was a pivotal moment for me, and he took the time to make sure that it was recognized. I had always dreamed being a doctor and being called one in an individual setting in the clinical world was surreal. The weight of the words hit me, and I felt excited to try to be everything that word signifies: a caregiver, a listener, an advocate, a teacher, and a lifelong learner.
The day continued, and I remembered why I loved the clinical world so much. It had been a while since I was here. Speaking to the patients, hearing their stories, and translating their narrative into a scientific diagnosis was challenging, but invigorating.
Many people would not have realized that this day was such a big moment for me, but the fellow treated the day with such reverence. It reminded me of something that was stated during our residency program orientation: you never know when a moment will be a big moment for someone. The patient waiting all day to speak to the physician. The third-year medical student stepping into the wards for the first time. A patient that missed her bus and is late to clinic. Yet to the innocent bystander, they simply look like another patient waiting to be seen, another medical student on the wards, another late patient, and another intern walking to clinic. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, we never know which moments will become a memory. And memories are the most priceless gift. Memories like the one this fellow gave me, and the ones that I hope to give others. And one day I hope to introduce an intern to the world of medicine the way that I was.