What it takes..

There’s an intriguing scene from the ABC hit series Lost where Jack as a kid appears in a room with his father Christian Shepard. Jack had just been found beaten up on a curb after attempting to stand up for one of his buddies. Christian- a neurosurgeon- leans back on his armchair and looks his son in the eye.

“You don’t wanna be a hero Jack. You don’t want to try to save everyone. Because when you fail…you just don’t have what it takes.”

Surprised? I wasn’t.

They say students start medical school thinking they want to save lives, but leave medical school thinking they want to save themselves. Almost anyone briefly involved in medical school will tell you this is true. They will torture you, you will suffer, because this is the only way you will become a great doctor.

I was in my third year of medical school on a monday morning, in the office of the then head of medical education Dr. James Ware. He looked up at me after glancing at my last exam results on his desk,

“You know you don’t have to stay, right?”

I stared blankly back at him.

“Medicine isn’t for anyone. And if you can’t take the pressure now, you might as well leave.”


“Of course. I even say it to my kids. Don’t come here, if you don’t have what it takes.”

I nodded, turned and left his office.

Medicine has been a long and winding road for me. I’ve fluctuated from not caring, to loathing, to loving the field, and I must say the journey hasn’t been easy. At times I would ask myself, how can you love something that doesn’t want you? How can you like a subject when your teacher wants you to fail?

Eventually, after a long and lengthy search through every dark corridor and alleyway, it hit me. You can’t think the same way about something and expect different results.

So I began to think differently. I opened my mind to every possibility, every turn, every challenge I’d been complaining about. Every wall I faced was now an opportunity. And then, in the midst of this darkness, I found a shimmer of light..

I stopped believing in medical education and started believing in medicine.

It sounds like a cliche, but it really isn’t. It is the most liberating approach to anything you dislike. And so, to the medical students of the earth I say this:

Don’t let anyone define who you are or what you are worth. Don’t let anyone claim they are smarter than you. And most importantly remember, bad doctors don’t represent medicine.

Medicine isn’t about showing off your knowledge. It isn’t about prestige or immense wealth. It is about caring, and in its very core lies the passion to sustain life and happiness on this earth. The passion to control the forces of nature that once seemed too mystical to understand. In the eyes of your professor you may seem like that little nerd just squirming to survive, but in the eyes of the world you are indeed the heroes of tomorrow.

Yesterday, Dr. James Ware passed away.

I’d like to take the time to thank this man for his contributions to the field of medical education. He was a pioneer, helping found medical schools in several countries throughout the world.

Mostly Dr. James, thank you, for unknowingly leading me to realize this fundamental truth:

I have what it takes.