Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

Medical dramas are inherently interesting; the universal plot, a struggle against death and disease, compellingly concerns all mankind. In all societies, through each generation of time, those cast in the role of healers, with real or imagined powers over these ubiquitous enemies, have been held in highest respect, sometimes even regarded with worshipful reverence.

In American society, physicians have also been a source of considerable public fascination. Few, if any other careers have captured the interest and imagination of so many. Each breakthrough in medical science and technology has added additional luster to the physician's image.

Capitalizing on public interest in medical matters, the mass media have heightened popular interest and contributed further to the physician's mystique. With such glamorous portrayals, is it any wonder that so many young people aspire to medical careers, often from their early childhood? Who wouldn't want to live the exciting medical lifestyle or become like the warm, sensitive physicians portrayed in television dramas?

Imbued with romanticized conceptions of the physician's status and role, actual exposure to the physicians' inner sanctum can be a jarring experience. Entering medical students, possessed of popularized notions, are often shocked when confronted with these realities. Despite years of rigorous work to gain admission, many first-year medical students consider the possibility of withdrawing-- four out of ten in one study.* Although very few actually drop out, a sense of disillusionment and resentment occurs often. This attests to the considerable gap between popularized notions and the realities of the medical milieu.

Alas, physicians are only mortal and subject to the same vicissitudes and degenerative processes that affect us all. Offstage and on, they too experience the full range of human problems and emotions. But this aspect of their existence is generally hidden to all

____________________
*
Robert H. Coombs. Mastering Medicine: Professional Socialization in Medical School. New York: The Free Press, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1978.

-ix-

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