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The first time that science really made sense was in seventh grade, when a frog lay splayed out on the desk in front of me. While the stench of formaldehyde made others eyes water and stomachs churn, I was too fascinated to notice. I was intrigued by the frog’s still form and innards arranged in neat array under the flap I had incised in its abdomen. Inside were precise engineering marvels, finer than the gearings within a Swiss watch, each perfectly evolved through a process I had only read about and never truly understood. Here was the basis for religion, the faith in a higher power that actually represents faith in the innumerable and incomprehensible wonders of nature.
I have always enjoyed observing patterns: the point and counterpoint in Beethoven’s 15th string quartet and the intricate fingerings and crescendo in his Kreutzer sonata, as well as the rise and fall of the empires of history. However, my favorite patterns have always been found in science, in particular, (Phi) “The Golden Ratio” and its divine implementation throughout Nature, from Da Vinci’s study of the human body to Zeising’s study on plants.
But what if the pattern, the exquisite creation, breaks? What if something goes wrong, an artery bursts, the patient hemorrhages and dies within seconds? Science and engineering are beautiful in an abstract sense when dealing with grand theories, words on a page, even peaceful revelations about the frog, but perhaps the frog was not a good analogy for the experience of medicine. After all, there was no danger; the frog had already passed on. Having to explain to a grieving family why they have lost their young daughter is another situation altogether, a crushing reality that might pose a significant setback for me.
Nevertheless, working hands-on would be more satisfying to me than to remain in abstraction, in a world that, while appealing in its lack of emotional trauma, offers relatively little in the way of direct human application and personal reward. Surely in medicine and biomedical engineering there must exist great triumphs, something to balance the overwhelming defeats? The common medical adage is that “it never gets easy.” I suppose this is true. In a way, I hope that it is. While some might believe that emotions cloud the mind of a superior doctor, I believe that to truly be a good doctor one must live in constant awe and fear. Those are emotions I possess in abundance: awe at the beauty of life and fear at its fragility. That, I hope, will become my legacy.
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