Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cool as a cucumber

Yesterday, my preceptor (a 3rd year resident and really wonderful teacher) was telling us stories about his med school psych rotation. He explained how he was at an inpatient hospital and saw the crazy-of-the-crazies. He gave us a few patient vignettes, each one crazier than the one before. We were wide eyed listening, with growing excitement about the possibilities of our future psych rotations.

And then, "There was this one woman who thought she was a man!" Crash! Back to reality. Back to remembering that I am a medical student in the conservative South. He went on explaining the case, and when he got to a natural break, I spoke up. "You know they're in the process of removing gender identity disorder from the DSM?" I did my best to stay calm. To engage in a rational discussion about shifting understanding of gender identity. He tried to justify his comment and then quickly moved on to "And then there are narcissists! I had this one patient..."

It isn't his fault. It wasn't malicious. Even though he is a young doctor, he had never learned otherwise and so he was just passing on what he knows. This was a perfect case study in why medicine is a slowly evolving profession. But regardless, it is also a little heartbreaking. A sharp reminder that there is so much work to be done in this world. That the most effective way to do this work is to stay calm. To be cool as a cucumber. Slowly, I will rationally and politely educate my professors and peers one person at a time.

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