What do you want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” one of my Paraguayan friends, who used to be my student, asked during my last visit to Paraguay.

I paused a moment before answering. I was surprised by the question because he and I don’t often talk about abstract things and because I’ve been feeling awfully grown up recently. “A doctor,” I said.

“That’s it? You don’t want to be a diplomat or someone rich or famous?” my friend asked.

“Nope,” I said.

“Oh, that’s cool,” my friend said. The conversation continued as I asked him about what he wanted to be when he grew up and we discussed more details of what I hope to do as a doctor.

I graduated from medical school on May 21, 2023. I received my resident medical license yesterday. I’m officially an MD! All that remains between me and practicing independently as a physician is residency (and fellowship if I further specialize).

People like to say “it’s hard to believe” when they achieve a particularly hard goal like graduating from medical school. But, let me tell you the truth, I don’t find it hard to believe that I graduated medical school. Why? Because I was there every minute that I studied at my desk and learned how to care for patients in the clinic and hospital. I read every test question and picked an answer. I showed up on time, managed my email inbox, pestered school administrators to get answers, and did voluntary projects to expand my learning beyond the medical school curriculum.

Becoming a MD is a lot of work; I did the work to earn my degree. Becoming an MD is also an amazing quest. I was excited when my patients were cured, I was humbled that so many people allowed me to take part in their journey to death or to better health, and I loved uncovering the mysteries of how the body works and what medicine can do. I’m grateful for every person who helped me along the way – from my family who cheered me on to the patients who let me care for them, from my classmates who struggled and soared beside me to the numerous physicians who taught me. I did the work, but becoming an MD takes a village. There were many people in my village who were my heroes and who guided and supported me as I journeyed through medical school.

The last months of medical school left me feeling awfully grown up. Grown up in the tiring kind of way. My friend’s question helped remind me how much growing is left. And how, somehow, I’m lucky enough to be growing while building my dream. Next stop on the Doctorhood Quest, residency!