Like every other student, I’m always being asked when I’m graduating, how many more years I have left, or what class year I’m in. As an MD/PhD student, however, the answer is more angst-producing than straightforward. Sure, the four years of medical school are a given, but the graduate school portion is highly variable. The unpredictability of research could potentially add years onto the overall time I’ll spend “in school” before leaving with my degrees.
I’m now entering my third year of graduate school, at the point where there’s little between me and my PhD aside from Data. Data, that fickle, errant wisp flitting behind such obstacles as Unreliable Technique, Incomprehensible Results, and, of course, Bewilderment. When I finally break through, I have four years of medical school waiting for me on the other side.
If there’s anything that sticking with an MD/PhD teaches you, it’s ensuring that you are actually living each day. With clearly defined endpoints, I could try and keep my head down and power through, saving other things for “when I’m finished with this.” My path doesn’t really have an endpoint; there’s always one more thing after each stage, from research to residency. Thus, I’ve had to learn to try and live my life now instead of in a mythical future state. Maintaining such a balance is a battle, but I think it’s the only way to maintain the endurance. After all, I’ve got to keep it up for 26 miles.