By Oliver Bawmann and Kelsey Repine
(May 2020) As we approach our last few months of medical school, we have many reasons to be grateful.
Over the past four years, we worked alongside inspiring health care providers, held patients’ hands on the way to the operating room, provided comfort and reassurance, celebrated when patients were healthy enough to discharge, and reflected on the loss of patients who never had that chance.
We gained a glimpse into the world of medicine that most other people never do. Now, as we prepare to receive our degrees, we are struck by what a profound privilege and immense responsibility our degrees confer.
It hasn’t always been easy to feel grateful.
We are training at a time when physician burnout is rampant. This dilemma applies to medical students too and our own journeys have had their struggles, frustrations, and moments of despair or melancholy.
To prevent burnout among our fellow students, we worked with University of Colorado faculty, administrators, and physicians to create a unique CU School of Medicine-themed gratitude journal for medical students. Faculty contributed over 50 reflections on the importance of gratitude during their training and careers.
In August, we presented these journals to matriculating medical students at the White Coat Ceremony. Along with their first stethoscope and white coat, they also received this gratitude journal to remind them the importance of their own wellness as they embark on their medical school journeys.
In the introduction, we write: “Our challenge to you is to take one minute and write down three things you are grateful for every day. No sentiment is too small. Be grateful for hot coffee, meaningful conversations with faculty, doughnuts at the hospital cafeteria, or peers helping your study for the next exam. Be grateful for the resident who spent time teaching you, the patient who made you laugh, or the patient who thanked you for being their ‘doctor’.”
We went on to write: “Indeed, the next four years are going to be grueling, at least at times. However, we also hope that they will be some of the best years of your lives. You will meet people and make friends who will change your life forever. You will be challenged and will grow in ways you didn’t think possible.…Our hope is that throughout the ups and downs of the years to come, you will practice gratitude each day, and that you’ll benefit from this positive reflection.”
As our medical school journey ends and we reflect on our time here, we express our gratitude for
• opportunities to learn from the wonderful CU faculty who shared their expertise and provided endless support;
• careers that will focus on promoting the well-being and health of others through thoughtful and evidence-based, compassionate, and empathetic care; and
• our patients past, present, and future, who allow us to sit with them and support them through disease, treatment, and cure.
It has been a joy and a privilege to develop these gratitude journals for our CU community. We hope that they create a legacy of finding gratitude each day for years to come.
Oliver Bawmann and Kelsey Repine are members of the CU School of Medicine Class of 2020.