The Man in the Lime Green Suit

crispydoc Uncategorized 2 Comments

As an emergency medicine resident at UCLA, I was always intrigued by the Man in the Lime Green Suit (MLGS).  A retired physician in his 80s, MLGS spent his days circulating among resident teaching conferences at several different academic hospitals, always elegantly appointed in the clothes that time forgot.

There were endearing moments (the time he leaned over during a faculty presentation and confided in me that he found our residency director, 40 years his junior, attractive; the time he raised his hand and asked if streptomycin might be a better choice of antibiotic for a particular infection).  Mostly I was awed that when others spent their golden years playing shuffleboard, he made a genuine effort to remain up to date in medicine.  He was a Doctor first, everything else subordinate to that identity.

My great uncle Boris was a similarly passionate physician.  He was opinionated and loving, by turns gruff and sentimental.  His patients gave him a  reason to live, and he sorely bemoaned the progressive dehumanization of the doctor-patient relationship.  He saw patients in his clinic up until two weeks before he died at the age of 90.

While I was awed and inspired by MLGS and my Uncle Boris, I knew early on that I was cut from a different cloth.  Medicine was one of a multitude of interests, and while some clearly overlapped with and were enhanced by the practice of medicine, many were entirely unrelated to medicine. 

I never wanted to be a Doctor to the exclusion of all other identities.  I envisioned a life that had room for a multi-faceted individual who was able to pursue different interests while raising a family.  I hoped to emulate the model of the Renaissance thinkers, people who were lauded for their ability to pursue scientific inquiry while creating art.

If you are a medical student, resident or fellow in the midst of your journey through medicine, you may feel (as I once did) that you study medicine to the exclusion of everything else.  The one-dimensional person you have become has eliminated everything that was once creative/curious/fun about you and replaced it with a beat-down appendage of a dysfunctional system.  The prospect of living this way for the rest of your professional career is terrifying.

You are not alone.  By creating and adhering to your personal roadmap to financial independence, you can restore balance and return to interests that keep you true to your passions.  It gets better.

Comments 2

  1. CD

    I always wondered if MLGS was a little lonely. Maybe, maybe not. I regret that I never bothered to ask. Do you think that growing old alone is the worst possible outcome?

    Cultivating relationships,

    1. Post

      I used to think so, and I imagine it would be for me, but now I’m not as certain. I’ve met occasional severe introverts who take great comfort in ideas transmitted across centuries (think philosophy, the arts) and who find the most meaningful companionship in books that allow the dead to reach out and converse with them. Some relationships can be cultivated across time and need not be in person to matter.

      Having said that, I’m still grateful to develop mine among the living.

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