At UVA, I was part of this awesome organization called Sustained Dialogue. It’s a little difficult to explain in a few sentences and do the cause justice. Basically, racially diverse small groups (8-12 students) meet once every two weeks for a few hours to discuss race, within the context of the university predominantly, at least to begin with. It’s a five-step process that begins with story-telling and moves toward action. Might sound trite, but I found that simply opening up the conversation in this safe space was eye-opening in unexpected ways.
One year, a bunch of SD groups got together and created De-stereotype Day. White shirts were passed out that said “Stereotype Me” on the front, and on the back the wearer wrote a personal characteristic that defied a stereotype that might be held against him/her. For example, one of my friends whose family is from China wrote, “I don’t know how to use chopsticks.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about stereotypes recently because it seems like, as med students, we so easily fall into them. And I don’t just mean as the “typical med student”–type A, overly anxious and competitive, sleep-deprived, socially inept–but also within the context of what type of physician each of us will become. Here we are, not even a full semester into medical school, and we already seem to be segregating each other: the former Peace Corps volunteer who will likely win a National Health Service Corps scholarship and go into primary care in rural America; the smooth-talking econ major who will get the joint MD-MBA and likely not work in a clinic past residency; and–my favorite–the orthopedic surgeon. This stereotype is pretty incredible. I’d heard about it from John and other friends who had gone to medical school; you can literally pick out these kids a mile away. They are young, male, incredibly athletic, fratty (in the best ways…incredibly comically so), and completely tunnel-visioned in anatomy lab.
So, I’m curious. What’s my stereotype? I don’t think I fit any of the categories above, and I’m sure my own preferences will change 8-12 times as soon as I start clerkships. But seriously, I’m opening up the floor to your comments: What type of doctor do you think I’ll become?