Today was the second of a 10-day orientation to my internal medicine residency. It's a bit like summer camp right now: the schedule is friendly, the people are even more friendly, and everyone is smiles and giggles. It's been celebratory as well, as if a continuing acknowledgment of our finishing medical school. However, I snapped out of this post-medical school graduation reverie this afternoon when I met one of my future patients.
While I was visiting my to-be clinic site with three to-be colleagues, an African-American gentleman in a baseball cap, who had been watching me while on a tour of the facility, came up to me and plainly stated: "So, you're my doctor." I must have looked at him blankly because he followed it up by saying: "You're the guy with the really long name right? You're my doctor."
I was a bit taken aback, until I realized that this nice gentleman was indeed going to be one of my patients. Every year, my internal medicine program graduates a class of residents. Each resident has a panel of outpatients that they have taken care of over the three years of the program. At the end of residency they turn their panels over to one of the incoming interns. This particular patient is one of the 100 or so I'll be "inheriting" from my senior.
"My doc told me that she's leaving and that you're the new guy," he went onto explain, "So...what is your name?" I started out by saying, "Hey, I'm Atheen" - and then I caught myself. "I'm Doctor Atheendar" I told him, steadying my voice. I gave him a firm handshake, too, instinctively, yet still theatrically moving my left hand over to additionally grasp his right, as if to say "yeah, I'm new - but I got this." Being so unsure about my abilities, knowledge and competence as a physician-in-training, I thought I saw a hint of skepticism in his eyes. But it couldn't have been, because he suddenly smiled broadly and stated proudly, as he looked at the nurse nearby, "HE is my doctor."
And so I am. And so it begins - humbling and inspiring, all at once.