The challenges we face now are quite different from those of medical school or residency. Although our work is less laborious, there are more academic obligations. Also, as oncologists, we develop a close bond with the patients we see and treat. So, as expected, when any of them die, it is extremely heartbreaking as we’ve become so attached and strongly linked with them. We can only hope for the best, although we know that the worst is more likely. I believe that recognizing all of this is imperative to becoming a better physician for my patients. Yes, knowledge is important, but so is compassion, warmth, and honesty. Not everyone will want the treatment that I recommend, but they will still need my emotional support when they are in their darkest hours of battling their diseases.
Every new visit with a patient during which I discuss a diagnosis can be challenging. It is similar to giving a death sentence, which happens more often than not in my specialty. While providing information on the cancer and treatment gets a little easier with time, empathizing and accepting the emotions that patients and their families express does not. My attendings who train me are exceptional. There seems to be such a close camaraderie among everyone, which allows for a harmonious work environment.
There are, at times, some rough patches, but overall, I couldn’t have asked to be a part of a better fellowship program. With each day of fellowship, I am reminded of how happy and lucky I am to be on the path toward becoming a full-fledged hematologist/oncologist. It wasn’t an easy journey getting to fellowship, but I’m more than ecstatic to finally be here. Now, only time will tell what the future has in store for me.