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I’m a graduating medical student. This is why I write.

In this Stanford Medicine Unplugged post, graduating student Nathaniel Fleming discusses the benefits of writing during his time in medical school.

It's hard to believe, but medical school commencement -- and the transition to doctorhood -- is just around the corner. While there's much to look forward to in the coming months, it also means that my time contributing to this blog is drawing to an end. It has been a wonderful privilege to be able to share my thoughts in this venue for the last five years, and it only seems fitting to end by writing about -- what else? -- the act of writing. 

Although there is a rich tradition of fully trained, expert physicians writing books, the idea of medical students having a platform to share their day-to-day experiences in a public venue is a newer phenomenon. And I believe that there are some unique and important benefits to such a format. First, writing encourages the act of self-reflection. Medical school is all about details, and it can become easy to get caught up in minute-by-minute tasks while forgetting to think about the entire journey. Brainstorming ideas to write about requires thinking about the big picture, and it often involves taking a specific moment and placing it in a much larger context. This act of reflection is itself an opportunity for wellness and personal growth as medical students.

Of course, writing is rarely private; it's also a form of sharing and communication. To that end, one of my main goals has been to humanize the process of medical training -- for family, friends, pre-meds, and even (or especially) for patients. After all, everybody has some conception of what a doctor is, based on a mix of personal experience and popular culture, but not as many people have a good idea of what a medical student is. While the doctor is often thought of as confident and authoritative, being a medical student exposes some huge vulnerabilities that many people might not have considered. Doctors aren't born being comfortable delivering babies, resuscitating a patient, or guiding a family through a loved one's death. Writing about these experiences is a chance to expose the human being underneath the white coat. 

Finally, and most importantly, writing is simply one way to share a passion for the wonderous, life-changing experience that is becoming a doctor. At its core, writing is an emotional act: It's a platform to convey joy and sadness, excitement and fatigue, wonderment and frustration. Medical school is full of those ups and downs; I've had experiences that I couldn't have even imagined before starting medical school. Putting even a few of those meaningful experiences down on paper is a way to share them, to memorialize them, even to re-live them. At the end of the day, being able to undertake the journey into medicine is truly the privilege of a lifetime, and writing is one of the best ways to share that privilege with others. Thank you for your thoughts, inspiration, motivation, and your readership over the last several years.

Stanford Medicine Unplugged is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category

Nathaniel Fleming is a fourth-year medical student and a native Oregonian. His interests include health policy and clinical research. 

Photo via Pixabay

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