Residency provides an interesting dynamic in that you’re placed with a group of other people who want to attain the same goal as you.  I think of it as a team.[1] As with any team, there are those who see being a part of the team as a simple means to an end, and others who truly enjoy being part of a group.  Some residents enter the program with the mindset of simply trying to do the minimum needed to pass.  He or she leaves the program in a whimper.  After this person has graduated, they have not left a mark or made a difference to the program.  On the other end of the spectrum are the residents who do what is asked of them and more.  They attend every function, and perform every task.  I like to think that I fall somewhere in the middle, hopefully more towards the go-getter end.  I do more than what is asked of me; one of the main reasons I wanted to be a chief resident was because I thought that position would allow me to give back to the program.

Sparrow Family Residents
Sparrow Family Resident

——– Bond ——–

No matter what your approach to this team, a strong bond is formed between the residents. This bond exists for a variety of reasons: each person goes through the same struggles, has similar goals[2], and if one is unable to perform his duties, his co-residents are called upon to ‘pick up the slack’[3].  Regardless of where the resident falls on the spectrum of individual to team player, these factors form a bond between residents of the same program, and to a small extent between all residents across all specialties.  I mentioned that I spent almost one year training in the Emergency Medicine program.  One poignant stance that the (then) director said (when asked of all the bad-mouthing that everyone seemed to have to say about the Emergency Department[4]) was that, “Let them say what they want, they don’t understand what we do here.”  I feel that this holds at least partly true for every residency: people in general don’t understand what it means to be a resident—only other residents can have this understanding; for this reason, this bond underlies all relationships between residents.

Me and my wife with our fellow residents at graduation
Me and my wife with our fellow residents at graduation

Even before the surgery, I have always felt incredibly close to all of my co-residents, especially those in my year.  After the surgery, I have become even closer to each and every one of them.  They have all been there for me and my family in one way or another: whether it’s bringing us a dinner, sending me a ‘get well!’ card, or covering a missed shift for either my wife or me, they have all helped in their own way.  These acts of kindness, even though appreciated, were not needed for them to have my love.  Whether it was love my family and me, or just love for the program that motivated them, the bottom line is that love was key in their actions.

When I met with Dr. Janet Osuch[5], she warned me that of everyone, her co-workers distanced themselves the most from her—her rationale was that they feared something like this happening to them, and that a co-worker with this medical condition hit a little too close to home.  But somehow, in a strange twist of fate, this horrible tumor not only hasn’t distanced me from my co-residents but has actually brought me closer to them.


[1] I have had much experience in team situations and have often been called a ‘good team player’.

[2] Graduating from residency.

[3] For example, if someone is sick and cannot go to work, another resident (a designated back up resident) is asked to fill his/her place.

[4] I mentioned in an earlier post that the Emergency Department (ED) acts as the whipping boy of the hospital—if something goes wrong, someone has to wait, or a treatment doesn’t work, the blame ultimately and inevitably goes to the ED.

[5] See an earlier post titled, ‘Dr. Janet Osuch’.

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