Who sits there?

Stephen ManningBy Stephen Manning, MS2

One afternoon during summer break, myself and seven other medical students led tours of Baylor College of Medicine for high schoolers interested in medicine. On the last leg of the tour, we reached the DeBakey Museum on the first floor. The students jumped around excitedly as they analyzed the different valves, pumps, and videos that told of the multitude of achievements Dr. Michael E. DeBakey made.

At the end of the tour, a girl in the group pointed to the large wooden desk at the entrance of the museum – the desk that Dr. DeBakey worked at for 30 years – and asked “who sits there”? It was a simple question, for sure, but to me it was extremely thought-provoking.

When we, as medical students, walk around the College, what do we see? I see large paintings of Dr. DeBakey, framed pictures of the current giants of this institution, and names emblazoned on glass doors signifying the importance of their occupants. As I think about these masters of medicine, I admit that at times I am overwhelmed.

Here is this slope that I hope to climb, but before me sits a boulder of immeasurable size – the pressure to replicate and build on such massive success. Will I end up like Sisyphus, constantly trying to surmount this slope, only to fall back at the last moment? With all these great individuals coming before me, what can I hope to contribute?

Then I thought about that desk. And that museum. Here was an entire career dedicated to bettering medicine. Valves, books, and pumps… already stamped down into medical practice that I need only read about to learn. Suddenly, the hill and boulder had morphed into a ladder. I realized that these individuals had faced the same pressure I did, and come out on top.

So now, as I walk by those pictures, paintings, and names, I can only feel thankful – and excited – for what those before me had managed to achieve.

This all unfolded in front of the high school student, who was really just wondering if someone – security, a tour guide, or museum curator –  was supposed to be sitting in that desk.

My answer? No. No one is supposed to be sitting there now, but thank goodness someone once did.

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