Towards the end of high school, we flipped through a huge phone directory sized job guide, which has now become fully electronic. Abattoir worker, actor, aerobics instructor, agricultural engineer, analytical chemist, anthropologist, archaeologist. We have barely begun in covering the range of jobs starting with "A". By the way, anthropology was the one that sounded the coolest at the time. Oh well, maybe I will go back and do that BA one day.

At that time, I couldn't understand why training as an apprentice chef, was considered a "lower" job than say, an accountant. Or, why three years of university education was considered so much more worthy than a three year TAFE course. Or, why was it that, the higher a score that was needed to enter the course, the more students wanted to get into the course. Again I thought about the question, whilst working as a kitchen hand, alongside those who were a similar age to me, most who did not attend university, and many who did not complete high school. But, if you work hard at what you do, contributing to society in a meaningful way, what does it matter what you do? Even now, I'm not sure I completely understand the way our society ranks different occupations and careers.

In the same way, I don't understand why medicine is so prestigious. The expression of respect, especially but not exclusively within Asian circles, that becomes evident when one hears that you are studying medicine. Wow, you must be really smart. Uh, thanks? Not infrequently, I have had others misinterpret "studying medicine" to mean that I am going to be a nurse, or a pharmacist. It's when I feel the twinge of irritation of, no I'm going to be a doctor, that I realise, I have also adopted the attitude that we are smarter, better and simply superior. We joke about this so often and perhaps, one by one, we really start to believe it, if we didn't already upon entering medical school.

Elitist. Being in an old and well established university, our students are known for being stuck up, often making snide remarks about the incompetence of students studying on the other side of town. What, you are at a rural hospital for clinical school, you couldn't possibly have chosen to be there. Where are you going next year? Congratulations on your internship destination, largest is the best, the hardest places to get in, so you must be really good! Er, no I'm not, how do I explain that neither my marks nor my life achievements are amazing. I feel uncomfortable that my extended family is more excited about my internship destination than I am - uncomfortable, because I know they are happy because they love prestige. Anyway, how does older and bigger automatically equate to a better place to work and grow?

It just doesn't stop here. Which specialty training program are you in?  The enthusiastic "wow" for someone on the R.O.A.D. to happiness (radiology, ophthalmology, anaesthetics, dermatology), or training in a much admired field such as neurosurgery, is such a stark contrast to the "oh" someone training to be a general practitioner often receives - oh, why don't you want to specialise? Just like when we were in high school and choosing what to study in university, we equate more "difficult" entry requirements, to a better specialty, and a better person. Not just academically, but smarter, richer and more important. Therefore, we treat them with special favour. Or should we?

Good marks and hard work are fine in themselves, and indeed, many of those in highly sought after specialties are talented, committed, and deserve the respect that they have. But it really bothers me, the obsession of prestige and achievement that surrounds this profession. How across every level, from medical students to consultants, we are judged, and in turn judge one another, based on rank, specialty, place of training and other such criteria. Not only professionally, but just as much in personal and social interactions. And how we judge those outside medicine to be just... well, not as good. Why aren't you dating someone in medicine - or conversely - of course my parents will be happy with my sister's new boyfriend, he's going to be a doctor!

Perhaps, most troubling, is when this occurs in fellowship. Attending a medical Christian event over the weekend, we were asked to add our year level and university, or specialty for graduates, to our name tags. I thought, does this really matter, and pondered whether it would affect the way we talked and interacted with one another. More than a year ago now, I attended a talk at Christian medical event where I clearly felt the hospital hierarchy in the room. I happened to be seated next to registrars who seemed to want to make it clear that they were registrars (not intern or residents), and seemed to change their manner when they talked to fellow registrars, and when the medical students talked to them. Or it could be purely my interpretation; or, they were shy and not very talkative anyway.

The speaker in front was the head of the endocrine unit at this hospital, and the director of that very prestigious specialty college. During the talk (on a topic which I have now forgotten) I wondered whether at times the speakers were not speaking more as consultants to their junior doctors, on how to do medicine and life, rather than humbly sharing God's words and God's work in their own lives. Considering how important connections are, in turn, I wondered how many students were using refreshment and mingling time as career networking opportunities, rather than seeking genuine fellowship and spiritual growth. Maybe I was being over cynical, but certainly, the thought of focusing on the networking aspect did not escape my mind.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:26-28

At work, we should respect those in authority, including brothers and sisters in Christ. However, it was disappointing to see hospital heirarchy, reinforced by junior and senior doctors (and students) alike, permeating into church life and ultimately, hindering fellowship and taking the focus away from God. Recognising that we are all sinners, and recipients of God's grace, why should one (no matter who they are in the medical profession) exalt themselves over another? Perhaps that experience made me reluctant to join the medical fellowship events in M. Until recently that is, when I was once again reminded of the importance of being inspired by, encouraging and being encouraged by other Christians in medicine. Just as those who are proud stand out, there are of course, many who are marked by faith, having lives which point clearly to God.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! -
Philippians 2:3-8

What's wrong with being elitist? What's wrong with loving prestige? What's wrong with having an elevated view of our profession, our university, our hospital, our specialty, our rank? It matters what we value first and foremost. We lose perspective when self becomes bigger and more important than God. We forget who we trust in, who we should be thankful towards for all that we have. We compare with others, begin to focus on collecting trophies, aiming for what is "best" and most prestigious, to serve our pride and desire for recognition. In doing so, we lose sight of our purpose, and become distracted from working for God, and living to love others. Jesus, king of kings, did not exalt himself but came to serve. How each of us, not least myself, should be constantly reminded to do likewise!



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