Battlefield Promotions: A call to action for medical students

I was deeply move by Aaron Kheriaty’s recent message to students at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, where he is director of the Medical Ethics Program. Kheriaty is guiding his students through two simultaneous disappointments: the loss of well earned rights of passage (commencement, residency matches, etc) and the frustration of being sent home from clinicals for the time being. Kheriaty’s message:

“Now is the time to focus not on our own individual interests ­but on the common good. Realize that you are not being sidelined for the long term but kept on reserve in the short term: We simply cannot have too many health care workers getting infected at once. You will soon be needed for tasks that could not be more urgent and important.

Hear what is being communicated? These students are saying they want to serve. Kheriaty goes on:

“This is why you are becoming doctors. Just as firefighters go into burning buildings when others run the other direction, so physicians go where the sick are when others try to avoid them — using all available precautions and training, of course, but still putting the needs of the patients ahead of our own convenience.”

I have been thinking of all of my friends and former students who are medical professionals. Some of them are going to experience battlefield promotions soon. This pandemic is nothing that these students could have anticipated when they started med school and yet they are anxious to get to work. I deeply admire them for their commitment to serve. You can see Kheriaty’s full message here at The New Atlantis.

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