The Masterpiece of Medicine

Joseph Grubbs, Jr., MD-MPH candidate, Ophthalmology

First year of med school—the professor tediously explains every detail of the inner ear;

It’s 8:00 AM, I missed my morning coffee, and like most other students would rather not be here.

He doesn’t seem to mind, caught up in teaching the pathways of how we hear;

Before dozing off, I hear him say, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve studied in my career.”

 

Second year of med school—neurology is the subject that the lecturer is eager to explain;

She dives into the details of the tracts and pathways—explaining light touch, vibration, and pain.

She talks briefly of serotonin and norepinephrine and attempts to explain how we stay sane;

She pauses mid-sentence and says, “Nothing is as beautiful as the complexity of the brain.”

 

Third year of med school—I find a moment alone, and I briefly forget about my rotation;

In solitude, I daydream until a woman’s urgent cry interrupts my mind’s vacation.

I rush into the woman’s room, and the intern tells me to hurry and check the baby’s station;

As I gown up, the intern smiles and says, “Birth is truly the greatest beauty of God’s creation.”

 

Fourth year of med school—acting intern is my title, but relatively speaking, life is now a breeze;

The hours are slightly longer than I would like, but I now can carry my patient load with ease.

Before I leave for the day, the resident asks, “Can you check on your patient’s EKG, please.”

But as I get up, I see the family in room 12 surrounding the bed, all of them down on their knees.

 

The man in the bed is not my patient, but I rush in to make sure everything is all right;

As I approach the patient’s bed, a hand grabs my arm, and I turn to see his wife.

She tells me her husband is now where he belongs—in a place free from pain and strife;

She explains her family was just kneeling to thank God for the wonderful years of his life.

 

That evening as I leave my shift, I fight the tears that blur my eyes,

But before I exit the hospital, a sight provides me a much-needed surprise:

Waiting for her car, a mother holds her newborn son—I listen as she gently soothes his cries.

Her other child jumps after a floating balloon; she’ll never reach it, but still she tries.

 

Beyond them a businessman makes his way to the psychiatric clinic, and I try not to stare—

But I can see the years of depression in his eyes and the worry in the gray of his hair.

As I exit the building, I pass an older man walking with his daughter toward Urgent Care;

He whispers to her, “If they want me to stay, go home to your mom; she will need you there.”

 

As I drive home that night, a thought occurs to me, as I reflect on each med school year:

The complexities of disease and medicine are intriguing, but they are not why I’m here.

At times the work may be hard, fellow colleagues rude, and the long hours quite severe;

But then I recall the family praising God for their dad, the mom holding her baby so near.

Medicine is messy, cases complex, and the beauties of medicine abound both far and near—

But at the end of the day, it’s the people I serve that will always be the true beauty of my career.