Back in Cuba

Graham Sowa

Foto: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Doctors and medical students, at least the ones I know, always have good excuses.  These excuses involve talk of never ending workloads and numberless facts to learn and apply within a short time frame.

There are precious few activities that we allow to pull us away from our profession and studies.  Of these activities the most prominent two that come to mind would be an addiction (but even those can be “worked though”) and starting a family.

The latter has been on my mind a lot lately.  Maybe it is just because I’ve finished with the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Exam, which had a near complete monopoly on my time.

Now instead of feeling like I don’t have enough time to study I feel like I don’t have enough time to move my life beyond being a professional student.

If I was of the female persuasion the whisper of “biological clock” would be a commonly uttered aside right about now.  And even though I’m a guy I still feel like I’m already on borrowed time.

Perhaps instead of referencing a “biological clock” I should admit that I feel like I’m at the mercy of “medical profession clock”.  I face four more years of study and at least three years of residency before I have a schedule that will resemble something the rest of the working class is accustomed to.

Studying outside of my home country definitely complicates the whole situation.  Living between two countries makes any relationship something that will have to survive numerous months a year in a long distance situation.

Then being at the mercy of the United States medical residency match program means that someone other than me will have the final word on where I live during my years as a medical resident after Cuba.  When it is all finished I’ll be getting into my mid thirties.

For many people this is not such a big deal.  Starting a family is becoming something fewer people do.  And those that do are doing it later in life.  This is true in both Cuba and the United States.

In both countries the economic situation and the increase in material culture surrounding child rearing are the primary reasons cited for the declining birth rate.

But I’m not committed to joining the trending demographics.  And this is where the conflict arises with what I have decided to do with my life.

I am studying medicine, living communally, and feeling less and less like my network of friends is able to satisfy emotional and biologically programmed needs.  Even performing well in school does not bring the satisfaction it once did.

However in a few weeks I’ll be seeing patients on a regular basis. Maybe this less passive and more rewarding form of learning can stave off this newfound need to get on with my life.

What is certain is that I’ll continue with medicine.  As we say in the poker game Texas Hold’em I’m “pot committed”;  in addition to being in love with the art of doing medicine well and seeing the good that can result from it.

I’m closer now to understanding why doctors allow their relationships with their significant others to fall apart before divorcing their profession.

Supposedly a relationship is not really a relationship until after the first fight.  Considering the number of fights I have had with medicine, to the point of having one foot out the door, I think I’m more endeared to being with my profession than anything else.

I believe I’ll have to come to accept that, and find someone else who also accepts it, if I’m going to make this family thing happen any time within the next decade.


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