Today, I am a doctor.
I spent four years preparing to get into medical school. I spent another four learning about the human body and how to help and heal. I took the Osteopathic Oath, promising to honor the medical profession and my patients, practice ethical medicine within my scope of practice, and to uphold the tenants of osteopathy, joining generations of healers who have gone before me. I stood before my family, friends, and teachers, and felt the weight of the doctoral hood placed on me, it's long length and green stripes proclaiming to all that today, I am a doctor.
The thing is, a bar mitvah-ed "adult" is still a thirteen year-old kid. I'm still a little doc, just in a long white coat. And even though I am considered a doctor, I still start over, for another four years, as a resident, the doctor who is the least experienced and needs to learn the most about her chosen specialty. I'm hoping that somewhere, in this transition to fully-trained physician, I'll feel like my new coat fits.
The transition is joyful. I can't help but grin as my white coat brushes my knee instead of my hip. I love writing my new name (which is a natural palindrome): Dr. Anne Kennard. I am humbled and honored to be considered an "adult" in the medical profession, at the same level as my teachers and role models. I think about an office full of people waiting, a patient on an operating room table, a tray of sterile instruments set out. How could these things all be for me? I've wanted to be a doctor since I was eight years old. This is truly a lifetime dream come true.
The transition is also scary. I think about what the added twelve inches on my coat hemline adds to my life. I am responsible for patients, and since I am in obstetrics, I care for two or more patients instead of only one. I need to be an excellent diagnostician, a gentle and effective healer; not because my malpractice premium depends on it, but because it is my responsibility as Doctor. My decisions, my words, my touch will tremendously impact others. Consequences for mistakes rest with me alone; I have lost the safety net of being a "student doctor." I could really hurt somebody. But, I can also really help someone.
Even though a thirteen year-old is still a kid, the bar mitzvah is significant, celebrated, and honored. To that community, he is an adult. I'm still the little doc. But today, I was welcomed as a physician into a community that includes Hippocrates (Greek "Father of Medicine"), Paracelsus (Renaissance physician who pioneered use of chemicals in medicine), Andrew Taylor Still (founder of Osteopathic medicine), the Mayo brothers (founded the Mayo Clinic), Jonas Salk (first effective polio vaccine), Donald Pinkel (my mentor, discovered ALL cure and founder of St. Jude Children's Hospital), and generations of surgeon generals, centuries of healers.
Today, I am a doctor.