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Wednesday May 29, 2019

Weight of New 'M.D.' Carries Rewarding Responsibility

A few weeks ago, I walked down the same quiet hallway and out the same heavy door of the hospital I'd passed through hundreds of times before. But this time, it was different. I knew the next time I walked into a hospital wearing a white coat, I would have two letters after my name that mean something. I began to feel the weight of those two letters, satisfying yet intimidating. I imagined the countless patient encounters I had seen over the past two years and before, where individuals at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives looked to their physician for answers.

[headshot of Chandler Stisher and wife]

Chandler Stisher, M.D., M.P.H., and his wife, Amanda Stisher, M.D., graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine on May 18.

In the days approaching graduation, I reflected a great deal on the life experiences over the past several years that got me to this point -- the patients that I saw, the families that I comforted, the leadership training that I received and the friendships that I've made. The past four years may have been difficult, but I wouldn't trade them for anything.

As I walked across the brightly lit stage in front of hundreds of family members and friends, I realized that my dreams of becoming a physician were finally coming true. Walking across that stage for the last time, I felt accomplishment, excitement, nervousness and many more emotions, all at the same time. The countless hours of studying, the hundreds of cups of much-too-sweetened coffee, the laughter, the tears, the celebrations and the failures -- all of it led up to that moment. I remembered the little kid in me whose aunt was dying of breast cancer and who just wanted to help her get better. Now, I know she's with me, and I know she would be proud if she were here to celebrate this moment, too.

Fast forward to a few days after graduation. Right now, I don't really feel any different. Not much has changed since last week, when I wasn't a doctor. However, I realize that the point of being a doctor isn't about how we feel, it's about how we make our patients feel. It's about how we build relationships with our patients, walking through life with them in the good times and the bad. It's about how we handle true life-and-death situations, and how we comfort families who have lost the ones they loved the most.

I now welcome the weight of those two letters, as I am beginning to appreciate the responsibility that comes with them. I will soon treat moms, dads, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents and cousins. I'll make rounds in the hospital, treat patients in the clinic, and work in the emergency room. I'll work in rural, urban and suburban areas. I'll treat patients from all walks of life, from backgrounds both similar to and quite different from mine. I'll serve the communities in which I work, both in and out of the clinical setting.

But now when someone asks me, "What do you do for work?" I can proudly say, "I am a family physician," knowing that it is the greatest profession in the world.

To those who have graduated before me, thank you for your example of what family medicine is. To those who graduated with me, congratulations! It's time to celebrate! And to those who will graduate after me, know that it is worth it. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. One day you will be walking across that stage, and you, too, will have a story to tell.

Chandler Stisher, M.D., M.P.H., is the student member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 04:06PM May 29, 2019 by Chandler Stisher, M.D., M.P.H.

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