Much like I feel like I deserve an award for bringing my two young children to IKEA and returning home with the same two children, so do I for finishing my 15th letter of recommendation for fourth-year medical students each Fall. Sure, some letters are easy: those whom I know well and can share insightful anecdotes about basically write themselves. But, then there are the students who I know less well, or worse, have reservations about, where the objective is to write the most positive letter I can without lying. After writing fifteen letters, it’s hard to sound fresh and engaging. I’m just hoping to use the correct pronouns consistently.(1) Then, after I send that last letter off to the Dean’s office, I’m left looking around for the man with the medal who is supposed to say, “Thank you for your service, Ma’am. Here’s that medal I promised you.”
Like being a mother, being a clinician-educator is full of thankless tasks. There are no trophies for remembering to buy enough diapers so your child doesn’t have to wear swim diapers (again). There are no engraved plaques for having a one-hour feedback session with a student who is not performing at an acceptable level, but doesn’t agree with that assessment. There’s not even a blue ribbon for winning first prize in “Guess what this abstract finger painting is of (Hint: not your first instinct),” or “Pin down the last evasive attending that needs to give their input before the final grade computation.”
Yet, I’ve also found that, like mothering, being an educator means you do these thankless tasks out of love. Because your job and who you are is why you do what you do. You know that they will grow up and, at some point, hopefully, appreciate the time, the patience, and the energy you put into everyday. And, even if they don’t ever say “Thank you for ruining your body forever by having me,” or “Your investment in me made me a better doctor,” deep down inside you know you made a difference.
The labor of love that is parenting and educating is one and the same: at times painful, occasionally the cause of a peptic ulcer, but, in the end, unbelievably rewarding.
Still, more awards (or medals) for both jobs would be nice. A girl can dream.
(1) NB: some to all parts of this post are written tongue-in-cheek. Please do not send hate mail or actual medals.