Today, as I write this, it’s my last month in the formal term of being a ‘trainee.’ And not just any old trainee but a critical care fellow who’s had 6 years of training under his belt. I started my internal medicine residency in Worcester, Massachusetts – roughly 3000 miles from where I grew up. The population was diverse, the hospital life seemed incredibly exciting (and nerve-racking)
and I was far from my family. But, I quickly had a new family – those that I would spend the next 3 years together with.
There is a general feeling and oftentimes unspoken trauma with training. We have endless shifts spanning weekends/holidays, fear of failing, fear of harming our patients, and at times knowing our best efforts may not help save a life. These feelings are often not discussed in residency but I was fortunate to have trained in a place that helped provide me with the support I needed to become the best doctor I could. In fact, I stayed at the University of Massachusetts for an additional 3 years for cardiology training.
I could feel myself growing as a provider during my cardiology training. The responsibilities grew, the fear of mistreating a patient having a heart attack was always on the forefront of my mind, and the expectation that I would be a master of all things related to the heart was
overwhelming – and still is to this day. I was fortunate to have mentors who helped me grow clinically, academically, and personally. I saw the type of doctor I wanted to become, the changes in medicine that inspired me, and the continued inequalities that broke my heart. The end of my fellowship was marked with a more somber mood due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremonious feeling of finishing residency wasn’t there for any of the trainees who were graduating but true to form, UMass continued to make us feel like family. With the resolve to not let a global pandemic dampen my spirits, I headed back to California after nearly a decade of not living in my home state.
I started yet another fellowship – more training, more weekends, more holidays, and more rewards. I was growing and gaining new skills that were making me a better physician. I was working in various intensive care units across the Stanford Hospital system and all the while, meeting colleagues who become family. COVID was unrelenting and we were all feeling the fatigue of it. The reduced social interactions, the hostile political environment, and our own uncertainty of when things would be back to “normal.” We banded together to provide the support and encouragement needed to get through our shifts.
The cumulation of my training has led me to become a critical care cardiologist – a doctor who works in ICUs to take care of any and all aspects of a patient’s heart. As I reflect on my years as a trainee, I’ve realized that the learning will never stop. Not only the science of medicine but the humanity, humility, and courage to do our best daily.
As Dr. Louis Weinstein stated: “At the initiation of your residency, after having received a medical degree, you were legally a medical doctor. Now that you have finished your formal training, you have the potential to become a true Healer.” Having completed my short-term goals of finishing my training, I am now looking to how I can harness Dr. Weinstein’s teachings, to combine elegance into the art and science of medicine. As I start my new position as an attending at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, I may no longer be a trainee but I will be a life-long learner.
“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”
Barinder Hansra, known as “Ricky” to his friends and family, is a physician-scientist-teacher living his best life at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA. His focus is on cardiac critical care and cardio-obstetrics, and is headed to Stanford University for another fellowship. Follow on Twitter: @rickyhansra