As I have continued to age I see more and more though that this broad focus and interest is truly where my heart lies and although it is comforting in some ways, this understanding also causes true conflict and frustration when forced to pursue a career such as medicine. Our society values and reveres the specialist - not the attention deficit. I am lucky in that I probably am in the most diverse "specialty" in medicine as I see everything from psychiatric illness to orthopedic injuries. Still, it is a career that demands your full attention and diverse as it is I find I am not made whole from this pursuit alone. So far, my second year of Emergency Medicine residency is proving to be slightly more enjoyable than my first but it still demands more than I have to offer it. It is still early in the year but the number of good days have outnumbered the bad ones this month and that gives me hope. Still, the workload reminds me daily of all that I must deny myself due to the demands of residency and all that I seem to require to feel balanced and whole.
Today I had to formally outline my residency research project that my program requires for graduation. It is a very focused and straightforward project relying on the analysis of CT scans to quantify certain anatomical aspects of the pediatric patient in order to comment on certain recommendations regarding pediatric resuscitation. I chose it because it had a simple clear focus and could be done by me alone and was easily accomplishable in the time I have left in residency. In other words, it meets the requirement and teaches me little. Like most fundamental research it will offer a small pebble in the riverbed of knowledge but honestly I just don't feel it and it depresses me somewhat. It is just another requirement that will take the few remaining hours I have left to pursue the world around me and focus it again on some pinpoint and it will not impact anyone or anything. Instead, I feel an overwhelming need to create something. Perhaps take some writing courses and describe the impact our specialty can make on our own community or perhaps describe the tragedies we witness and endure daily in the service of those around us. I want to to take my role in our specialty and broaden the human experience of those around me, but how? I want to build something. Perhaps take the simplest tools and teachings of our specialty to a community in need somewhere else in the world where what we take for granted here could easily change a life there. Yet these aspirations are not as valuable as "research" it seems. Instead I will jump through the hoop rather than fight it and produce a paper, get a stamp of approval and move on . . .
I am beginning to understand that no matter how much I enjoy Emergency Medicine or find it fulfilling it will never satisfy more than a small portion of who I am inside - no matter how good it is, it will only be a piece of the bigger picture. I need a much broader palette. I find my role as a doctor fulfilling for a moment and then the very next feel a sense of loss and emptiness for the many parts of my life that have atrophied at the expense of this learning. It is all bittersweet and I find myself envying those around me that ask less of their lives - many of them seem so happy and lucky to be pursuing their one dream. Perhaps it is being a doctor. An artist. An architect. A father. A farmer. A chef. Whatever it is, it is their one dream. My problem is that I want to be all of these things - I want to be uomo universale.