If You’ve Never Heard of Charles Krauthammer, You Should

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.

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3 Responses

  1. Yes, Krauthammer is a very intelligent guy. I watch him just about every day on Fox and follow his columns as well. Not to mention he was chief resident at Mass General.

    I totally identify with your notes on being a non-traditional student. Sometimes I feel like I’m just another one of the folks, but in the end non-trads carry with them a wide array of experiences that set them on a different trajectory, even if you are going along with colleagues step by step. That can feel isolating at times, but I think overall it is freeing.

    • Indeed. He was also a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics around 2002. Very clear thinker and a great writer. Hopefully he gets around to writing an autobiography.

  2. […] gives you a chance to experience all the stuff referred to as life.  Go back and read the post I made a few weeks ago about Charles Krauthammer.  Until you’ve lived life some, you have no […]

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