John A. McKinnon
The first-year medical student is a self-conscious, unprepossessing creature: more man-on-the-street than physician, more ignorant and unable than he ever will be again, he is an eager, nervous neophyte, an incompetent in a white coat. And this white coat is his paradox and riddle, expressing a wish and a promise but not yet the reality of "physician."
It is conventional wisdom that a physician is a person in a long white robe who heals the sick, walks on water, and makes enough bread to feed a multitude. In contradistinction, civilians, i.e., patients, are ignorant and precariously mortal creatures who don't. There remains, between these clear extremes, confusion. For, neither fish nor fowl, traditionally poor as a churchmouse and yet privileged in some ways like a physician, what is a medical student? There was no clear answer for me this year, and so the year's toil in the classroom and even its moments of conceptual clarity occurred in a sunlit foreground. In the background shadows slouched this unsettling ambiguity.____________________