Recent surveys of medical students reveal stark conditions: more than a quarter have experienced episodes of depression during their medical school and residency careers, a figure much higher than that of the general population. Compounded by long hours of intellectually challenging, physically taxing, and emotionally exhausting work, medical school has been called one of the most harrowing experiences a student can encounter. Plumbing the diaries, memoirs, and blogs of physicians-in-training, Suzanne Poirier’s Doctors in the Making illuminates not just the process by which students become doctors but also the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of the process. Through close readings of these accounts, Poirier draws attention to the complex nature of power in medicine, the rewards and hazards of professional and interpersonal relationships in all aspects of physicians’ lives, and the benefits to and threats from the vulnerability that medical students and residents experience. Although most students emerge from medical education as well-trained, well-prepared professionals, few of them will claim that they survived the process unscathed. The authors of these accounts document—for better or for worse—the ways in which they have been changed. Based on their stories, Poirier recommends that medical education should make room for the central importance of personal relationships, the profound sense of isolation and powerlessness that can threaten the wellbeing of patients and physicians alike, and the physical and moral vulnerability that are part of every physician’s life.
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