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I just finished the first half of my third year of medical school.

My physician mentor during my gap year once said something that I’ve remembered throughout these past several months. At the time, she was speaking to another young lady who was about to move crosscountry to start med school, and I happened to be listening to their conversation.

“When you haven’t eaten, when you haven’t slept, when you’ve been standing for hours, remember what you’re doing is so special,” she said. “So special.

Since I began, I’ve experienced so many beautiful moments of grief and joy, of unfathomable loss and heart-rending triumph, that I still like to think it was all a dream. I look back at photos of myself and my family from my gap year – which really wasn’t that long ago – and part of my mind struggles to gauge how much has changed from within. I may have been wearing many of my same favorite outfits, but the person behind that smile has grown to an extraordinary extent in a short amount of time. My classmates and I have delivered life into the world, and held patients’ hands as their souls left the universe. We have been witnesses to the full spectrum of human experience. It’s indescribably beautiful.

As a third-year student, I have personally met and spoken to hundreds of patients (if not past a thousand, at this point), and every single one, as well as the family and friends who cared for them, were good people. Scared, anxious, and tearful at times, yes – but also joyous, hopeful, and genuinely kind. They cared for me as much as I cared for them. Some of my fondest memories consist of sitting in an armchair next to a patient’s bed, long after my assessment was over, and listening to the stories of their grandchildren’s antics.

In the midst of the world’s intensifying tomfoolery over the past year, these ordinary strangers have reinforced my faith in the goodness of humanity. It has been a great honor to work with them.