I tend to recoil from the idea of naming people as heroes, but there are still several individuals that I look up to for various reasons. One of these is Charles Krauthammer, a well-known columnist with the Washington Post. I was first introduced to his writings by a professor when I was an undergrad and I was immediately struck with his clarity, perspective, and ability to articulate well-reasoned arguments on public policy, particularly on things like the public funding of stem-cell research and health care. It wasn’t until I decided to apply to medical school that I learned he had actually attended Harvard Medical School and completed a residency in psychiatry before turning to journalism.
Near the end of his first year in medical school, a diving injury permanently confined him to a wheelchair. Nevertheless, he completed his second year of medical school from his hospital bed and finished medical school with the rest of his class. I recently ran across an interview with him from Roadtrip Nation that I wanted to share. In it, he discloses that when he decided to go to medical school, he called the admissions office at HMS and said he wanted a place in their class. The admissions director told him that there was a single spot open and, if he was there the next morning, it was his. Clearly, a lot about medical school admissions has changed in the past 35 years.
One of the real highlights of the interview is this statement about life and career:
I really think it’s a mistake to try to get on a career path too early. It’s very good to spend your youth gaining life experiences without wondering about how it’ll be useful. Everything will be useful one day. …you build up a rich sediment of knowledge and experience, in which you can plant things later.
As an older applicant, I found this particularly significant. Ten years ago, I had no idea I would have decided to apply to medical school but I can attest to the fact that it all the experiences since are useful – and not because something looks good on a medical school application, but for living itself. Premeds tend to forget that there is more to life than becoming a doctor. Non-traditional applicants and students understand this better than most and I’m exceedingly thankful for the experiences that have brought me thus far and I have no doubt they will make me a better physician someday.
If you’re interested in reading some of his recent columns and editorials, they are archived here.